The Impact Of Doctrinal Difference On The Church

Project and Seminar Material for Theology and Biblical Studies

The Impact Of Doctrinal Difference On The Church


This study was to examine the influences of doctrinal differences among churches in Nigeria, which often hampered unity among the competing denominations in the 21st century. The findings of this study showed that there is lack of national unity among the churches in Nigeria. Factors that conditioned the doctrinal controversy included sacraments, sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gracia, indulgence, perpetual virginity of Mary, purgatory, infallibility of the Pope, women ordination, infant baptism, homosexuality among others. The work recommended that oneness of Christians in Nigeria should be Christocentric, unity in diversity, and sola scriptura. Methods of approach are historical, comparative and descriptive methods.

This study used a mixed method approach combining focus group discussions, in-depth interviews and congregant’s survey. The findings of the study revealed that conflict was understood differently in church, understanding conflict as violence and conflict as misunderstandings. Major causes of church conflicts are doctrinal differences, social and political in nature.

Table Of Contents

Preliminary Page(s)

  • Title page i
  • Certification page ii
  • Dedication iii
  • Acknowledgement iv
  • Abstract v
  • Table of content

Chapter One


  • 1.1 Background of the Study
  • 1.2 Statement of the Problem
  • 1.3 Objectives of the Study
  • 1.4 Research questions
  • 1.5 Research hypotheses
  • 1.6 Significance of the Study
  • 1.7 Scope and limitation of the Study
  • 1.8 Research Questions
  • 1.9 Definitions of terms

Chapter Two

Literature Review

  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 The Concept of Pentecostalism
  • 2.2.1 Antecedence of Modern Pentecostalism
  • 2.3 Historical Overview of the Nigerian Christendom
  • 2.4 Expansion of the Pentecostalism
  • 2.5 Pentecostalism in Nigeria
  • 2.6 Typologies of Pentecostalism in Nigeria
  • 2.6.1 African Initiated Form of Christianity- Sola Churches
  • 2.6.2 African Initiated Form of Christianity- Scriptura Churches
  • 2.6.3 African Initiated Form of Christianity- Et Churches
  • 2.6.4 African Initiated Form of Christianity- Traditions Churches
  • 2.7 The Relationship Between Pentecostal And Charismatic
  • 2.8 Theoretical Framework

Chapter Three

Research Methodology

  • 3.1 Research Design
  • 3.2 Study Area
  • 3.3 Sampling Design and Procedures
  • 3.4 Data Collection Instrument
  • 3.5 Administration of the Data Collection Instrument
  • 3.6 Data Presentation
  • 3.7 Statistical Tools for Data Analyses

Chapter Four

Data Analysis and Interpretation

  • 4.1 Introduction
  • 4.2 Data Analysis
  • 4.3 Research Questions and Testing Of hypotheses

Chapter Five

Findings, Summary and Recommendation

  • 5.1 Findings
  • 5.2 Summary
  • 5.3 Recommendation
  • References

Chapter One


1.1 Background Of The Study

Doctrinal differences led to Pentecostalism which is now one of the fastest growing Christianity movements within Nigeria and the world at large. Today, one will not go through the history of the Early Church without getting involved with this subject, and be struck by the observation that he/she is dealing with an age of innumerable controversies arising from churches with different doctrines. Pentecostalism in Nigeria was inspired by new Religious Movements in Nigeria caused by doctrinal differences, which share some common features with them. Gaiya (2002:para.4) buttresses this view that “during an influenza epidemic in 1918, revivals flared within Mission Churches and the Aladura Churches expanded”.

For example, the Cherubim and Seraphim Society was founded in 1925 as well as the Church of the Lord(Aladura) in 1930 respectively. The Anglican form of prayer known as the Precious Stone Society came up to heal the influenza victims in 1918.The group left AnglicanChurch in the early 1920s and was affiliated with Faith Tabernacle Church based in Philadelphia. Also Joseph Babalola of Faith Tabernacle led a revival that converted thousands of people. The movement initiated ties with the Pentecostal Apostolic Church in Great Britain in 1932, but the ties were dissolved over the use of modern medicine. Pew Forum on Religion (2011: para.1) reports that the Celestial Church of Christ also came into western Nigeria from Benin and rapidly grew and expanded across the northern region. Later it became one of the largest Aladura Churches in Africa. Pa Josiah Akindayome, one of their members later established the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

The Redeemed Christian Church of God “became increasingly Pentecostal in theology, practice and growth” Pew Forum on Religion (2011: para.2). It has become very large and their churches cut across the globe including United States. Another form of revival emerged between 1930 and 1960 which included both Charismatic and Pentecostal movements. Kalu (2008:34) maintains that this wave of revival includes “the Charismatic Youth Movement among the youth ofvarious denominations that occurred in different parts of the country; challenging the parent group which allegedly suffered from power failure”.

The group aimed at re- evangelizing the mainline churches and converting new souls for God. The Pew Forum on Religion (2011: para.2) confirms that the 1930 and 1960 revival aided the evangelical revival of the 1970s.This was a wave of Pentecostal expansion that started operating as fellowship but was later transformed into the establishment of new Churches. One of the leaders of such Churches was Benson Idahosa, who established the Church of God Mission International in 1978.

According to Francis Wernick, division and disunity have marked the history of the Christian Church from at least the end of the first century. While not immune from this danger of dissent, Seventh-day Adventists have been relatively free of serious discord, having a remarkable unity on Bible truth. But danger is always present as the enemy of the church seeks in every way possible to bring in variance and disagreement. Controversial issues have the potential of dividing the church. It is in view of this that the researcher intends to investigate the impact of doctrinal difference on in Nigerian churches.

1.2 Statement Of The Problem

The continuous question of why are there so many Christian denominations in Nigeriahas led to the argument that will be addressed in the course of this study. Looking at scholar’s response to the above question, we must first differentiate between denominations within the body of Christ and non-Christian cults and false religions. Denominations are based on disagreements over the interpretation of Scripture. An example would be the meaning and purpose of baptism. Diversity is a good thing, but disunity is not. If two churches disagree doctrinally, debate and dialogue over the Word may be called for. This type of “iron sharpening iron” (Proverbs 27:17) is beneficial to all. If they disagree on style and form, however, it is fine for them to remain separate.

This separation, though, does not lift the responsibility Christians have to love one another (1 John 4:11-12) and ultimately be united as one in Christ (John 17:21-22). Unlike other religions with just one or few denominations, the Christian religion posted so many challenges ranging from doctrinal differences. Which led the researcher to look into this problems.

1.3 Purpose Of The Study

The main purpose for this research work is to examine the impact of doctrinal difference on the church.

1.4 Objective Of The Study

the researcher intend to achieve the following objectives;

  1. To ascertain the effect of doctrinal difference on the church
  2. To examine the relationship between the early church and today’s church
  3. To find out the issues between Pentecostal churches and orthodox churches in Nigeria.
  4. To examine the role that doctrine plays in solving religious fanatics issues in Nigeria
  5. To proffer possible solutions to the challenges associated with doctrinal differences in Nigeria.

1.5 Scope Of The Study

This study will cover the role of the church and Christianity in general as regards to the issue of doctrinal differences, societal peace and harmony.

1.6 Significance Of The Study

The following are the significance of this study:

  1. The findings of this study will be useful for the government, church leaders and the general public on the role of the church in ensuring sustainable peace and harmony among churches.
  2. This research will also serve as a resource base to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field subsequently, if applied will go to an extent to provide new explanation to the topic.

1.7 Limitation Of The Study

In the cause of the study, there were some constraint which limited the scope of the study;

Financial constraint

– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

Time constraint

– The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.

1.8 Research Questions

  1. Why are there so many Christian denominations in Nigeria?
  2. What is the doctrinal difference between the orthodox and Pentecostal churches?
  3. What is the impact of indoctrination in curtailing religious misconception among Nigerian churches?

1.9 Definition Of Terms


Doctrine (from Latin: doctrina) is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions as the essence of teachings in a given branch of knowledge or belief system. The Greek analogue is the etymology of catechism.


The quality or state of being dissimilar or different, like the different between right and wrong or black or white.

Doctrinal differences:

This is defined in this context as the different views, belief and mode of operation of various churches that varies with that of others.


A church building, often simply called a church, is a building used for Christian religious activities, particularly for worship services. The term in its architectural sense is most often used by Christians to refer to their religious buildings but it is sometimes used (by analogy) to refer to buildings of other religions.


Pentecostalism or Classical Pentecostalism is a renewal movement within Pentecostant Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Chapter Five

Findings, Conclusion And Recommendations

5.1 Findings

The objective of the study was to examine the impact of doctrinal difference on the church. Findings from the study reveals that there is doctrinal difference between the orthodox and Pentecostal churches. Also that the church doctrine plays a significant role in ensuring peace and harmony in the Nigeria. See table 6and 7 above.
Another finding from the study reveals that the society will be peaceful if the church is active in preaching the message of peace (See table 8)

5.2 Conclusion

It is pertinent to note that the aim of this study is to examine the impact of doctrinal difference on the church today, comparing the early church with the catholic, Pentecostal and orthodox churches.

The study investigated when Pentecostalism came into being in the area in 1972 and how it has expanded up to 2005.

The study revealed the similarities and differences between orthodox and Pentecostal churches. Similarly, factorsresponsible for the growth and expansion and Pentecostal doctrines are examined. Pentecostal churches in Nigeria proclaim a pragmatic gospel just like Pentecostals in other parts of the country and beyond. The flexibility of the movement has made them to attain authentic indigenous character, which enables them to spread throughout Nigeria from 1972-2005. Pentecostal churches have created impact, which includes positive and negative influences on the Nigerian society. The study also discussed and analyzedthe challenges and future of these churches in Nigeria with relation to the high rate of doctrinal differences. The researcher finally conclude that as believers, That as believers, there are certain basic doctrines that we must believe, but beyond that there is latitude on how we can serve and worship; it is this latitude that is the only good reason for denominations. This is diversity and not disunity.

The first allows us to be individuals in Christ, the latter divides and destroys the unity of churches in the society. Hence, an authentic Pentecostal consciousness does not belong to particular culture in the world, but a part of the New Testament response, to the question of man’s relationship to God as made known through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are therefore bound to seek and articulate a model of the Church today, that will explicate theologically and ecclesiologically the reality of the Christian faith in the contemporary world, capable of making the encounter between God and humanity, an experiential reality

5.3 Recommendation

From the findings of this study and the level of crises emanating from diverse doctrines from various churches in Nigeria; the researcher suggest that;

  1. That oneness of Christians in Nigeria should be Christocentric, unity in diversity, and sola scriptura.
  2. Believers should chose a church on the basis of its relationship to Christ and how well it is serving the society at large.
  3. That believers should pick a church where the pastor is preaching the Gospel without fear and is encouraged to do so.
  4. Church representative bodies such as Living Faith Aka Winners Chapel Nigeria, Nigerian Council of Churches, Catholic Bishops Conference, and Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Nigeria should be at the forefront not only in the promotion of church doctrines but also in ensuring that leadership appointments at the helm of these organizations are in sync with the biblical standard and thrust of the international community and the nation of Nigeria.
  5. Pentecostalism should be understood as a valid dimension of the Church’s life and ministry, which loses its relevancy when it is being separated from the ecclesial ministry rooted in the Apostolictradition.

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