How the church got into its current condition
3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NASB)
Anyone looking at the state of Christianity today would have good reason to be confused by the wide range of opinions and denominations. By ‘denomination’ we mean a group of people who have a particular tradition, structure or form of organisation. These denominations have each been started, one after the other, particularly since the sixteenth century, as men have tried to reform Christianity, or to emphasise a different approach, or doctrinal stance.
It is too complicated within the scope of this book to try to go into these, but it is generally true to say, for many denominations, that they began well. Many have been used by God to correct some error or clean up some problem or to bring the church back closer to where it should be. Sadly, history tends to repeat itself. Therefore, within a generation or two, each new denomination has usually begun to degenerate and to reintroduce errors and man-made traditions of their own. The net effect of all this is that there is a baffling range of different opinions and styles. A person may wonder how they could possibly choose between all these alternatives, or how they can know who is right and who is wrong about various controversial issues.
I want therefore to recommend an approach which will enable you to arrive at a clear understanding of Christianity, without confusion. It is that you should be confident and ambitious enough to read the whole Bible for yourself. Also take it at face value and believe what it says. In other words, instead of relying on other people, or on the traditions of any particular denomination that you may have been born into, just take the Bible on its own as your guide.
If you read all the way through it, taking seriously everything that is said and believing it, then the Bible will gradually make more and more sense to you. And what you read in one book or letter will help you to understand something written somewhere else. The Bible refers to itself a lot and many quotes or references are made which assume you have read the earlier book being referred to. So, you will find parts of the Bible difficult to begin with, but if you persist, things will steadily become clearer.