Christianity Religion or Relationship?

Image result for Metacrock's blog relationship with God

Over at the secular outpost Blogger Bradly Bowen has announced a 10 year plan to investigate the truth of Christianity. Why do I feel that this is more like a 10 year siege? In any case he had already done one piece on "what is Christianity?" , but this part 2 [1] Bowen argues that those who say "Christianity is not a religion but is a relationship with Jesus," are "stupid," (he uses the word). Why does he want Christianity to be a "religion" instead of a relationship? You can't disprove a relationship. He does a bait and switch  replacing religion with system, reading system as philosophical system, then it's disprovable.

I do not think there is a conflict between religion and relationship. Before I get into that let's briefly examine Bowen's case. His argument works in three basic steps: (1) He quotes Paul, "..."the mystery of our religion is great..." .(1 Timothy 3:15-16) [2] The Greek word rendered here as "religion" isεύσεβείας which the Oxford commentary renders "system:" "...the system of belief that inspires piety." [3] So now he can claim Christianity is a religion and religion means system. Then he starts using various dictionaries to define Christianity as religion

"At Cambridge Dictionaries Online, you get a single definition of 'Christianity':
--the ​Christian ​faith, a ​religion ​based on the ​belief in one ​God and on the ​teachings of ​Jesus ​Christ, as set ​forth in the ​Bible. "If we turn to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, we get a simple definition of 'Christianity', which is similar to the above definition:
the religion that is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ
What sort of a thing is 'Christianity' according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary?  It is a 'religion', not a “relationship”. "[4] He actually wrote that the dictionary says it's not a relationship but it does not say that, It only says it's a religion but it does not add "and not a relationship." That's his assumption that it can't be both. "No matter what definition of 'Christianity' we look at, all definitions in respected dictionaries point to the view that 'Christianity' is a RELIGION, and not a relationship." He says it a third time too (see fn4).

The assumptions he is working under are used to construct a very complex and learned straw man. He wants Christianity to be a system so he can find the one key point and destroy the system and take out all forms of belief. His reasoning is fallacious.Yes of course it's a religion. Those who say it's not are speaking of "religion" in a different sense than is Bowen or the passage he quotes from Paul. They use the term to mean empty set of rituals legalistic and lifeless, as opposed to an actual transformative phenomenological apprehension of the reality behind the system. 

He quotes a dictionary that says this Greek term implies a system and makes Christianity a system. He needs to line up that use of the term(religion) with the English dictionaries he uses. That wont work because the Oxford definition is contextual to that passage in Paul and Websters et al were not thinking about that passage. That does not make Christianity a system in the sense of Hegelian thought or process thought. (Process theology is a theology not a belief "synonymous with Christian belief).

In modern theological terms religion is a social and spiritual tradition in which one is guided by thought and the experiences of others down certain paths in a way if life. All religions do three things: (1) define the human problematic. (2) provide an ultimate transformational experience that resolves the problematic; (3) mediate between the two through ritual and/or practice, through, prayer, meditation....most liberal theologians suck at step no 2. Intellectual content will very as to the specific analysis and definitions but not the general sense of three, In that view all versions of Christianity are the same: (1) problematic = estrangement from God via sin (2) a personal relationship with Christ although content will very enormously. (3) mediation generally the same although content will very.

Bowen uses Pastoral epistles! think about it. Not by Paul, from a time when the church became more organized and ritualistic (probably early second century). So he use of a term such as may not reflect the spontaneous miracle working faith of  the early days. Paul was a theologian, I think that's why God drafted him. He was made to do theology. There is a basis for his argument in understanding Christianity as a system. Of course theology is a major part of the Christian tradition. But it's both, or all three, religion, system and relationship.. But I doubt that Paul would think of systems in our modern sense. Paul was using metaphors about running races and fighting, it was not just an intellectual exercise for him. He also quoted hymns a lot so that might indicate a more experiential or emotionally accessible understanding of faith.

Not that I don't think Christianity is a system but I don't think systems are just intellectual only. Hussel had such a system where it was grounded in philosophical analysis but one was supposed to actually experience it.In the ancient world one's theology as not just a philosophical system but it included the actual lived experiences that went with it. Like Stoicism. Stoics were really, well, you know...stoic.

His dictionary Gambit is pointless because he is not using a theological dictionary; except the Oxford and it's used specifically in relation to the context  of  isεύσεβείας (religion) in that one passage. It's not speaking of the soteriological nature of Christianity as a whole. Christianity is a religion and religion in the more positive sense employs a system and fosters a relationship with God. It's not merely words on paper or disembodied ideas, it's a way of life, its a reality one lives and experiences.

With Christianity the notion of a personal relationship with God is written into the fabric of the faith. The Prophet Jeremiah talked about the coming of a new covenant and he put personal knowledge of God at the center (Jer. 31:31-34):

31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,“when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.32 It will not be like the coven ant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,because they broke my covenant,though I was a husband to[d] them,[e]”declares the Lord.33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.I will be their God,and they will be my people.34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’because they will all know me,from the least of them to the greatest,”declares the Lord.“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”35 This is what the Lord says,
The early  church understood that to be in on the new covenant is to be in personal relationship with God. When author of Hebrews quotes this passage (in its entity) (Hebrews 8:7-9:28; 10:15-18) the verb m "to know is translated into the Geek  ginṓskō (γινώσκω). This term often implies  personal  first hand knowledge, actual experience of something, as opposed to a term that could have been used.
In the NT ginosko frequently indicates a relation between the person "knowing" and the object known; in this respect, what is "known" is of value or importance to the one who knows, and hence the establishment of the relationship, e.g., especially of God's "knowledge," 1 Corinthians 8:3, "if any man love God, the same is known of Him;" Galatians 4:9, 'to be known of God...such "knowledge" is obtained, not by mere intellectual activity, but by operation of the Holy Spirit consequent upon acceptance of Christ. Nor is such "knowledge" marked by finality; See e.g., 2 Peter 3:18Hosea 6:3, RV[5]
Another Example 1 John 4:8, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."[6] that indicates relationship. 
Knowing (1097) (ginosko [ginōskō]; English derivatives - prognosis, gnostic, Gnosticism) means to acquire information through some modality, as through sense perception (hearing). However ginosko involves experiential knowledge, not merely the accumulation of known facts. Ginosko is one of the major verbs of the Bible ...Knowledge possessed through the intellectual process of learning is one thing. Knowledge gained by experience, by an active relationship between the one who knows and the person or thing known, is far superior to the former. Ginosko describes the latter quality of knowledge and is what every Christ follower should desire as their personal, permanent possession regarding the Person of Christ (e.g., see ginosko in Jn 8:32, Jn 17:3, Php 3:10).[7]


[1] Bradley Bowen What is Christianity part 1, Secular outpost, Blog URL

[2] New Revised Standard Version).

[3]  Oxford Bible Commentary, p.1225, (emphasis added--by Bowen)

[4] Definition of Christianity from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
- See more at:

[These are all his words form further definitions]

The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary also provides An even fuller set of definitions of “Christianity” can be found at the Christian religion, including the Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox churches.
2. Christian beliefs or practices; Christian quality or character:
Christianity mixed with pagan elements; the Christianity of Augustine’s thought.
3. a particular Christian religious system:
She followed fundamentalist Christianity.
4. the state of being a Christian.
5. Christendom.
6. conformity to the Christian religion or to its beliefs or practices.\

[5] "Know, Known, Knowledge, Unknown," Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament WordsThomas Nelson; 38153rd edition (September 22, 1996)On line, URL:,%20Known,%20Knowledge,%20Unknown
(accessed, 10/37/17)

[6] Strong's Exhaustive Concordance to the Bible, "Ginosko," Peabody Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009, word 1097.

[7] "Greek word studies: Know (1097)Giosko,: Sermon Index. Net, (2017)



Anonymous said…
Are you claiming Christianity is NOT a religion?

JH: [i]I do not think there is a conflict between religion and relationship.[/i]

Right. So like Bowen, it sounds like you disagree with the claim: "Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Bowen's post is arguing that Christianity IS a religion. As far as I can tell, Bowen is not arguing that Christianity is not a relationship with Jesus. You are nitpicking his post because he is an atheist, not because you actually disagree, as far as I can tell.

Anonymous said…
Are you claiming Christianity is NOT a religion?

I think I was pretty clear about saying it's both, no reason why those are mutually excursive categories

JH: [i]I do not think there is a conflict between religion and relationship.[/i]

Right. So like Bowen, it sounds like you disagree with the claim: "Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Yes but for different reason,He said its not a relationship I say it's both,

Bowen's post is arguing that Christianity IS a religion. As far as I can tell, Bowen is not arguing that Christianity is not a relationship with Jesus.

yes he is, I think I was clear on that point but maybe not, ayway Im suret hat's what he was saying,

You are nitpicking his post because he is an atheist, not because you actually disagree, as far as I can tell.

No I'm major picking because it's an important issue. There are atheists I like you are one of them so I can be fair to atheists,I don't think I'm unfair to you am I?

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