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Does the Bible guide us to break into denominations? There are plenty of verses about unity and the church but then there's the 12 tribes of Israel.

From a biblical standpoint, are denominations our way of making Christianity fit our needs or are they options that are meant to attract more people to different parts of Christianity? Does the Bible approve of denominations?

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The 12 tribes of Israel were separate but still part of God's one people, and part of the family of God. I would consider them more analogous to different traditions in a church (different cultural practices under the same theology), but not denominations (which remain separate because of theological differences, primarily).

Jesus prayed that we may be one (John 17:20-23). The analogy of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12) and being one, as well as the analogy of the vine and the branches (John 15:5) also indicate that we are to be together, and not separated.

Denominations have split off because of human sin in general (with culpability on all sides), and not because it was Biblically appropriate. There was one church in the first centuries. It is because of human sin that people broke away. That is why we pray for unity and encourage interdenominational dialogue and reconciliation.

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Good answer. I'm not sure it's quite right to say there was one (uniform, united) church in the first centuries though. Churches in different locations had different issues and different characteristics, which is why Paul's letters to (say) the Corinthians are so different from his letter to the Romans. So while it perhaps wasn't intended/encouraged that different churches should have different practices/beliefs/etc, it's clear that some such differences existed even in the very early church. – Waggers Dec 8 '11 at 15:53
@Waggers, that is a good point. It is true, however, that Apostles were more or less "in charge" of all of them. I'd characterize differences as more of an individual nature (apostasy, rebellion) than an official and organizational difference. – Paul Draper Jun 22 '14 at 15:44

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