Posted On: December 3, 2014 • Author: Pastor David Bousquet • Category: Articles
I will be starting a series exploring the reasons that Christianity is a religion. This post is the first in that series.
It is interesting that in the last thirty years there has been a major push to redefine exactly what Christianity is. For some it has been statements such as: “The Church is an organism instead of an organization”, or “I’m a very spiritual person”. These sentiments are meant to convey that the individual has risen from the foundational concept of the Church or religious aspect of Christianity. Perhaps one of the most destructive concepts is that Christ intended Christianity to be a relationship instead of a religion. In all actuality this concept finds its origin not in Christianity but instead in the “New Age” movement, which is sweeping the country and the Church with its message of love and unity.
In order to recognize the truth about the real definition of what Christianity is, one must first define, and recognize the implications of, the various associated terms of both relationship and religion. First, a relationship is defined as a connection between two or more persons. This is a very simple definition. A looser definition would be that a relationship exists between any two compared or connected objects. This can be explained as the relationship that a house has to the road. Its attitude (position) reveals its relationship. Finally, a relationship is also defined as a romantic or sexual connection between two individuals. In all of these definitions there is no concept of oneness or inseparability. In other words, the word merely means the attitude or connection between something, which allows each object to remain distinct. In addition, these definitions leave the individual open to form various and sundry relationships as he sees fit.
Second, a religion is defined as several things. First, it is a belief in a supernatural power who is the creator, and the system of worship that is centered around that belief. Second, it is a system of beliefs, values, and teachings based upon the teachings of a spiritual leader. Finally, it is an ideal that is passionately pursued. Thus a religion is a system that connects an individual the creator, which also has a value system given by a spiritual teacher, which is expected to be lived and pursued with zeal and passion influencing every area of the believer’s life.
It is interesting that the culmination of these definitions explain very well what a Christian is called to be. He is expected to wrap his life around the concept that God has created him, and that God has left special teachings and instructions for him in order to connect himself to God. In addition, Christianity is centered on the teachings of Christ, and is filled with commands and expectations for him. Finally in looking at this definition it is not hard to see that Christianity is a religion, pure and simple.
The question is not whether Christianity is a religion or a relationship, but why so many want to eliminate the religion in order to “have a relationship.” Perhaps the answer is more simple than expected. For some the reason is a misunderstanding of what a religion is. For instance, the definition contains the obvious concept of relationship within its parameters. Relationship is seen in connecting with the Creator, in following the teachings of a Leader, and in allowing one’s beliefs to mold one’s life. For those who just don’t understand the definition, they think that a relationship is the key and that religion is cold and relationless, when in reality relationship is important to any religion. For these the thought is that they are connecting with God; therefore, they are in a relationship and not a religion, because they see a religion as having rules to be followed in order to attain favor with God. What these fail to recognize is that their relationship is often the same as most others’ religion, because true Christianity is a religion that shows what God has done to connect with man. They still attend church, they still read their Bibles, they still try to live according to Christ’s teaching; but they have redefined their label through a lack of understanding.
The second group is far more dangerous, these are those that claim that Christ came to free man from religion, and that His desire was to facilitate a relationship with God. These individuals will often express that Christians are under grace, and thus free from the Law. They then connect the Law as religion and grace as relationship. This group has a tendency to claim that churches are too legalistic (admittedly some are), and that since Christianity is under grace they will worship how they want at home. If they do attend a church, they will often do so until the church teaches something that contradicts their lifestyle. They will then leave claiming that the church is too legalistic. In reality the issue with this group is that they want a relationship instead of religion, because they want God on their own terms. This group is especially dangerous, because they will often destroy good churches through their actions.
The final group that often makes this claim is those that do so for matters of equality. They feel that by claiming that they have a relationship, that they then have a more equal part. This is seen in those who put on hyper spiritual airs when they discuss their “relationship”. Often they do not attend churches, because there is no longer a “true church”, but instead only “man’s religious institutions”. As a result this group will form a house church, perhaps with a couple of likeminded families, which will go through various painful splits, because each “likeminded” person will end up thinking that they are more spiritual than the others. It is this group that emphasizes that Christ worshiped wherever He was, which is true; however, they fail to recognize that He also partook of the required feasts and religious activities of Judaism.
These three are the primary groups that claim the “relationship” title for their brand of Christianity. This is by no means an exhaustive compilation, but is meant to give an overview of the various reasons behind the claim. However, what should be examined more closely are the reasons that Christianity is so much more than a relationship.