The Demise of Religion… the Uprise of Christ

This was found in Greg Boyds BLOG: 

http://www.gregboyd.org/essays/the-religionless-church-of-the-future/

Now, you may be asking, what has all this got to do with the future Church? In my opinion, it’s got absolutely everything to do with the future church. For, as I shall now argue, the world we live in is forcing us, and freeing us, to recover the centrality of love in the Church – and it is long overdue.

The only form of faith that will survive and thrive in the future, I submit, is the faith that understands that receiving and expressing Calvary-quality love is ultimately the only thing that matters. If the Bible’s teaching wasn’t enough to motivate us to “do church” like this — which it obviously has not been, for the Church today and throughout history has generally lacked this love – then the world is thankfully in the process of giving us further motivation. In our post-modern context, the only thing that will not fail is Calvary-quality love (I Cor. 13). Our post-modern world thus forces us to become more biblical, and for this we should be thankful.

As Bonhoeffer [Lutheran Theologian] ingeniously saw over sixty years ago, this future church will be a religionless Church. The historic Christianity that was defined by a set of distinctive religious beliefs and religious behaviors lost it’s credibility and relevance in much of the world long ago. It’s diabolically bloody history and unfortunate association with western culture and nationalistic interests secured this. But Bonhoeffer saw that even in his own time it was losing its credibility and relevance even in the west where it once reigned. In our post-modern context, I think its safe to say that this credibility and relevance has now largely disappeared.

Those who are heavily invested in the religion of Christianity understandably view its demise as threatening and depressing. With Bonhoeffer, however, I submit that the loss of the credibility and relevance of the Christian religion is actually something to be embraced and even celebrated. For in dying to our religion we are able to live in Christ.

The fact of the matter is that Christianity was never supposed to be defined primarily as a distinctive set of religious beliefs and religious behaviors. Jesus didn’t come into the world to establish a club of people who are defined by their right theological and ethical opinions over and against all those with wrong beliefs and wrong ethical opinions. He didn’t come to give us the right way to be Pharisees! He came into the world to establish a new reality. He came into the world to establish the kingdom of God. And as we’ve seen, the essence of this new and radically different kingdom is Calvary-quality love.

As often as not, the “religion” of Christianity lacked this radical love – as much as it yet lacks it today. The death of this religion is not a thing to be mourned. Even a cursory look at Church history reveals that, as often as not, the church lacked the beauty of Calvary. Indeed, it has to a large extent engaged in the sort of carnal activity that is typical of all the tit-for-tat kingdoms of the world. It to a large extent has looked as ugly as thekingdoms of the world typically look.

Consider that from the fourth century on – as soon as Christian seized secular power – the Church routinely defended and promoted its distinctive religious beliefs and behaviors – its religious “holiness” — by coercion, war, torture and murder. We expect this from the kingdoms of the world, but by definition it can never characterize the kingdom of God. The irony is diabolical! In the name of the one who taught us to turn the other cheek, the religion of Christianity cut off people’s heads. In the name of the one who taught us to love our enemies, the religion burned its enemies alive. In the name of the one who taught us to bless those who persecute us, the religion persecuted others!

This sort of behavior is thankful no longer legal in most parts of the world, but the attitude behind it is alive and well.. Much of the modern day Church – especially the evangelical Church — yet strives to protect and advance its distinctive “holiness” by exercising power over others, trusting the power of coercion more than the power of the cross, trusting the power of a lobbying for votes more than the power of sacrificial service. Instead of dying for sinners, they seek to pass laws against sinners and laws that protect themselves from sinners.

With Bonhoeffer, I see the death of this religious mindset as a positive thing. It has hindered the kingdom more than it has helped. When the beauty of the kingdom of God gets associated with this sort of religious and nationalistic ugliness, it clouds the kingdoms beauty. It justifies unbelief. It sets people against the kingdom rather than winning them over through love. The fact that fewer and fewer post-modern people are finding this form of religion plausible or attractive is a good thing, for it graciously forces us to say out loud that the kingdom has never been about religion. If we are bold enough to seize the opportunity, it gives us the privilege of communicating in action, and with words whem necessary, the truth that the kingdom is as beautiful as Jesus Christ. The religion is dying, but for just this reason the kingdom is positioned to flourish.

I’d like to conclude by briefly discussing more specifically two closely related ways that the religionless church of the future will differ from the religious church of the past. Each suggests – or at least expresses the hope — that the Church that will survive into the future is simply the Church that Christ always intended to establish.

Thoughts?

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