(I'm not saying this guy is an anti-religious liberal, he is just an example of the sentiment)
The following is not a critique of the video (I saw this video a while ago), I like the video, nor is a critique of any article. It is the critique of a growing sentiment within the modern church that “Christianity is not a religion, but rather, it is a relationship”. I’m almost positive that this statement came about as a sort of defense for Christianity and a way to diminish frustration on the part of unbelievers who have been turned off by the monotonous rituals of Sunday worship and Christian lifestyle. The idea is that unbelievers believe that Christianity is only what we do – the concrete (go to church, read the bible, and not doing certain things deemed ‘sin’). We, however, know that a person (a Christian person, that is) “is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ,”(Galatians 2:16 ESV). So in attempt to write this wrong idea that salvation is by works, some Christians have moved to the other side of the spectrum and have said that salvation is by “faith alone”- the abstract (relationship). To which I would shout Amen. But the person who raises this point is almost always saying (whether he or she acknowledges it or not) that “salvation is only through faith (relationship), so you do not have to worry about the concrete (going to church, reading the bible, and not doing certain things deemed ‘sin’). And now you are starting to understand the meaning of the title. I have almost always seen this sort of view and consequent lifestyle from all who have said “Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship,” this liberal, laidback, free-spirited attitude towards what the bible commands of Christians. Ask one who says “It’s only about a relationship,” (or something of the sort) if they go to church every Sunday, you will almost always get the response “No”. Why? Because it is not binding on them. Bring up Hebrews 10:25 and you will undoubtedly get the response “why are you trying to bring me back into legalism, man?” With that said, I don’t think missing church once in a while makes anyone a bad Christian, but if you only go once a year (I’m exaggerating) and aren’t attending for any particular reason, I would have some doubts. I am also not saying people who say “it’s only about faith” are all liberal, the terms I used were “almost always” not “always”; the majority, not the totality.
I would feel uneasy if I left it at this though, I don’t want to come off as a legalist or someone opposed to Sola fide. I agree with the term whole heartedly, on its face, but if not explained properly, it rears its ugly head. Salvation is only our relationship with Christ, but our relationship with Christ is always shown by our religion or our piousness. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”(John 14:15 ESV). This is a command to religion.
Religion is “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially 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.”
Christianity has beliefs (on creation, salvation, mankind, etc.), devotional and ritual observances (Sunday worship, prayer), and moral code (the teachings in ‘Sermon on the Mount’, for example). So in a technical sense, yes, Christianity is a religion. If you noticed all of these (besides the beliefs part) are concrete actions that the Christian is to perform in as a result of his beliefs. I think most people confuse religion with hypocrisy, two totally different things. To be fair the former is usually in union with the latter. Jesus did not hate religion per se, he hated the hypocrisy that was usually in union with it. James says about religion, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”(James 1:27 ESV). So, there is a pure and undefiled, non-hypocritical form of religion. A religion, in a sense, is just those things we do, like James says (taking care of orphans and widows). Well God commands us to do these things, and let me tell you everything in the New Testament is a command -not a suggestion. I believe our approach at righting the wrong idea that unbelievers seem to have is to point out the difference between our religion and false religion. All religion is based on the process of works salvation, Christianity is based on salvation by faith apart from works. But with that salvation, comes a desire to do those things we once hated or thought of as boring, or whatever. So I will leave you with this advice that I agree may come off as insufficient for you, but some things need to be explained with greater detail than others and we are talking about a life or death issue here. We cannot continue to broadcast the same canned responses that have polluted Christianity with false converts for so many years. It’s not fair to us, it’s not fair to Christ, and it is not fair to the goat. Let us place more time into contemplating what we affirm lest be preachers of sin and unrepentance and not preachers faith of holiness, Amen.