quod pro nobis traditum est

Friday, January 13, 2012

A religious question

The posts on this blog are usually my personal analysis of things I perceive so there is always room for error in either perception or analysis/thoughts or both.

In recent years we have passed through the evangelistic efforts of New Atheism. I understand generally the main arguments posed and although I do not agree with them my interests are elsewhere so I am not versed here. Probably the biggest concern I have is not differences of opinion and thought but the underlying theme of doing away with all religions, churches and faith. Not that this could ever really happen. My mentioning this here now is somewhat immaterial for the trend, like many religious trends also do, has pretty much come and gone except maybe on the university campuses. I can also learn more sometimes by reading about topics of interest to me in a quiet corner far away from the he said / he said debates which are necessary and also of benefit.

My perceptions of trends sometimes have a lot to do with the titles of books I see in bookstores and those things people talk about while in bookstores. One trend which is not new but which seems to be making a comeback on the Christian side of things is the idea of Jesus without "the Church" or Jesus without "religion." Two points to make here. First, Jesus is distinguished from both "the Church" and "religion" in the sense that He is good (which He is) and they are bad, for whatever the reason or reasons. Second, Jesus, apart from the Church and religion here is really saying something like I know my Jesus and He is mine and the Church, religion and anything else for that matter is not going to change this. This type of dissection of Jesus from the Church and religion is especially common in the American protestant, fundamentalist and/or evangelical thinking. This is not a new teaching and may be traced to before the reformation. Even the primary reformation churches would have difficulty with this thinking and some still do. In brief, Christianity has gone through many changes and this thinking is very individualistic, which is not surprising in America today.

Dissecting Jesus from the Church and/or religion may be an idealistic effort to teach a "pure" gospel to the unchurched or the atheist. But it fails, because we fail. Also, and more dangerously, it reflects, at the least, an embarrassment with the Church and/or religion. Because the Church and religion are not what they are without people in them they too are not perfect. There is only one Man who is holy and truly perfect. Is it more about me knowing Jesus better than anyone else or is it my inability to accept that others may share the same faith? There is no need to recite a plethora of Scripture passages to counter this thinking for, I believe, that the "me and my Jesus" thinking is as far removed from Scripture as the "me and my Bible" thinking.

If we want to hold up a separate Jesus we need to first take him at his words. He does not separate Himself from the Church or the religious life of His followers. Rather He creates and sustains the one holy Church. He begins His ministry by being baptized. He builds His Church in connection with Peter and Peter's confession of Who he is. Before He leaves His disciples He gives them an apostolic mandate to make disciples of all nations through baptism and teaching. Finally, before His death on the cross, He gives His Church the Holy Supper of His Body and Blood, a Holy Communion.

Religion is defined as the belief in and worship of something greater than what is human, especially a personal God or gods or a particular system of faith and worship. In Christianity, the Church plays this role as the very creation of the Lord who Himself is worshiped. In Christianity, that is, the Church, people are drawn together into the one true faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost/Spirit through the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Sacraments people receive the same Gifts and are made part of the same spiritual reality. This is a religious thing. This reality is not derived from or dependent on the sameness or differences among the people. In the end, within Christianity, a separation of Jesus from one's concept of what the Church and/or religion is (or should be), is at the least, unrealistic and, at the most, false. That is, Jesus does not want to be yours alone. Did He really leave His Church?

This is why we confess the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. This is why, even when there are atheists, there is religion in the world.