There seems to still be a debate as to whether Christianity is a religion or not. Personally I don’t understand what the big deal is, and why some people fight to say that it is not a religion. They give reasons like: “religion is man trying to reach God” and thus “Christianity is God reaching man” so they affirm that it cannot be a religion. But is this how God sees it? Is this how God defines religion and does He see Christianity as a religion?
James 1:26-27 “26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Now isn’t that interesting: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:”. It seems that God himself believes in religion and even goes as far as to tell us what it is. What really is the underlying theme, a heart committed to God in worship and obedience. God commands that we love our neighbors (Mark 12:28-31), take care of the poor, guard our tongue, and be holy as He is holy (Mat 5:48). It seems that God sees true religion as right response to Him from the heart.
Scripture says out of the heart flows all sorts of vileness, out of the heart the mouth speaks, so if one has control of his tongue, it is a sign that his heart is holy given to God. Although many people are charitable and yet their hearts are far from God, a man cannot be close to God and not charitable. Let us not miss that God is speaking farther than just outward observances, but rather is really discussing the state of our hearts and what flows from them.
Anyways I do not mean for this to be a Bible lesson, but merely to point out that even God Himself believes in religion, and desires us to practice true religion, religion from the heart which loves, obeys, and worships God.
Thus I do not understand why so many people want to argue that Christianity isn’t a religion, but only a relationship. For Scripture itself doesn’t teach this anywhere, putting relationship alone apart from Obedience to God. I think James makes this very clear, even Jesus says those who love Him keep his commands (John 14:15).
A common definition of religion is:
A religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a supernatural agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
Compare this to Christianity, Christianity has a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe. It involves worship of the true God, sacraments (observances), and has a moral code: follow Jesus, be holy as He is holy. Even without the James passage it seems pretty clear that Christianity is a religion.
Now perhaps we may move from foolish arguments about how Christianity isn’t a religion, and move to the right arguments as to why it is the true religion and that Jesus is God our Savior.