Jesus > Religion?

Please let me, first, offer a simple explanation of my misplaced responses. It had just arrived at a youth meeting (Bible study, prayer, fellowship) when I noticed that things were getting “heated up”. As I waited for folks to show up, I decided to read some of the comments that were being posted and began commenting as I was reading. Consequently, I found myself unable to keep up as folks were chiming in; each time I posted, Facebook would then notify me of several other comments that had actually been posted prior to mine. Please bear with me as things certainly came across inappropriately and my comments seemed out of place and – perhaps – crass.

Please let me, second, make it clear that opposing viewpoints are certainly allowed and are even appreciated. It should be duly noted that I gave the guy on the video the benefit of doubt: suggesting that he is either a liar, a lunatic, or an idiot. My suspicions are that he is sincere and is not lying, is sane an not crazy, and mistaken and far too loose with his words, ideas, and the communication of both. Perhaps ‘idiot’ is too strong of a word for the faint at heart, but – to be sure – I was using the term etymologically… He seems oblivious of his relationship to the outside world and, thereby, proudly proclaims a Gospel lacking either biblical substance or theological coherence.

Please let me, third, clarify a few thoughts that have come to my mind regarding the contents of the video and the discussion that has ensued:

  1. As has been noted, he fails to define his terms, which is the first step of reasonable debate. He doesn’t seem to care to dialogue; he seems to simply care to make a cool video that can go viral. He seems to be confusing scriptural religion with false religion and should take note of James 1:26-27 among other passages which acknowledge true Christian faith to be indeed religious in character and expression. God gave religion to the Hebrew people as a means by which He would reveal Himself to the people with whom He graciously entered a covenantal relationship. The word of Scripture is that He instituted Hebrew religion, even establishing the rituals and festivals by which they would rightly worship Him and through which they would reliably know Him. Jesus was – perhaps – the most religious person who ever lived. He knew the Law and the Prophets and followed them faithfully. He even warned His followers that their “righteousness” must necessarily exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees if they are to ever hope of knowing and loving Him and, thereby, having spiritual life.

  2. I’m sure some are wondering why we call can’t just call it quits and stop debating the doctrine within the Church. After all, what about the “friendly fire” of Christian theological conversation? We should heed the exhortations of Jude, Paul to the Galatians, and the epistles of John certainly among other writings in the Christian Scriptures. Who Christ indeed is and what Christ indeed instituted is of utmost importance. Many will say unto Him, “Lord, Lord!” Truth matters, for He who is the Truth is Himself and not another. It is incumbent upon us as His people to speak of Him and His Church in great care and with great passion.

  3. What we have done in the modern evangelical church of the West is amazing. We live in a largely post-Christian culture, one which – for the most part – has forgotten all Christian memory, and what have we done? We have addressed the problem, which is – in large part – biblically illiteracy and theologically ineptness with a pathetically anemic pop-Christian solution; namely, wholesale biblical ignorance and discount bumper sticker theology. And now, after decades of “cheap grace” and “keep it simple” sermonizing, how better off are we? How changed is the world? How wealthy are the poor? How incarnate is the Body?

  4. Those stepping up to the mic to call our folks and inflict wounds on the “Church” and “Christianity as a religion” would do wisely to choose their targets well and to, then, aim accurately. In slamming “religion”, he’s shooting at everyone! What’s with all of this “we” business? About whom is he talking? Most of the contemporary Christian music on the radio is guilty of the same fault: dogging out “us religious folks”. I find myself constantly wanting to yell back, “Who? What church? My church?! Yours?!” Meanwhile, we (i.e., we who have a “relationship” with Jesus and are proudly “non-religious”) drive along, nod our heads, raise a hand in agreement, and mutter, “Amen,” never doing a thing to change the world and – all the while – being convinced that it’s everybody else’s (i.e., those “religious” folks’) problem that the poor are poor and the world remains untouched by the Body of Christ.

  5. In regards to Jesus’ statement that the Kingdom is “within you”, Jesus’ intent is, in fact, lost in translation in most instances. The Greek phrase, ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστιν, should be translated, “For, behold, the Kingdom of God is in your midst [or, among you].” Yes, the Jesus taught a present Kingdom, one established among His disciples here and now at this time and in this space, but He was not teaching them to search for pseudo-gnostic spiritism that they can find in themselves if they would just look diligently. He was declaring Himself to them, incarnate, and proclaimed – elsewhere – them to be His presence in the world likewise.

  6. The message of the New Testament is that of the Old. What the Old “majors” on, the New “minors” on; meanwhile, what the Old “minors” on, the New “majors” on. What’s more: we as the people of God should take note and boldly proclaim the message of both the Old and New Testaments, both concerning unequivocally the salvation of the world, the grace of God, and love for God and neighbor leading to faithful obedience to God and self-giving service to one’s neighbor. No one in the Old was ever saved by adherence to the law, just as no one in the New or since has ever been saved while neglecting it. In regards to the intent of the commands… They were, in many cases, object lessons, given to teach God’s people about who He is, who they are, and how they are to approach Him and relate to one another. They were, in – perhaps – all cases, teaching simple obedience. If God commands, we must obey. Hence, the old covenant (i.e., external law on stone) was made obsolete by the new (i.e., internal law of flesh) and the subsequent indwelling presence of God the Father and Christ the Son by means of the Holy Spirit.

  7. As far as “the message of Christ”… Where do you find it other than in the reliable testimony of the Scriptures and in the remembering life of the Church?

  8. The Gospel is – indeed and by its very nature – subversive, but it is not only subversive to political loyalties and “God in the dock” ritualism but is also – on the same token – subversive to heavenly escapism and “nothing is sacred”, iconoclastic pop-evangelicalism.

What the world needs is the presence of Christ. What the Church offers is the presence of Christ in its faithful, incarnate, gracious, sacramental life as it embraces the Lord and His world, uniting heaven and earth in its worship to God and self-giving to His world.

If the guy in the video hasn’t found this kind of “church” or “religion”, he should keep looking… After all, for such Christ died and to such Christ has given Himself.

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About Adam Godbold

husband, father, pastor, and more View all posts by Adam Godbold

8 responses to “Jesus > Religion?

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