Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christianity and "Religion" 1

I don't know why Christmas brings out certain types of trolls--and if this isn't a troll, it's a line typical of trolls. I normally just reject their comments, but this one is common enough, I thought I might as well deal with it in a post. Basically, did Jesus come to "found a religion called Christianity"?

First, there's the matter of "religion." I suspect this is the sort of person who considers "religion" essentially evil. It isn't. Simply put, "religion" involves man's beliefs about and interactions with some greater (usually divine) reality. Even atheists are often religious: they are devoted to their belief in a zero-god.

"Religion" is also a system explaining these interactions, and a term for outward manifestations of them, as in James 1:26-27. Note that these verses don't treat religion as evil. I could bring up several other passages that treat the topic neutrally or positively, but then I'd feel obligated to invoke Greek, and it would probably get tedious.

Did Jesus come to found a belief system? Not as such; he came to get rid of our sins and destroy the works of the Devil (1 John 3:5, 10). But events (e.g., the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ) entail certain beliefs about them. How can you claim to follow Jesus and deny any of these events? Furthermore, he left us teachings on a number of topics, as well as commandments to follow. And these beliefs, teachings, and commandments constitute a "religion" called Christianity.

Now, the focus is Christ. Mere assent to a group of beliefs is worthless: the demons know such things too (James 2:19). But faith requires content: it is not enough to say, "I believe!" What do you believe? You have faith in Jesus? Which Jesus? Jesus the Great Teacher and All-Around Nice Guy who didn't literally rise from the dead? Try again.

In my next post, I'll examine something similar to the founding of a "religion" that God did anyway.

1 comment:

Phy said...

Good post, Steve, and a great idea for a series.

Christians aren't hysterical, no-knowing people. (Ok, all of us aren't!) It's helpful to patiently, clearly lay some of this stuff out for others to read. If they're really interested, they can understand where we're coming from. And you never know who will find the discussion, or when.

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