Christianity Is Not a Religion?

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Reprinted with permission from Baptist Bulletin Nov/Dec 2012. All rights reserved.

People like me (a 20-something rookie pastor) have probably noticed a trend making its way through social media, bumper-sticker Christianity, and Christian bookstore T-shirt sections. What I’m noticing is not really a new trend or even an original spin on an old idea. It is a mind-set toward Christianity that, as far as I can tell, has influenced every generation since at least the Reformation. The phrase “Christianity is not a religion” is being touted as a fresh way of looking at the relationship of individual disciples of Christ to the practice of Christianity.

Some readers may be familiar with YouTube sensation Jefferson Bathke. Using poetry to express social commentary, Bathke has released a number of videos online that have reached tens of millions of viewers. One of his latest, released in January, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,” has garnered over 20 million views. In the opening, Bathke asks, “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?” Admittedly there has been a great deal of response and assessment of this video in the evangelical blogosphere, but most responses do not address the underlying issue prompting such a statement. Is Christianity a religion or not?

This is not a question being raised solely in liberal denominations and emerging groups. This is a sentiment identified on T-shirts and social media of fundamental Bible college students and of individuals in your church and mine, that is, the next generation of Regular Baptists.

The concept of religionless Christianity is pleasing to the “spiritual but not religious” generation of Oprah and The Shack. People, especially young people, love the idea of Christianity without the rigorous restrictions and expectations of their parents’ and grandparents’ Christianity.

The problem that persists in this formulation of Christianity as a religionless relationship is a fundamental misunderstanding of religion. For many, the word religion conjures images of priests, rites, liturgy, rules, legalism, dogma, and institutions—institutions that, according to secular Western history, are responsible for racial inequalities, wars, bigotry, hatred, and exploitation of the populace through superstition and fear. The word religion is arguably flawed even in its origin, a Latin word meaning to bind or tie up, which Christ didn’t come to do.

Sociologically speaking, religion is the practices of a group of people who have found agreement in their understanding of God, His work, His will, His expectations, and His worship. Religion is the outworking of those understandings. Religion by practice has a social aspect that makes it different from a personal belief system. Religion is the corporate practice of a system of beliefs held by a socially contextualized group of people.

Proponents: Old and new

James Fowler, in his work Christianity Is NOT Religion, asserts, “The need of the hour is to distinguish and differentiate between ‘religion’ and Christianity.” This work’s chapters were originally published separately over a span of about 15 years, but they reflect the sentiment of generations of “Christians.” Many who have advocated the release of religion from Christianity are also proponents of distinctly non-Christian theology. So while the world looks at Christianity broadly, we must assess this issue precisely. Precise theological thinking and articulation have always marked our fellowship, and with this issue precision should not be abandoned. As is the case with any other notion of theological implication, we must take the argument that Christianity is not a religion to its logical end. Doing so exposes the pitfalls of this notion.

Religionless Christianity has been most recently advocated in a broad context by the emerging church and more specifically Brian McLaren in his book A New Kind of Christianity (even though McLaren seems content to see a cohesion of free-thinking, creed-less, doctrine-less, liturgical-less Christianity and old orthodoxy).1 “Religionless Christianity” was a phrase coined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his prison letters, published posthumously. In his letters to his dear friend Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer decries the kind of Christianity in German Lutheranism that refused to confront, and in many ways aided, Nazism in prewar Germany.

Martin Luther was also outspoken against religiosity in Roman Catholicism. He explained, “I have often said that to speak and judge rightly in this matter we must carefully distinguish between a pious (religious) man and a Christian.” To that sentiment we would agree with Luther and with the apostle Paul in Colossians 2:20–23:

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

When Luther decried the liturgical, even heretical, practices of the Roman Catholic Church, he did so because he recognized the deficiencies of Christian activity without genuine Christian faith. This was not a new issue. The book of James speaks of the futility of works without faith and the reality of faith being proven by works. It must be recognized that going through the motions without genuine redemptive faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross is of no eternal value.

While few reading this will agree in totality with Fowler, McLaren, Luther, or Bonhoeffer, we must recognize that what they spoke against—even if they were contrasting it with their preferred brand of Christianity—was false religion. I must confess that I believe this to be the sentiment of the vast majority of those who propose the “Christianity is not a religion” mantra today. In assessing this resurging view of our relationship with Christ, it is abundantly clear that words mean something. In the mind of the teen wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “Christianity is not a religion” is the belief that religion equals stale religious practice. That is not always the case though, and herein lies the danger of failed vocabulary.

True religion vs. false religion

The American Episcopal priest Robert Capon, in his book Between Noon and Three: A Parable of Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace, explains the supposed difference between religion and Christianity in this way.

The gospel of grace is the end of religion, the final posting of the CLOSED sign on the sweatshop of the human race’s perpetual struggle to think well of itself. For that…is what religion is: man’s well-meant but dim-witted attempt to approve of his unapprovable condition by doing odd jobs he thinks some important Something will thank him for. Religion therefore is a loser, a strictly fallen activity. It has a failed past and a bankrupt future. There was no religion in Eden and there will be no religion in heaven; and in the meantime Jesus has died and risen to persuade us to knock it all off right now.

Capon’s assertion is against all religion, but is lacking in a working definition of religion. As mentioned earlier, sociologically speaking, religion is simply the outworking of a belief system held by more than one person. It would be fair to say that false religion without divine instruction is in fact a “dim-witted attempt to approve of our unapprovable condition.”

In his recent book The Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler rightly asserts that all of our religious effort, even in an attempt to uphold Biblical mandates, is in vain if it is done without Christ. We are saved, sanctified, and sustained by what Jesus did for us in His death and resurrection. To add to or subtract from the Cross and the Resurrection is to rob God of His glory and Christ of His sufficiency. Christianity though, as Judaism once was, is the one true religion of the one true God. Christ has not come to set us free so that we might be “functional human beings” as James Fowler asserts and many proponents of this trend would argue. We were freed from the bondage of sin so that we might be brought under subjection in Christ. Galatians 5:1 says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” The bondage addressed was not the bondage of religion in general but of sin specifically, which false religion is a part of. We are freed from sin so that we might, by the righteousness of Christ covering our sin, worship and glorify God through the exercise of His prescribed works and service.

Dangers of religionless Christianity

To assert that Jesus came to abolish religion and that His speaking openly against the perversion of Judaism, rampant in His day, is evidence that He hated religion is to misrepresent Christ and Scripture, neither of which is the result of a sound hermeneutic. In fact, Jesus was a religious man. He was circumcised on the eighth day, attended temple feasts, taught in and attended synagogue, communicated godly principles and expectation of behavior, as well as offered commands for His disciples. Jesus, God incarnate, was a religious young man who established the church along with all of its beliefs and practices. What He despised and denounced was a false religion of works as propagated by the Pharisees.

The Stone-Campbell movement, sometimes identified as Restorationism, stands as a warning against this kind of thinking. These movements assumed the names “Christian” and “Disciples of Christ” and were the ideological outworking of three men—Barton Stone, Thomas Campbell, and his son, Alexander Campbell. These men were affected by the socio-political atmosphere of the post–Revolutionary War era. With a resurgence of political, social, and personal freedoms and a weight of oppressive tyranny removed, these men began to seriously contemplate the implication of such personal freedom on their religious activity. The result was an irreligious Christianity. (Many, including Kevin Bauder in his new book Baptist Distinctives and New Testament Church Order [Regular Baptist Press], would argue that the Christian Church [Disciples of Christ] and the Church of Christ are not Christian denominations at all because of their teaching of baptismal regeneration.) This irreligious Christianity claimed unity across divisive lines like creeds, articles of faith, liturgical systems, and denominational labels, which they rejected.

This era of Christian freedom and attempted restoration of New Testament Christianity, without consideration of the benefits of nearly 2,000 years of theological debate and precision, brought into question traditional authorities and exalted the mind of the individual over any other authority. The result was a period of “Christian” history that produced such groups as the Universalists, Millerites, Mormons, and Methodists.

The Stone-Campbell movement vilified religion and religious history. The Stone-Campbell Movement: An International Religious Tradition records Alexander Campbell as writing, “I have endeavored to read the Scriptures as though no one had read them before me, and I am as much on my guard against reading them to-day, through the medium of my own views yesterday, or a week ago, as I am against being influenced by any foreign name, authority, or system whatever.” This approach presented three persuasive arguments. It brought the Word back to the people’s individual interpretation, it dared people to think for themselves and throw off the shackles of “religion,” and it befuddled respectable clergy because no one could argue with “that’s what it means to me.”

I find these arguments still attractive to the mass of nominal Christians all over the world. To claim that Christianity is not a religion, when taken to its logical conclusion, releases a person from the constraints of theological systems and even Biblical mandates. To reduce Christianity to a relationship without constraint is dangerous, but to elevate the relationship above the practices dictated by that relationship is both wise and beneficial. Christianity is a religion unlike any other because of the person and work of its namesake. It is illogical to proclaim, “Christianity is not a religion,” while it is still accurate to say, “Christianity is not JUST a religion.”

Notes

1 Read “Not New, Not Christian,” a review of A New Kind of Christianity.


Stephen Anderson (MA, Faith Baptist Theological Seminary) is pastor of Faith Baptist Church, Fowler, Colo.

 

Ed Vasicek's picture
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Good Grief

When I was saved in 1974, the phrase that "Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship" was ALREADY well established.  I have been in the ministry since 1979, and I have often quoted the saying.  Where has the author been all these years?

 

Anyone remember Scott Wesley Brown's song in the latter 70's, "I'm Not Religious, I Just Love the Lord?"  Here he is on the Ross Bagley show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tirEZSEHGk

 

Personally, I think we need to get back to this concept.  I have been discouraged by the current return to religiousness.  Christians quoting monks and observing Ash Wednesday, icons -- and the whole worship fetish.  Scott Wesley Brown had it right.

"The Midrash Detective"

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James 1:27 Pure and undefiled

James 1:27

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Christianity is religion.  I agree about the icons and silly holidays, but it is still religion.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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Technically Right

James K wrote:

James 1:27

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Christianity is religion.  I agree about the icons and silly holidays, but it is still religion.

This text does not say that Christianity is a religion.  If anything, it redefines religion away from the common meaning and makes it loving others.  A Jew or a pagan might look after widows or orphans, so there is nothing distinctly Christian about that. Of course James adds personal purity to the mixture. None of this requires a church environment or even a Christian creed (e.g., non-Messianic Jews could agree to this). This James verse reflects Micah 6:7-9

 

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

 

Both Micah and the passage below from I Samuel put the emphasis upon relationship (to God and others) way above the rituals associated with organized religion in Old Testament times.  It might be more accurate to say that the emphasis of Biblical Christianity is relationship, not religion. Saying ethical behavior matters MORE than sacrifice does not mean sacrifices do not  matter at all. And, we could argue, both authors assume a belief-system on the part of readers.

I do agree that, as religion is defined in our culture, Christianity is technically Trans-cultural Messianic Judaism and thus a "religion" in that sense.  But, Biblically, we follow "the faith" or "the way," or "the Messiah;" we are nowhere said to follow the Christian religion.  

Practically, in our culture and language, we must (in my case reluctantly) admit to embracing a religion. But we have to reclaim lost ground; the emphasis is moving from relationship to religion. I don't like it.  Evangelical Christianity should be more of a relationship (the two commandments) and a set of convictions (the fundamentals), simple and sparse in its rituals, IMO.  When we get too big on sacrifice, we seem to get too small on obedience. They may not necessarily be mutually exclusive, but they often are. 

I Samuel 15:22b

 Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

Proverbs 15:8

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
    but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.

Proverbs 28:9

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law,
    even his prayer is an abomination.

If Christianity is a religion, it is a religion of the Book and of loving God and others.  Even prayer is on a back burner and only relevant if one seeks to learn and obey the Word.  We need to get back to these truths.

The long way around, but I am saying, "James K, you are right.  But not because of the verse in James you quoted. You are technically right simply because you are technically right."

"The Midrash Detective"

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From the Author

Thanks for the comments.

 

Ed. there is a deficiency, in our christian culture, of thinking precisely through theological claims and taking them to their logical end.  Our relationship with Christ does not remove religion.  Religion is the outworking of our faith, and scripture is ripe with testimony that faith is unproven without works that evidence faith.  Likewise, works without faith are useless.  

You said "...the emphasis is moving from relationship to religion. I don't like it.  ... IMO.  When we get too big on sacrifice, we seem to get too small on obedience."   The obedience you call us to is, by definition, religious practice, the outworking of our relationship.  Nothing in my article calls for abandonment of our relationship for stale manmade religious practice, only for an understanding of the prescription of scripture on our behavior and worship.  A relationship falls apart without understood dynamics and boundaries.  The practice of our faith is constrained by the boundaries Christ has established for us.

You also said "Evangelical Christianity should be more of a relationship (the two commandments)..." Keeping those 2 commandments sounds exactly like religious practice.  You and I though understand that keeping those commandments is not out of obedience hoping to earn favor, it is because the love of Christ constrains us to obey.

The point of the article is this, "To reduce Christianity to a relationship without constraint is dangerous, but to elevate the relationship above the practices dictated by that relationship is both wise and beneficial. Christianity is a religion unlike any other because of the person and work of its namesake. It is illogical to proclaim, “Christianity is not a religion,” while it is still accurate to say, “Christianity is not JUST a religion.”

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The Four Laws, an example

Sanderson wrote:

Thanks for the comments.

 

Ed. there is a deficiency, in our christian culture, of thinking precisely through theological claims and taking them to their logical end.  Our relationship with Christ does not remove religion.  Religion is the outworking of our faith, and scripture is ripe with testimony that faith is unproven without works that evidence faith.  Likewise, works without faith are useless.  

You said "...the emphasis is moving from relationship to religion. I don't like it.  ... IMO.  When we get too big on sacrifice, we seem to get too small on obedience."   The obedience you call us to is, by definition, religious practice, the outworking of our relationship.  Nothing in my article calls for abandonment of our relationship for stale manmade religious practice, only for an understanding of the prescription of scripture on our behavior and worship.  A relationship falls apart without understood dynamics and boundaries.  The practice of our faith is constrained by the boundaries Christ has established for us.

You also said "Evangelical Christianity should be more of a relationship (the two commandments)..." Keeping those 2 commandments sounds exactly like religious practice.  You and I though understand that keeping those commandments is not out of obedience hoping to earn favor, it is because the love of Christ constrains us to obey.

The point of the article is this, "To reduce Christianity to a relationship without constraint is dangerous, but to elevate the relationship above the practices dictated by that relationship is both wise and beneficial. Christianity is a religion unlike any other because of the person and work of its namesake. It is illogical to proclaim, “Christianity is not a religion,” while it is still accurate to say, “Christianity is not JUST a religion.”

 

Sanderson, I have admitted Christianity is technically a religion.  But the word "religion" or "Christianity" are not Biblical terms.  They are English words that can convey a variety of meanings to a variety of people.  Since the early 70's when Christians began saying, "I am not religious, I just love the Lord" or "Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship," what they meant by religion is not the definition you are understanding. By religion was meant organs, steeples, rituals -- essentially an unanimated faith that was concerned with image more than substance, the idea of relating to God through ritual and regulation rather than through personal trust and regeneration. Born-again Christians considered themselves distinct. Religion was said to be man reaching upward to God, Christianity was God reaching down to man.  This was very, very common 70's evangelicalism.  Even the 4 spiritual laws mentions and illustrates this. I have copied the text below and linked the illustration if you want to see it.

 

Man Is Separated

 

 
"The wages of sin is death" [spiritual separation from God] (Romans 6:23).

 

This diagram illustrates that God is holy and man is sinful. A great gulf separates the two. The arrows illustrate that man is continually trying to reach God and the abundant life through his own efforts, such as a good life, philosophy, or religion
-but he inevitably fails.

[see this link for illustration]

 

The third law explains the only way to bridge this gulf

 

I agree we need doctrinal statements (I argue for this all the time), but one thing I appreciate about the Restoration movement (about the ONLY thing), is that they understood the need to return back to the Scriptures and retest everything. Even though they poor interpreters, IMO, they have the concept right.  I also believe in edification through church body life.  I do have trouble with the whole Reformed mentality about church which comes out of Romanism; they never did return to the New Testament emphasis on edification.

 

When you took on this subject, you took on something vintage with at least 4 decades of history in the evangelical world.  But I need to re-emphasize this: your understanding of the word "religion" is not necessarily the same word-picture some Christians (like me) see in our minds.  You might have Webster, but the street definition might be quite different.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Remember this?

Remember this book?

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Good Points

Well said - good information. Here are some points I think we should all remember;

1. Christianity is a religion, after all. It is a theological system of worship. This is undeniable. There are also many other religions in the world. The task of a Christian, and Christian apologetics in particular, is to prove the bankruptcy of all other theological systems. I don't want anybody to think I am intellectualizing this beyond the point of practicality, I know evangelism is not an academic exercise, but I believe the point stands. 

2. General revelation convicts men of their sin; this is why there are so many "religions" around the world. They are man's attempts to build a bride upward to God (however they define the term) - to span the gap between the way we are and the way we feel we should be. 

3. I know that calling Christianity a "religion" seems to put it on par with all the others and seems to denigrate God Himself. It could be proposed this way, and there are undoubtedly lots of theological liberals who would explain Christianity this way. I obviously disagree with the liberal viewpoint. Though Christianity is a religion, Christianity is the only true religion, and without the Christian God the entire world itself does not make sense. The very word "religion" can bring to mind heartless ritual, liturgical garb and Holy water. Christianity is not ritualistic tradition, it is the only true form of worship to the one true God. 

4. This idea of being "spiritual without being religious" is nothing more than an attempt to avoid acknowledging the truth about God. People don't want to face the fact they are willfully suppressing the truth about God. They have built up intellectual strongholds, or barriers, between themselves and God in an attempt to avoid coming to face facts.

The article makes some good points. I suppose how you take it depends, to a large extent, on where you're coming from theologically.

Liberals would rejoice, especially the pluralists. "Christianity is a religion!" they would gloat triumphantly. "If it makes sense to people and it helps them grow closer to God, I'm all for it!"  

Conservatives, especially fundamentalists, would be enraged, "Christianity is not a religion!" they would cry. "Christ is the way, the truth and the life. It isn't some theological system to choose over another, it is the only way of salvation!" 

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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One more comment

S Anderson said:

 

A relationship falls apart without understood dynamics and boundaries.  The practice of our faith is constrained by the boundaries Christ has established for us.

 

Amen!

"The Midrash Detective"

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"This text does not say that

"This text does not say that Christianity is a religion."

Right.  James was advocating some other faith.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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"Christianity is not a

"Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship" , is a good saying but as the article points out this saying is received by many as if this is the end of such considerations.

It may also be said, "The religion of Christianity is the believer's relationship to Christ" or "Christianity is not defined by religion but our religion defines our Christianity", all true but stopping here is where the problem occurs and the article points this out well, with contexts of the how and why.

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Comments

James K wrote:

"This text does not say that Christianity is a religion."

Right.  James was advocating some other faith.

 

My brother, where does James say Christianity is a religion?  Terming a belief system a "religion" is extra-Biblical nomenclature. Even the phrase "Judaism" is extra-biblical, as is the term Bible.  I have already conceded, that, technically, Christianity is a religion.  

Christianity begins, we might say, with a restored relationship. This restoration does not come about by religious practice (religious works) but by repentance and trust in Jesus' atoning work.  When people say that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship, this is what they usually mean and what lost people need to understand.

My contention is that the emphasis in the evangelical world does need to be upon doctrinal truth and good works, but that the emphasis upon our emphasis on loving God and others has been displaced by the "religiousness" movement.  I am talking about the whole "worship aura" fad and the Romish trends.

To my way of thinking, the whole trend toward the religious is an externalism. 

I prefer to think of Christians as Disciples of Jesus Christ who are growing in grace and knowledge of him.

This is all semantics.  Still, I think the former disdain of "religion" is a good disdain.

 

 

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

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Ed, James didn't have to make

Ed,

James didn't have to make the statement that Christianity = religion.  He did say that pure and undefiled religion is something.  While it is true that unsaved people can minister to the needs of the fatherless, they are not pure.  The entire book of James is about how the believer must act with wisdom in his works.  Therefore, the faith of the true believer is a pure religion.

If you want to limit religion to a structured, power-hungry, money-grabbing idea, then sure, have that rant.  Big deal.  That isn't Christianity.  I don't have to defend Christianity against religion.  It is a dichotomy not based in the word.  Limiting the definition to what a person wants to rant against borders the absurd.

Against my better judgment, I have already wasted too much time on this.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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Agree to Disagree

James said:

Limiting the definition to what a person wants to rant against borders the absurd.

That's true. I do like to cross over the border to insanity on occasion. But you have made my point: the word religion is a charged word that communicates different things to different people.

If I offended you, that was not my intent.  I believe James does not use the word "religion" in the modern English sense (much like the word "hope" in the Bible does not match the modern English understanding). But this is opinion.  If you understand James' definition to be the same as its usage in this discussion, then it is a case of simple disagreement.

 

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Tim Keller Comparing Religion & the Gospel
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Way, truth and life.

Religion without salvation is not The Way, it is devoid of the truth that sets men free and is dead.  

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Religion vs Gospel

Jim,

The comparison by Keller is only true if your definition of religion is really False Religion, which is clearly what Keller is referring to. False religion though is not the same as religion.  "Sociologically speaking, religion is the practices of a group of people who have found agreement in their understanding of God, His work, His will, His expectations, and His worship. Religion is the outworking of those understandings. Religion by practice has a social aspect that makes it different from a personal belief system. Religion is the corporate practice of a system of beliefs held by a socially contextualized group of people."  Christianity though is different from any other religion because it is the one true religion of the one true God. All of our religious practice is the result of God's own prescription and is motivated by the love of Christ demonstrated at the cross.

 

This debate is clearly affected by semantics.  To some of you reading this, and having been influenced by this very idea, "the word religion conjures images of priests, rites, liturgy, rules, legalism, dogma, and institutions—institutions that, according to secular Western history, are responsible for racial inequalities, wars, bigotry, hatred, and exploitation of the populace through superstition and fear."  Religion for the purposes of this article was clearly defined in the opening statements of this article in order to avoid argument over semantics rather than discussion over the illegitimacy/legitimacy of the claim that "Christianity is not a Religion".

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Well Said

Sanderson - well said. I agree.

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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i think that

someone can be the way it is in Keller's "religion" column and still be a true believer, so i dont think he's referring only to false religions. it certainly is not ideal and if we see ourselves in that column, we need to pray that God will get us into the other column asap, but someone can be a  real Christian and be in a milieu characterized by those things. it may be why Ed is having this reaction, from what was going on in the 70s, and probably still today, knowing the human heart.

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Which world?

S Anderson said:

This debate is clearly affected by semantics.  

Exactly.  And we can communicate technically, or we can communicate based upon common idiom. Earlier, I mentioned that technically, Christianity is a religion. However, since religion contains a group element in the definition you offered, I think we can say that an individual must covenant with God individually, but that, once regenerate, he now enters the brotherhood of the regenerate.  This removes the "racket" stigma (through sacerdotalism, etc.) that religion has earned and is actually a reformation issue. If you want to say that once someone is saved, he becomes part of a religion, I wouldn't enjoy saying that -- but I would admit it technically correct according to your definition. The reason I wouldn't enjoy saying it is precisely because it is important for us to distance ourselves from the religious world in general and point believers toward the Biblical world in particular.

As I mentioned earlier, "religion" is a charged term. But the idea of distinguishing between religion and Christianity, as Keller does, for example, is very old and established in the evangelical world (whether right or wrong). Keller is not one of my favorites, but he does a good job distinguishing the popular notion of Christianity embraced by the man in the street in contrast to the relationship that God offers on a personal basis.

In the world of scholars, Christianity is a religion. In the world of people who evangelize and disciple, I think it is better to make a distinction.

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Spoken Word vs. Hyperactive Lutheran

Here is a spoken word artist telling us that Jesus > religion: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1IAhDGYlpqY

 

And here is the world's most hyperactive Lutheran pastor telling us Jesus = religion:

http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com/2012/01/13/freestylin-jesus-religion/

 

I leave the choice with you.

My Blog: www.sacredpage.wordpress.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Alex Guggenheim's picture
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Tue, 6/2/09
Posts: 1585
Cute. But imagine if these

Cute. But imagine if these were the only two choices on the theological landscape to this topic ...a theological infant or a theological sophomore Pastor...wait now that I think about it you might have a point which is true in many places Charlie.

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