You’ve all heard me use the term all over the place. I’ve given a few short definitions, but I typically refer to an upcoming blog post which expatiates the concept more fully. This is that post. Or rather, the beginning of the series of blog posts. So buckle up. 🙂
If you hadn’t guessed it already, pandenominationalism is a neologism. It was originally coined mostly as a joke by a close friend of mine, but in our discussions, we developed it into a more defined and refined concept. I have found it to be tremendously useful as a term and label. Mostly because there aren’t preconceived connotations tied to it, and so I’m better able to explain what I actually believe with more clarity.
I believe a lot more people are pandenominationalist than know they are pandenominationalist. They already live the exemplary life of its principles. But they haven’t sat down and thought through why they do certain admirable things from the specific perspective of an identity as pandenominationalist. And so they often don’t apply those principles to other areas of their life. And so they are unwittingly inconsistent, without wanting to be. This is why understanding it can be valuable. It might change very little for you to start identifying as a pandenominationalist, or it might change a great deal. That’s up to you and God.
But what is Pandenominationalism, other than a sesquipedalian word that is fun to say? There are two core elements at the heart of it.
Firstly, it rests upon the firm belief that all those who truly believe in the Gospel (in the deeper biblical sense of submission and devotion, not just intellectual assent) are Christians, saved, and part of the Body and Bride of Christ, and are thus family. There is one Body, not many, though there are many members, and the prime command within the Church is to love one another radically, and thereby love our God.
Secondly, it rests upon the firm belief that the truth of doctrine, the revealed teachings of God in their entirety, is absolute (not predicated upon our assent or comprehension), discoverable (not impossible to be ascertained by the aid of the Holy Spirit and a willing and teachable heart), and important (worthy of study, both edifying and commanded).
Now, a great many people would concur with both of the above paragraphs. At least, independent of the application. When traditions and behaviours are held against the ramifications of these two beliefs held together, they almost always fall short, in my experience. I will write on some of these in more detail in later posts, but right now I’ll touch on some of the highlights.
The third primary principle of pandenominationalism is at the juncture of the first two. Because of them, every believer in the core gospel has a fundamental common ground which takes precedence over our individual beliefs about what true Doctrine actually is. Treating someone as ‘outside the fold’ due to a non-salvific difference is tantamount to adding to the Gospel and creating a schism, both of which are condemned with the strongest of language in Scripture multiple times. We are to seek after truth, yes, but together. In unity.
This is why pandenominationalism is called what it is. A denomination is not a cult. A denomination is a useful categorization of a person’s conclusions regarding the nature of Doctrinal Truth. It is not a dividing line, it is a semantic and cultural label with pragmatic value. Serious seekers of truth examine all possible sides of an issue and are willing to hear contrary positions and lend them serious credence. Mature lovers of truth can do this without having to believe that truth is non-existent or non-discoverable. In this sense, denominations can actually have a unifying value, rather than a dividing one. This is why this isn’t the same as nondenominationalism — a pandenominationalist recognises the universal membership in the Body and Church of Christ as prime, and thus identifies as a member of all denominations, instead of identifying as a member of none.
However, as I mentioned, a denomination is not a cult. Just as this is not nondenominationalism, this is also not universalism or modern ecumenicalism. The Gospel is core, and is what lends this unity in the first place. Denying the existence of the Gospel does not solve the problem, it exacerbates it.
I hope you agree with these statements and recognise how identifying as a pandenominationalist does not obviate your identification with specific denominational traditions. Identifying as pandenominationalist subordinates those traditions under identification as a Christian, though, as it should be. And that has far-reaching relational, sociological, theological, and moral ramifications. Which I look forward to expounding upon further in later posts in this series.
If you have questions, let me know in the comments! I would love to hear your feedback, not only on whether you agree or disagree but also on how I might more clearly express this philosophy.