27 January 2012

Jesus and Religion

Why is it important to point out that Christianity is a religion, and that religion doesn’t equal self-righteousness? Jeff Bethke's video has had so many 'likes', from all shades of Christians, including those from evangelical and Reformed churches, surely it can’t be that much out of kilter? Is a critique of Bethke splitting hairs?

Well, among other things, Jeff Bethke’s view:
  • denigrates the Church, the institution inaugurated by the apostles of Christ – which is the body of Christ. The mistaken view that religion is bad leads to ambivalence towards church leadership, church discipline, and the sacraments. And it devalues the place of obedience and attendance. I sometimes hear the view that: ‘you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.’ That kind of thing comes from this kind of thing.
  • falls hook, line and sinker for the post-modern suspicion of institutions and authority. Critiques of the church by the church are valid, but ought to be far more nuanced and balanced than this is. The authority of God over our lives is bound up with the authority of the church.
  • drives a wedge between Jesus Christ and the Apostles, or put another way, between the gospels and the letters. People have enough difficulty understanding who Jesus is without this inadvertent throwing of weight behind the claims of liberal theology. More and more people from a Christian background want a Jesus divorced from the church, obedience and ritual - a portable Jesus who they can carry around with their iPhone to pretty much wherever they want to be in life. The idea that Jesus wasn’t into the authoritarian stance of Paul is music to the ears of people like this. It’s not many steps from there to embracing the view that the church is really not what Jesus had in mind at all.