Wednesday, October 22, 2014


 

“…but Christianity 

is NOT a religion!"








The first time I heard this I stopped dead in my tracks and thought, “What the hell are you talking about?” Come to find out there is an entire movement where Christian believers are redefining Christianity…again!

I had found a site where I was able to find an explanation of how someone attempts to reason this notion. The site, if you follow the link, shares with you a standard-issue sermon on the idea as well as a long-winded and convoluted explanation of, well…deluded convolution.

I will spare you the misery of reading the entire rationalization train-wreck and it's default prayer for salvation at the end so I will simplify this notion for you.

As most religions require a belief in a god along with good deeds to qualify for passage to heaven, this new notion of Christianity claims that it doesn’t require anything. By this they mean that “God seeks man rather than man seeks God” by way of sending Jesus and making mans' passage to heaven instantaneous and “free”: no works, deeds or actions required.

However, I think of religion as it is defined in the dictionary. I don’t think a religion can neither be over-sophisticated nor over-simplified in order to exclude itself from the group of which belongs.

So below is e-mail debate I held with the author of this blog in attempts to…well, you’ll see.

I wrote: “…I’d like to complement your enthusiasm on the catchy notion that “Christianity is not a religion.” It certainly is a new perspective to spark interest in the new and old believers alike. Whether or not you coined the idea I do not know but I can’t help to think that it is merely a “selling gimmick” rather than an honest expression of logical thinking or even in consensus on what we, as a society, define as religion.

Now mind you, this is not a theological discussion, this is a logical discussion on which I base this contention. Allow me to explain myself. My contention starts with your definition itself. The definition you used is:

Religion is a system of beliefs or a code of moral conduct that judges (qualifies or disqualifies) a person based on their adherence and obedience to certain codes, rules, laws, traditions, or the performance of required acts.

True, this is a valid definition of the word “religion”. But you base your entire “philosophy”, if you will, on one of hundreds of valid, if not even more applicable, definitions of the word “religion”.

You see, most definitions of religion come up like these:

1. a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe. 
b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship. 
2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.”

…www.thefreedictionary.com

or

"Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power recognized as the creator and governor of the universe; A particular integrated system of this expression; The spiritual or emotional attitude of one who recognizes the existence of a superhuman power or powers."

….http://web.pdx.edu/~tothm/religion/Definitions.htm

But I’ve found, out of several definitions, one similar to your own. That is:

1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe,
especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies,
usually involving devotional and ritual observances,
and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”


Here, it says “and often”, meaning, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t include the “conduct of human affairs”. The truth of the matter, Pastor Driscoll, is that there are literally hundreds of ways to describe one thing. They more or less say the same thing. But you’ve chosen one that illustrates the idea that fits your gimmick. What bothers me is that the idea of Christianity not being a religion is contingent, for you only, on that one single phrase.

My point being, is that, based on all these definitions above, Christianity is still a religion. One might say, “But considering the latter of the three, Christianity still does not require one to perform certain actions to receive the forgiveness that Christ has given us as a result of his resurrection.” I say, absolutely not. Regardless of which definition you use, including your own, Christianity still maintains the full criteria of a religion, as clearly illustrated in all the definitions above because it’s still belief in the supernatural; it’s still a personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief; it still has a set of beliefs values and practices based on the teachings of a certain leader. So, here’s the punch line: if Christianity DOES NOT qualify for any of those, then Christianity is not a religion. The final result: Christianity is a religion!

So this is why: you cannot negate the application of these other definitions of religion even if Christianity does not require one to regulate ones behavior in the way the old Testament does. These are merely definitions which are subject to the normal variance of society, culture, etc: these are not Federal Regulations where one has to obey one verbatim just as you do when you interpret the scriptures. Even with your definition, Christianity still fulfills all these criteria as given above as well as the hundreds of other definitions on religion which you will find online. Pastor, I implore you, this is not merely my opinion, but simple logical reasoning.

You say you “hate religion” in hopes to make an appeal not only to people of religion but also of the non-religious, but clearly you, an apologist by example, are merely advertising the religion which you believe and chose to view differently when in fact it’s the same two-thousand year old thing that it always has been.

Should you decide to reply, simply remember that I said this is not a theological discussion, this is a logical discussion. NO bible verses at play here in any way, please.”

The blogger responds:I do not intend what I am saying about Christianity not being a religion to be a “selling gimmick”. Far from it! It is something I wholeheartedly believe. I am being very sincere here. There is a VERY profound and significant difference between what Jesus taught and all the world religions. Jesus’ teachings stand alone in a very real way, and are drastically different than any other way to God offered by any religion. 

I really don’t care if you want to call Christianity a “religion” or not. This is a pointless debate that I will not enter into again. I have previously listed several sources that list among their definitions ones that agree with my use here (See my response to Amanda above, comment 48). I have even pointed out that the origin of the word “religion” is from the Latin meaning “obligation or bond”. In your response you even made the point that there are many definitions for this word (and even quoted one that agrees with mine). You also overlooked your definition 3 from the freedictionary.com that you quoted which includes “practices”. Elsewhere from your list: “A particular integrated system of this expression”. All of these are getting at the idea and way I am using the word here. 

What I take away from this is that the word “religion” is a very loaded word that means a lot of different things to different people. I have no issue if you want to use this word to mean something different than I do. All I ask from you is the same freedom. I think the diversity of definitions for this word provide for that. My use is certainly within the scope of how people use this word. If you want me to illustrate this point consider this usage: a dentist saying to a patient, “I want you to brush your teeth and floss every morning, religiously.” Obviously the dentist doesn’t mean the person is to believe their tooth brush is the creator of the universe, should pray to it, that their floss is holy, or have an emotional attitude about it. He means that he wants the person to be devoted to this practice. He wants the person to see it as an obligation required to achieve his goal of having healthy teeth. He wants them to perform the acts required to gain this goal. This is the same meaning I am using. This is simply “logical reasoning”. No bible verses are needed. 

The word you use to describe Christianity isn’t that important. What I am trying to point out is there is something drastically different (at its very fiber) about Christianity from anything else. It is truly alone as the only faith that says that God Himself came down to man instead of telling man what we must do to come to God. It is the only faith where God Himself does all the work required (not us). This is a huge difference! Whether or not you agree it is true or not, you must admit that there is something very unique about what Jesus taught on this. We can argue all day about whether Christianity should be considered a religion or not, but I would much rather talk about this clear difference. You are missing the forest for the trees here. A raft made of logs may have some similarities to an aircraft carrier, but what best characterizes the two is their vast differences, not their few similarities. Give the difference between Christianity and the other religions whatever name you want, let’s talk about the amazing difference! 

At the heart of Christianity is the profound idea that it is only God who can fix the problem of sin and restore us to a right relationship with Him. No other faith actually has a solution to the problem of evil. They all teach some form of the idea that man must become better on our own, work harder, make up for evil they we’ve done, and earn good standing before God. But how can a man, who could not keep from doing this evil in the first place, completely stop committing it in the future? And even if he could, not doing evil in the future does not negate or erase evil already done in the past. We all know this is true. I am found guilty of murder by a jury and I stand up to give my last remarks before I am sentenced and I tell the judge, “Yes I did it, but I have been so good since then. I have walked old ladies across the street and worked at the local food bank”, what do you think the judge would say? He would respond, “Yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that you committed this crime. You must pay the penalty for it.”

If God is good and just, He cannot simply overlook evil. If He doesn’t punish Hitler He is an unjust judge. But, if He doesn’t punish my sin of hurting my wife with unkind words He would also be unjust. Yours too. No other faith addresses this problem. They expect a holy and just god to be unholy and unjust and simply tolerate evil or to continue to allow flawed, imperfect, frequently wrong-motivated people to attempt to better themselves. The problem of sin and evil remains. This is a logical problem with these religions. 

This is why these religions cannot offer salvation. They do not successfully deal with the problem of our sin. The only way God can remain just and we can go free is for someone to pay our penalty for us. This allows God to remain just by not failing to punish evil, but it also allows Him to let us go free. Other religions have no one who is qualified to pay the debt caused by our sin. It is only Jesus, the God-man, who can step in between you and God and pay this penalty. No other person can do this. They aren’t qualified. They have their own sin. No, the only way would be for God, Himself, to pay it for us. He is the only one who is qualified. He alone is perfect and without His own sin. 

The amazing result of this is that it is not our effort and works that earn us salvation in Christianity, it is God’s work substituted in our place. Jesus did all the work for us. He lived the perfect, sinless life. He died the death and took all my sin upon Him. As a result the teaching of Christianity is that anyone who accepts this gift is immediately righteous in God’s eyes! The righteousness of Jesus blankets and covers them. When God looks at them He sees Jesus’ goodness. It has nothing to do with anything they did. They can never do anything to make themselves more or less righteous in God’s eyes. Therefore it has absolutely NOTHING to do with their own effort and work.

This is a gigantic and fundamental difference! It is not semantics. It is not a sales gimmick. The very nature of this faith is grounded in an act of God completely alien to all the others. God dying for human beings? God sacrificing Himself to fix our problem? God becoming a human and experiencing evil and pain like us? God being murdered in our place? What religion is like this?!”

I responded: “First allow me to thank you for your response. My reason for being here is to gain clarity in this discussion and you have taken your personal time to help those with questions and for this I am graciously appreciative. Unlike some people I do not see anything wrong with asking questions or having a constructive conversation for that matter. If it wasn’t for open platforms for discussion such as the one you provide we’d probably still be paying heavy premiums for plenary indulgences and liberation from our iniquities from “His Grace” of the Holy Roman Catholic Church…a time which I’m confident to say we would all abhor living in. A wise man once said, “Within understanding lays freedom.” To discuss merely to argue is worthless but to not discuss is even worse. Knowledge is priceless, let us discuss, share and grow.

In response to what you so kindly wrote me, I have a better understanding of where you are coming from. And though you have stated, “I really don’t care if you want to call Christianity a “religion” or not. This is a pointless debate that I will not enter into again” I can certainly understand that you wouldn’t want to repeat yourself but I would have thought that for a blog entitled “Why Christianity is NOT a religion” this would be of utmost importance. So pardon me please if I’m in the wrong forum but I have already taken the liberty to voice my idea, ask your review and so I shall then now make my final rebuttal if you please.

When seeing that you are relying moreso on the etymology of the word “religion”, which is often rooted in the terms as an “obligation” or “bond” (up through the times of Lactantius or Cicero although it varies a bit in Jewish thought) it makes a little more sense why you would not classify Christianity as a religion. I still, however, don’t think that this is correct for this reason: if Christianity has no bond or obligation, and I find no bond or obligation to follow its credence, I will still be sentenced to eternal torture in hellfire after I pass away; something I have absolutely no say or choice in MAKING a choice; I am going to participate in this heaven or hell feud regardless of my wish: I have NO choice. It literally is ‘an offer I cannot refuse’ in the worse sense of the phrase. So, by this it would seem that there really IS a bond or obligation in order for me to avoid torture which would be to mentally acknowledge the propositional criteria; that being the few components of the Jesus story; and not just a one time acceptance –a life long effort to live a life slightly acceptable to the divine. But to me, a creed of ‘no bond or obligation’ would be, “congratulations, you’re ALL going to heaven!” or a “Get out of hell FREE card”. But this is not the case.

Additionally, I feel that perhaps I didn’t quite illustrate my point very clearly regarding the definition part of this topic. You wrote to Amanda,

“I appreciate your point that many dictionaries and other sources do not define religion as I have done here. I know and understand this. The truth is that there is not great agreement on the actual definition.”

Now, I’m not going to talk about “truth” because most general public and pastors included haven’t studied epistemology so I will utilize a different avenue to express my point. Now, I wouldn’t quite go so far as to say that there isn’t a great agreement on the actual definition; yet, I also wouldn’t quite say that there is a disagreement either. I feel that it would be correct to say that there is a vast area of which religion, or religions, fall into: meaning that, all the different definitions we’ve come across are all agreeable and, here is my point, are widely accepted in consensus in our society as to “what” religion is. Because these are merely descriptions, not crucial qualifying criteria, one CANNOT discard the definition as a whole simply because a religion doesn’t fall under one minor particular part of the description.

So, said more simply, you wrote me,

“I have no issue if you want to use this word to mean something different than I do. All I ask from you is the same freedom.”

I, nor others here in agreement with my argument, are asking or using ANY freedom to use a definition my way, your way or another persons way. We are saying that one must need to use the definitions in the CORRECT way: that there are still the majority of definitions of religion which Christianity DOES falls into. We cannot pick and choose when it comes to definitions even in a vast variety. If somehow, some way, it falls into the bucket, it’s a religion and Christianity certainly is that. Allow me to illustrate-

I LOVE Mexican food. One of the many things I like to eat are taquitos. Now, when I looked up the definition of a taquito it is given: 

“a Mexican dish consisting of a small tortilla rolled around a filling of meat and cheese and deep-fried.”

Now, I’m 35 years old and I have NEVER had a taquito filled with meat AND cheese; none of them had cheese in them! Now I wouldn’t be opposed to a taquito with meat AND cheese but that’s just not a taquito to me; more like a fried enchilada! Now, CAN I SAY that a taquito without cheese is NOT a taquito??? NO! It is just a different type. And so this is how I argue the proper use of a definition.

Now, don’t get me wrong. You say that Christianity is god coming to us and not us going to god. Broadly speaking, I’ll give that to you. I’m certainly not contesting this part of the idea. There is something different about Christianity than there is comparatively with some of the other major (existing) world religions. Some dead religions identical to Christianity I can name at least a dozen of them but that’s for another blog! But it is still looking up to someone or some thing of greater intelligence than us, something of inspiration, something of reverence, something of which we love, adore, sing praises too, build buildings for or in the name of, write songs, have services, gatherings, and rituals (even if not obligatory but done purely out of love) in the name of said deity. All those things I am talking about god and all those things are of religion and yet again, Christianity is certainly part of it…or at least a quasi-religion if you insist that it is different than all other religions. THIS is how we use definitions.

Now you told me in so many words that it’s not so much the definition as it is the concept. I understand very well where you are trying to get at. I argued my case and honestly feel that I have definitively demonstrated that Christianity is indeed a religion. So what is “Christianity is NOT a religion” when it actually IS a religion? Religions, not just Christianity, have thrived for thousands of years and SURVIVED because they adapt and modernize their structures to accommodate themselves with the religious man in a progressive society. This is a historically accredited and proven fact. It’s just a way of reinventing itself. Now, its okay, they all do that. But it really isn’t much more than a slogan or a way of raising an eyebrow. I have seen the modern movements of younger generations following their new ideas in Christianity; but it is merely perspective and not realistic difference as far as definition goes.

So I submit to you, when there is “us” and then there is a “god”, in the simplest sense of the term, it’s a religion regardless of the mechanics of how the philosophy works.

Thank you for your time, patience and understanding…whether we agree or not. Your friend in critical thinking, Eric.” 
The blogger responds: "Eric, Thanks for listening to what I said and responding.  

I want you to know that I did not post your “rebuttal” on my blog page because, as I have already clearly said, I do NOT wish to continue what I consider a pointless debate (what the word “religion” means) on that page.  Arguing over the semantics of which definition you or I chose for a word distracts from the point I am trying to make on that page.  You said, “I can certainly understand that you wouldn’t want to repeat yourself but I would have thought that for a blog entitled “Why Christianity is NOT a religion” this would be of utmost importance.”  But, you again, misunderstand that there is an idea I am trying to convey here.  You are hung up on the word “religion”, I get that.  I meant it when I said I don’t care if you want to call Christianity a religion.  Go ahead.  Peace.  What you don’t seem to understand is that I have something to say with this page.  I am trying to show the powerful and amazing way in which Christianity is different.  What word you use to describe that difference isn’t the point at all.  The point is the difference!  The page is to discuss the difference, not debate over word choice.  I am not posting your “rebuttal” because you are not rebutting my POINT at all.  You are critiquing my word choice which is taking the focus off what I intended to say.  

By doing so, you are missing the forest for the trees.  It’s like a person who has been bitten by a poisonous snake arguing with the doctor trying to save them, saying “the shot is really called an antidote, not a serum”.  Who cares what you call it!?  Just take it.  What word you choose to call it is totally beside the point.

I think your acknowledgment that the blog comments might be the wrong forum is correct.  However, I would be happy to continue the discussion via email since I agree with you that, as long as it is respectful and fruitful, both parties are benefited.  I also enjoy a good discussion and particularly when it relates to this topic.  I agree with you that there is nothing wrong with asking questions and having good constructive conversations (even if we disagree).  This is how we grow.  It is ok to not agree.  It is ok to be wrong too, as long as we can learn from it and move on.  I am certain that I am wrong about a great many things.  The trouble is, I don’t know which ones they are.  If I did, I’d change my opinion and be right again :).

As a side note, I just wanted to let you know that I have studied epistemology.  I am quite comfortable discussing what knowledge is and how it is obtained.  Just so you know a little about me, I am not just a pastor.  That isn’t actually what I do for a living.  I am actually an engineer.  I work at Boeing designing passenger aircraft.  I am a scientist and engineer that has studied the Bible, the Christian faith and philosophy in depth.  I also know a great deal about apologetics and making arguments for Christianity from the evidence.

Since you seem very determined to discuss my use of the word “religion” in this blog, I will humor you once more (even though as I have already said, I think this is a red herring).  This will be my last attempt to explain why I think my use is actually a correct usage of the word, in the context I provided.  If I am not able to show you how this is a valid usage in this response, we will have to agree to disagree on it.  It isn’t that important anyway.  The point I was making in the blog is much more important and I would much rather discuss that.  I am fine if you call Christianity a religion.

I find it interesting that in your last response first you agree with me that there isn’t great agreement on the definition of the word “religion”, and then you proceed to lecture me on my incorrect use of the word.  What disagreement means is that there is not universal consensus.  If there is disagreement, then it means religion can mean more than one thing.  As long as my usage is within the sphere of possible definitions for the word, I am not wrong in my statement.  

At one point you say there is a “widely accepted consensus in our society as to "what" religion is.”  However, this is plainly untrue.   It is shown to be untrue by the very fact that you and I are having a disagreement on the definition.  I am certain that you are not alone in your view of the meaning of the word.  I know I am not.  I know many people who use it in the same context to mean the same thing I am saying here.  In fact, several notable people have remarked on religion’s allusiveness to define and nail down.  

Consider these examples: 
“Most of us know perfectly well what religion is - until someone asks us to define it.” ~ St. Augustine
Consider this source: http://www.religioustolerance.org/rel_defn.htm  that begs off trying to provide an all encompassing definition.  They say…

“Many people have their personal favorite definition which they know to be the correct one, to the exclusion of all others. Unfortunately, there does not exist anything approaching a consensus.”

This is why I would not attempt to provide an all inclusive definition for the word.  Instead I opted for its use in a narrow context.  I clarified exactly how I was using the word and in what context I was applying it.  I feel I was very fair and clear on this.  I am not saying this is the only context or only definition for the word.  It is merely the one I chose here.  That should be clear.

I find your view of how to use definitions curious.  Are you actually claiming that whenever a person uses a word they must mean every definition for that word at the same time?  If I say Christianity is not a religion that I can’t be talking about how it isn’t a religion according to ONE definition, but that I have to be saying it isn’t a religion by ALL definitions?  I would never try to claim that.  That is NOT my position at all.  If that is what you are arguing against you are attacking a straw man.

Let’s take an example.  The word cow as two definitions according to Merriam-Webster:
1: the mature female of cattle (genus Bos)
2:  a domestic bovine animal regardless of sex or age 

Now, if I were to say “milk comes from cows” it would be very clear that my usage only applies one of the two definitions above.  Milk only comes from mature females of the species.  So it is clear I mean the first definition above.  You could not tell me I was wrong because milk doesn’t come from male cows and there is a definition that defines the word “cow” to include males.  That’s absurd.  Clearly, only the one definition intended in the usage can be applied to the statement.  The statement must be judged as true or false based on the single definition intended.

For example, the word “set” has at least 464 definitions in the Oxford dictionary!  Clearly when someone uses this word in a sentence they cannot be expected to be meaning all of these at once.  How absurd.  No, they mean just one.  If they say, “The table is set”, they do not mean the table is placed on top of something or that the table is the stage for some play.  The mean just one definition: the table is arranged for a meal.  
Similarly, one CANNOT say that I am wrong when I use the word religion to mean just one of its many dictionary definitions.  I have already clearly shown (and you have even agreed) that there are definitions for religion that are how I am using it here.  I am NOT arguing that there are NO definitions of the word religion that may describe Christianity.  I have already agreed this is the case.  But, this fact has nothing to do with what I am saying in this article.  I am not using those definitions.  I am using the word in just one of its established definitions and showing that Christianity (unlike all the others) does not fit.  

And, that is completely fair and reasonable.  This is what everyone does every time they use any word!  If you were to write an article titled “Why the Seattle Seahawks Will Beat the Minnesota Vikings in this Sunday’s Football Game”, I would not write a comment to it saying that you are wrong because the Seahawk players would never physically assault the other team’s players (because they would go to jail).  Perhaps when I read the word “beat”, I thought you meant one of the word’s other definitions.  But, I would imagine the rest of the article would make it clear which definition you meant.   I even went out of my way in my article on Christianity to clarify, up front, which definition I was using!

It would be absolutely ridiculous of me to assume you must mean ALL the definitions of the word “beat” at once (or even a majority of the definitions).  But, this is exactly what you are trying to do to me.  You say, “…there are still the majority of definitions of religion which Christianity DOES falls into. We cannot pick and choose when it comes to definitions even in a vast variety.”  But this is exactly what every single one of us does whenever we use any word.  We select a single definition (from multiple legitimate ones) that means what we are trying to say in that context and we use the word.  

You said, “I argued my case and honestly feel that I have definitively demonstrated that Christianity is indeed a religion.”  Not that it really matters at all, but I actually do not think you succeeded in demonstrating that at all.  If I understand your point correctly, you are essentially saying that if Christianity can be considered a religion by ANY definition then it must be called a religion in EVERY context.  However, this completely ignores the other definitions and their usage.  There would not be other definitions for a word unless the word could be used in a different context to mean a different thing.  If the same word can have a different meaning, then when it is used to mean that other meaning, it no longer has the first meaning.  It seems obvious to me, but apparently it isn’t.  If the word “beat” can mean “the tempo of a song” and also “hitting something”, when I say “I beat the rug to remove dust” I am meaning something different than when I say “this song has a great beat”. 

Yes, Christianity may be a religion when someone uses the word in one context, but it is NOT a religion in the context I used the word. That is what I meant when I said, “I have no issue if you want to use this word to mean something different than I do. All I ask from you is the same freedom.” I ask for the freedom to use another one of its definitions.  

Additionally, you failed to address several of the valid points I made in my last response, including when I pointed out that some of the very definitions you cited DID include practices and rituals.  You also didn’t address my example of the dentist asking the patient to brush their teeth “religiously”.  Would you stop and correct the dentist, telling him not to push his spiritual beliefs on his patient?  Of course not, you understand very well that he is using that same word in a different context to mean something different.  This is all I am doing.

I have no idea what point you were trying to make with the Mexican taquito story.  I do not see how that applies here at all.  You didn’t tie it into the discussion we are having.  I like taquitos too, with cheese or without.

You said of Christianity . . .
“But it is still looking up to someone or some thing of greater intelligence than us, something of inspiration, something of reverence, something of which we love, adore, sing praises too, build buildings for or in the name of, write songs, have services, gatherings, and rituals (even if not obligatory but done purely out of love) in the name of said deity. All those things I am talking about god and all those things are of religion and yet again, Christianity is certainly part of it…or at least a quasi-religion if you insist that it is different than all other religions. THIS is how we use definitions.”

But this is where you fail to grasp how Christianity is fundamentally different.  You can strip away all that and you still have Christianity!  This is not so with the other religions.  You need none of the things you mention above to be a Christian.  Remember that I have never made the argument that Christianity hasn’t been expressed in religious ways.  I am simply saying that Christianity at its core is NOT any of these things or the combination of them.   They are peripheral and superfluous to Christianity.  Christianity is at its most simple expression: “Christ in me, the hope of glory!” (Col 1:27)  Christianity is Jesus Christ.  It is knowing the person of Jesus Christ.  It is not a list of rules, a place to meet, a way to sing, a ritual to perform, or even creeds to affirm.  It is all about a person: Jesus the Christ.  If you have Jesus and one other person who believes in Him and they are in a mud hut somewhere…you  have Christianity.  If you have believer in Jesus alone in a prison cell, chained to a wall, whose tongue has been cut out and who cannot speak or do anything…you have Christianity.   THIS is what we mean when we say Christianity is NOT a Religion.  No actions must be performed, no rituals are necessary, not rules must be followed, no works are needed to earn anything.  Christianity is a condition of the mind and heart.  It is a state of BEING…not of DOING.  In this, it is fundamentally different.

You say, “if Christianity has no bond or obligation, and I find no bond or obligation to follow its credence.”  Yes!  That’s it, exactly.  That’s my very point.  You aren’t bound to follow any credence.  

You then say, “I am going to participate in this heaven or hell feud regardless of my wish: I have NO choice.”  However, this is a straw man.  Christians do not believe that.  Christianity holds that the person who goes to hell chose to go there.  No one will go to hell that didn’t choose to.  Christianity holds that you are currently in rebellion to God and choosing to reject His way and go your own way.  That’s a choice.  You are culpable.  You are a responsible party, capable of making your own choice.  You will be held accountable for it.  Can you really deny you are choosing to reject Jesus as God?

This does not equal an obligation.  Perhaps it would be helpful to use an example.  Let say you are flying on an airplane over the mountains and both engines suddenly fail (perhaps the plane flew through a flock of birds or something).  You were sleeping and didn’t realize anything had happened.  You are just sitting there going about your nap, completely oblivious to your imminent peril.  Then the stewardess comes to you, wakes you up and says, “I’m sorry to inform you sir, but the airplane is doomed.  We are going to crash in the mountains.”  This is some very bad news.  You would most likely begin to feel fear and possibly panic.  But then she says this…”fortunately, we happen to be carrying a couple of pallets of parachutes in the cargo compartment.  There is a team of skydivers aboard and they are transporting 350 parachutes to the city we are traveling to.  We have enough chutes for you, if you would like to take one.”  You, of course are not OBLIGATED to take one.  It is simply being offered to you.  Would you lash out at the stewardess or the skydiving team for offering it to you and call it an obligation?  The fact that you were unaware that the airplane was already crashing isn’t somehow the fault of those who bring that message to you.  You can certainly choose to remain on the plane and go down with it.  That is your choice.  No one will force you to take the parachute.  You are under no obligation.

This is an excellent picture of what Christianity teaches.  Like the example of the plane crash, those who choose to reject God and stay with their plan will face the consequences…and they are severe.  That is absolutely correct.  However, they have been offered the gift of the parachute to escape them.  They have chosen to reject it.  You don’t have to do anything to deserve or earn the parachute.  It is free.  All you must do is trust the one giving it to you enough to put it on and jump.  No one is obligated.  You said, “to me, a creed of ‘no bond or obligation’ would be, “congratulations, you’re ALL going to heaven!”  But, this is exactly what is being offered.  The stewardess is offering to save everyone on the plane.  But if you refuse the means by which she is providing this salvation (namely the parachute) how can you accuse her of putting an obligation on you?  She neither forced you to stay on the plane or to jump.  She simply offered you the choice.  This is what you said you wanted and didn’t have…a choice.

You say that Christianity requires “not just a one time acceptance –a life long effort to live a life slightly acceptable to the divine.”  However, that is also not what Christianity teaches.  It’s another straw man.  That is what I am writing AGAINST in this blog article!  If you paid more attention to the point I was trying to make instead of my word choice, you would have realized that.  The idea that you can make yourself acceptable to God by ANYTHING you do it totally foreign to Christianity.  Rather, Christianity teaches that Christ has already lived a life totally perfect and righteous in your place.  All that is needed is for you to stop trying to earn it yourself, admit you can’t, and place your trust in Him to do it for you.  Stop trying to earn the parachute.  When this happens, it is NOT true that you then have to live a life trying to be a good person to win His favor.  You already have it.  Instead, God starts to change you.  He gives you new desires and you have a new power to carry them out.  Any improvement in your action is actually the work of God in you, not your own human effort.   That’s why it’s so completely different than the other religions.  It’s not about what you do…it’s about what God does for you (both before and after you are saved).

It’s fine if you don’t believe this or agree it is true.  But, don’t claim that we believe something we don’t.  Your characterization of what “Christians believe” in your last response is not accurate.  If this is what you think we believe, it’s no wonder you think we fall into the same category as the other religions.  The problem is, that’s NOT what we believe.  We believe something much more incredible and grandiose.

You said . . .
Religions, not just Christianity, have thrived for thousands of years and SURVIVED because they adapt and modernize their structures to accommodate themselves with the religious man in a progressive society. This is a historically accredited and proven fact. It’s just a way of reinventing itself.”

I am intrigued by this statement.  I do not believe Christianity has changed any doctrine in 2000+ years (the whole of its existence).  That is quite a bold statement, without being accompanied by any example or evidence to substantiate it.  What, pray tell, has Christianity changed to accommodate progressive society? Everything I have said here goes directly back to the very words of Jesus Christ Himself and His Apostles over 2000 years ago.  

Thanks again for your continued discussion.  I would love to continue discussing the ways Christianity is vastly different, any questions you have about Christianity, or any items that impede your belief in it.  You said that there are “Some dead religions identical to Christianity I can name at least a dozen of them but that’s for another blog!”   I would certainly be most interested in what dead religions are “identical” to Christianity.  I find this assertion quite fantastic (in an unbelievable sense) to say the least.  I have spent a great deal of time studying ancient religions and I am not aware of any that is even close (much less identical) to Christianity.  There are a few with a couple of vague similarities.  But, even these are more explicitly described by their stark and numerous differences to Christianity, not their few and minor similarities.  I actually already addressed one of these claims on the blog page you commented on.  Consider my response to DS in comment 76.  
Thanks again for your thoughts and response.

God bless,

Jake"

I wrote: "Hello again, Jake,

Thank you again for taking your time to further explain your point one last time. I am afraid, however, that we will have to agree to disagree.

Some how I feel that either I didn’t argue my point well or that it was not thoroughly read; the fact that you didn’t connect how my silly “taquito” demonstration was identical to the way you use the word “religion” raises this notion. And I certainly wasn’t trying to argue on something as simple as using homonyms  or synonyms (excluding your “cow” example) but of using words of the same or similar definition with the same origin and then excluding itself of that. In fact, at one point you have even used my own argument to agree with your own and this didn’t make any sense to me.

Please know, I’m not trying to be mean or put you down in any way, that’s not how I am. Quite frankly I actually admire you, not as a pastor, but as an aeronautical engineer as I myself am an engineer of a different kind and I know what kind of “brains” it takes to do what you do. But getting back to what I was talking about: I’m simply trying to illustrate where my frustrations are so we’re on the same page as to why I choose to resign my argument.

You see, in a way, it feels as if we are looking at the same thing and I am calling it a “4-8-4 Northern”, for example, and you are calling it a “B-29”. I honestly feel sympathetic for those whom I have so often seen who are reasonable and logical in every aspect of their life except when it comes to religion- because, in my observation, it is within religion where things have to be extrapolated for it to make any sense in this modern world and religion has enough emotional investment for people that they are willing to go to this extent. This discussion of defining religion is only a small example.

Furthermore, I know the point you are trying to make in speaking to me of the true meaning behind Christianity (and not the definition) and you say that I have missed your point or missed “the forest for the trees”. But in deed I haven’t missed it and haven’t commented on it because that side of the discussion I have no interest in. As you know, my topic is WHY people say Christianity is not a religion and I later illustrated why I believe people do that. You called my argument a “red herring”, I called yours “bait”. I do not think that we will meet agreement in the near future so that is all I have to say.  I welcome any final remarks you’d like to make.

I know you believe what you believe and I know that you honestly feel that you are doing the right thing and I hope that you understand the same of me.

Many thanks,

Eric"

I've debated on and off whether or not I should write a epilogue to this. To be honest I still cannot decide and so this clearly a contemplative text and that shall stand in place as that. What else can I say but that this is a typical argument?

The comparison of science and religion is like physics and magic, study and hearsay, logic and fantasy. The reason why this debate, not just mine, goes on unending is because the two are not a cohesive collaboration together. When the highly religious decides to bite the bullet and step down from the all-knowing assumption, only then can the two sides begin to debate on an even playing field.

What is there to say but this? If you've ever been in such a debate or have watched debates you start to recognize the primary fallacy of the religious persons' reasoning. I am not being unfair in saying that because the square root of 25 will always be 5 no matter how you argue it, not the square root of 25 is zero because you are no longer required to crunch numbers anymore because you've graduated from school.

There is a difference between logic and philosophizing. Until someone truly breaks down to analyze their situation, there will not be a coherent analysis. The "truth" is honestly in the eyes of the beholder. I argue logic.

Monday, August 26, 2013

...coming soon: the scientific method........




While asking me about my religious standing, a young lady asked me, “So do you believe in evolution?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“I don’t see how we came from apes” she started “and I just don’t see why people believe something just because someone said it or wrote it.” She remarked.

“Me neither” I said strongly. “But isn’t that what people do with religion?” I asked.
She remained quite.

“Well,” I said, “it’s not that I just believe: I have been convinced.”
“What’s the difference?” She asked.
“I didn’t just choose to believe something because I liked the way it sounded, or felt obligated to believe it because others did” I replied, “I have actually read The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin. And I used discretion and critical thinking to make up my mind!”
“Oh”, she said looking up to me with a bit of surprise.
So, I asked her, “How many people do you know say they do not subscribe to biological evolution and yet have never read any of the scientific literature on it?”
“Hmm” she said quietly while looking down in thought. “I’d say about...all of them” she said with a rising intonation as if asking a question.
I said, “As I started reading these big works I was astounded with the amount of time, research and evidence that Darwin presented in his writing. He clearly had the ‘stuff’ to lay the foundation with and it wasn’t just a bunch of ideas he was throwing against the wall. It was such a flood of information that it was so simple to just connect the dots. Given this information and being that it is still in consensus with modern science, which has since presented even more evidence of Darwin’s theory, how could I deny it? I’m a reasonable person and I’d be lying to myself if I did. And you’d do the same.”

“I didn’t realize that it was that serious of a work. I thought it was just...random theories” she said. “But I’ve never read it so I guess I just don’t know.”
“A lot of people think that…but they forget or had never even known that science doesn’t work that way. It utilizes the scientific method. And that is what set’s it apart from religion.”