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Cults and World Religions

America Today?!?



Matthew 7:15-23
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ 1

According to the Universal Almanac 1996, 2 86% of the US population defines themselves as Christians!

Let us stand and cheer!!!!!!!!!!

Of this group, according to the Almanac, 61% are Protestant and 25% are Roman Catholic.

The Protestants break down as follows:

According to the same Almanac, 2% of the US population is Jewish, 5% follow other faiths, and 7% are not affiliated with any religion.

The break down in Canada is almost the same, based upon their 1991 census. 85% of the Canadian population defines themselves as Christian.

In Canada, the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada are the largest Protestant denominations.

Worldwide, according to the 1992 Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year, 3 Christianity is the most widespread religion. Christians are put at 33.9% of the world’s 1996 population, a figure that has been amazingly constant during the last half of the twentieth century. In relative terms, the growth of Christianity over the past 50 years has approximated the growth rate of the world’s population.

Christianity competes with Bahai as the world’s largest religion. The Britannica found significant Christian communities in 254 countries and territories, while Bahai is present in 205. Islam comes in a distant third with 172 locations. 4

How did the statistics get to be so “Christian?” Many would rejoice over this “fact.” But a review of the breakdown shows that Christian includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, New Thought, Mormons, Spiritualists, psychic, and New Age. All lumped under one umbrella. No wonder Christianity fares so well in these surveys.

To the secular world (as represented, for example by ReligiousTolerance.org) Christianity is comprised of three main movements, the Gnostic Christians, the Pauline Christians, and the Jewish Christians.

In 1054 the Christian centers in Rome and Constantinople form a schism, over control issues and in particular the meaning of the Last Supper. The church at Rome eventually becomes the Roman Catholic Church. The Church at Constantinople becomes the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Roman Catholic Church is not truly formed, however, until the Reformation beginning in 1517. One must remember, whether you are reading secular history or a good history of the Christian church, that there is only one church from the Apostles to the 1054 schism. While the early church has many “centers,” such as Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, and Alexandria, Egypt, it is essentially a single church much like today’s large denominations. A church in Los Angeles may “practice” some things differently from one in Alexandria, Virginia, but it is all the same church. The break between East and West forms the first true fracture in the church, resulting in the creation of two Popes. Except for differences in certain rituals (what the Last Supper means, how you calculate the date of Easter), the real break was over the authority of the Bishop of Rome.

The reformation lead by Luther and Calvin takes on a different perspective. Luther attacked certain practices and beliefs of the organized church, together with the authority of the Pope. While Luther commenced his rebellion wanting the Church to be reformed, this was not possible with the abuses which were present in the organized Church. Luther, Calvin, and the rest of the reformers are driven by two fundamental beliefs, with a third implied.

The last two points, in particular, open the door for individuals and groups to interpret the Bible in their own unique ways. This leads to the formation of new “denominations.” From Luther has come the Lutheran Church. From Calvin has come the Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregational, and United Church of Christ. From the European reformers come the Amish, Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers, among others. A “mini” reform in England will lead to the Anglican, Episcopalian, and Methodist families of congregations.

The Baptist tradition generally traces its roots to three sources, all arising from disagreements with the Reformers such as Luther. The biggest source of disagreement was probably the issue of baptism – when and who, but also, at times, how – although a careful study reveals other areas of disagreement as well. The movement followed the teachings reflected in the writings of such individuals and groups as John Wycliffe (c.1320-1384), John Hus (c.1372-1415), Balthasar Hubmaier (c.1480-1528), The Shleitheim Confession (1527) of the Swiss Anabaptists, Martin Bucer (c.1494-55), and Menno Simons (1496-1561) help to form the groups now referred to as Baptist. Throughout their history, Baptists have sought to avoid creedal statements in favor of descriptive expressions (sermons) of their faith. While part of the Reformation, the Baptists were more of the rebels of the groups than part of the mainstream.

In the modern world, many of these groups subdivided for a variety of valid and invalid reasons. The Eastern Orthodox church is now comprised of about fifteen branches, mirroring the effects of the various countries where it is prominent and the attitude of the respective governments (i.e., Greek, Russian, Serbian). ReligiousTolerance.org estimates there to be 1,200 Protestant religious organizations, at least under its definition.

So, is American Christian?

As we shall see, much of the answer depends upon whether one’s definitions are tolerant enough to accommodate a large number of varied beliefs.

Matthew 22:14
For many are called, but few are chosen.

These are the Words of Christ. If one accepts the teaching of the Bible, few of the professing Christians in the USA, indeed, in the world, are Christianos, that is, followers or partisans of Christ.

So, come along into the world of the cults . . .

Footnotes
1.  All Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982, unless otherwise noted.
2. J. W. Wright, Ed., The Universal Almanac, 1996, Andrews & McMeel, Kansas City, 517; as quoted by http://www.religioustolerance.org
3. As quoted by http://www.religioustolerance.org
4. Greg H. Parsons, Exec. Dir., U.S. Center for World Mission, Pasadena, CA; quoted in Zondervan News Service, 1997-Feb-21, as quoted by http://www.religioustolerance.org

 

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