In my last post, I questioned many of the definitions that most of Christianity has come to take for granted. Well, a wise man once said, "It is far better to light the candle than to curse the darkness". So, in this post I’m going to grapple with some of the most common terms tossed around in churchianity today. Let's try to restore meaning in order to regain understanding.
It’s important to point out that when we are examining terms where Scripture is the main provider in our understanding of the word, we need to go beyond English to find the meaning of the word in the original text. For example, when we are interested in learning the definition of faith as described in the Bible, we don’t stop with Spurgeon or the Webster’s, but look at how the Greek word translated ‘faith’ (πιστός) is used throughout the New Testament. In this way, we can calibrate our understanding of the English representation of that word, or if need be, discard it for a better one. This is my normal method of study and, with the help of some good study tools, it’s something anyone can do… no matter how little they may know about the original languages.
That being said, I don’t have the time and most readers will not have the patience to plod through countless word studies to that extent in the context of this blog. So, as much as I’d like to take the reader straight to the source, I’m going to have to be content with simply defining terms based on my own experience with Scripture and encourage the reader to see if the things I say are really so.
Let’s start with a word that doesn’t have much Biblical usage. Christianity begins with the belief that there is a divine being in existence. The Cambridge Dictionary says that ‘religion’ means: “the belief in and worship of a god or gods, or any such system of belief and worship”. For many people, 'religion' has an undesirable connotation of dead and empty rituals or traditions. Even those who believe in God often shy away from being labeled as 'religious' because of this. While there are, admittedly, many carcasses of belief systems littering America today, let's remember that true 'religion' directed toward the true God is a good thing.
As I mentioned in my last post, this is where it all began in my journey. I believed in a god, so I had religion. I believed that this god was the only God in existence and that He created everything we see in existence today. The alternative belief that my culture exposed me to was that, once upon a time, nothing exploded into something and then began climbing up the ladder of organization and intricacy (the opposite direction of what we see today), miraculously jumping past all the difficult stages that demanded complete, functional systems within minutes in order to make it to the next level, yet still managing to drag out the creation of the universe to 4.5 billion years. Sounds like a fairy tale to me. For me, the choice of what to believe was easy.
But, we’re throwing around a word we haven’t defined yet! Let’s look at the word, ‘belief’. Cambridge says it is: “the feeling of being certain that something exists or is true”. Later, we’ll look at how this word is used in the Bible. For now, we’ll accept the dictionary’s definition and conclude that those who have ‘religion’ have a feeling of certainty that there is a god. According to a Gallup poll last year, this describes 89% of all Americans.
Notice that the Cambridge definition of 'belief' could fit an evolutionist as well as a Christian. If you are among the 89% of Americans that believes in a god and you are also among the 57% of Americans that believe in evolution, possibly you resent my personal conclusion that sets belief in God in opposition to belief in evolution. Let me explain how I came to this conclusion.
I don’t want to believe in just any god. I want to believe the truth. If there’s no such thing as a god, I have better things to do than write this article. If I accept that the god of the Bible is a real god, then it logically follows that there are qualities about him, defined in the Bible, that I need to accept. If I just pick and choose the qualities about this god that I like and throw out the ones I don’t like, I’m not being honest with the facts about him. If he’s as powerful as the Bible depicts, that’s not a real good position to be in.
To apply all this to evolution, I would contend that the god of the Bible displays himself as being the only God, existed before the world was created, and created the existence of the world. There is nothing in the book of Genesis that hints at anything other than a literal six-day creation of the world merely thousands of years ago. That’s just being honest with the facts. So, the science textbooks differ… who would you rather believe? Looks like we came full circle to belief again. It just comes down to belief no matter how you slice it. Believe God or believe evolution. Believe God’s word or man’s word. For me, it’s a choice. I can’t logically accept both positions.
As I explained in my last post, I’ve come to grips with the fact that the Bible is a trustworthy witness of God’s story. So, I believe in the God of the Bible. The Creator God of the Old Testament is the same God revealed in the New Testament. If you are a Jew, you might disagree with this statement. I would then challenge you to explain how Jesus could fulfill so many prophecies of the Old Testament without being more than a man. In other words, if he was nothing more than a man, how did he manage to be born in the right place, with the right genealogy, to a virgin, and then die the right death, with the right betrayal, under just the right circumstances? These fulfilled prophecies would have been completely outside of an average man’s control.
So, the prophecies link the Testaments together and prove Jesus as the fulfillment of many Jewish practices and laws in the Old Testament. This brings our logical train of thought to Jesus… his life and teachings. Our Cambridge dictionary informs us that a ‘Christian’ is: “a person who follows or belongs to a religion based on the worship of one God and the teachings of Jesus Christ as described in the Bible”. We’ve already established religion as the belief in a god. Now we see that ‘Christianity’ narrows the spectrum of belief to “one God and the teachings of Jesus”. According to the same Gallup poll mentioned earlier, 69% of Americans identify with ‘Christianity’.
Hold on… come again? 69% of Americans are Christians? And a Christian “follows… a religion based on… the teachings of Jesus”? Where are these people? If we really had that many people in this country that really followed Jesus’ teachings, would this country really be in the shape it’s in today? Is it possible that in looking at the religious terminologies of ‘Christianity’, we can’t even get beyond the very title without finding copious clouds of confusion?
I submit to you that most people who confess some kind of 'Christianity' do not even know what kind of belief system they are ascribing to. Maybe we can get into that in a later post.
Until then, consider Jesus' words...
"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him." - John 4:23