Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Monday, January 08, 2007

"Religion" vs. "Relationship"?

The link in the title is to the original incarnation of this post, at Three Nails. I'd encourage you to read the comments there, as well.

Growing up in the Pentecostal Church, I was sold a line that said "Christianity isn't a religion, it's a Relationship." This was basically an excuse to not have much to do with traditional things, because we thought that traditions were evil and distracted us from God. I've seen that this is common thinking among many evangelical protestants. Somehow, "religion" is associated with dead, useless faith.

I must say, I no longer agree. In fact, I disagree with that opinion quite strongly. When I see that opinion expressed, it frustrates me. Recently, I converted to the Roman Catholic faith. Sure, it's got its problems (all churches and denominations do), but contrary to what I was taught growing up, its problem is not "religion". In fact, I believe that the religion is its strongest asset.

Religion is the embodiment and the organisation of our faith. It is the associated practices and customs that are demanded of our faith.

There is an adage, along these lines, that is touted to express the difference between "Christianity" and "religion", and that is, "Religion is man's search for God. Christianity is God's search for man." The second half of this sentence is true, but the first is inspecific and inaccurate. All the other religions in the world could rightly be said to be man's search for God (except Judaism, in which God revealed Himself to them--out of which, Christianity springs, when God further and fully revealed Himself to us!). But "religion" is not antithetical to Christianity. It is our response to God for His revelation to us. It is, in fact, how we live that relationship out!

This is in fact evidenced by Judaism. It is the religion that God founded, through Moses. It was not primarily the Hebrews' search for God, but God's miraculous intervention in their lives. His Covenant that He made with them, that He would be their God and they would be His people, was the relationship. The 10 Commandments that He gave them, as well as the rest of the Law, was the religion, which He expected them to live out in response to that Covenental Relationship!

I was reading a blog the other day [edit, this post was originally from July 2005],, where the claim was made that "we know that the Old Testiment was what was before. A Religious system designed to Separate God from Man" (cf. also this post, as well as the comments for each). I could not believe that the author had made such an incredibly ridiculous statement! The Covenant that God made with Israel, that He would be their God, and they would be His people, was separating them from God?! I seriously have to wonder whether this author has in fact read the Old Testament!

Yes, Jesus came to bring a New and Better Covenant! That's the theme of the book of Hebrews. But that New Covenant is not a different kind of covenant, in that the purpose has been changed. It is the fulfilment of the Old Covenant--a covenant which proclaimed and promised the New Covenant. Jesus Himself said, "Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them" (Matthew 5:17). Jesus came to complete the Law--to give us the missing piece of the puzzle. St. Paul tells us that the Law was an instructor, to teach us that by ourselves we could never complete the requirement. So God promised to make it possible--by replacing our hearts of stone, and giving us hearts of flesh, alive in His Spirit.

Jesus doesn't take away the requirements of the Law--He gives us the Grace and strength to live it!

Christianity is indeed a religion--but the religion conveys grace to us from God that all other religions fail to do. Why? Because our religion brings us into a relationship with God--the Creator and Saviour of the Universe!

Why would you want to deny that?

(Category: Soteriology: Salvation)


Anonymous said...

"I am not entirely certain why, in dealing with Protestant Christians, I can be direct, to the point, and perhaps even forceful in my disagreements, without fear of being offensive (though I may be offensive after all--I simply don't find myself worrying about it);"
Maybe it's because of your arrogant spiritual pride?

Gregory said...

Thank you for your criticism. I'll work on it.

God bless

Joey said...

What a perfectly brilliant response.