3.31.2008

.: Religion or Relationship :.

I have heard a lot of people use the phrase, "Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship". When I first heard this, I thought that it was an interesting way of defining Christianity. I'll admit that I really didn't think much about it after that. Last year a group popped up on facebook with the name, Actually, Christianity is a Religion. I was curious and so I followed the group discussions for the first few weeks. I then did a little google search and found that there were quite a few discussions on this issue on various websites. I have come across some pretty heated exchanges. I have a couple of thoughts on this topic that I have wanted to share for awhile now.

First, I don't think this should even be an issue to debate. Christianity, absolutely is a religion. There are many reasons why, but I'll offer just two.

  1. The good ol' Webster's Dictionary defines religion as, A belief in a divine of superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and worshiped as the creator and ruler of the universe. While this is a very worldy definition, Christianity certainly falls within it's bounds.
  2. James 1:27 says this, "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world". Set in thecontext of James chapter 1 we know that James is talking to believers. If James is instructing us (believers) on how to practice religion it logically follows that Christianity is a religion.


Second, I think it is important for believers to really think about what we are saying. There are a lot of Christian "catch phrases" that go around. Very few of them have much substance to them. Instead of hopping on the bandwagon whenever one of these appear we need to think critically and determine if this is something that lines up with scripture.

Third, it is important that we respond correctly to those who do jump on the bandwagon. This "catch phrase" has really seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people. Instead of further alienating them from organized religion we should try to understand why they like this phrase and kindly discuss our concerns with them. In my experience most people who use this phrase are really just trying to say that Christianity is different from other religions. Which is true. There are much better ways of saying (and showing) that though.

These are my very humble thoughts on this phrase, I'd like to hear what you think about it. Many thanks to Christy and Jason for helping my to flesh out my ideas.

Thus has the LORD of hosts said, 'Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother... .Zechariah 7:9.

2 comments:

Culpster said...

I have also thought alot about this concept, and I think you are right in that people are trying to express an idea in a bad way. It's hard to argue with your definition and your point about the scripture in James.

But I still find reasons to not be so certain about all this. For instance, if we use the definition you gave and look at 2Tim 1:12 which says "...I know whom I have believed...", it makes me think about the question in another direction. It's like Paul is saying that he personally knows the God of his relgion. I think this is how this conversation gets so sticky.

I don't have all the answers. I just stumbled onto your blog and found your question interesting. A great thought to discuss.

.moose. said...

Thank you for comment. You make a very good point about 2 Timothy 1:12. I agree that Paul does know the Lord personally. The Bible makes it clear that the Lord wants a relationship with us. This is one aspect of Christianity that makes our religion unique. I think this is the message that people are trying to convey when they say, "Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship". It would be better to say, Christianity is a religion about a relationship. I don't see religion and relationship as being in conflict with one another.