“Watch your life and doctrine closely.” – 1 Timothy 4:16
This week a video has been circulating on the Facebook wall of many of my Christian friends and several of our own church members. Ironically, the video promotes the very arrogance of Facebook faith that it decries. Anyway, while I understand the point of the video, I believe it presents a perfect teaching opportunity with regard to how we as Christians should engage the world with discussion about the gospel.
Essentially the video is creating a contrast between “Religion” and “Christianity”. More centrally the poet in the video focuses in on the concept of ‘grace'; poorly I might add.
To get the point, just read the bold. For a more thorough explanation, read in detail.
You should know that I appreciate the sentiment of the video. I don’t disagree with the goal which I assume to make Jesus known and loved. What I do have concerns about is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls “Cheap Grace” which essentially takes a flippant view of the cost of grace and thereby doesn’t attract to Jesus but rather draws the sinner to a stand-in who has far less focus on personal holiness.
We should not retreat from vocabulary that has been defiled, we should redeem the terms. I’m very concerned that this type of theology runs to the other end of the spectrum and actually does more harm than good. I’ll back up my concerns with corresponding scripture so you may investigate on your own.
There are two main reasons I am spending time to provide commentary.
First, I have a responsibility to believers in our church to teach biblically-based doctrine and call out bad doctrine when I see it (Titus 1:9). Writing on my blog is one way I can do so without taking up a Sunday morning service for this topic.
Secondly, the unbelieving world is mocking this video for its blatant logical flaws. Please do not copy and paste this video link on your Facebook again without looking at the video’s comment section. Sometimes atheists are just angry and wrong. This time I think they have a point. The illogical nature of this poetry is striking and I honestly can’t blame an atheist for raising concerns. One of the most powerful comments I read was ” Rhyming words together does not make them more true.”
We cannot afford to replace True and Eternal with Trendy and Entertaining.
Making Jesus and ‘Religion’ seem mutually exclusive creates a logical fallacy to the unbeliever. It is vital for Christians to understand how language can create a roadblock to faith if indeed our goal is to reach anyone with the gospel we profess. The bible simply does not create this tension between Jesus and Religion. In fact, James 1:27 tells us that there is a religion that God accepts:
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
A few specific quotes of concern:
0:18- “Jesus > Religion”
Faith in Jesus IS a religion. I understand what the poet means but an unbelieving world sees this as incoherent and unintellectual. Simply put, this is playing word-games. This is called a false dichotomy. You lose the very people you’re trying to reach by making such a false statement. This kind of semantic statement only appeals to the ‘cool’ religious people who don’t want to be identified with ‘uncool’ religious people. It’s like denying that your parents exist because they drop you off at school in an old station wagon. You may not like the looks you get, but they are still in your family. If you’re attempting to reach people far from God, this statement that Jesus > Religion is counter productive. If, however, you want to give the warm and fuzzes to religious people who understand the heart of Christianity, this kind of statement works. I care most about people far from God so I don’t want to run them off with a huge logical fallacy. I submit that we’d all be better off if we agree to make sense.
0:24- “What if I told you that Jesus came to abolish Religion?”
I would tell you to read your bible. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17
0:40- “Why does it build huge churches but fails to feed the poor.”
I personally have never seen a large church that did not serve the needs of the poor. In fact I’ve usually seen the very opposite. Larger churches tend to have more resource to do more locally and around the world. Nearly all missionaries reach their communities through need-based social causes such as drilling for water, raising livestock or opening orphanages. When is the last time you’ve seen a church of 35 people do these things? I have been blessed to serve inside and work with dozens of mega-churches (2,000 or more members) and every one of those churches has a significant outreach to the orphan and the widow. I’m sure some mega churches exist without mercy ministries. I simply don’t know them.
Churches who hold to the Christian religion and honor God’s word faithfully are churches who obey Jesus’ teaching to the scribes and Pharisees. It’s not an either/or but rather a both/and. “You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Jesus, Matthew 23:23)
Throwing stones at large churches is a cheap attack to win favor with those who have a personal problem with the church. This common attack line reminds me of Judas when the woman poured her perfume out to worship Jesus. He claimed it would be better used for the poor when in fact he was greedy and wanted to justify his own sinful heart. Most Christians who do not obey God through tithing attempt to justify with these kinds of attacks. Truth is, Jesus said to continue the former while adding the latter. No Jesus vs. Religion here. No abolishment. Just religion that’s pure and undefiled. Read John 12:1-11
2:15- “Jesus hated Religion.”
No, please see James 1:27. Jesus ‘hated’ no one to my knowledge. Jesus was angry at the people misusing the temple to rip off worshippers who were making pilgrimages to the temple courts. He called for the church to be a house of prayer but he did not call for the downfall of organizing as a church. In fact, the Apostle Paul who wrote 2/3 of the New Testament responded to his life changing encounter with Jesus by starting many churches (organized centers of the Christian religion). Paul certainly didn’t think Jesus hated religion. God hates sin done in the name of religion, sure. But sin is sin. He hates sin, not religion.
2:42- “Jesus and Religion are on opposite spectrums.”
No, again please see James 1:27. This false premise also turns away anyone thinking logically about the cool video. I like cool videos but I prefer them to be true when it comes to doctrine.
2:46- “Religion is a man-made invention.”
God created man and man responded with worship. Sounds like God started religion. Again, religion was hijacked by people for sinful and selfish purposes but even with this knowledge, you and I have a decision… retreat or redeem? I prefer that we follow Jesus’ model and redeem the broken things, not run from them. Let’s not detach ourselves from 2,000 years of Christian history because sinful people hijacked a beautiful religion of faith in Christ.
2:57- “Religion says slave, Jesus says son.”
Correction: Paul calls us slaves to righteousness. Romans 6:15-23 This is the entire concept of Lordship. He becomes our Lord. Our life is not our own, we were bought with a price. We go from being slaves to our sin-nature to slaves to righteousness by surrendering our lives to the will and purpose of God. We don’t like to use this word but ‘doulos’ means bond-servant. In essence, ‘voluntary slave’. In scripture there are certainly other metaphors used such as ‘son’ and ‘brother’ and ‘friend’ but we cannot throw out descriptive terms of the believer such as ‘disciple’ and ‘follower’ and ‘bond-servant’. These words are not mutually exclusive. The joy of the Christian life is that we are all of these in one. In each word we find truth about ourselves and the nature of God. To pit these terms against one another is akin to telling me I can be a son or a father but not both. I am both. In Christ I am both ‘doulos’ and ‘son’.
3:06- “Religion and Jesus are two different clans.”
Repeating a lie does not make it true.
3:10- “Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God searching for man.”
Again, this is not true. Paul says in his famous speech at Mars Hill in Acts 17:26-27 “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,”
3:47- “I hate it, no I literally hate it.”
I’m sorry you may hate the Christian religion but I love it. I love the church, I love the faith, I love Christ and I love God’s word. I also despise sin, I don’t simply ‘believe’ in it.
Please understand, I don’t doubt that this poet loves God’s word. In watching other videos of his I find a ton upon which we agree. It is obvious that he is talented and gifted in communication. Sometimes we simply choose the wrong expression and others echo our words without thinking critically for themselves.
As I thought further on this video and why it stirred my heart I felt that the word ‘religion’ should have been replaced with the word ‘legalist’. Legalism or moralism are not the same as the Christian religion. With that adjustment I would likely have gladly clicked ‘share’ and moved on with life. Unfortunately we aren’t instructed by Christ to mindlessly click ‘share’. We are challenged to watch our lives and doctrine closely.
I challenge all believers to be cautious in passing around videos that are heavy in emotion but sketchy on doctrine.
Demonstrate love for God’s word by taking time to read and study it. It is the very breath of God. Without a healthy understanding and love for the scriptures we will fall prey to the enemy’s plan to distort reality to something that seems warm and fuzzy but does not actually represent the greatness and goodness of God.
More important than studying the word we should love it enough to allow it to study US.
I don’t retreat from the phrase ‘Christian Religion'; I work to redeem it.