Friday, November 07, 2008

Word Study: "Religion"

My friend Tim, from Army of Martyrs, had a post today about the ideology (popular in some circles) that Christianity is not a religion so much as it is about a relationship. It's very short, so I'll post it all here, and then give my response:
Christianity - Relationship not Religion?

If I hear that line one more time I'm going to puke. If we say Christianity isn't a religion, then all we've done is re-define the word "religion". In any meaningful sense, yes Christianity is a religion. The statement can't be true unless it's meaningless and nothing can be true without meaning. Therefore Christianity is a religion.

This popular sentimentality is most often found spewing from those who think that Jesus' primary purpose was to teach Jews how to be Platonists (and when they didn't get it, He went and taught the Gentiles).

I called my boss out on it this morning perhaps a bit too hastily. She said something like "we don't like to feel like we're religious here - we think religion is a bad thing" and I responded "that's funny because Christianity is a religion".

Sentimentalism is lack of emotional sobriety. It's not just distasteful and embarrassing, it is a sin.
What follows is my response...



Here's the kicker: "religion" = "relationship". Sorry, Christians who despise "religion". Bear with me!

The answers.com dictionary says this about the origin of the word "religion":
[Middle English religioun, from Old French religion, from Latin religiō, religiōn-, perhaps from religāre, to tie fast. See rely.]
The Oxford English Dictionary confirms this:
[a. AF. religiun (11th c.), F. religion, or ad. L. religion-em, of doubtful etymology, by Cicero connected with relegere to read over again, but by later authors with religare to bind, RELIGATE (see Lewis and Short, s.v.); the latter view has usually been favoured by modern writers in explaining the force of the word by its supposed etymological meaning.]
The Latin religare means "to bind fast; to moor"; ligare on its own means "to bind, tie, fasten; to unite". So that is (most likely) whence came the word "religion" (as far as the English word and its origin).

Where does the word "religion" show up in Sacred Scripture? A quick check shows that the word "religion" (and its forms) shows up in English translations of the Old Testament almost exclusively in the deutero-canonical content; that is, in those books or parts of books which nearly every Protestant community disregards as inspired canonical Scripture. I'm looking at the Douay-Rheims (DR), King James Version (KJV), Revised Standard Version (RSV - not the Catholic editions), and the New American Bible (NAB).

"Religion" in the Old Testament

The only non-deutero-canonical occurence of the word is in Leviticus 16:31 (as rendered in the DR): "For it is a sabbath of rest, and you shall afflict your souls by a perpetual religion." The RSV renders this as "It is a sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute for ever"; the NAB as "by everlasting ordinance it shall be a most solemn sabbath for you, on which you must mortify yourselves"; the KJV as "It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever."

The rest of the references to the word show up in texts not likely to ever be read by a Protestant. The casual reader can feel free to skip over these excerpts.
1 Maccabees 1:43
Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. (RSV - 1 Macc 1:43b)
[A]nd many Israelites were in favor of his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. (NAB)
Yea, many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the sabbath. (KJV)
And many of Israel consented to his service, and they sacrificed to idols, and profaned the sabbath. (DR - 1 Macc 1:45)

1 Maccabees 2:19,22
"[D]eparting each one from the religion of his fathers... We will not obey the king's words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left." (RSV)
"[S]o that each forsakes the religion of his fathers and consents to the king's orders ... We will not obey the words of the king nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree." (NAB)
"[F]all away every one from the religion of their fathers, and give consent to his commandments: ... We will not hearken to the king's words, to go from our religion, either on the right hand, or the left. (KJV)
"[S]o as to depart every man from the service of the law of his fathers, and consent to his commandments: ... We will not hearken to the words of king Antiochus, neither will we sacrifice, and transgress the commandments of our law, to go another way. (DR)

1 Maccabees 2:29
Then many who were seeking righteousness and justice went down to the wilderness to dwell there... (RSV)
Many who sought to live according to righteousness and religious custom went out into the desert to settle there... (NAB)
Then many that sought after justice and judgment went down into the wilderness, to dwell there... (KJV)
Then many that sought after judgment, and justice, went down into the desert... (DR)

2 Maccabees 6:11
[B]ecause their piety kept them from defending themselves, in view of their regard for that most holy day. (RSV)
In their respect for the holiness of that day, they had scruples about defending themselves. (NAB)
[B]ecause they made a conscience to help themselves for the honour of the most sacred day. (KJV)
[B]ecause they made a conscience to help themselves with their hands, by reason of the religious observance of the day. (DR)

2 Maccabees 6:24
"Eleazar in his ninetieth year has gone over to an alien religion..." (RSV)
"[T]he ninety-year-old Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion..." (NAB)
Eleazar, being fourscore years old and ten, were now gone to a strange religion... (KJV)
Eleazar, at the age of fourscore and ten years, was gone over to the life of the heathens... (DR)

2 Maccabees 8:1
[E]nlisted those who had continued in the Jewish faith, and so they gathered about six thousand men. (RSV)
[E]nlisting others who remained faithful to Judaism, assembled about six thousand men. (NAB)
[T]ook unto them all such as continued in the Jews' religion, and assembled about six thousand men. (KJV)
[T]aking unto them such as continued in the Jews' religion, they assembled six thousand men. (DR)

2 Maccabees 12:43
In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. (RSV)
In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view... (NAB)
[D]oing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection... (KJV)
[T]hinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection... (DR)

2 Maccabees 14:38
[A]nd for Judaism he had with all zeal risked body and life. (RSV)
[C]onvicted of Judaism, and had risked body and life in his ardent zeal for it. (NAB)
[A]nd did boldly jeopard his body and life with all vehemency for the religion of the Jews. (KJV)
[K]eeping himself pure in the Jews' religion, and was ready to expose his body and life, that he might persevere therein. (DR)

Judith 11:17 (phrase absent from the DR)
For your servant is religious, and serves the God of heaven day and night... (RSV)
Your handmaid is, indeed, a God-fearing woman, serving the God of heaven night and day... (NAB)
For thy servant is religious, and serveth the God of heaven day and night... (KJV)

Judith 14:6 (DR, 14:10 elsewhere, but without the highlighted phrase)
Then Achior seeing the power that the God of Israel had wrought, leaving the religion of the gentiles, he believed God, and circumcised the flesh of his foreskin, and was joined to the people of Israel, with all the succession of his kindred until this present day. (DR)

Judith 16:31 (DR, not found elsewhere)
[A]nd is religiously observed by the Jews from that time until this day. (DR)

Sirach 1:17-18,26 (DR, not found elsewhere)
The fear of the Lord is the religiousness of knowledge. Religiousness shall keep and justify the heart, it shall give joy and gladness. ... In the treasures of wisdom is understanding, and religiousness of knowledge: but to sinners wisdom is an abomination. (DR)

Sirach 37:10
Do not consult the one who looks at you suspiciously; hide your counsel from those who are jealous of you. (RSV)
Seek no advice from one who regards you with hostility; from those who envy you, keep your intentions hidden. (NAB)
Consult not with one that suspecteth thee: and hide thy counsel from such as envy thee. (KJV)
Treat not with a man without religion concerning holiness, nor with an unjust man concerning justice... (DR - Sirach 37:12)

Sirach 37:12
But stay constantly with a godly man whom you know to be a keeper of the commandments... (RSV)
Instead, associate with a religious man, who you are sure keeps the commandments... (NAB)
But be continually with a godly man, whom thou knowest to keep the commandments of the Lord... (KJV)
But be continually with a holy man, whomsoever thou shalt know to observe the fear of God... (DR - Sirach 37:15)

Daniel 3:90
"Bless him, all who worship the Lord, the God of gods, sing praise to him and give thanks to him, for his mercy endures for ever." (RSV - Daniel 3:91)
"Bless the God of gods, all you who fear the Lord; praise him and give him thanks, because his mercy endures forever." (NAB)
O all ye that worship the Lord, bless the God of gods, praise him, and give him thanks: for his mercy endureth for ever. (KJV - Daniel 3:91)
O all ye religious, bless the Lord the God of gods: praise him and give him thanks, because his mercy endureth for ever and ever. (DR)

Esther 8:17
And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them. (RSV)
And many of the peoples of the land embraced Judaism, for they were seized with a fear of the Jews. (NAB)
And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them. (KJV)
[I]nsomuch that many of other nations and religion, joined themselves to their worship and ceremonies. For a great dread of the name of the Jews had fallen upon all. (DR)

Esther 9:27
[T]he Jews ordained and took it upon themselves and their descendants and all who joined them, that without fail... (RSV)
[T]he Jews established and took upon themselves, their descendants, and all who should join them, the inviolable obligation... (NAB)
The Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined themselves unto them, so as it should not fail... (KJV)
[T]he Jews took upon themselves and their seed, and upon all that had a mind to be joined to their religion, so that it should be lawful for none to pass these days without solemnity... (DR)
"Religion" in the New Testament

Given the inconsistencies surrounding use of the term "religion" in the Old Testament, I think it will serve us better to look at the New Testament occurrences and see if we can glean what Paul (and other early Christians) used the term "religion" to mean. Here I will also include the actual Greek word (or phrase) being translated as "religion" (or one of its forms).
Acts 10:2
[A] devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms liberally to the people, and prayed constantly to God. (RSV)
[D]evout and God-fearing along with his whole household, who used to give alms generously to the Jewish people and pray to God constantly. (NAB)
A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. (KJV)
A religious man, and fearing God with all his house, giving much alms to the people, and always praying to God. (DR)
The Greek word here is eusebes, which means "reverent, pious, devout, godly".
Acts 13:43, 50
And when the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas ... But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing... (RSV)
After the congregation had dispersed, many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas ... The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers... (NAB)
Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas ... But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women... (KJV)
And when the synagogue was broken up, many of the Jews, and of the strangers who served God, followed Paul and Barnabas ... But the Jews stirred up religious and honourable women... (DR)
The Greek word used in both of these places is sebomai, which means "devout, religious, worshipful".
Acts 17:22
"Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious." (RSV)
"You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious." (NAB)
Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. (KJV)
Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious. (DR)
The Greek word here is deisidaimonesteros, which means "more religious than others; too superstitious".
Acts 25:19
[B]ut they had certain points of dispute with him about their own superstition... (RSV)
Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion... (NAB)
But had certain questions against him of their own superstition... (KJV)
But had certain questions of their own superstition against him... (DR)
The Greek word here is deisidaimonia, which means "religion, superstition".
Acts 26:5
[T]hat according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. (RSV)
[T]hat I have lived my life as a Pharisee, the strictest party of our religion. (NAB)
[T]hat after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. (KJV)
[T]hat according to the most sure sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. (DR)
The Greek word here is threskeia, which means "ceremonial observance, religion, worshiping".

So let's look at how these Greek words were used in Acts. We see two distinct concepts being translated as "religious": being devout and being superstitious. The word eusebes (meaning devout) has sebomai for a root; sebomai (or forms thereof) is used as the verb "to worship" (Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7; Acts 18:7, 13; 19:27) and as the adjective "devout" (Acts 13:43, 50; 16:14; 17:4, 17). Forms of eusebes are used to mean "godly" (2 Peter 2:9) and "devout" (Acts 10:2, 7). Now, consider just who Luke and Peter are referring to as "godly" and "devout":
  • Cornelius and a soldier of his (Acts 10)
  • Jews and converts who were very interested in what Paul and Barnabas had to say... but then were incited to persecute them (Acts 13)
  • Lydia, whose heart was opened by the Lord to give heed to what Paul preached (Acts 16)
  • Certain Greeks in Thessalonica who believed the Gospel (Acts 17:4)
  • Certain people (probably Greeks, possibly converts but possibly also pagans) in Athens (Acts 17:17)
  • Those whom the Lord will rescue from trial (2 Peter 2)
Most of the people to whom the adjective "devout" or "godly" is attributed are those who believe in God, believe that Jesus is the Christ, and are therefore favored by the Lord. If "religious" is used as a synonym for "devout" and "godly", I want to be religious! It sounds like these people have a real relationship with the Lord... I find it hard to believe that a person who is genuinely "godly" wouldn't have a relationship with God!

Now, the other two terms rendered in some translations as "religious" were deisidaimonesteros and deisidaimonia. These words are indeed better rendered as "superstitious", because they come from the Greek words deilos and daimon, which together literally mean "fearful (or dreading) of demons". This fear or dread is not the Christian kind (by which he knows not to entertain temptations or near occasions to sin, which are surely prompted by the Devil and his minions) but one which accompanies idol worship. The word is used by Paul to the pagan Athenians with their pantheon of gods (Acts 17:22), and by Festus (a Roman pagan) about the Jews who accused Paul of crimes (Acts 25:19). To misattribute such superstition to a Christian who claims he is "religious" is a disservice.

As for "religion" the noun, we have only seen once such term so far, threskeia. Paul uses it to describe Judaism. We'll see this word and its other forms used in Colossians and James.

Let's turn to the writings of Paul now. I will be omitting the references in Galatians 1:13-14 and X because they use the Greek word Ioudaismos which means "Judaism" and is in some translations rendered as "the Jews' religion". Again, for the casual reader, you can bypass these excerpts and rejoin in the summary section.
Colossians 2:18
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind... (RSV)
Let no one disqualify you, delighting in self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, inflated without reason by his fleshly mind... (NAB)
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind... (KJV)
Let no man seduce you, willing in humility, and religion of angels, walking in the things which he hath not seen, in vain puffed up by the sense of his flesh... (DR)
The Greek word rendered as "worship", "worshiping", and "religion" is threskeia again.
1 Timothy 2:10
but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. (RSV)
but rather, as befits women who profess reverence for God, with good deeds. (NAB)
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. (KJV)
But as it becometh women professing godliness, with good works. (DR)
Here, the Greek word is theosebeian, which means "devoutness, piety, godliness". This Greek word is made up of theos (God) and sebomai ("to adore, to worship").
1 Timothy 3:16
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (RSV)
Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion, Who was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed to the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory. (NAB)
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (KJV)
And evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory. (DR)
Here Paul uses the Greek word eusebeias, which we've seen before in a slightly different form; this word means "piety; godliness, holiness".
1 Timothy 6:3-6
If any one teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. There is great gain in godliness with contentment... (RSV)
Whoever teaches something different and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the religious teaching is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes. From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds, who are deprived of the truth, supposing religion to be a means of gain. Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain. (NAB)
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. (KJV)
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to that doctrine which is according to godliness, He is proud, knowing nothing, but sick about questions and strifes of words; from which arise envies, contentions, blasphemies, evil suspicions, Conflicts of men corrupted in mind, and who are destitute of the truth, supposing gain to be godliness. But godliness with contentment is great gain. (DR)
The Greek word used in verses 3 and 5 are eusebeian; in verse 6 it is eusebeia. The definition is the same: "godliness, piety".
2 Timothy 3:2
For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy... (RSV)
People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious... (NAB)
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy... (KJV)
Men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, haughty, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, wicked... (DR)
This word is, anosioi, from the prefix an- (not) and hosios, which in turn means "divinely right", in the sense of "righteous, pious, holy". So "unholy" or "impious" is suitable; "irreligious", given the right definition of "religious", could work too.
2 Timothy 3:5
[H]olding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people. (RSV)
[T]hey make a pretense of religion but deny its power. Reject them. (NAB)
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (KJV)
Having an appearance indeed of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Now these avoid. (DR)
This is the word eusebeias again.
2 Timothy 3:12
Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (RSV)
In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (NAB)
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (KJV)
And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution. (DR)
This is the adverb eusebos: "piously, godly".
Titus 2:12
[T]raining us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world... (RSV)
[T]raining us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age... (NAB)
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world... (KJV)
Instructing us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world... (DR)
This word is asebeian, which is a- with sebomai: "irreverence, wickedness, impiety, godlessness".
Hebrews 12:16
that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. (RSV)
that no one be an immoral or profane person like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. (NAB)
Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. (KJV)
Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau; who for one mess, sold his first birthright. (DR)
This Greek word is bebelos, which means "accessible" in the sense of "crossing the threshold", thus: "profane" (from the Latin profanus, "outside/against the temple"). The term "irreligious" works here if "religious" is understood to mean "worthy of the temple".

Let us also consider the words of James:
James 1:26-27
If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man's religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (RSV)
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (NAB)
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (KJV)
And if any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation: and to keep one's self unspotted from this world. (DR)
The adjective here is threskos; the noun is threskeia.

So let's look at these uses together to see if we can understand what "religion" and "religious" mean as translations of these Greek words.

As for the noun "religion", we see the word threskeia (in varying forms) used in Col. 2:18 and James 1:26-27. (This word is also spoken by Paul in Acts 26:5.) When "religion" is used in the sense of "godliness", we see two words used: theosebeian (1 Tim. 2:10) and eusebeia in its various forms (1 Tim. 2:2; 3:16; 4:7-8; 6:3-6, 11; 2 Tim. 3:5; Titus 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:3, 6-7; 3:11). As an adverb, "religiously" or "godly" is seen as eusebos (2 Tim. 3:12; Titus 2:12) . The opposite of "religious" -- "irreligious" -- is seen as anosioi (1 Tim. 1:9; 2 Tim. 3:2), asebeia (Rom. 1:18; 11:26; 1 Tim. 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:16; Titus 2:12; Jude 1:15,18), and bebelos (1 Tim. 1:9; 4:7; 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16; Heb. 12:16).

What does James write concerning "religion"?
  • A man's religion is for nought, and his heart deceived, if he has a sinful tongue (James 1:26)
  • Pure religion to God is care for widows and orphans, and keeping yourself free from the stain of the world (James 1:27)
Why do Paul and Peter write concerning "godliness"?
  • We should pray for all men, that we may lead lives of godliness (1 Tim. 2:2)
  • Women who claim godliness should adorn themselves with good works. (1 Tim. 2:10)
  • The "mystery of godliness", concerning the Word-made-flesh (1 Tim. 3:16)
  • Avoid profanity, seek godliness; bodily exercise has value in some things, but godliness has value in all things (1 Tim. 4:7-8)
  • Jesus taught a doctrine "according to godliness"; mere gain is not godliness, but godless with contentment is itself gain (1 Tim. 6:3-6)
  • The man of God strives for "righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness" (1 Tim. 6:11)
  • Avoid lovers of pleasure rather than of God, who have a "form of godliness" but deny its power (2 Tim. 3:5)
  • Our ministry under God is due to knowledge of the truth which comes from godliness (Titus 1:1)
  • God grants us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3)
  • We should supplement steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection. (2 Pet. 1:6-7)
  • We ought to be people of holy living and godliness. (2 Pet. 3:11)
What did Paul write about living "religiously"?
  • Those who live godly can expect persecution (2 Tim. 3:12)
  • The grace of God instructs us to live godly (Titus 2:12)
What do Paul and Jude write about being irreligious?
  • The wrath of God is unleashed against the ungodly (Rom. 1:18)
  • The Deliverer came to remove ungodliness from Jacob (Rom. 11:26)
  • The Law was given for the ungodly, unholy, and profane (1 Tim. 1:9)
  • We should avoid gossip and profane stories which lead to ungodliness (1 Tim. 4:7; 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16)
  • Unholiness is part of a laundry list of sins of men in the last days (2 Tim. 3:2; Jude 1:18)
  • The grace of God instructs us to deny ungodliness (Titus 2:12)
  • We must avoid falling short of the grace of God, being immoral and profane (Heb. 12:16)
  • The Lord came to convict the ungodly of their deeds (Jude 1:15)
I fail to see how one can be godly and live a godly life without having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If one is in that relationship, will he not exercise that pure religion which is pleasing to God -- compassion for widows and orphans, and avoidance of the blemish of sin? If that's what it means to be religious... count me in!

Looking back at the answers.com definition, I find the link between "religion" and "rely" to reinforce this idea of "religion as relationship". Our religion causes us to rely on Him to whom we are bound, and this reliance is best described as a relationship. It is not puppetry or blind obedience, it is a relationship between the Creator and His creation, between the Father and His adopted sons and daughters, between the Savior of the world and those yearning for salvation, between the Holy Spirit and those who have been born from above in water and that same Spirit.

As a last point... there's a Christian recording artist out there called "Big Daddy Weave" with a song called "Fields of Grace"; which song has a line "There's a place where religion finally dies." There is no such place: in Heaven, religion will be perfected, and we will never again stray from God; in Hell, religion is unto the Prince of Darkness, and there is no loosing his terrible grip.

7 comments:

Tiber Jumper said...

This is a most excellent post. Coming out of 30 yrs of evangelicalism, we poisoned the true meaning of the word "religion."
You provided an excellent view of what religion means.
Thanks.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Great work. Now I can see why this would be too much for a combox! Thanks for shedding so much light on the term, it is helpful. Now I'll have some good stuff to use next time I hear these terms used as if they were mutually exclusive (religion & relationship).

japhy said...

If you want to be an English-language-supremecist, the word "relation" and "religion" SOUND similar. It must be God's will!

Moonshadow said...

Bottom line: Evangelicals chose code words that reinforce their subculture, help them define who's in and who's out and make themselves feel enlightened.

As it's usually Calvinists who refuse to call Christianity a religion - because that sounds legalistic - I point out John Calvins' "Institutes of the Christian Religion." They usually don't know how to answer that one.

Fr. Catoir's article from a couple of years ago covers this ground elegantly:

"Religion is more than theology."

Sorry to butt in here, japhy. Some reason I'm not reading you as much as I used to.

japhy said...

Moonshadow: you're not butting in, I'm just not writing the same kind of material recently. Most of my blog posts recently have been Bible Study related and not really prone to conversation here (although at the Bible Studies, there is some good conversation).

Thank you for that article from Fr. Catoir!

Anonymous said...

great stuff...we spend so much time in modern Christianity attacking semantics and motives we abandon breaking scripture down and true analysis...I can appreciate the sentiment behind "not wanting "religion" but it is not an educated statement as you so wonderfully show here. Rather than blast people for using words like religion and statements like "bless you," etc., modern communicators should just teach listeners what the true meaning of those statements and words are. thanks for the great post. i'm reading James 1 right now and this was enlightening!

++P. Gregory Schell said...

Your work here is profound and practical. I too am weary of the "I'm spiritual not religious" excuse for not be relationally responsible or accountable to the mission of God's Kingdom. Those who brag about being free from religion are free from the divine process of spiritual maturity, certainly they are not free from the sin of pride. I think Saint Paul confidently identified himself a prisoner of Christ (tied and bound).