I was fascinated by a tangent discussion on denominations which I saw on another blog. I see this as part of a larger issue on divisions within Christianity.
Many people do not realize it, but the Christian Church came into being and almost immediately was thrust into a division. The group from which we evolved was in conflict with the Gnostic movement. The book and movie "The DaVinci Code" made reference to other gospels (not in the Bible) which come from the Gnostic tradition.
In 1054 following a long debate on the word "filioque" the Easter Church split from the Western Church. This was the formation of the Orthodox Churches. Christianity, ritually and such, evolved differently in the east and the west and the traditions and rituals of both were quite different. The Nicene Creed, which came from the 4th Century Council of Nicea contained the phrase that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father. In the 6th century, however, this was changed with the addition of the word "filioque," which, in Latin, means, "and from the Son." The Eastern Church did not agree with this change (or with the politics of the situation) and this led to the subsequent split.
In the 15th century, before Martin Luther, a reformer named John Hus debated with the organized church and was subsquently burned at the stake. His ideas and movement, however, did not perish with him and the Moravian Church was established before the wider Protestant Reformation.
Of course, in 1517 Martin Luther launched the Protestant Reformation and the divisions increased. Ulrich Zwingli, another reformer, disagreed with Luther on some issues around the Lord's Supper and the Reformed branch of Protestantism was born.
The Reformed movement spread through Europe and had different variations. The German Reformed Church was different from the Dutch Reformed, which was more Calvinist. John Knox brought the Reformed movement to Scotland and the Presbyterian tradition was born. The theology of Calvin influenced a group of people within the Church of England and the Puritans (later Congregationalists) evolved. Lots of holiness movements and revival movements came into being and the complex face of Protestantism grew into many parts.
Through the latter part of the 19th century and through the 20th century, new groups began to evolve and would often fall under what many people call Evangelicalism. Within Evangelicalism we have people who are very much fundamentalists, we have people who are Pentecostal, or who see themselves as more conservative branches of already existing groups. When people use blanket statements about the "Evangelicals" they fail to realize that this is not a unified group but a group of many parts.
Some groups also exist which emphasize a more "Jewish" form of Christianity, essentially practicing the Jewish tradition as Christians.
Even within Roman Catholicism those divisions grew. The Jesuits, the Dominicans, the Benedictines, and several different types of Franciscans all came into being.
One thing is absolutely true. Jesus' prayer in the Gospel of John, "That they may all be one," is not a prayer which has been answered.
Why is this true?
Lots of reasons.
First is human failure. People do not work at being one. Increasingly, we see division come about because people with unlike opinions choose to attack one another instead of having respectful and honest dialogue. Sadly, we see people, often anonymously, attack others and other people's opinions, with no thought of meaningful dialogue. There is an assumption that if I think I am right, I must be right, and if you disagree with me and I'm right, you are wrong.
Secondly, there are cultural issues. Within Christianity if you looked at a person's ethnic heritage you could almost tell what they were. Most people of Scottish heritage with Presbyterian. German were either Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or Reformed. Dutch? Roman Catholic or Reformed. English---Anglican (in the USA, Episopalian) or Congregationalist or Methodist. Italian, Irish, Polish, French, etc., Roman Catholic. Greek. Greek Orthodox. Russian. Russian Orthodox. Finnish. Lutheran.
The list goes on but you get my point. Lots of cultural issues.
Is there a way out?
I think so, but I'm an optismist.
A wonderful book to read that, in my mind, is one of the great gifts to Christianity is Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy, which speaks of so many divergent traditions and what everyone has to learn from everyone else. It isn't until people learn to learn from one another that we have a chance of one day 'becoming one.'