The other day, I read a tweet which quoted John Stott as saying, “Christianity is not a religion, let alone one religion among many. It is God’s good news for the world.”
It’s a common refrain among some Christians. Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship. But is that true?
Okay, let’s pause for a moment. The concept of religion is not an easy one. It appears to be an essentially contested concept (i.e. a concept for which there is fundamental and irresolvable disagreement as to its application) or it is a fuzzy concept (i.e. a concept the application of which has unclear boundaries).
Suffice to say, there is always disagreement as to the precise application of the term. Can humanism or communism be a religion? Does Confucianism qualify? What about juche, the “self-reliance philosophy” of North Korea? Is that a religion? Truth is, it depends on whom you ask. And there may be no single right answer.
That said, there certainly are paradigm cases of religion. Included in that list we find Judaism, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism, and … (wait for it!) … Christianity.
So what’s going on here?
The speaker, in this case, is clearly not adhering to a conventional dictionary definition of “religion”. Instead, she is invoking a rhetorical use of the word, one popular among some Christians. It seems to me that it can be defined roughly like this:
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Randal Rauser