How Many Denominations are Too Many for James White?

by Steve Ray on August 27, 2007

I am rushing to get packed — my wife and I leave Wednesday for Israel and Egypt with a group fo 55 excited pilgrims. You will be able to join us by video for a Virtual Pilgrimage right here on this blog. Each night, Lord willing, I will upload video clips from the day.

WorldChristianEncyclopedia.jpgIn the meantime, this morning I post here my response to the discussion on the number of denominations in the world today and how sola Scriptura has been a huge factor in causing, or at least, facilitating this scandalous situation. Accusing me of "spinning," the issue, James White has already started the real spin to make it sound like denominationalism and schisms and factions are just fine and to remove the onus from Protestants to stop the factions, infighting — to stop the scandal.

(World Christian Encyclopedia from which Protestant and other groups outside the Catholic Church are listed and numbered. In the attached article I provide links to the pages and numbers in question.)

The naysayer "knows" he's in the right sect and as long as he can be his own petty pope, he's seems as happy as a pig in mud. He has responded exactly as I predicted and continues to be thoroughly predictable — still reminding me of a rabid dog poked with a stick — angry and fighting and nipping at everyone. Just look at his blog if you don't think so. If you like videos featuring James White arguing, you've got a lot to choose from.

But instead of answering my 30-page response to the Assumption and Queenship of Mary, he diverted attention by getting fixated on the denominational numbers used by Catholics and others alike. It was a smokescreen and a red herring. In the attacthed response I explain the numbers, sources and usage of large numbers related to denominations, paradenominations, sects, schisms, and cults.

SheepFlock.jpgNow in his fixation on the number of denominations, he is ignoring the REAL scandal — the divisions and factions in the Body of Christ. He is majoring on the minors. He doesn't want to admit that sola Scriptura is an unbiblical and destructive doctrine — and how Jesus wants Christians to be one, with a visible unity so the world can see it and proclaim, "Ah, see the Christians? Their unity demonstrates visibly that the Father has certainly sent the Son" (John 17).

The great number of denominations (whether its White's accepted 9,000 or the often claimed 20,00 or 33,000) has done great damage to the reputation and credibility of Christianity. Whether it is 33,000 or whatever large number, it is grossly wrong and instead of getting obsessed on the number, Christians ought to fix it by rallying around the shepherd Jesus appointed on the Sea of Galilee after his resurrection (at the exact point where we will celebrate Mass on the shore this coming Saturday evening) (Jn 21:15-17; Matt 16:18-19).

"Do you love Me? Shepherd My sheep, tend My lambs." If there is a command that the Shepherd lead, there is an implicit command for the sheep to follow and obey.

How many denominations equals more than one. Jesus wants ONE flock. How many does it take to cause Jesus pain?

Sheep scatter easily, I know because I have rented flocks of sheep twice in Bethlehem. And because sheep scatter easily Jesus appointed shepherds and, through apostolic succession they are still pastoring the sheep today with a flock that is larger than all other Christian schisms, sects and factions combined. It is not by chance nor accident. It is by design.

But sheep are still quite willing at times to wander away and gather in little groups outside the fold — to their own detriment. And it is no surprise why many wandering sheep have come back to the fold and many others like me — born outside the true sheepfold of the Catholic Church — have entered the fold with great joy once we discovered it.

Now, one question that comes up. Aren't there 242 "Catholic denominations"? I am not sure of the actual number, but there are a good number of Catholic schisms that have broke with Rome and set up their own popes and continue to call themselves Catholics. So, yes, you can say there are a lot of Catholic schisms, or if you prefer, denominations, along with Orthodox, Copts and others. It is a shame on all counts. There are also many rites loyal to Rome which may be considered different "denominations" even though in their case it would be questionable as to whether it would be correct to label them as such. There are groups like the Maronites, Melkites, Greek Catholics, etc. who have separate names but are all Catholic and in union with Rome.

Like I've said before, I would never waste my time responding to White for the sake of responding to White. It would be useless – like talking to a telephone pole. I write these responses like I write a lot of things — to encourage the faithful and to defend the faith and those who love the faith.

FastFoodResaurants.jpgMy paper begins: "The other day I drove through town and on one side of the street there was McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Dairy Queen, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Macaroni Grill, Arby’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Big Boy’s and Taco Bell. 

"On the other side of the street I saw church buildings: Presbyterian, Lutheran, Assemblies of God, Nazarene, Methodist, Reformed Baptist, Free Will Baptist, American Baptist, Southern Baptist, Missionary Baptist, Progressive Missionary Baptist and . . . 

"We live in a consumer society and unhappily too many people choose a “church” along Main Street the same way their appetites and tastes dictate which fast food joint they go to. And just like people jump from one restaurant to another, many Christians jump from one church to another. It is often called “church hopping” from the pews, or “sheep stealing” from the pulpit." . . .

Click here for the rest of the story :-) 

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Hector August 27, 2007 at 1:35 PM

Steve, It is such a great consolation for me whenever the Catholic Church is being attacked. What a great reminder from our Lord. God bless!

Jim August 27, 2007 at 1:39 PM

The denomination issue is real, whether it is 9,000 or 33,000. There are still a lot of Protestant denominations in the world, and the number is growing daily. All one has to do to silence people like James White is to count the number of different churches in the New York City Yellow Pages, and then multiply that by Chicago, LA, San Francisco and every other large ciry in this country. Plus, James is ignoring the fact that the nondenominational churches have to be counted as denominations, too. There are thousands of them out there, and they frequently preach a different, and often false gospel. The pretrib Rapture, once saved, alwaysw saved, faith alone, you name it. All they share is Christ, and He is often different, as well. James White is wrong, but he is so full of hate and smugness that you cannot tell him that. James White is infallible. His too many followers take every word he says or writes as gospel, but I have to ask: Would Jesus be so full of hatred? Would Jesus spend all his time bashing the beliefs of others, or preaching the Gospel to them? Nondenominationalism is a denomination, too, James, and they have to be counted along with the bigger ones. Jesus started one church, not thousands, and Baptists are probably the most divided of all. Give ‘em heck, Steve! You are right.

Chuck Rodee August 27, 2007 at 2:30 PM

Steve Ray,

Your link to the World Christian Encyclopedia is incomplete. You have failed to link to the denominational page–page 16. I’m sure it is just an honest oversight. Will you be changing your link to include that page?

Dave August 27, 2007 at 2:46 PM

Everything James White does is a smokescreen to cover up for the unbiblical doctrine of Sola Scriptura, he goes on the attack, to divert attention from this error. He knows the more the focus is on sola scriptura, the more all his arguments will fall like a pack of cards.

Its pointless arguing with him, only prayer can help him.

Scott August 27, 2007 at 2:55 PM

So, after all that, did you or did you not exaggerate the number of Protestant denominations? If so, why? If not, why the bogus number, given that you own the source encyclopedia?

Steve Ray here: You judge Scott. I posted below the conclusion of the Encyclopedia's Chart of Organized Christianity on page 16-18. It gives these figures:

 This list from pages 16-18 consists of a list of “Organized Christianity: global membership ranked in 6 major ecclesiastico-cultural megablocs and 300 major traditions AD 1970-2025.”

These columns, according to the Encyclopedia on page 16 are “Total Distinct denominations, significant and less significant (or relatively insignificant) the latter being smaller bodies too small to each be enumerated with its own single line in Tables 2; for the years 1970, 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2025 assuming current trends continue.

The Encylopedia concludes the list on page 18:

WORLD TOTALS:
Congregations (1995): 3,157,000
Adults (1995): 1,069,931,000
Affiliated (1970): 1,130,106,000
Affiliated (1995): 1,769,920,000

Denominations Total:
1970: 16,075;
1995: 33,090;
2000: 33,909;
2025: 62,262 (projected if trends continue).

The Catholic "denominations" in this list include all those rites that have distinct names in different countries but are "Catholic" and in union with the Pope.

Steve Ray August 27, 2007 at 3:07 PM

I did not copy page 16 because it does not stop at page 16 but carries on to page 18. These pages substantiate my numbers.

This list from pages 16-18 consists of a list of "Organized Christianity: global membership ranked in 6 major ecclesiastico-cultural megablocs and 300 major traditions AD 1970-2025." These columns, according to the Encyclopedia on page 16 are "Total Distinct denominations, significant and less significant (or relatively insignificant) the latter being smaller bodies too small to each be enumerated with its own single line in Tables 2; for the years 1970, 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2025 assuming current trends continue.

The Encylopedia concludes the list on page 18:

The bottom line of the chart, reading from left to right:

WORLD TOTALS:
Congregations (1995): 3,157,000
Adults (1995): 1,069,931,000
Affiliated (1970): 1,130,106,000
Affiliated (1995): 1,769,920,000

Denominations Total:
1970: 16,075;
1995: 33,090;
2000: 33,909;
2025: 62,262 (projected if trends continue).

The Catholic "denominations" in this list include all those rites that have distinct names in different countries but are "Catholic" and in union with the Pope.

Hope that helps.

Reuben August 27, 2007 at 4:41 PM

A point could be made (and has been) that those Rites should not be counted as denominations, by virtue of their union with the Pope. So you still have One Catholic Church. Whereas, the various(for example) Baptist splinter groups have no unifying leader, so that each ones authority is the whomever the “pastor” happens to be at the time, and also believing differenct things about different aspects of great theological import.

Mark Oei August 29, 2007 at 6:58 AM

Here is a link from another site quoting thw World Christian Encyclopedia. It lists the number of groups as 34,000.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/worldrel.htm

According to David Barrett et al, editors of the “World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions – AD 30 to 2200,” there are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many smaller ones. 34,000 separate Christian groups have been identified in the world. “Over half of them are independent churches that are not interested in linking with the big denominations.”

Daniel Bennett October 14, 2014 at 11:09 PM

Yeah, it definitely is irrelevant how many thousands of denominations there are. The simple fact, as Mr. Ray correctly points out, is that schisms are tearing apart the Body of Christ–which should be one. I’m not sure why White would find any comfort in the figure of 9000 instead of 33,000. It’s sort of like saying when my house blew up, my son was only blasted into 10 pieces, not 100! Does that make him any less blasted??

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