It seems, in Southern California at least, that many Christians mature in the same way. We start out being legalistic and antinomian (against the a law), that is we live for the law we create for ourselves, while we think we have thrown off the shackles of any external law that seeks to oppress us (this is usually our pre-Christ days). In this stage we live how we want. We do what we want. We believe what we want. Because in the end, its all about us. We are our own gods. The next stage of maturity happens when we first become Christians (note there are many stages and none of us will achieve perfection on earth, I only talk about 4 stages to make a point on how I have seen myself and other Christians grow, these aren’t biblical stages just observations I have made). The Spirit of God so works in us to love Him, and hate evil, that we then respond to our former lives the total opposite way: we become legalistic and rule bound. If we used to drink alcohol without restraint, we now fence it in with stringent rules about not even touching it! It is apparent to us how sinful we are, and we hate that sin, so we attempt get rid of it all through our own wisdom, cunning, and devices.
Christians in this second state are easily picked out of a crowd. They dress modestly (often apparently so), they don’t drink alcohol, they don’t gamble, they don’t watch certain types of movies, and don’t do many other things that are completely acceptable to our culture and to many other Christians. They fear sinning against God so much that they put a fence around his law so they cannot even get close to sinning. The problem is this fence (like do not drink alcohol – Scripture never says do not drink, only do not get drunk) becomes the new law. People in the first state of maturity and Christians in the second state both are legalistic (trying to please god or God through their own means and on their own terms), and although the latter claim Christ as their savior, they also have added their own performance and rule keeping to the mix.
There seems to be a movement that is growing among the younger generations (my generation included) that is anti-formalized religion (their name). I haven’t had a chance to sit down with leaders in this movement so my comments are based on hearing them talk publicly and through reading their literature. If I could boil down what I think it is they are about it would be this: Religion created by man is bad, Relationship created by God is good. Of course when you make the argument of one between God vs Man, we know who will win. “But are they framing the picture correctly or are they tilting at windmills,” I ask my self. Perhaps they are a little confused or unclear about their definitions of religion and what “religion” they are pushing, but if they are overall doing more good than harm should we complain? I don’t know the answers to all these questions but I have a few thoughts that come to mind.
I want to begin my comments with the statement that I believe the preaching of the Gospel (rightly understood – but that is a subject for another time) will offend many, and yet God will work through the Spirit to draw people to Salvation in spite of the “walls” we think that will prevent them. God has sent missionaries to preach the Gospel to people, and then teliport them away (Philip comes to mind in Acts). No person is too far away or walled off for God to not reach. Often I believe we have a God who is too small, who needs our help in removing some “walls” so people can get to Him or He to people (depending on your soteriology). Therefore, even if I do not 100% agree with the philosophy of ministry or even the methods of evangelism that someone may use, I will (like Paul) be happy that Christ is preached (if He is truly preached). However, this also means that I (like Paul – see Galatians) will not tolerate a false Gospel being preached by anyone, anywhere, for any reason. Of course I have no authority like Paul to respond like he could, but I can at least challenge my friends, family, and anyone else who will listen. That is what this Blog is for by the way.
I own a Honda Civic. I do not believe Honda has any manufacturing plants, they do not exist. They cannot exist because such a thing would be so evil and immoral and hateful. They are a myth forced upon us by the fools who want us to believe that car manufacturing plants exist to create our cars, because there is great gain in it for them. These people live in the dark ages. They are blinded by their own assumptions. We, any smart and scientific individual, all know that cars just come into existence and there really is a simple proof for it.
Since we all know that car manufacturing plants are a lie propagated by fools who are backward in their beliefs, blinded by their biases, there must be another reason why we have cars. If we spend just a second thinking about it, we all can think of the time when there were no cars in existence, but now we have cars! So, just as any child can reason this through, give me where you think cars came from? Well of course they came from nothing! We know there was nothing, and now there are cars, therefore cars came from nothing! It really is quite simple I do not understand why anyone would think otherwise. Let us stop arguing where cars came from and focus on more important issues like what to do with their emissions. Science has proven it once and for all, stop fighting it: cars come from nothing. They just come into existence! Of course the physics of it is much more complicated, but I assure you our laws of physics completely allow for it, I assure you.
I have made comments in the past about Christianity being a Religion and I would like to add a few more to further my thinking on the subject and clarify my position. I heard recently a group of pastors I really respect arguing that Christianity isn’t a religion, because “religion” is man’s attempt to reach God, while Christianity is God’s reaching out to man. When I heard this line of reasoning the proverbial light bulb lit in my head. What really is the issue is the definition of Religion. What is Religion, or rather how does one define it, and if we are all working with the same definition, do we still disagree. I think the real issue is that we all are not working with the same definition of religion thus many of us think we do not agree on the subject but we really do.
I would argue that historically Religion has been roughly defined as the system of beliefs and actions which develop and exist in the right relationship with the true God. Has not the historic Church argued that they were a Religion, albeit the true one, and all other religions false ones? I wonder if any Ancient Christian writer ever really argued that Christianity was not a religion. I don’t see such arguing in the Bible, that I am sure of. In our present time it seems that many in the church are focusing their energy, not in the historic apologetic of defending Christianity as the true and only religion, but in removing Christianity from the Religion debate all together. Of course such an action is desirable by many because it is the easy way out. If one is apart of a group that is considered pretty lame, it is much easier to just claim you are not in that group, than it is to correct the misconceptions.