We need to ask the question, what is it that makes the various denominations within Christianity different? Not specific issues; no, I'm not talking about an in-depth study or analysis into the minutiae. We need to ask, what is it that denominations, collectively, and actively do?
I think denominations are about practices: How do we live out or practice our faith? It usually includes traditions (our orthopraxy) or possibly our "habits".
I think denominations are also about beliefs and doctrine: How do we understand and what do we actually believe in? (our orthodoxy).
So we can say that denominations are about tradition and practice (orthopraxy), and belief and doctrine (orthodoxy). But these must also be a third function: Growth. I feel safe to say that we – as individuals and communities – are meant to learn and grow.
Ultimately for those who belong to denominations believe in growth, learning, and doctrine education through some form or variation of indoctrination. Now, I know “indoctrination” doesn't sound like a nice word, so allow me to explain this method of growth differently:
This methodology believes that thesis + antithesis = synthesis is in error.
We have a thesis (an idea, a theory, a perception of the truth) that the sky is blue. We'll call this my Blue-Sky-Doctrine. In time I come across some one who also has their own thesis, which is contradictory to mine: They believe the sky is paisley. We'll call it their Paisley-Sky-Doctrine. Their idea or perception of the truth, is the antithesis. Two contradictory facts cannot both be right.
We sit and discuss the issue and merge the thesis (my Blue-Sky-Doctrine) with your antithesis (Paisley-Sky-Doctrine) and find our “politically correct” synthesis. In short, we agree that the sky is blue and paisley, maybe, possibly, sometimes bluish-paisley (or paisley-ish-blue).
If I have a bucket filled with the purest spring water and come along and urinate in it – even if only a little bit – the bucket is contaminated. I wouldn't drink from it even though there is a vast amount more pure spring water than urine. And in addition to that, since it was originally filled with water, some of that got displaced and spilled out to accommodate for the extra urine. This synthesis can only take away from, or water-down, the truth.
I had attended an Opus Dei retreat in which the speaker (a Roman Catholic priest) had said “...in matters of doctrine or education, dialogue and discussion of opinions are of no use and fruitless...”.
This line perfectly demonstrates the growth method of the denominationalist. If you are part of a denomination, you are subscribing (knowingly or not and to some degree) to that denomination's practices and beliefs. This is the Denominational-paradigm: It says that thesis + antithesis = synthesis is wrong and in error. However this Denominational-paradigm only works if the whole and complete truth is the thesis. The truth and the thesis must begin as synonymous.
The Denominational-paradigm begins it's growth from a position of assuming it has the whole and complete truth in its grasp and simply doles it out. It may even be argued that this isn't really growth at all, but only indoctrination. This also plays into potential issues of authority.
However, the very existence of numerous denominations – of the division of denominations themselves – makes this starting point – this assumption – difficult to substantiate and hold. However, it must be acknowledged that there is another method, or paradigm of learning and growth.
Postdenominationalism (After denominations)
The Post-denominational-paradigm sees, searches, collects, and claims truth differently.
If we can return to the previous Blue-Sky-Doctrine example we can see it much clearer:
We have a thesis (an idea, a theory, a perception of the truth) that the sky is blue. We'll call this my Blue-Sky-Doctrine. In time I come across some one who also has their own thesis, which is contradictory to mine: They believe the sky is black. We'll call it their Black-Sky-Doctrine. Their idea or perception of the truth, is the antithesis. Two contradictory facts cannot both be right.
We sit and discuss the issue and merge the thesis (my Blue-Sky-Doctrine) with your antithesis (Black-Sky-Doctrine) and come to a synthesis. What we have discovered is that sometimes the sky is blue and sometimes the sky is black. Ultimately we have discovered a larger truth: Day and Night.
Postdenominationalism is akin to wringing the truth out of a thousand lies.
I subscribe to a Post-denominational-paradigm of growth and learning. But since we currently live in a denominational-Christianity, this puts me into somewhat of a conundrum.
Denominations manifest themselves in the real world as churches. So I either belong to all churches, or I belong to none. And since the church itself also has a say in this matter... it become complicated and difficult.
I think there exists the potential of moving into a Postdenominational-Christianity, but we're not there yet.
I am deliberately going to stay away from terms like “emergent”, the “emerging church”, Postmodern, and postmodernity because there exists far too much ambiguity. There is too much confusion between a secular postmodern society vs. a postmodern philosophy and an emergent postmodernity within the church. No, I'm going to keep it simple:
The traditional church (the Institutional church based upon the economic Business Model) as we know and understand it today (and all religion for that matter) is in crisis. I believe it is dying and the question is what are we going to be about it?
I think there are three responses to this question:
- Denial: “If it's not broken, don't fix it” is their motto. “There's nothing wrong with Christianity, it's the rest of the world.” This is Fundamentalism and will eventually lead to isolationism. When the shrinking world no longer allows them to exist in isolation, the reaction will be extreme. This extremism will manifest itself as either terrorism, or extinction.
- Aggressiveness: This is the “take it out behind the shed and shoot it” extreme. The problem with this is twofold. It offers noting in it's place and it addresses the symptoms but not the disease. A symptom is the Institutional Church (or Christianity) as we know it, but the disease is religiosity.
- We move into a Postdenominational age. As the world becomes increasingly smaller and various beliefs, denominations, cultures, and “tribes” are no longer allowed to exist in isolation – are forced into contact or collision – it should become obvious that to wholeheartedly believe that the truth we hold in our possession is the absolute, whole, and complete truth, is not only arrogant, but also ignorant.
"Non-denominational" can itself be a denomination. TheOoze (only for an example) is definitely a community rather than just some discussion board. I would even say TheOoze is a church in a certain way. There is no predominant denomination present (or dominant theological perspective) here, which was so ingeniously proven in one thread. But at the same time couldn't TheOoze be called "Non-denominational"? Multi-denominational, maybe, but Non-denominational.? No, I don't think so. I mean some people there belong to their own denominations, but it's something even beyond that. TheOoze isn't just a side dish of a main course.
It has a life of it's own: we all bring something to the table. And this is interesting and worth exploring. Unitarian-Universalists (UUA) is a denomination onto itself. Basically - as far as my limited knowledge here goes - a UUA church hold no official doctrines.
In a way I can see why some would attempt to label TheOoze as being UUA: There are no officially held doctrines at TheOoze. When encountering a creature never before seen and desperately attempting to categorize it, to make it "fit", into the only way they know of: the UUA becomes a close fit. But TheOoze is not UUA and neither is it "Non-denominational". I think this is where some get confused or sidetracked - seeing the "Universal Church" in the Catholic sense of the word. Embracing the ecumenical richness of the various denominations was seen as a bad thing and corruption - in fact, any sort of ecumenical "cross-over" or seemed to be the devil's work. TheOoze is definitely embracing the concept of the "Invisible Universal Church". We all, as Christians, are members of, and bound by, this "Invisible Universal Church". But isn't that the very core that holds Christianity together? Those invisible bonds of the Holy Spirit - like the wind - unpredicitable and uncontrollible by men?
I think it is man's attempt to reign it and control these bonds that give rise to denominations and divisions. After all, they're man-made - they are byproducts of our fallen state and we've embraced them. That's why so many people feel "free" at TheOoze: Those "shackles" have been removed.
I still believe we are and must move out of this disassemble/reassemble cycle and into a Postdenominational Christianity - another word, I suppose, would be Unity.
I think TheOoze may be a step in this direction. I think that's why so many people have a difficult time labeling it, or putting their finger on it... we've never seen this before.