Christ vs Religion

(from a post that I put up on a certain forum...)

I came across the following page called "10 reasons to believe in Christ rather than religion".

And so I wonder, Just what is religion if there is a significant difference between Christ and religion? Is religion not a system or set of beliefs and perhaps rules? What about faith in Christ then? Is that just acknowleging Him and just seeking for closer, personal fellowship with Him? Is that where the difference lies? Is it because people just want to find Him and know Him, without all the seemingly useless rituals which seem rather routine and having lack of meaning?

But on the other hand, could it be that a religion with all its beliefs, rules, and rituals all focus on Christ and is not just seeking to have closer fellowship with Him but to actually do formal, solemn worship to Him?

In the case of Catholicism, we believe that the bread actually becomes the Body of Christ and then we consume Him and be enriched with all Its Fruits. Isn't this taking worship and belief to an even higher level?

But then another question may be... Does God need all this? Do you think He just wants a simple personal fellowship with Him or do you think He won't mind the kind of religion I just described where we take worship (or at least believe that we are taking worship) to higher levels?

JamesT,

Catholics believe in Christ, as you well know. We believe in the teachings of Christ Jesus. When we say "the Catholic religion", we are talking about Catholic theology, however many have placed a different meaning on the word "religion." Many Protestant dislike "religion" because they believe it to be a rote form of worship, or prayer. Authentic worship is not "religious", but can appear to be so. This is where Protestants lay their accusations.

The thing is, human beings are religious by nature. Think of all those people out there who simply must have that morning cup of coffee or can of Coca-Cola. What about the person who has to read the sports section of the paper before the rest. We are creatures of habit, simply put.

Can a heart be judged by anyone but God? No. Those who accuse someone of belief in a "religion" are attempting to judge the heart. Of course, we know that the Bible says they will be judged, as they judge. Since they can judge only by outward appearance, because they cannot know the heart, they will also be judged on outward appearance. Did they visibly follow God's laws in all instances (even in private, because the Lord sees what is done in private)?

Personally, I shrug off these "charges" with a warning..."Judge not, lest ye be judged."

On a side note...we are not called to a "personal fellowship" with God. We are called to be children of God. A family bond is stronger than a "personal fellowship" or a "personal relationship". We are called by God to be a family - the family of God. Because of this, "personal relationship" (i.e. individual/singular relationship) is inconsistent with Christianity.

(Stop into chat later tonite [9pm EDT] and we can discuss this more if you like...)

Yes, you have a point [...]. Being in the family of God is better than just having a personal relationship with Christ because it calls for unity.

But then I find it ironic that P's (at least certain denominations) emphasize a lot on fellowships when they also emphasize having a personal relationship with Christ.

Then my question would be: Are fellowship meetings exercising the belief of "Family of God" or is there still some kind of significant difference which I cannot identify yet?
That is, are fellowship meetings the actual unity of individual personal relationships with Christ?
AND...
Is Family of God defined as such too?

Considering further the issue, the Catholic Church has been able to maintian a unity such that it stands out significantly than other religions and seemingly in a special way too. You don't find the Catholic Church divided into thousands of denominations, many of which contradict each other.
I guess that's where the real difference in the issue of unity (Family of God, fellowships, and personal relationship with Christ) lies. What are your thoughts on this?

On the question, "Does God need all this?" God says (somewhere in the Old Testament), in effect, "I don't need your sacrifices!" This is of course true, for God needs nothing. But WE need to make sacrifices, and WE need to worship our Creator, all for the good of our souls. It probably comes down to the "justification by faith alone" issue, as against faith + good works. As Reinhold Niebuhr once said, the concept of justification by faith alone is an attractive one, and easy to understand; its sad failing is the fact that none of us has ever known the experience of justification by faith alone.

JamesT,

My apologies for taking so long to respond to your questions...

Over the past few days, I've been thinking about the Protestant "fellowship groups", etc. The thing to remember is that the ultimate expression of communion in the "family of God" is the Mass. While fellowship groups, Bible study groups, etc (either Catholic or non-Catholic) are certainly helpful, they do not represent or replace the necessity and culmination of the Family bonds that are present in the Mass.

For this reason, Mass attendance is ever-important to strengthening ourselves individually and as the Body, through Jesus Christ who is our strength.

HTH (hope this helps)...

Exactly why is the Mass where unity is most important; even more important than fellowship meetings anyway? I never knew the answer to that one :-P
Could it be because the Mass is the highest form of worship?
I do remember though, a priest telling the congregation that the host is broken and the priest doesn't consume the whole thing himself because the early church would distribute the main host to other churches and then this would symbolize unity.

Well, JamesT, as I see it...the Mass is the culmination of our union with Christ. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him..."

Remember, too, the words "When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory."

Indeed, it is worship, but, as I've pointed out above, it is especially the culmination of our communion with God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. Check out the Catechism for more info on the Mass.

HTH.

This is not a valid dichotomy (Christ vs Religion). You need to keep in mind that Christ belonged to a religion. He was a devout Jew, actually a Pharisee (at least that is what a Scripture scholar told me). He came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. Religion is man's way of connecting with God. It is not something negative. We also need to keep in mind that Christ is part of a Trinity. He tells us it is His mission to bring us to the Father. Is the Father more important than the Son? No, they are equal. And finally we are sinners, so it is not possible to have the kind of relationship with Christ that the Fundamentalists talk of, which in effect brings Christ down to the purely human level. Christians should love Christ but we must conquer our sinful nature in order to do so. Jesus is not the "good buddy" who understands our sinfulness, no. He is God who loves us and is always willing to forgive us, yes.

I'm not sure what you are talking about, [...]. If Christ's mission is to bring us to the Father, then what's wrong with having a personal relationship with Christ? Wouldn't Christ, who understands the weaknesses of man since He was one Himself, be a good companion for us who are struggling as we travel the ups and downs of life? But then perhaps I haven't actually fully understood the Protestant concept of "personal relationship with Christ" yet as I think I do. Or perhaps you are trying to say that Christ is not being fully worshipped as He should be worshipped (ie: no Mass, just songs and prayer) since He is still God regardless of His being man once and then Protestants are just praising Him without accepting all the Truths which God has taught through His Church and rejecting many of the Graces which God wishes to bestow on them?

I'm not against having a personal relationship with Christ or God in general, properly understood. To be properly understood, it is a relationship between persons, one human, one Divine. But the human person is a sinner, so the relationship is on again, off again; closer, distant, etc. The Protestant notion of a "personal relationship" with Christ is tied in with the notion of, once I accept Jesus, I am saved. The Catholic knows this to be false theology. No matter how close I feel to Jesus at any one point (and this is a very good thing, don't get me wrong), I still can turn my back on him and I still can go to hell. Also, the holier the person, the closer the relationship with Christ. For the Protestants, there are no distinctions, all people who accept Christ are at the same level of grace; the same relationship. At its worst, the "personal relationship" degenerates to a "my good buddy will forgive me on Sunday mornin, if I go cattin around on Saturday night, he understands me. 10-4!" In other words, an overemphasis of the human nature of Christ. People who truly have an on-going relationship with Christ are saints, not "saved" folk who keep backslidin'!

But don't they also try to keep with this personal relationship with Christ by praying and reading the Bible daily and doing as He commands if they want to *grow* in Christ? However, I think they are still missing out on some important graces... Oh well, Lord have mercy.

I think what you state in the first sentence is the point "trying to maintain the personal relationship with Christ". The personal relationship is not a given, it is something we have to work at on a daily basis. I agree with that. What bothers me about the Protestant personal relationship with Christ is that it is part of the "I am saved" belief. Once I am "saved", I can never really lose this personal relationship with Christ, it is sort of a given. I disagree with that part of it, not with the concept of a personal relationship with Christ, properly understood, which is something (as you note) for which each Christian should strive.

What if one has accepted Christ as personal Lord and Savior and then is supposed to have been saved and can go to heaven at any moment he dies, and then he goes around and does bad things and doesn't pray or read the Bible or go to church? Is he still saved? Or was he never really saved because he doesn't seem to have the Holy Spirit living in him as is suppose to be when one accepts Christ as personal Lord and Savior?

That's what confuses me. Is a person saved right at that moment he gives his life over to Christ; and nothing else matters now - he is sure to go to heaven immediately after death? A person could accept Christ and is then said to be saved. But then let's say he leaves Christ and then he dies unexpectedly. He never repented. Is he still saved? I mean, what is the criteria for the 'once saved always saved' concept? Is the criteria simply just to accept Christ as Lord and Savior and that's it - you are now saved, period, end of discussion? (And then who cares what you might do later on in life?)
Or is whether you are saved or not depends on whether you live out your life as a Christian now that you have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior? In that case, whether you are saved or not depends on you. You may have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior and the Holy Spirit may be living in you, but you still have to allow that to happen, right? So then the Catholic concept must be correct; that you are redeemed by only the Blood of the Lamb and not your merits so that nobody can boast, but you know that you are saved *only* if you persevere in living a holy Christian life (love, faith, repent, ...).

And I guess that's the misunderstanding on justification between Protestants and Catholics. Catholics believe that you can forfeit the redemptive graces given to you if you don't keep to a Christian life. But if you do keep to a Christian life, then when you die, your redemption is now considered salvation because now you can go right up to heaven (provided of course that you are pure). Protestants think that you are saved immediately after giving yourself to Christ because at that point, you are now under the control of the Holy Spirit and therefore you are not of yourself but controlled by the Holy Spirit. And then everything you do is not really your doing but God's doing. Of course, this distorts things because you still have to let the Holy Spirit work in you. You have the freedom of choice; God gave you this freedom. It depends on you. This is not to boast on your own merits and not give the credit to God but rather, it's that God may want to control you and your life but you got to *let* Him. And how do you let Him? You have to free yourself from all temptation. God can and will help you, but it all depends on you - on whether you want to let God guide you.

Now, another question. Does God really control you? How? I mean, does God control your every action and thought? Is it like being possessed by an evil spirit where you have no control of yourself? Is that what it means for the Holy Spirit controlling you and that nothing you do is based on your own self (so that you can't boast) but on God? Is this what is meant by Christ working in you now that you have given your life to Him? That's what my landlady seems to be telling me. But I found that really strange. Why would God want to control a person's every thought and action just to give Himself credit?

There is a shade of gray here. I was speaking against the notion of some Protestants that once you accept Jesus sincerely in your heart as Lord and Saviour, that you are guaranteed salvation from that point on. Now I won't deny that a person who goes through an authentic religious experience, has true sorrow for sin and accepts Christ would be saved if they died at that point or shortly after if the momentum stayed. But even the most sincere acceptance of Christ as Saviour is not quaranteed to last forever. Humans are fickle; temptation is always there. Small sins can become large sins, one can succumb to peer pressure or society's views at any time. The bottom line is that faith which is a gift can be lost and without faith, there is no salvation. We agree on that much with the Reformers.

May I add a few words about the Catholic understanding of salvation and how it differs from the "I am saved" type of religion?

We have a much more comprehensive view of salvation. We are correct to say we are saved if we have been baptised. We are also, at the same time, correct to say we are becoming saved by working out with fear and trembling day to day, striving after holiness, and living in humble obedience and charity. We are also correct to say, at the same time, that we hope to be saved ; to spend eternity with God in Glory.

You are right James about the confusion btwn P's and C's re Justification.

I would also like to pick up on what [...] said, 'the Religion vs. Christ thing is a false dichotomy'. It sure is. Picture these other false dichotomies and build your own scenario from them;

Eating vs. Food
Sports vs. Exercise
Reading vs. Books
Breathing vs. Breath
Living vs. Life

Get it?

How can you experience breath without breathing? or books without reading? &c.

On the Holy Spirit controlling us vs. the Devil possessing us;

The Holy Spirit invites, the Devil deceives and steals
The Holy Spirit loves & teaches, the Devil charms & tempts
The Holy Spirit possesses those who give themselves freely
The Devil possesses those who follow their inclinations to do evil
The Holy Spirit convicts & disciplines, the Devil accuses & berates

Hope this adds something to the discussion.