It’s Okay to Call Christianity a Religion

Random believer: Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship. I’m not religious.

Random atheist: Really? So you don’t believe in worshiping God?

Random believer: Wait, no, that’s not what I meant. I do worship God.

Random atheist: So you are religious, and Christianity is a religion?

Random believer: Well yes, wait, no. You’re twisting my words.

Random atheist: You seem confused. You can keep your religion and whatever relationship you’re in to yourself.

End scene. Moral of the story, changing a word doesn’t fool anybody. It’s okay to call Christianity a religion. Let’s dig deeper.

Religion

What does religion mean? The Greek Word used for religion is thrēskeia. It means worship, fear of the gods. So to be religious is to worship and revere God. That’s it. It’s not a stop sign. It’s not a traffic light. It’s not this idea of rules that some believers think religion has that negative connotation. Sure, that’s how culture can understand it sometimes. What I explained is how I think believers should understand it and explain it.

I get that some believers want to soften what they see as the edge of a sword in the word “religion”. They want to make things appear as appealing as a beautiful woman walking down the street. But non-religious people don’t want appearances. I think that’s the point of why they chose to be that way. They wanted something real. So why not be real? Say yes, Christianity is a religion. It’s a lifestyle of worship to God. Respect to God.

Conclusion

There’s a good intention to the phrase “Christianity is a relationship” we can keep. Christianity is a connection with God. But let’s also remember it’s a respectful worship of God too, religion. There are instructions to obey, which some may call rules. But let’s go back to that stop sign and traffic light analogy. Why do rules exist? They exist to keep us from harming ourselves.

In the same way, God gave instructions to protect us from ourselves. For the good of our well-being. When you think about it that way, perhaps rules should actually be viewed with a positive connotation.

Peace to all those who are in Christ.

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36 thoughts on “It’s Okay to Call Christianity a Religion

  1. I’m a firm believer in the 10 commandments which are essentially the ultimate rules to guiding our lives. If we can’t follow the highest authority, how are we to follow any authority at all?

  2. I absolutely agree that Christianity is a religion. However I think there is a difference in saying, “I am religious” and “I am a Christian.” While Christians are technically religious there is a little more to it than that. To be religious implies believing in an abstract spiritual power or to believe in the power of “gods.” Christians believe in one power, one God. So, to merely say that a you are one religious person in a slew of religious people takes away some of the gravity of what it means to be a Christian. Just a thought, but I really did appreciate what you had to say on the subject. You offer and interesting and thought-provoking perspective.

    • Hi Katharyne. Thank you for your thought-provoking comment. Perhaps one can both say I’m religious and I’m a Christian. I hope I did not suggest one should only state they’re religious, which if it sounded that way, I would say that’s not what I’m expressing. But I think in explaining the meaning of religion in my post according to scripture, and understanding religion in what I suggest is the proper context and telling people of that proper context, that stating one is very religious (deep respecter of God and Christ) in being a devout Christian, perhaps maybe does convey the seriousness of being of the faith. I’m glad you appreciated my post and shared some alternative thoughts of yours that gave everyone something to ponder.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  3. Does this make sense? All religions are belief systems by cultural definitions of God. But original Christianity was a proposal for us to be adopted into a god- family! How awesome that Jesus saw us as his brothers and sisters: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:50, Mark 3:35 and others. We are NOT in a religion, we are in a FAMILY! I love to see it this way.

    • Hi Jane. Thank you for your comment. For sure, we are a part of family. We’re children of God. I think we can acknowledge that and acknowledge that we’re religious at the same time. I like how James puts it, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” So we see here God even acknowledges what we do is religion, and also that people can think of themselves as religious, but should do their best to live up to that standard. Hope I’ve given something else to think about.

      Peace in Christ. 🙂

  4. What is religion? Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus has two of the definitions of ‘religion’ as: 2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.
    3 archaic: scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness.
    4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith (so, I’ve given three). My definition is: ‘Man’s own way of reaching out to God.’ You can’t reach out to God in your own terms.

    ‘Religion’ appears 5 times as threskeia (thrice) in Acts 26:5, James 1:26 & 27; and Ioudaismos (twice) in Galatians 1:13 & 14. The inflection ‘regious’ comes out 2 times as sebomai, in Acts 13:43 and threskos in James 1:26. Threskeia (thrace-kei’-ah) means: ‘ceremonial observance.’
    Ioudaismos (ee-ou-dah-is”-mos’) means: “Judaism”, i.e. the Jewish faith and usages. Sebomai (seb’-om-ai) is: ‘to reverence;’ while threskos (thrace`-kos) is defined as: ‘1. ceremonious in worship (as demonstrative) 2. religious.’

    In the days when Jesus walked the Jewish lands the Mosaic practice of the worship of Jehovah had been divided, a la religion, into four: Pharisee, Sadducee, Zealots and Essene. Jesus belonged to none. Why? Each added to the worship of His FATHER. Paul had to jettison his Ioudaismos beliefs to become a Christian.

    Loosely, one may accept it as a religion, for the layman’s understanding (just for the sake of it). I don’t tick Christianity as the religion I practise when given a form to fill: I do not practise any religion! Religion, in the true sense of it was started by Cain, having been triggered by his mother’s thought of “neither shall we touch it lest we die.” Nimrod spread religion to its present state.

    Christianity is not a religion. It’s THE WAY of life (zoe). The Lord of Christianity is the way, truth and life of it: JESUS. Thanks for liking my post: “GOD?” (PART ONE). Stay blessed, brother.

    • Hi hoojewale. Thank you for your comment. and you’re welcome for the like to your post. My source of the meaning of the word for religion was blueletterbible.org. If I’m not mistaken it did include ceremonial observance as a part of the definition, but I also saw worship and fear of the gods in the definition as I noted in my post. I’m not sure I follow your other assertions given I’m not familiar with any explicit statements in scripture stating religion was started by Cain or spread by nimrod. But since one of the verses you mentioned James 1:26-27, talks of how one should practice true religion, I would think that makes it acceptable to think of Christianity as religion.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  5. God gives us the power to religiously obey his commands, but gives us the grace to forgive and help us up when we get it wrong.

    If we call ourselves his people, we have to live to the standards set by God and not out own.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Have a great day.

  6. I think this is a really good response to the movement inspired by Jefferson Bethke’s viral video Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus. Honestly, the whole religion/relationship discussion is a thin line to walk. On the one hand, Christianity is much more than simply following rules in order to get to heaven, and it’s difficult for unbelievers to understand that without experiencing it. But on the other hand, the Bible clearly teaches that Christians should be “religious” by following God’s commands to love and care for those in need (James 1:27). I love how Katharyne points out that you need to look at what the words “religious” and “religion” mean to your listener. I don’t think a blanket statement like “we should always(or never) say we are religious” can be applied to this discussion. In order to properly communicate our faith, we need to know about and understand how our audience thinks and what they believe.

  7. By mere definition of the word religion, it instantly qualifies Christianity as a religion. I think, in my experience, people who claim they are not “religious” are the ones who use that phrase to justify not going to Church. Maybe you have known those types, who believe in Jesus but are ready to go tooth and nail on why Church isn’t a necessity for salvation. If it truly isn’t, then the whole purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to start the Church is absolutely pointless in Scripture. Not to mention the myriad of Scripture explaining the Church and the importance of worship and community throughout the book of Acts. In reference to the viral “Why I Hate Religion” video, it boils down to this; if you hate religion, you hate the Church. If you hate the Church, you hate Christ because it is His head, as Scripture states. This is a great post and a good topic of discussion. Peace be to you, the writer +

  8. The problem with all religions is to gauge just to what extent it rules your lifestyle. There are many who label themselves as Christians with many different levels of involvement with the teachings of Jesus Christ. There are also some who dare to claim they follow Christ’s teachings very closely and condemn the Church as lukewarm ; it is those who often proudly proclaim they are not religious but true followers of Christ.
    Fervent religion has serious dangers and can lead to radical behaviour , but nobody wishes to be labelled as nominal. The truth is we have ambitions in life and we strive to achieve them , selflessness is a perfect ideal which runs contrary to human nature.

  9. So to worship a God you fear…are you constantly living in fear of his disapproval? Are they not rules but merely a guide to how to live?

  10. I think people say Christianity is not a religion in order to somewhat “set us apart.” I personally say Christianity is both a religion and a relationship, in that we are to have a personal relationship with God, but also follow His commandments (and it shouldn’t be too hard to want to do so. They aren’t simply “rules,” but instructions on how to live a good life).

  11. I agree that we as Christians need to be straightforward when discussing our faith with unbelievers. If we aren’t straightforward then we aren’t able to adequately share the faith the way it truly is. Trying to make Christianity ‘more attractive’ is unnecessary; it stands and shines on its own. I also like your comments on the rules of the faith.

  12. Thank you for posting this. This is really thought provoking. I think people get so tied up in religion having a negative connotation because of the rules and regulations thats associated with it, treating it like the law of the old testament which Christ died and freed us from.

  13. Thank you for this post. I liked a lot of what you said. I agree that Christianity is a religion and that is ok to say. Your words and actions will prove the negative connotations of religion wrong. Keep walking in the Spirit!

  14. Hello
    Just discovering your blog as you liked one of my posts (thank you). Interesting discussion here. I tend to use the word ‘faith’ rather than ‘religion’ to describe my or any way of life which connects us to God. So one is of the Christian faith or the Muslim faith (as I am), etc. My personal concern with using the word ‘religious’ is the association – built up over time, I suppose – that it is more dogmatic, institutionalised and outward facing rather than spiritual and inward-looking. ‘Faith’ for me reflects a balance of both, but the latter must lead for the former to be powerful and genuine. It would be great to reclaim the term ‘religious’ and make it positive. I liked reading the chain of discussion here.

  15. So many passages of the New Testament contain the Greek term allelon, “all together.” We always read “you” as singular but in much of the NT it is a plural, like “y’all.” Religion is the collective expression and practice of the faith, and Christ intended us to follow him in unity with one another. Yes, religion can become legalistic, formal and empty. So can “private” spirituality.

  16. factbasedtruth: Thanks for recently stopping by The Fruitful Life and liking one of my posts. I came over and saw your post about Naming our Religion. I wrote on this topic last January. Perhaps you’d be interested in it. If so, here’s the link. http://paulageister.com/2015/01/19/claim-your-religion/
    You seem to have more knowledge of word origins and since I have Blue Letter Bible in my favorites, I’ll make better use of it from now on. Thanks for a post that is simple and to the point. God bless your ministry through your blog.

  17. I loved this post. This sentiment is something I have personally struggled with and against for a long time. Just several weeks ago I wrote a similar post on my blog (theindefinabeleemotion@wordpress.com/redefining religion) and I am very glad I am not the only one in the church fighting this fallacy of speech and heart. Blessings friend!

  18. Good post. Yes, Christianity has been a religion since the beginning. Orthodox Churches, Roman Catholic Churches, and Messianic Judaism all started out as religions. Protestant offshoots came later.

    I think that the modern day focus of “relationship” and “sola scripture” might have had a negative impact on the outcome of Christianity. With Christ, our lives to be transformed. If I walk into an Orthodox Church, it’s about liturgy and the worship of God. That’s religion. Many Protestant and Post-Protestant have twisted words and made the religion of Christianity more abstract than it is — I agree with the poster, Laura, above about Christians trying to make Christianity more “attractive” (and unnecessary).

    If we do that, isn’t that human intervention? Aren’t we messing with what the religion could do to us? God changes us and works through what He does, not us changing Christianity to work for us. That’s distortion and quite possibility, heresy.

    • Hi atlasdan. Thank you for your comment. It’s definitely important for all of us to carefully examine how we understand our religious faith. Scripture offers us a good guideline if we do our best to understand it in context. It’s easy to sometimes believe something in the way we desire to believe it because it makes us feel good. I’m thankful God has given us an ability to continually reflect on things if we so choose to exercise that ability, and through that perhaps He gently guides us to what the truth of the matter is.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

    • I’m not familiar with Jonathan Fisk, but I’ll have to look him up. Seems like he has an appropriate last name to have taken on that task. Thanks for sharing that with me.

      Peace in Christ. 🙂

  19. May I butt in. Here worshipping with ritual practise is called a religious practise or religion. In Christianity there are no such rules to worship God. Here If you live in personal pleasure of all sorts, enjoy riches etc., In Bible it is called, we are doing Idolatry to the acts we are obsessed at. That’s a kind of worship. There is no pattern in this worship also.

    But if you talk about Islam, there is a pattern of worship you need to follow. Hinduism got numerous patterns for different God’s. Christianity doesn’t have a pattern to worship. So the worshippers of devil too don’t have a pattern.

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