Posted by: Dan | January 25, 2005

Redeeming Religion

“The definition of religion that I think is the most accurate is that religion is ritual designed to promote relationship.”
– CM

I think this definition is beneficial for a couple reasons. On one hand it counteracts those who seek to establish a (false) dichotomy between religion and relationship. It's as if religion has become a bad word these days. “No, I'm not into religion, I'm into relationship.” Christians have often been too hasty to throw away their language for the sake of maintaining the status quo. This definition begins to redeem the word religion and bring it back to a biblical definition, as James says, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress”.

On the other hand this definition is useful because it does not discard ritual in the pursuit of relationship. In engaging in the Christian religion there are particular Christian rituals passed down by Scripture and tradition (baptism and the Eucharist being the most prominent). This definition does not simply allow the person in pursuit of relationship to discard all rituals or traditions but rather it affirms ritual because such rituals reveal the particular relationship that the God of Christianity desires to have with believers. These are the ways in which God seeks relationship with his people, and in these ways unique things are revealed about character of the Christian God.

In essence this definition seeks to reveal the mutual indwelling of ritual and relationship. It reveals why ritual and relationship must go hand-in-hand if one is to fall within the Christian tradition.

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