Saturday, September 30, 2006

Religion or Relationship?

It has been pointed out to me that the description under the title of this blog is inaccurate in that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. In defense of the present description, let me say a few words. First, I am fully aware of this popular aphorism, but I chose to use the word religion because this word – so unpopular among evangelicals – still packs more truth and has more depth than its faddish competitor. Secondly, the relationship that we have with God the Father through Jesus His Son is quite unlike anything that we experience in any earthly relationship. So much so that to continue using the word ‘relationship’ is to follow a path that is dangerously misleading and could result in faith’s novices falling into confusion.

But why does religion pack more truth? To begin with, religion by definition encompasses all the things that humans have normally associated with devotion to a supernatural entity or realm. Religions is natural to us; it is divinely patterned in the hearts of all people. As such, to be religious is to be correctly responding to the imago dei within us. Religion connotes the use of symbolic formalities such as the Lord’s Supper or Baptism. Prayer or meditation is recognized as an essential part of any religious life. Historically it can be shown that a prayer life can be greatly facilitated by a symbolic environment that captures the essence of the respective religion. Thus, the rise of church buildings. Religions have dogma and are recognized by the fostering of a community of like-minded individuals. In these things, Christianity is very much a religion. It uses symbols and metaphors to describe the otherwise un-describable. And, while prayer can theoretically be conducted anywhere, religious architecture devoted to the life of the soul has generally been first choice. Man is a symbolic being – divinely so. It is the restoration of the biblical view of these things that this site seeks.

In contrast, the word relationship does not even remotely imply any of these things – excepting, of course, that everything is in a relationship of some sort. But this is not what evangelicals mean. To them it connotes something akin to friendship or marriage. Now, to be sure, these metaphors exist in Christianity, but again, not in any exact earthly sense. They are metaphors. Christ is truly our friend, but we are not likely to have a beer together any time soon. We are the bride of Christ, but we are unlikely to lose our virginity in the relationship. (I write as a man.)
However, the part most worthy of disgust is the deceit. For along with the evangelical’s use of such canards is the dishonest implication that something of a certain nature is going on when in fact it is not i.e., they are trying to convince unbelievers that Jesus and they are chums, if you will. But in doing so they imply a level of familiarity that on closer inspection is absent, uninformed and blasphemous.

Lastly, there is an irony evident in the evangelical’s employment of this obvious wrangle. It is this. When the proper understanding of a word becomes critical to the maintaining fellowship in any supernatural enterprise, than that word becomes a shibboleth or right of passage. In other words, it attains to the status of a religious word. Therefore, in their misguided piousness they are being religious - but erroneously so.

In closing, let us realize this, that Jesus was a carpenter, but He is now LORD. That is the meaning and implication of the resurrection. This is why people fell at His feet. That is why Saul was blinded by the light. That is why the seven sons of Sceva discovered the embarrassment of public nudity. It does not pay to be cavalier with eternity’s foundation. Perhaps this is why the world finds the evangelical’s god so non-enticing and unworthy of worship - very few people acknowledge the open worship of their buddy. Nor should they.


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