I finally got around to starting that Zakaria book. It’s awesome. I dunno, I’m just on the 1st chapter and it’s already inspired tons of thoughts.
Here’s just one. So he traces a brief history of liberal democracy and gives credit to Christianity for being, unintentionally, one cause of it. What happened is that the strength of the church acted as a check against the power of various states, and in the process of limiting the power of monarchs the idea of personal rights arose. It’s quite fascinating.
At any rate, he says something interesting, that the organization of the early Christian church was very loose. There wasn’t a rigid hierarchy and the local churches were more or less independent. What he says is that it’s this very lack of organization that caused the church to flourish in the beginning.
He also notes the Reformation as being significant in the rise of liberal democracy also, where the reformers acted as a check against an overly powerful and corrupt Catholic church. And that this was a good thing, as far as liberal democracy goes. (Also interesting and refreshing to me, he correctly notes that Luther and other reformers were closer to fundamentalists than liberals in modern terms.)
I thought this secular political analysis was fascinating. A friend asked me a while back whether I thought denominations were, essentially, sinful. And I didn’t know. It seems like it’s bad, it’s division in the church, etc. etc. And I kept thinking about the Mormons, and how in Salt Lake City I was so impressed by the power and efficacy of a completely centrally controlled religion. I just bemoaned the fact that much of Christianity lacks this efficacy and power because it’s so fractured.
I think I’m changing my mind. I think Zakaria is right in both cases, even more than he says. I think Christianity flourished at the start and after the Reformation because it went against a central hierarchical structure. And it helped along liberal democracy which improved the human condition.
So I now think the somewhat fractured nature of Christianity is a good thing, I’m going to say it was God’s intent. Jesus could have spent a lot of time organizing structure when he was here (bodily), but he didn’t. And you have God doing things like transporting Philip to random places to preach the gospel. I think this loose structure was God’s intent. It’s what caused the church to flourish from the beginning and I’m going to say it causes the kingdom to increase better even now.
My claim is, the LDS won’t be able to sustain itself this way for much longer, with its rigid structure. What’s a strength now will become a weakness later when (if?) it reaches a certain size. That’s my claim, I guess based on the example of the Catholic church.
So yeah, I dunno, there are clearly bad things about denominations but I think from a larger Kingdom perspective, it’s a good thing. I think it was God’s plan. That’s my claim.