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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Friday, 20 January 2012

Jesus v. Religion

Here is the original video that got everyone talking:


Here is a response:


It all hangs on how we use the word "religion." For the first guy "religion" = mere concern with outward appearance and not about relationship with God or heart-motivated holy living.

Of course, if that is what "religion" means then obviously Jesus hates it. On that definition then the first guy is right.

And he does make a lot of good points about the importance of inward religion and how Jesus hates hypocrisy.

But I am worried.

The first guy turns Jesus' critique of hypocrisy and double-standard religion into a general critique of "religion."

Jesus was not against institutional religion any more than the prophets in ancient Israel were. Criticizing abuses from within is not the same as rejecting everything. Do remember that Jesus was a torah-obedient Jew (albeit at the liberal end of the interpretation of the torah)! He celebrated religious festivals, took part in religious rituals, and followed religious laws.

The problem is that guy 1 defines "religion" as "mere appearance" (making the word into a negative word) and then simply applies that negative definition to anything that has seen itself as "religion" (i.e., against the institutional church).

Jesus is against hypocritical religion; he is against mere outward religion; and he is against heart-less religion.

He is not, however, against religion nor even against outward behaviour and religious rituals. He is for godly religion.

The church will ever need its prophets to offer critique from within (so I value a lot of what guy 1 says) but this critique has moved beyond its limits as a reasonable and valid critique into a over-fast dismissal of institutional Christianity based on a caricature of it.

Nevertheless, rather than rejecting it as mere rhetoric I think we can filter it and reappropriate it as a helpful critique from a Christian of some problems within churches.

5 comments:

Avey said...

The whole idea of 'religion' is a good one raised in the two clips..... but we have made it institutional and with that comes some strengths and weaknesses in maintaining it. We are not called to an institution, we are called to follow Christ..... some follow the denomination unfortunately. The first clip relates religion to legalism and hypocrisy, the second clip links the religious structures as being essential to being a Christian..... I prefer the clip with the guy who isn't dressed to an institutional authority..... Jesus spoke out against it and removed the total reliance on the Temple (our idea of church) and took it outside the building and rigid structures..... neither of clips are totally correct though.... there seems to be one thing missing.... faith!

Todd Mangum said...

I've linked to your post on my FB page, Robin -- good synopsis; insightful commentary.

I guess I am a "theology nerd." I actually thought the second guy (the priest) was (most) "cool." . . .

Terry Wright said...

I checked out www.phatmass.com at the end of Fr Pontifex's clip. Cool stuff!

Joel said...

I have just written on the subject thrown up by these two videos. I studied under a Professor Harrison at Oxford who argued that 'religion' is an essentially modern category, which I guess I have found myself adhering to. I am also intrigued by the critique of 'religion' offered by Barth and Bonhoeffer. Essentially the two videos agree with one another, but as you correctly point out they understnad 'religion' differently.

Evan J.D. Hedlund said...

Thanks for sharing this. I know people who have really bashed the first video for too narrowly defining religion. This being said, I am glad you see the important message within the first video despite its critical error(s).

As Christians, we should seek to promote that which is good while being honest about what is bad. In this, we should not be so caught up on the bad that we miss the good. You did a good job of portraying the importance of the first video's message along with rightly addressing its lacking points. Thanks.