From: Robert Schneider (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue Feb 04 2003 - 11:54:21 EST
> Within German and American churches I don't believe there is a big
> difference between the percentage of attendees who have a real
> with Christ and those who, for any number of reasons, feel compelled to
> participate in the social function called "Religion".
> Many in both continents miss the point: Christianity is not a religion,
> is a relationship with Christ. I don't have much use for "religion"
> Having grown up in a very legalistic, Independent Baptist Church I learned
> first hand how easy it is to confuse rules/religion/legalism with the
> simplicity yet profound depth of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
These words remind me of the views of the German theologian, one I admire
greatly, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was martyred by the Nazis in the closing
days of WWII. In some of his letters written in a Gestapo prison cell to
his dear friend and fellow pastor Eberhard Bethget, Bonhoeffer drew a
distinction between "religion" and "Christianity." The former, he said, is
a garment people put on, and various forms of Christianity have been such a
garment over the centuries. If that is the case, how do we speak of a
"religionless Christianity" in a world that has become so secularlized and
no longer needs "God" as a working hypothesis? He was working his way to an
answer theologically and ecclesially when his life was cut short.
In one letter, he wrote, "Jesus calls men, not to a new religion, but to
life." And in another: "Here is the decisive difference between
Christinaity and all religions. Man's religiosity makes him look in his
distress to the power of God in the world: God is the _deus ex machina_.
The Bible directs man to God's powerlessness and suffering: only the
suffering God can help. To that extent we may say that the development
towards the world's coming of age outlined above, which has done away with a
false conception of God, opens up a way of seeing the God of the Bible, who
wins power and space in the world by his weakness (Matt. 8:17)."
When I taught Bonhoeffer's letters to students and talked about his
distinction between religion and Christianity, my Baptist students usually
nodded their heads in agreement.
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