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An Appreciation of Martin Luther: On Why Many Denominations Do Not Destroy the Unity of the Church

On the godly purpose of different denominations, let me cite the work of Fr. Peter Hocken, one of the great scholars of the Catholic Charismatic renewal, and a person zealous for both unity among Christians as well as reconciliation with the Jewish people. Hocken believed that new denominations often carry with them special graces and insights that are often influential in other sections of Christendom.  For instance, the church has been enriched by the Methodists’ understanding and zeal for personal holiness of all disciples, as it has by the Pentecostals’ recovery of the word gifts. Having denominations and churches that are free to express, develop and test out their insights and yet not be shut down by a traditionalist bishop or an Inquisitor has been critical in the growth and expansion of Christianity in the Twentieth and Twenty-first centuries.[6]

This brings us back to Luther.  As an ex-Catholic and now Anglican, I am profoundly grateful for Luther’s insight about justification by faith. I am grateful for his establishment of the Lutheran denomination, which originally stressed the importance of the Word. Lastly, I am grateful for the unintended consequence of him nailing the 95 Theses up on the door, sparking the multitude of Protestant (and Pentecostal) denominations.





[1] Philip Jenkins, Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2010).

[2] William De Arteaga, “Demos Shararian and His Ecumenical Businessmen,” Pneuma Review, Posted August 4, 2014.

[3] See the Vatican (papal) document: “Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification,”  at the Vatican website:

[4] On the specifics of Augustine’s views on heresy and its punishment see: Charles J. Scalise, “Exegetical Warrants of Religious Persecution: Augustine vs. the Donatists,” Review and Expositor, 93 #4 (Fall 1996) 497-506.

[5] Today it is common to have different churches from multiple denominations come together in “concerts of prayer” for such issues as revival or the conversion of Muslims.

[6] Peter Hocken, The Glory and the Shame: Reflections on the 20th-Century Outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Gilford: Eagle, 1994). [Editor’s note: See William De Arteaga’s  review of The Glory and the Shame here:]


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Category: Church History, Fall 2017

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include, Quenching the Spirit (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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