Catch the Current
John Adams' Gripe with the Church
The fact is, I must admit . . . Religion leaves me wanting. Truth be known, I don't even like the word anymore. And my frustration is nothing new; many people feel it. As a matter of fact, throughout the centuries many others have been worn out on religion. In John Adams' words (1756):
Where do we find precepts in the Gospel, requiring . . . Convocations, Councils, Decrees, Creeds, Confession, Oaths, Subscriptions and whole Cartloads of other trumpery, that we find religion encumbered with in these days?
The world that Jesus entered and walked in was one that, like ours, was full of religious "trumpery," tensions and regiments, so much so that he chose not to bring to the world just another "religion." The Scripture does not read, "For God so loved the world that he created another religion . . ."
Had Jesus only brought a new religion to the world, his voice would never have been as distinct a trumpet as it was. Clearly he brought something other than religion. He brought something that, ironically and in unprecedented ways, at once powerfully attracted the irreligious and offended the religious. In its pure form, it held such power that it virtually overtook the Roman world within three short centuries.
But in a world that has added many weights and measures, never intended by God, to the Gospel, the question begs to be asked: How do we recover the simplicity and grace of God today? What will it take to be rid of the religious weights of men and to recover the relational intention of God?
A missionary to India tells a story regarding a time after he had finished speaking. A man approached him and said, "I can't understand you missionaries. You speak of India as the home of many religions, and yet you want to introduce still another one, which only adds to the confusion. Surely India has enough religion without Christianity." The missionary answered, "Friend, I'm not interested in religion, but I'm deeply interested in the Gospel. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't walk across the street for religion, but I'm willing to go around the world for the sake of the Gospel. There is a great difference between the two."
In its purest form, Christianity is not "just another religion." It is, first and foremost, about a relationship with God through Christ. The religions of man are about man endeavoring to reach up to God (one of what I call the RvR Paradoxes), but the Christian faith is altogether different. It is, distinctively and quite simply, all about God reaching down to man.
Don't miss the difference!
Robert Crosby is an author and Professor of Practical Theology at Southeastern University. Read his interview with Bobby Gruenewald, the Founder of YouVersion.com (the Bible App) and related articles at Christianity Today—The New Engagers and The Social Network Gospel.
Robert Crosby is the author of the new book, The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration (Abingdon Press). Crosby's column, "Catch the Current," is published every other Tuesday on the Evangelical portal. Subscribe via email or RSS.