Is it too much to say "Jesus is the abolition of religion" as I did in my last post?
Thanks to Marc who commented with this:
Glen, this “religion” as a dirty word is tiresome and misleading, don’t you think? Jesus came to abolish man-made religion and false religion, sure. He calls us to true religion of the James 1:27 sort, no?
Here's a couple of thoughts in response:
You could say the same about "righteous acts" (Isaiah 64:6). Should righteousness be a dirty word? Well not when it's the LORD's clothing of me (Isaiah 61:10). But when it's me clothing myself, it's a filthy rag.
Now the point is not so much that there's bad religion and good religion and the LORD steers us from one to the other. As He has just said in Isaiah 64:4 - He is unlike any other god since He works for those who wait for Him. He is the abolition of this kind of working religion for He does the work. This being the case, it's not simply that the LORD calls us away from establishing a filthy righteousness and into establishing our own pure righteousness. To establish my own righteousness at all - even by God's law is filthy (cf Rom 10:3-4). And this is what I mean by 'religion'. And this is why I use strong language about it.
If this is so, then it could actually be misleading if I only decried one kind of religion. It's not as though the gospel says 'Don't establish your righteousness like that, establish your righteousness like this.'
The religions of the world can squabble about which path to tread - the gospel comes from above, not as one more path but as the abolition of that quest.
Religion (defined in this sense) is man justifying man before a watching god. The gospel is God justifying God before a watching man.
So there's something very radical to be upheld when we proclaim the gospel. And we reach for strong language to do so. We say things like "faith alone" and we say it strongly even though there are true and right ways in which James seems to deny them (James 2:24). Strongly proclaiming "Faith alone" might appear tiresome or misleading to some - but we passionately stand behind that phrase knowing the explanations we'll have to make down the track about what James means and how 'works' is a redeemable word in certain contexts.
Equally, when we say "the gospel is not about do but done" - we say that boldly even though we know we'll need to explain at some stage that there is much for the Christian to do.
In the same way - to radically uphold the complete reversal of the gospel - I think 'Jesus is the abolition of religion' is in that kind of category. It provokes people in such a way that they see the radical nature of the LORD who works for those who wait (rather than the other way around). If it does that, then it's done a useful job I think.
What do you think?