Re: Scientist Christians on the (European) Continent

From: George Murphy (
Date: Tue Feb 04 2003 - 19:45:35 EST

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    Robert Schneider wrote:
    > Ian writes:
    > > Within German and American churches I don't believe there is a big
    > > difference between the percentage of attendees who have a real
    > relationship
    > > 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,
    > it
    > > is a relationship with Christ. I don't have much use for "religion"
    > myself.
    > > 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.

            & it's important to emphasize that Bonhoeffer's understandinng of God, which is
    based on the cross, is opposed in a fundamental way to programs like ID which try to
    find a "need" for God in phenomena that science hasn't been able to explain: "God wants
    us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved."
    Science can explain the world "though God were not given" because "God lets himself be
    pushed out of the world on to the cross."
            But I suspect that some Baptists nod in agreement about the distinction between
    religion & Christianity because threy think that it has something to do with getting rid
    of liturgy &c, which wasn't Bonhoeffer's point.


    George L. Murphy

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