Sunday, March 21

Christianity is not about Religion

So I felt compelled to share about how Christianity and the faith I have in God is not religion although it commonly gets portrayed as being such. In saying this I am not saying that religion is in anyway a bad thing and in fact there is a lot about religion that I really enjoy and find really meaningful. However that is not the point of Christianity and you can't get buy simply being religious. In thinking otherwise you are mistaken.

There is a clear and distinct difference between being a faithful Christian and being religious. Yes it is possible to be both, but they are not in anyway synonymous. Far and away the clearest delineation between "religion" and Christianity can be see in the statement "the revelation of God is the abolition of religion." Now let me clarify that quote as it does not mean religions is all wrong it means that God wants to abolish then need and reliance and focus of religious activities and the focus on being righteous and focus instead on forming a relationship and having faith. God came to alter our focus on religion and place it on him where it rightfully belongs. For anyone can engage in religion as you don't need faith you don't need to belief to have religion. This is not Christianity. Christianity is about belief and about faith not about actions. Our actions then follow this faith not preceed it.

"What is the purpose of the universal attempt of religions but to anticipate God, to foist a human product into the place of His word, to make our own images of the One who is known only where He gives Himself to be known." If this is what religion is in the way it is done then certainly religion is not Christianity but the very opposite. Christianity is to be done in service of God and in seeking him not attempting merely to display it. We are called to believe it and seek God.

"Almost all people, inside as well as outside the church, find that the notion of grace stands in contradiction to everything they understand by religion." God is extreemly gracious and nothing we do or ever will do will change that. This is a key point of faith and Christianity that can not be see in merely practicing religion.

"I want you to set aside the notion of the Christian religion, because it's a contradiction in terms. You won't learn anything positive about religion from Christianity, and if you look for Christianity in religion, you'll never find it. To be sure, Christianity uses the forms of religion, and, to be dismally honest, too many of its adherents act as if it were a religion; but it isn't one, and that's that. The church is not in the religion business; it is in the Gospel-proclaiming business. And the gospel is the good news that all man's fuss and feathers over his relationship with God is unnecessary because God, in the mystery of the Word who is Jesus, has gone and fixed it up Himself. So let that pass."

A brief study of the etymology of our English word "religion" will reveal that we might not want to allow the word "religion" to be associated with Christianity. There are several Latin words which may have served as the origin of our English word "religion." The Latin word religo meant "to tie or fasten." A similar word, religio, was used to refer to "respect, devotion or superstition." Religio was a recognition that men are often tied or bound to God in reverence or devotion. It can also convey the meaning of being bound or tied to a set of rules and regulations, to rituals of devotion, to a creedal belief-system, or to a cause, ideology, or routine. Some have suggested that "religion" may be derived from the Latin word relegere, which refers to re-reading. There is no doubt that "religion" is often associated with repetitious rites of liturgy and litany, and the reproduction of creedal formulas and expressions. Most etymologists, however, regard the English word "religion" to be derived from the Latin word religare which is closely aligned with the root word religo. The prefix re- means "back" or "again," and the word ligare refers to "binding, tying or attaching." Other English words such as "ligature," referring to "something that is used to bind," and "ligament" which "binds things together," evidence the same root in the Latin word ligare. The Latin word religare, from which our English word "religion" is most likely derived, meant "to tie back" or "to bind up."

Jesus certainly did not intend to "bind us" or "tie us" no he wanted to bring freedom and send us out. "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (II Cor. 3:17). Jesus also did not say, "I came that you might have religion, and practice it more faithfully," or "I came that you might have religion, and adhere to it more commitedly," no Jesus said, "I came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). The life that He came to bring and express within us and through us is His life. "I AM the way, the truth and the life," declared Jesus to His disciples (John 14:6). Christianity is not "religion," but the life of Jesus Christ expressed in receptive humanity.

A closer look at the biblical usage of the word "religion" will demonstrate that the word is seldom used with any positive implication, but generally has a negative connotation. "Why do you submit yourself to decrees, such as 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!'? These are matters which have the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence" (Col. 2:20-23). Paul denies the veracity of such thinking, regarding such as mere "self-made religion," and of no benefit against the selfish patterns of fleshly indulgence. James explains that, "If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless" (James 1:26,27).

There are many religions in the world, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Mohammed-anism (Islam), and Judaism. The ideologies of humanism and communism have also been identified as religions, as well as the individualism of "The American religion." The tenets of Christianity can also be incorporated into a religion of "Christianism," or the "Christian religion" as we are referring to this phenomenon within this study. Yet Christianity cannot legitimately be compared to any of these religions. Because in many ways religion and Christianity are opponets. Christianity is unique, it is the singular reality of God's activity to restore mankind from their fallen condition through His Son, Jesus Christ. Christianity is not the propagation of a philosophy. It is not the performance of religious procedures. It is not the perpetuation of an organizational program. Christianity is the reception of a Person, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God Himself, into one's being and behavior.

In all of the world's religions, you can take away the founder and still have the religion. You can take Buddha out of Buddhism and still have the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path. You can take Mohammed out of Islam, and still have the Five Pillars of Action and the Six Articles of Belief. And yes, tragically, you can take Christ out of that misnomer of "Christian religion," and still have the doctrines and the programs and the organizational machinery that masquerade as the "church." Liberal theologians within the "Christian religion" have indicated that it does not matter whether there was ever an "historical Jesus," as long as the "religion" benefits a person psychologically and ethically. On that premise of subjective religious impact being the existential essence of the "Christian religion," they go about "demythologizing" the New Testament scriptures to reduce them to psychological and ethical tenets.

Genuine Christianity, on the other hand, requires the presence and function of the life and person of the living Lord Jesus. Christianity is Christ! Jesus Christ is not just the historical founder of a "Christian religion;" rather He is the vital spiritual essence of Christianity which is His dynamic ontological function within receptive humanity.

Jesus and the early church, on the other hand, proclaimed the gospel by contrasting the grace of God in Jesus Christ with the premises and methodology of religion. They exposed the self-serving practices of religion by manifesting and explaining God's desire to restore all men in Jesus Christ. Does it not seem self-evident that the ineffectual efforts of evangelism engaged in by "Christian religion" through these many centuries are a result of proclaiming a belief-system to be assented to and advocating a morality to be adhered to, rather than offering the life of Jesus Christ to be received by faith? "Christian religion" has become so thoroughly religionized that it is unable to perceive the contrast between Christianity and religion. They engage in the religious methodology of recruitment by propaganda in order to "bind, tie and attach" increasing numbers of people to the propositional ideology, the activistic cause, and the sociological organization they represent. Genuine evangelism is witnessing to the "good news" of the life of Jesus Christ as He comes to indwell us by His Spirit and live out the divine character in our behavior in contrast to the performance of religion.

Is it any wonder that many of the people of the world speak derisively of religion? They have read their history books and have heard of the atrocities perpetrated in the name of "religion." They hear of the vast gold reserves and corporate holdings of religious conglomerates gained through tax-exemptions and unfair advantage. They can see the exploitation of the populace through superstition and fear. They see through the ecclesiastic politicizing and cultural manipulation. They see the people going through their meaningless motions of religious ritual to try to appease God. Often they have come to the conclusion that they do not want anything to do with "religion," and I, for one, do not blame them! The world has a right, even an intellectual obligation, to reject the religious folderol that is so prevalent, and to demand reality.

Religion emphasizes precepts, propositions, performance, production, programs, promotion, percentages, etc. Christianity emphasizes the Person of Jesus Christ, and His life lived out through the receptive Christian believer. Christianity is not religion! Christianity is Christ! Christianity is "Christ-in-you-ity." Jesus Christ did not found a religion to remember and reiterate His teaching. Christianity is the personal, spiritual presence of the risen and living Lord Jesus Christ, manifesting His life and character in Christians, i.e. "Christ-ones." Paul explained, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20).

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