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As far as I know, there is only one God, one Jesus, and one Holy Spirit, and they are ONE. But, what we have here is dozens of different doctrines (I'm not sure if "doctrine" is the right word for this). Catholics, Protestants, Mormons etc.

And, the driving force of understanding the Bible comes from the guidance of Holy Spirit. And the Bible of course is the best place to learn about God's will. Since there is only one Holy Spirit that is teaching us all,

  • Why can't we have a universal belief and practice? What creates this different bible interpretations from the spiritual point of view?
  • Is it possible to have just one universal doctrine/belief/practice?
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Was it always like this? Aryanism heresy thought The Father and Jesus are not one. It is only due to political circumstances of that time that it remained heresy and not became an official doctrine. –  Alex May 15 '12 at 10:05
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Good question. It is a question we all ask our self at some point. –  David Laberge May 15 '12 at 10:50
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Obligatory xkcd comic: xkcd.com/927 Even though it's about a technical subject, the same reasoning applies to any human endeavor. –  Gilbert Le Blanc May 15 '12 at 16:14
    
Biblical Hermeneutics –  user1054 May 15 '12 at 17:26
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The question itself points to its own answer. Not all Christians (according to the site's definition) agree even that there is "only one God, one Jesus, one Holy Spirit." –  Flimzy May 15 '12 at 18:56

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The answer is "sin". The only thing stopping us from having one doctrine is sin. If sin didn't enter into the equation, we would agree.

God wants us to agree.

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. - 1 Corinthians 1:10

But because of sin, we don't agree. Sin can be summarized as lust...

"In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts." These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. - Jude 1:18-19

...and pride.

As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines - 1 Timothy 1:3

For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. - 1 Timothy 1:6-8

Example

Suppose I am doing ok financially, and I read a passage indicating that I should provide for my brothers who are in need, and for those who minister to me. Buuut... something inside me tells me "Nah... that money is yours! You worked hard for it. Forget those lazy people... they can go get a job and make their own money!" Well, such a person would be inclined to have a "different interpretation" of those passages I linked.

It's a sad reality... difficult to accept; difficult to consider a possibility in our own lives... but reality none the less.

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Considering this question, you have an interesting domain name in your profile :) –  Jan Willem B May 19 '12 at 7:08
    
Unbelief! - Although you could say that unbelief is sin. –  Matt Sep 9 '13 at 1:15

I personally believe that it would be hard to force a set of doctrine and of pratice to all believer.

First of all, the Bible is clear on the central issue like is the soteriology (the Gospel of the Cross*). There are many christian today that tries to gather with other christian on what they see at the center of Biblical teaching. Two examples are, The Gospel Coalition (http://thegospelcoalition.org/) and Together for the Gospel (http://t4g.org/) are two public window that want to tell the world that these Christian can put a side the peripheral issues and be join together on the Gospel.

Second, the Bible present the truth of the Gospel, but does not present a set of rules on how to conduct mariage, participate to the Lord's Supper. Take the Lord's Supper, here is a key passage :

1 Corinthians 11.23-2

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (1 Co 11:23–26). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

This passage present the basic teaching on the Lord's Supper. It does not tell when Christian should take the Lord's Supper. Should we take it at the beginning, the end, once a month, could grape juice be Ok or does it have to be a specific type of wine. None of these issues is solved in the Bible.

This example goes to show that there are many place in the pratice of Christianity where the Bible does not proclaim practice.

Finally, on the question of doctrine. It is true that the Holy Spirit teaches us, but many of us are lazy. Many christian take that truth and apply it with a certain lazyness. "Since the Spirit teaches me I do not have to study" they are thinking. But the Bible present that Christian have to study hard the Bible (Ps 119, 1Tim 4.12, 2Tim 3.14,) and life (example of the knowledge of Paul and the Ecclesiastes). Also there are many outhere that proclaim to be Christian and write books, and speak of the Bible in way that is contrary to the Faith or the teaching of the Gospels. Many follow them.

Conclusion Is it possible to have one set of doctrine, belief and practice. On the question of doctrine/belief we need to identify the main point of the Gospel and seek unity on the issue. On the peripheral issue we need to learn to hold them gently. On practice, the application must be a out of a firm resolved from understanding the Bible, our context and our generation. The methodology used in the 1600 might not the same today, or the practice in the US differ from those in Canada, and within Canada the practice differ if you are English of French. But that does not mean that the English brothers are less brother because they do not do has we, French Canadians. And I am only presenting north america, image if I started with South America or Africa...

Ravi Zacharias (http://rzim.org/) once said : That unity is not uniformity.

  • Terminology borrowed from Kevin deYoung and Greg Gilbert in their book "What is the Mission of the Church"
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Good question.

Jesus established his doctrine for several reasons. Among them:

Eph. 4:11-14

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

Notice especially verses 13 and 14.

Originally, Adam and Eve were taught the gospel by revelation from God, who in turn taught it to their children, etc. Eventually, contentions arose (Cain, anyone?) and there surely became disagreements in doctrine.

During Jesus' life, this was still the case. Although He did have prophets and apostles, they were apparently rejected over time. In fact, after Christ's ministry finished, the Church He established quickly went into decline (within about a hundred years or so) because of apostasy, or rejection of the gospel according to the apostles that Jesus ordained. (Hence the epistles of Jude, Corinthians, Galatians, and John's warning not to add to or take away from the Book of Revelation which has precious truths about God's plan.)

The question comes down to: who is the authority on the matter? Who has the authority to interpret the Bible? So it goes, each sect will probably have a different answer to this question. This is probably due in part to when and how the Spirit teaches us truth.

Eph. 5:9

9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

Though teachings between Christian churches vary, pretty much all of them have truth and light. I would suppose that people are members of a church because they feel good at that particular church.

So why can't we have a universal practice and belief? Doctrines disagree because of the "sleight of men," but the Spirit will always draw individuals toward truth. It used to be that way: one universal truth was both taught and received, and I expect it will be that way when the Savior comes again. (Interestingly, that would mean there is still one universal truth in these days since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As David commented above, food for thought.)

This question about the Spirit teaching truth is also really insightful: Are there truths that can only be known through spiritual means?

God will never teach one man a truth and another man a different truth which conflicts. Somewhere along the way, men did change things. If all could come to a consensus about who or what is the authority in interpreting scripture and declaring doctrine (as was done in Christ's day within the Church), I suppose all differences could be resolved.

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There are two main reasons: sin and ignorance.

Sin: Some people don't like what the Bible says, and so insist on "re-interpreting" it to conform to what they prefer to believe. Some people want to use the Bible to advance some cause of their own and so pervert and corrupt it.

But even without that, even if everyone genuinely sought the truth, we would still have disagreements because humans are fallible. I've had plenty of disagreements about doctrine with other believers whom I am sure are completely sincere. I don't think they're lying or deliberately distorting scripture and I don't think they suppose I am. We just disagree.

Why doesn't the Holy Spirit prevent such disagreements by miraculously causing us all to have the correct understanding of scripture? Free will, for one. God is not going to dictate to us what we must believe: he gives us the freedom to come to our own conclusions. Also, why would God bother to create billions of human beings if he was then going to insure that they all thought exactly the same?

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I think the key to finding the true doctrine exists in scripture in Isaias 22:22 which then interprets Christ's own key in Matt 16:19 which leads to the church authority Christ advocated in Matt 18:17. Another way to determine correct Bible interpretation is to read first hand (to avoid the cherry pickers) the instructions and letters early church leaders wrote BEFORE the books of the Bible were finally selected in around 397AD. Surely such leaders who actually lived so close to the apostles time would best know what the apostles taught!

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Welcome to C.SE. This is an okay answer - although I'd dispute both that "the books of the Bible were...selected in 397AD." and, more importantly that "Surely such leaders who actually lived so close to the apostles time would best know what the apostles taught." If that were the case - why was the church in Corinth so messed up, and why did Ephesus "lose its first love?" –  Affable Geek May 14 '13 at 13:29

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