I have been in ministry for 25 years. Besides a six-year stint as a pastor at Stonebriar (great memories!), I have solely taught and produced theology courses (unless you count me mad skills as a barista at Credo House Coffee Shop, making Luther Lattes!).

Now to the point: I have found a few things that are the most controversial. You know, those things you have to tip-toe around unless you are trolling for a brawl. Here is my countdown of the most controversial issues in the Protestant Christian church/theology.

10. Doctrine of Hell:

Does it really exist? How long are people there? What is the nature of Hell? Fire? Darkness? Separation from God?

9. Doctrine of the Atonement:

Why did Christ go to the cross? Who required it, God the Father? Satan? Was it just an example?

8. Roman Catholicism:

Can Roman Catholics be saved? Do they have the true Gospel? Are they a cult?

7. Calvinism/Arminianism:

This is the whole predestination debate and everything that goes with it. Do we have free will? Is our election unconditional or conditional? Do unbelievers have a legitimate chance to be saved?

6. Eschatology:

Has Christ already come in A.D. 70? Is the Millennium future? Is the Tribulation future? Is the a secret rapture of the church or is it the same thing as the Second Coming of Christ? When does the Rapture occur? Before the tribulation, after, or in the middle?

5. Creation/Evolution:

Did God use evolution? Are the six days in Genesis literal? Is the Earth young or old? Was there a real Adam and Eve? Did God use evolution to create the universe?

4. Charismatic Gifts:

Is there a separate category of gifts called the “supernatural sign gifts”? Are these gifts still given today? This includes tongues, prophecy, interpretation of tongues, healings, and miracles.

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3. Cultural Ecclesiology:

Should the church involve modern music? Are we to be seeker sensitive? Is the church able to adjust to the culture, accommodating to their style? Should Sunday morning be focused on the believer or the unbelievers?

2. Homosexuality:

Does the Bible condemn homosexuality? Is it universally/timelessly condemned or is circumstantial in the context of the culture? Can a practicing homosexual be a Christian?

1. Sexual Anthropology:

Can women be pastors? Did god create men and women differently and assign different roles to each sex? Or are the roles based on individual giftedness, not sex?

What do you think of my list?


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    21 replies to "10 Most Controversial Issues in the Church Today"

      • C Michael Patton

        Yeah. It is a countdown from 10 to 1. Are the numbers not showing up?

    • Peter J Gentry

      Is the Bible reliable (History of Text / Canon)
      This is one of the major questions in the world.

      • C Michael Patton

        Good one. But do you think it should be in the top ten?

        • Kevin McLaughlin

          If the Bible isn’t reliable none of the other top ten matter.

        • C Michael Patton

          Very true. And if this were the 80s or maybe the 90s, I would include it in the top 10.

        • Kevin McLaughlin

          You think that controversy was solved in 2000’s? That is interesting given the confusion in the church about the simplest issues.

        • C Michael Patton

          No, not at all. I just don’t hear the inerrancy debate any more. I’m not saying it is not around, nor am I saying that the authority of Scripture is not a problem, it just seems that so many have just chosen an easier path and just found interpretations that suit their view. Since the advent of the web, you can find just about anyone who will make what seems to most as a conceivable argument for their positions. It is unfortunate.

    • Steven Paterson

      It perhaps ties in with point 5 a bit. Something that’s becoming more prevalent or maybe getting more exposure is should we take the Bible literally where it’s meant to be taken literally. The flip side of that is that other writings like the epistles, Proverbs, Psalms, etc become good guidelines but there it is robbed of the message of salvation.

    • Earl Morton

      This is a pretty good list. I would have them in a different order, but that probably just reflects the Christian circles I tend to travel in.

      I would, however, find a place in my top ten for politics. Should the pastor talk about political issues from the pulpit? Should the church endorse candidates? Should church members hand out fliers for political events, such as town halls, on church property?

      I think that theology itself would be on my list. Should the pastor discuss different theological viewpoints in his sermons, or just present what he or his church believes? Should people with other views on non-essential doctrines be allowed to teach or preach or be elders or deacons?

      • C Michael Patton

        That is really cool. It would be great to have a list called the top 10 issues in ecclesiology!

    • Earl Morton

      PS: In the last sentence I should have said, “Should members with other views…” Feel free to edit that when you release the comment.

    • Jim

      I believe that many issues here are true, but what is most alarming according to a Barna study today’s young people who confess Christianity 18to 34 70% believe that having sex outside of marriage or prior to marriage is ok. And adulterous marriages remarriage after divorce that are not biblical is at its highest level in istory

    • Eric

      Michael,
      I would combine #1 &#2 as #1 and rename it as: Queer anthropology : 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution recognizing LGBTQIA+ rights. The United Nations subsequently urged all countries to pass laws to protect LGBTQIA+ persons from discrimination, This in my view is the HOTTEST of the HOT! One have to be like Peter Pan to traverse this land.

    • chapmaned24

      OK, so I’m the mole, uh, I mean, troll! All of those are my favorite topics to brawl over. It gets the blood pumping! In your neck.

      But the one I like is those Original Sin folks who take the 6 days of creation as literal 24 hour days, but say that a day is as a thousand years when it comes to the age of Adam. For in THAT DAY that he ate of the fruit he shall surely die. Why not be consistant?

      But then Jesus comes along and states, “Are there not twelve hours in a day?”, right after we spent years telling people that there are 24 hours, except for Adam’s age.

      24 hours, 12 hours, or a thousand years!

      Ed Chapman

    • Ross McPhee

      How also to answer Catholic objections to Protestantism, and their assertion that they are the one true church.

      • C Michael Patton

        Yes, good one. But wouldn’t you consider that Protestant/Catholic apologetics?

    • ALLAN

      Another Jesus taught,not the Jesus of the Bible.Galatians 1v8

    • Eric Weiss

      Good list. I might re-order 3 and 4 and I wouldn’t as suggested by a person here combine 1 and 2; the egalitarianism/mutualism vs complementarianism debate is I think separate (for many) from the issue of LG+ affirmation. The Biblical Christian Egalitarians Facebook group prohibits discussion of LGBTQ issues, though many there are LG-affirming.

      Completely off your list and probably not even a thought or question for many Christians is whether the format and style of the church service and serving of communion should be radically rethought and redone. If you or anyone wants to read my thoughts and reasons about that you can find them here: https://theoblogoumena.blogspot.com/2020/06/thomas-oloughlin-eucharist.html?m=1

      FWIW, I recently emailed Fr. O’Loughlin for his thoughts on my rejecting the belief as expressed in my blog post that the bread and wine of the Eucharist change or must change into Christ’s body and blood, but he responded that illness has prevented him at present from responding.

      Χάρις καί Ειρήνη

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