What are the dangers of pluriformity and denominationalism?
Pluriformity of the church is the idea that different churches may coexist beside each other while worshipping God in different ways and professing their faith in Him in various forms. Although they are different, they are all considered to be churches of Christ. Instead of a black-and-white approach, where a church is either a true church or a false church or sect, pluriformity is much more nuanced. Instead, it is more about degrees of purity, from more pure to less pure.
Articles 28 and 29 BC clearly teach that it is God’s command to join the true church, and this requires a careful and diligent examination. But the pluriform view obscures this. It becomes more a matter of personal preference. At most, one prefers to become a member of the purest possible church.
The concept of denominationalism has the same intention: there are churches that all consider themselves to be churches of Christ. They mutually recognize each other as such without making the distinction which we confess in Article 29 BC about the true church and without achieving the unity required in Articles 27 and 28 BC.
Consequences of pluriformity affecting true unity
This leads to various undesirable and condemnable situations. For example, you might accept another church as a true church, without working towards unity in the truth. Or you might consider the collaboration itself as unity in Christ, while ignoring the required ecclesiastical unity under the yoke of Christ (Article 28 BC).
The necessity to achieve a unity within one church federation then disappears. When two or more church federations can mutually accept each other as true churches, they are obliged to demonstrate that unity by becoming one church federation in that country. However, the concept of church pluriformity prevents them from doing so.
How does this align with the command to become one in the body of Christ through mutual recognition? We must view this as disobedience to Christ as the Head of the church.
Consequences of pluriformity regarding the truth
The concept of the pluriformity of the church easily leads to a pluriformity of doctrine with the acceptance of errors. The desire to collaborate may lead to tolerance and concealment of false doctrine. In the Netherlands, this is one of the major factors that have contributed to the decline of the Reformed Churches liberated (the GKv).
Pluriformity also affects the mutual responsibility that a church federation has toward foreign sister churches. It becomes easier to omit the required oversight and correction that may be needed, which would violate the accepted rules. These rules formulate the obligation to help and sharpen each other in living as churches of God in this world and watching over each other to ensure there are no deviations from the Reformed doctrine, church order, discipline, and liturgy.
Pluriformity makes it acceptable to marry a member of another church. It also undermines God’s prohibition to leave the true church as described in Article 28 BC. Someone who comes under discipline can easily withdraw from the church to go to another one that seems more acceptable.
How does this all align with the marks of the church, which claims to be “rejecting all things contrary” to God’s pure Word? Christ desires a church that is focused on Him, honors Him, obeys Him, holds fast to His truth, and is united in Him and therefore in His truth.
(to be continued)