When defending the exclusive claims of the Catholic church in regards to ecclesiastical authority, Catholic apologists often point to the thousands of Protestant denominations and conclude God could not possibly be the author of such confusion. In their zealousness to press this argument, Catholics have been known to inflate the number of Protestant denominations to 20,000, 30,000, and, yes, I’ve even seen claims of 40, 000. But what is an accurate number?
In the article below, Scott Eric Alt scolds his fellow Catholic apologists for “cooking the books” when it comes to the alleged number of Protestant denominations. Bravo, Mr. Alt! Thank you for your honesty and objectivity.
My take? The early Reformers took many important initial steps in turning the church away from Catholic ritualism and legalism and back to the Gospel of simple faith in Jesus Christ. What may seem like incomplete and underdeveloped shifts in doctrine and methodology from our point of view were major steps at the time. Succeeding Reformers continued to shed beliefs and practices rooted in Catholic tradition. The process took place over many generations resulting in a large number of denominations. I don’t see that as a bad thing but a positive. Does anyone really desire to go back to 1517 when a monolithic church was ruled by a single dictator, where church and state were bound at the hip, and where all citizens were forced to join and be completely subservient to a religious system that had buried the Gospel beneath layers of ritual and superstition?
There have undoubtedly been many casualties along the way. Many of the mainline denominations have drifted into modern unbelief and apostasy. Many unsaved “protestants” began heretical religious movements. But in this unorganized mishmash called evangelical Protestantism that the world ridicules and scorns, the Gospel still shines brightly and the Holy Spirit still draws sinners to Jesus Christ.
“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28
The world respects wealth, power, organizational structure, historical pedigrees, and the trappings of ritualistic pomp and ceremony, but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head (Luke 9:58).
We Need to Stop Saying That There Are 33,000 Protestant Denominations
The 33,000 Denominations Myth: A Call to Roman Catholic Apologists to Repent of the Use of Simple Dishonesty in Their Presentations