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.
I think Christianity is a religion, the one true religion that involves the right relationship with the true, one and only God, and all other “religions” are not really religions at all but false religions. They appear to be religions, they have a god(s), and a code of beliefs and actions in response to the “will” of the god(s), but ultimately they believe in a false god(s) and therefore they are not really a religion. Of course this thinking only works if one defines a religion as only the one true one, which means there is only 1 (if any) religion in the world, and all others are imposters, called false religions, but are really not a religion at all.
Of course this is a philosophical and theological distinction. For a society I think religion should be more loosely defined as a system of beliefs in regards to a deity, therefore freedom of religion allows there to exist many religions.
Therefore my position is simple: there is only one true theological religion, however, in terms of society there are many (although only one can be true or none). Thus my position is that Christianity is the only true religion and there are no others, and at the same time there are many other religions where Christianity is the only true one of that group. Just like there can only be one true King in a country, even if many other men look like kings, and act like kings, only one man has the right to call himself the King!
Simply I suggest that we define our terms and make sure we are talking about the same categories before we argue about Christianity being a religion or not. I suggest we stop trying to avoid the fight by removing Christianity from the list, but rather argue that Christianity is the only true one (in the essentials taught in Scripture, not our pet extra-biblical assumptions or beliefs). This is best done by simply sharing the defining and differing position of Christianity: God seeks sinners through His Son Jesus’ life, death and resurrection; sinners cannot seek God apart from Christ and Faith. Is Christianity a Religion? Yes, the one and true Religion, but let us not force the world into it through political power, but rather obey Christ as we share the Gospel and watch the Spirit build God’s kingdom. Meanwhile we will put up with other false beliefs calling themselves a “religion”.