Thursday, June 14

Religion vs. Gospel

A great post from the Acts29 crew about Religion vs. Gospel.

Religion says, if I obey, God will love me. Gospel says, because God loves me, I can obey.

Religion has good people & bad people. Gospel has only repentant and unrepentant people.

Religion values a birth family. Gospel values a new birth.

Religion depends on what I do. Gospel depends on what Jesus has done.

Religion claims that sanctification justifies me. Gospel claims that justification enables sanctification.

Religion has the goal to get from God. Gospel has the goal to get God.

Religion sees hardships as punishment for sin. Gospel sees hardship as sanctified affliction.

Religion is about me. Gospel is about Jesus.

Religion believes appearing as a good person is the key. Gospel believes that being honest is the key.

Religion has an uncertainty of standing before God. Gospel has certainty based upon Jesus' work.

Religion sees Jesus as the means. Gospel sees Jesus as the end.

Religion ends in pride or despair. Gospel ends in humble joy.

Which of these statements did you need to hear the most?

3 comments: said...

I do not intend to be argumentative but this is a little over the top. This person is trashing "religion" but first remaking the definition to something that it is not.

This is the dictionary definition of religion:

re·li·gion [ri-lij-uhn] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.

This definition encompasses many beliefs including evangelicalism. Perhaps you ought to use a term like "false doctrine" or "pharisaical faith" or something like that?

Livingsword said...

I am not sure which on the list strikes me the most but I do think the whole manner in which the concepts are being set fourth is good.

I find that there are many that add legalism to salvation, but there are also many that add legalism to sanctification, that is were we get repulsive churchianity, on the other hand a true understanding and life driven by grace is contagiously unstoppable.

We do the things we do when we are a follower of Jesus because of relationship not because of rules.

Matthew Westerholm said...


Thanks for your comment. I don't consider you argumentative! My all-time favorite book (Religious Affections) uses the term "Religion" very positively -- including in its title! But many things have changed since Jonathan Edwards's time, including word usage.

Acts29's usage of the term "religion" is very common. I'm thinking specifically of Tim Keller's usage (which I believe he got from CS Lewis) of "irreligious, religious, and gospel". A fantastic article you can find:

The point of this article is, I believe, the MOTIVATION behind such things is often the defining characteristic of them.

Your dictionary definition skirted this issue (as well it should). Phrases like "moral code", "ritual observances", "set of practices" miss what the gospel is asking of us.

Personally, I find the usage quite justified.

The bible also uses the term "religion" quite negatively. Colossians 2:23, and James 1:26-27 are the first examples that come to mind. I think referring to Christianity simply as another religion is reductionist of the uniqueness and power of the Cross.