Seriously...I think there has got to be better answers than this! I hear time and time again from Christians that they are directly inspired by G-d...in some case they've even heard the voice of G-d. In your language, it's often "the Spirit led me"...or "guided me"...or some such thing. Now, if that was true, then more of should agree than disagree. Granted, maybe those who actually heard G-d didn't *really* listen (hence the freewill explaination is on more solid ground), but that seems pretty lame to me.
I gotta say, I don't think Christians have a good explaination for this. It boils down to the fact that a very small minority of you are actually on the right track and the rest are simply deluding themselves. You heard the voice of G-d...oh please, I don't think so! From my understanding, there are some major disagreements amongst my dear Christians. Is that not the case?
Seriously...I think there has got to be better answers than this! I think freewill makes perfect sense whether you agree or not.
more of should agree than disagree. When it comes to the essentials of Christianity, Jesus is the Son of God, he died for our sins, and rose again on the 3rd day, we are pretty much in agreement. Most of the disagreements are not essential to salvation.
As a scientist and Christian, I see it this way: the only objective thing we have is data. In the case of Christianity, you can probably break it down into what Scripture says and experience. Everything else is theory, which is basically how we logically connect the data.
So Christian A may have had experience X and read verse V which made him come to conclusion 1 about a doctrine. Christian B may have had experience Y and read verse W which made her come to conclusion 2 about a doctrine.
These inconsistencies occurs in all forms of human ideas, whether they be ideas about love, ideas about how the world works (even scientists disagree with other, sometimes vehemently), and ideas about what God is like. Our experiences influence how we interpret the data, and the amount of data we've encountered influences how we interpret our experiences. There's a lot of fluidity there.
Why are there differences within Christianity? I think it all boils down to pride. I remember listening to the testimony of a man who was a baptist preacher and became a Catholic priest. He began his story by talking about his home town in Alabama where there was one Baptist church. By the time he became Catholic, there were a dozen. Nearly all of them came about over a disagreement between some members and the pastor over certain scripture passages, then when neither side would budge on their interpretation there was a split, and then another, and so on. It breaks my heart. But when there is no central teaching authority within a denomination, it is no surprise that things quickly break down.
In every book of the New Testament except Philemon there are severe warnings about the truth of the gospel becoming subverted by teachers who bring in "unsound" doctrines. Though not the ideal state of things (perfect unity around the perfect truth would be ideal), church "splits" allow Christ to always keep a large or small remnant of His church sound in doctrine.
The problem with a centralized control conception of church organization is that when the leader becomes corrupt or unsound in doctrine, so follows the entire organization. It is for this reason that Paul stated that his teachings all came from direct revelation from Jesus, he taught what Jesus taught, and his teachings should therefore be "the standard" against which all doctrines are judged sound or unsound by individual church pastors (read especially 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus).
There are no truly "new" doctrines since the 1st Century. When a "new" doctrine raises its head, you may be sure a fight or a split will follow. But such disputes should (SHOULD) result in a large or small portion of the church holding to sound doctrine and rejecting the unsound. This type of discernment is probably a good thing on the whole.
Finally, Paul did warn that even if an angel or a vision of God should preach a different gospel than the one he preached, that preacher of the "new" gospel should be abandoned and rejected (Galatians 1:8)...so much for "God told me..."
My focus lately has not been on our differences but on our likenesses. What do we have in common. Jesus is Christ the risen Lord. He died and rose again. Do you believe this and confess this to God and are sorry for your sins. The rest are people's own interpretations of what they believe scripture is telling them. Some of those people I agree with others I don't.
If you tried to explain to a bunch of ants what it would be like to be a human, there would be a lot of confusion. That's why humans disagree on a lot of things about God. We're all wrestling with someone who's infinitely greater and more complex than we are.
From the moment God breathed spiritual life into earth creatures until now, He has been revealing Himself to us progressively. Human beings are incapable of receiving all that God has already revealed about Himself, much less keep up with all He is presently revealing to others all over the place. And the most exciting truth is that God is still in the process of creating man in His Own Image! The Lord Jesus Christ is our prototype! The rest of us are still being molded, but individually. And so long as we're contained in earthen vessels, we seem prone to bicker about our progress.
To me, if you guys cannot even agree within yourselves what is correct and just, then why should I belive anything that your religion says is truth. As I said earlier, God didn't make us as puppets but allows freewill. If you're going to use that as an excuse to not believe in God, that's your decision.
Because it's comprised of people who have different opinions and expectations. The Bible gives an outline, and people seem to like to try and find ways to add their own touches to it. Some people like to dig deeper, some like to stay on the surface, and others are happy somewhere in between. Any group comprised of people will have differences. What matters is the heart. Where do they stand when you get down to the basics, like the fact that Jesus is God's Son, whom has always existed with God and the Holy Spirit, whom came to earth to save us because we couldn't save ourselves... He came and lived a sinless life for us so that he could be our atoning sacrifice, so that we could live a life pleasing to God, because that is in our best interest anyways. :) He was died and was rose again, to show how God wants us to rise again from our sinful lives to live pleasing to him. The choice is each persons.
So long as the heart is the same, that's what's important, I think. :)
Most people desire a "clear-cut, this is ok and this not" list for EVERYTHING EVER. Even when we think we have enough information for laws, our tendency is to try and find loopholes or try to cover possible loopholes so we can feel safe *based on those rules.* Those rules then govern who is "in" and who is "out." Those rules then become our "savior."
Christianity is not about rules deciding who gets in or out. The only thing which TRULY matters is the person of Jesus Christ and our decision upon our own state and whether or not He and His actions (and His alone) justify us before God.
If Christianity had set rules to follow, we would then revere the rules as our "God." In fact, the entire OT shows us that that was EXACTLY what the Pharisees did! They turned the 10 commandments into over 600 Jewish laws determining whether or not you were "in" or "out" with God.
A better question is: "Then why does God give any laws at all?"
My best answer is that God knew that we humans cannot understand unless shown. He gave us some good guidelines to follow which are after His heart, but even those aren't all 100% set in stone. There are times and places when they can and SHOULD be broken (for example when one thing leads to a greater conflict against God to use a nice, overly-easy one). His desire was to give us guidance enough to point us in the right direction, while at the same time keeping us focused on His Son, Jesus Christ, over the rules themselves.
So why are there differences (to finally get back to the OP)? Because they are allowed, so long as they do not conflict with the only core beliefs one MUST have, which pretty much exclusively all center around the person, nature, acts, and redemptive qualities of Jesus Christ. I won't list them here and now, but I could try to come up with them if anyone really cared enough and responded with earnest desire. We differ because, as a body, we desire to glorify and honor God in all our actions. We all simply want to try and help others do the same.
The only ERROR in our differences is when we turn that which is secondary into something we believe is primary.