Is Christianity Religious?


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Religion by some definitions is a system of faith and worship, and by others, the belief in and worship of a superhuman power (a personal God or gods).

In a recent interview in The Paris Review, author Marilynne Robinson (Gilead, Home) seems to take the former view:

Religion is a framing mechanism. It is a language of orientation that presents itself as a series of questions. It talks about the arc of life and the quality of experience in ways that I’ve found fruitful to think about. Religion has been profoundly effective in enlarging human imagination and expression. It’s only very recently that you couldn’t see how the high arts are intimately connected to religion.

As I read that statement, I have the impression that Man invented religion as a way to understand life. If that’s the case, then is Christianity a true religion?

I mean, as I understand Christianity, God is the initiator. I would not have a framework that would include Him unless He had revealed Himself through His incarnate Son and through His inspired Word.

Sure, I could philosophize about good and evil, suffering, life and immortality, the origins of Man, and all the rest. But without God’s revelation, I would have no way of framing my relationship with God as Christianity lays it out.

In short, Man didn’t create Christianity. So if religion is a cultural construct, is Christianity actually a religion?

Is worship even a religious experience? I mean, as I understand worship of the God of the Bible, Man responds to an encounter with his Creator. The response can take a variety of forms, but the most common is falling face down in fear and awe.

But sacrifice certainly would have to be included in the mix. Except, for the Christian, God Himself is the sacrifice. He requires it, He became it. So my response is … gratitude, love, obedience. I’m not seeing a framework here—at least not one created by Man. Initiated by God, perhaps, but by definition that seems to put Christianity on a different plain than Robinson’s Religion.

Now, if by religion, someone means a belief in and worship of God, then yes, Christianity would qualify. In that definition there is no suggestion that Man initiated this interaction. So I suppose, to answer the question, Is Christianity religious, we have to know what a person understands religion to be.

Is it a framing mechanism? Or a relationship with the living God? The two aren’t close.

Published in: on February 5, 2009 at 1:54 pm  Comments (8)  
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