Is Christianity A Religion?

This is a complex question that at the heart depends upon how you define religion. Webster defines religion as the service and worship of God or the supernatural, a commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance, a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices, a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. Christians do not define Christianity as a religion but as an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the only religion that you do not have to work to be saved. Wikipedia defines religion as: “… a system of social coherence based on a common group of beliefs or attitudes concerning an object, person, unseen being, or system of thought considered to be supernatural, sacred, divine or highest truth, and the moral codes, practices, values, institutions, traditions, and rituals associated with such belief or system of thought. James A. Fowler in his article God Hates Religion states this, “The English word “religion” is etymologically derived from the Latin word religo, meaning to “bind up.” Religion binds people up in rules and regulations or in ritualistic patterns of devotion.” Defining the word “religion” is filled with difficulty. People focus on narrow definition’s that match the individual’s own religion. Some define “religion” in terms of “the sacred” and/or “the spiritual,” and then require additional terms to be defined. Maybe it’s not as much a question about religion but “religiosity”, the mere external observance of rules and rites, without a heart open to God. Jesus condemned religiosity in no uncertain terms in (Matthew 23) 1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5 “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi’ and God laments in the Book of Isaiah “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13). Lets look at some argument’s for Christianity being a religion. It would indicate in James that a expression of religion may be in the following verse. “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” (James 1:27). The Gospels tell us that Jesus observed the religion of His time. He kept the Commandments in the Law of Moses (Galatians 4:4) and worshiped every Sabbath in the synagogue “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read” (Luke 4:16). Jesus also made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for major festivals (Luke 2:41-42; John 2:13; 5:1; 7:2-10; 10:22-23) and celebrated Passover (Luke 22:7-15). When Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees, He was condemning the religiosity they had exhibited. He was neither condemning the Jewish religion itself nor religion in general. Notice that He prefaces His strongest words against the religious leaders by telling the crowds to observe the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees because they “sit on Moses’ seat” (Mt 23:2). Which means they have authority over the people. In conclusion, Jesus observed and followed the rituals of the Jewish religion. He was raised in a practicing Jewish home. He attended synagogue, and made pilgrimages to the Temple. After his Ascension, his followers continued to follow the rituals of the Jewish faith. It took these Christ followers a number of years to abandon those rituals and to replace them with the new liturgy of Christianity. If Jesus “hated religion”, would he and his followers continue to follow religious ceremonies at all. In contrast, if we define religion as binding or tying up, or the observation of a bunch of ceremonies and rules, we truly have missed the message that Jesus and in turn Christianity bring to mankind. At the heart of the Gospel is a personal relationship that allows you to come as you are, and God will work it out in each individual, not vise versa. One thing Christianity is not is a clean yourself up before you enter the church doctrine. It’s not an all inclusive club of saints. I heard a quote that say’s “The church is a hospital for the sinners, not a museum for the saints.” I tend to agree with that statement. You are going to find the church filled with broken people that are working on their morals, emotional issues, and their spirituality. After a person becomes a Christian a gradual growth in character and behavior occur. Traditional religion relies heavily upon our moral efforts to merit our relationship with God, our salvation requires nothing more than God’s sheer grace. Robert Capon explains the difference between religion and Christianity beautifully here.”Almost all people, inside as well as outside the church, find that the notion of grace stands in contradiction to everything they understand by religion.” “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, at bottom, 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 won’t be any in heaven; and in the meantime Jesus has died and risen to persuade us to knock it all off right now.” “I want you to set aside the notion of the Christian religion, because it’s a contradiction in terms. You won’t learn anything positive about religion from Christianity, and if you look for Christianity in religion, you’ll never find it. To be sure, Christianity uses the forms of religion, and, to be dismally honest, too many of its adherents act as if it were a religion; but it isn’t one, and that’s that. The church is not in the religion business; it is in the Gospel-proclaiming business. And the gospel is the good news that all man’s fuss and feathers over his relationship with God is unnecessary because God, in the mystery of the Word who is Jesus, has gone and fixed it up Himself. So let that pass.” The word ” Religion” has a dogma attached to it. When describing belief systems around the world it is used collectively to describe everything from Buddhism to Voodoo, and in there lies the problem. At the root Christianity’s message basically differs with the supposition of traditional religion, Their message was and is one of “Works” Do this and get that. To teach you what you must do to gain acceptance, Jesus came as a savior, the only founder to do so, to do what we are incapable of doing. So we see there are fundamental differences between Christianity and every world religion. The Christian message is we are not saved by our own doing, but by what Christ has already done. It may be an argument more along the lines of religion vs. religiosity. So, Christianity I believe is neither a religion or irreligion. It is an intimate relationship with Christ that is unparalleled, and anything else is an exercise in semantics. 

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