Religion as Superstition
“Religion” (or being “religious”) is counterfeit to faith and is a human-made version of the Faith (or Faithfulness) of Christ which enlivens a religion-less faith (that faith that is without a set culture, an accepted norm, a perverted “sameness.”). In the Scriptures, the word “religious” is scarcely used (Acts 17:22 and James 1:26). In both accounts the word is used in a negative context. The word “religion” is used a few more times (Acts 25:19; 26:5; Col. 2:23; James 1:26-27). At best the term is used neutrally, and in Paul’s use it is exclusively used as a counterfeit to the established form of worship by God. There are many allusions to this “religious religion” in Paul’s letters. Nearly all of Paul’s adversaries were adherents to a religion that was but a ghostly form of true faith (2Tim. 3:5). This is the so-called “gospel” of “another” Christ (Gal. 1:6-9) and the “Jesus” of “another gospel” (2Cor. 11:4). Paul clearly explains that this counterfeit is not really another gospel, but a perversion of the true Good News. At its root, the Greek word for both “religion” and “religious” speaks of superstitions; not in the sense of black cats and walking under ladders, but in a ceremonial, sacramental, ritualistic sense that replaces (rather than enhances) the unadulterated Faith of Christ. Paul plainly states that “his gospel” was the Good News that did not come from the religious norm of the times (Gal. 1:11). His Good News was for “the Gentiles” – the un-churched, today (Gal. 2:2, 7). Faith is not of “superstitions,” strict rituals, temporal signs, or ceremonial pomp and pleasantry. Faith is the faithfulness of Christ in Christ; the sheer logic of the Resurrection life of Christ, alone; concrete reality over sacramental shadows; the total and complete lack of hypocrisy.
The Argument: Killed By Death
In Luke chapter 11 Jesus is railing against the religious leaders for not only refusing to enter into knowledge themselves, but also for refusing to let the people they’re supposed to be leading to enter therein (VS 52). In his letter to the Romans (chapter 2), Paul argues the same point and then concludes, “The name of God is slandered because of you” (VS 24), which is a loose translation of the account where God through Isaiah is making the same argument (Is. 52:5). The argument is that, as a rule, we are not expressing a loving faith of Good News, but a conquering religion of fear. Though we speak of love and tolerance, our religion thrives on people’s ignorance, making us all slaves of fear – the enslavement of the human mind, making us blind (and dumb). There is no healing or wholeness in religion, but only a feeding on the taste of pain in an attempt to satisfy our sick appetites. Jesus is now sorrow made flesh; the church, shallow – simpletons starved for a dream that is not its own – just another brand of misery. The argument herewith: Religion is what killed Christ (Matt. 27:20). Faith is for what He died (Rom. 3:25).
Rest in the Concrete Reality
It was not religion that empowered Jesus to go to the cross. Neither was it religion that equipped Him to hang, nailed with the sins of humanity. Nor was it religion that raised Him from the dead. It certainly is not religion in which He presently lives in resurrection power. And, likewise, it is not religion that equips humanity with that resurrection power. It was/is, the Faith of Christ – a personal relationship lived-out in community that is concretized in who God says God is. The Faith of Christ carried Christ to the killing Cross, then, raised Christ from the endless grave and, now, empowers Christ to forever live in the reality of the Resurrection Life. And that Resurrection Life is made available to all humanity through the Faithfulness of Christ.
Agent of Change: The Faith(fulness) OF, not in, Christ
Religion is humanity’s counterfeit attempt to duplicate Faith (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). All religion has the same origin and, contrary to popular belief, the same outcome. Humanity was made with an inert desire to walk with God. Having fallen out of relationship with God, humanity’s desire now results in religious intentions, which are driven by a religious nature (Romans 1). Let it be a lesson to humanity that faith cannot be an outward indoctrination, but that it must necessarily be an inward transformation. Such an inward transformation is only probable in the Resurrection Life of Christ; made possible by the Faithfulness of Christ. Faith in Christ is nice, but the Faith of Christ is powerful. Faith in Christ is based on humanity and its frailty, while the Faith of Christ is based on divinity and its reality. The Faith of Christ was the agent of change, those many years ago, when Jesus came to free humanity from its religion (and its results). And the Faith of Christ is still the agent of change, today, when the church decides to be free from its human religion (and its results).