My favorite quote of Mark Twain is, “The deity, nor his son, is a Christian.” If Jesus is not a “Christian,” is “Christianity,” then, simply just another religion with futile attempts to reach God? I mean, I know that those who follow Christ are, historically, called Christians (though, that title was not originally a positive notion). Yet, I also know that the title “Christian” has taken on a life of its own, ironically, (at best) separate from Christ and (at worst) something other than having anything to do with Him.
Make no mistake, religion is not faith. When Christianity compares itself with other religions, logically then, it has placed itself in the same category as the others. The question is begged: What, then, makes Christianity better than those in the same religious category? My argument (in a round-about way) is, if Christianity is a religion, then it is no better (or better-off) than any other religion which attempts to please or otherwise contact God. It must be more than a religion; otherwise we have failed to enter into Christ, but are still trying to find Him. I, for one, am not interested in any religion; including Christianity, if it is only and simply a religion.
The ancient church fathers saw religion as a means by which humanity attempts to reach upward to God. Thus, any religion has the potential to lead one to Christ, but one needs the faith of Christ to reach God. Judaism, with its Laws, was instituted by God to lead Israel to Christ (if you please). Irenaeus (A.D. 115-202) taught that “all the prophets of old spoke concerning ‘our Christ.’” In ancient Greece, the religion was philosophy. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-215) argues, “Philosophy was given to the Greeks as the Law was given to the Jews” and “philosophy is a schoolmaster to the Greeks as the Law is to the Jews.” The rationale is that any and every religion is instituted to lead one to Christ. Once Christ has come and we have received His rescue and safety, we are in no need of that which led us to Him (Galatians Chapters 3 and 4).
While this seems an argument of semantics (or possibly, etymology), words (and, therefore, names and titles) are important. If a religion, then, Christianity hasn’t yet reached Christ. But if a faith, where God Himself moved within humanity (rather than humanity attempting to reach God), then it finds itself squarely in the heart of God, without a need of comparison to any religion. If there is no need for comparison, then, there is no threat from any religion. We are no longer in Christendom, where Christianity ensured its survival by stomping out competing religions. We are in a new era – a new paradigm – where we as Christians are like the primitive church – secure in our identity of belonging to Christ. If Christianity is a faith, then Christ is its life-source (rather than its goal); if its life-source, then, Christ is God; and if God, then He will ensure its survival as His expression on earth. We are to simply be the vessels of transport.