Does God Need the Label of Christianity? (Days 127-133 of Quitting the Bible)

Does God Need the Label of Christianity? (Days 127-133 of Quitting the Bible) November 13, 2018

Does God really need the label of Christianity?

Ask a number of Christians, and you will get the impression that they believe God needs it.

Last week, I revisited this need to label Christianity and the constraints of this normalized practice.

Here are three thoughts from days 127-133.

1) Edging God Out?

Labels are useful. They help us make sense of the world and organize it.

Our minds do not thrive in a state of steady confusion so categorizing people, places, and things helps us.

However, like the heart, the ego wants what the ego wants, and much of humanity has veered to the extreme with the labels.

Once, I heard a minister state, “Ego stands for ‘Edging, god, out.’”

After much reflection on our ego-filled attempts to spread the Christian religion and create laws and policies to force upon people who do not share these beliefs, I perceive much ado about edging.

Who am I kidding?

Some of us have pushed God over a cliff so we can use a holy name for political, economic, and social power-No edging required.

Are our arguments over scripture nothing more than vanity? As I think about the years I put into proving certain truths, I can contend that there was ego involved, even if my intention was to help or to rack up favorable judgment day points with God.

2) Spirituality Without a Religious Label

I believe that more of us care to admit that we have made such a thing of “Christianity,” that without this religious label, our spirituality ceases to exist.

We would be lost sheep, as if Christianity as a religion is our God.

Labels are things we can use to control. We can use them to create and shape narratives about people, their souls, lives, worth, and very being.  By building institutions from these labels and stories, we can solidify the ability to influence by controlling the narrative.  When people buy into these narratives, we can thereby control them, too.

The early followers of Christ were initially called “Christians” at Antioch. People observed defining characteristics in these early followers, and as humans do, and created this identity marker.

How beautiful.

Yet, today, we carry on with the label as fulfillment of prophesy or destiny.

The challenge with keeping the label, is that we turn it into practices to control the maintenance of the label. Do we think that maintaining the label maintains God?

3) Socially Constructed Religion for an Uncontainable God

Several years ago, I had an awakening to the social construction of Christianity. A number of our “Christian” practices are things that people  made up. Through churches, we have cultivated and passed on different social norms and practices that we often mistake as requirements from God.

Let’s just have a moment of silence right now for church bylaws and denominational conflicts.

So, what counts as truly Christian? Who decides? If you are a Christian, you might refer to people or texts that were constructed by people to help answer this inquiry.

If you think the answer is simple, we would not have a proliferation of denominational and nondenominational churches. After all, various churches still persist in warring over what counts as the “rock” upon which the church would be established. Was it Peter? Was it the wisdom of Jesus?

Better believe, being dunked or sprinkled has nothing to do with desserts and everything to do with the eternal state of your soul.

As we can see in the early church, it is not unusual for people to try to establish order to help with furthering our causes.In the New Testament, we find writings where spiritual offices and gifts are delineated, as well as criteria for different formal leadership positions.

I wonder if we have gone too far. I believe God is more expansive than the limited scope of our socially constructed religion.

I do not think this social influence renders spiritual aspects of the Christian religion void. I contend it removes our holier than thou footing and invite us to more freedom.

Countless Christians love to sing the contemporary worship song about an uncontainable God. Yet, many of us attempt to contain this same God in our daily lives.

Remove the label of Christianity, and we come face to face with an uncontrollable narrative about a truly uncontainable God.

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  • Al Cruise

    Great post. God and people existed thousands of years before the concept of western Christianity [ especially conservative evangelism ] was imagined. Christianity was a very geographically isolated concept in relation to the world’s population as a whole for many centuries. That would make salvation according to some Christians, a luck of the draw, being born at the right time and place to hear a certain message. I like to go with God is Love, for there is no doubt love is uncontainable. Love, when allowed to it manifest itself through us advances humanity , especially when invoked by large numbers .

  • soter phile

    you said: “Are our arguments over scripture nothing more than vanity?”
    Jesus argued over Scripture. Was that vanity?

    Is God’s love “uncontainable”? Sure, except that it was contained in the person of Jesus.
    Point being, where God sets a limit or clearly draws a line, it’s pride to ignore it.

    you said: “I believe God is more expansive than the limited scope of our socially constructed religion.”
    Does that include the limits Jesus set (e.g., Jn.14:6)? How about his view of Scripture? etc.

    Remove the labels… and God still tells you who he is… and who he is not.
    Otherwise, if your god cannot contradict you, all you have is a self-projected god.

  • Cynthianna Matthews

    Perhaps you are projecting God into too small of a “box” and “containing” the Creator? God is love and if love is uncontainable and Jesus is God, the Jesus’ love cannot be contained in a “box” of mere flesh and blood. He is love that is uncontainable AND unconditional. Love doesn’t need the containment of labels such as “Christian” or “Fundamentalist Evangelical” or whatever your particular take is. God cannot be contradicted because he is love and love cannot be contradicted. If you don’t love unconditionally and uncontainably then perhaps it is you who is projecting God into a tiny box of your own limitations and prejudices? Be free of the prison of hate and prejudice! Let go and let God/love take over your life!

  • soter phile

    You’ve got some serious non sequiturs going on there.

    God is transcendent – but he made himself known, in particular ways. You don’t seem to want to allow God to speak for himself, especially when he contradicts your views here.

    For example, God is love (1 Jn.4). No other major religion teaches that concept in quite the same manner – but you seem to mean something *very* different by love than the Bible means. You can’t appeal to the Bible as an authoritative source while dismissing that authority in the same breath. It’s self-defeating.

    And for all your talk about God being uncontainable, you have some very particular – shall we say “contained” – notions about what God is & is not. Again, that lacks intellectual integrity.

    And this whole “don’t use labels” game is itself a form of labeling. The design is to silence those with whom you disagree – not actually further dialogue. That’s far from “letting go & letting God.” It’s disingenuous.

    In short:
    your logic is self-defeating,
    your anti-labeling jargon is itself a form of labeling,
    and your doctrine does the very thing you say others can’t do.

  • SamTrenholme

    John 14:6 does not place limits on God’s love. Remember: John 14:6 comes four verses after John 14:2.

    This reminds me of an old joke. Some people coming to heaven for the first time walks back the place in heaven for Hindus, then the place for Muslims, the place for Buddhists, the place for Catholics. Then God tells them to be quiet when walking past the place for Southern Baptists—“They think they are the only ones here”.

  • Cynthianna Matthews

    Exactly! You ever notice that when it’s pointed out to a person how unloving and close-minded they’re acting, they resort with “I’m the ONLY one who is right in this conversation!” Then they proceed to name-call and shut down all form of dialogue and then claim “You’re not letting ME speak and tell you how wrong YOU are and how right I am!” It is rather sad how small a box they want to squeeze God into and how much they want to limit God’s unconditional love… It’s almost like they’ve never truly experienced God’s love for themselves and they’re jealous of others who have and do experience God’s love on a daily basis. It’s as if they have locked themselves into a cage and thrown away the key and now they’re daring you to come and rescue them from their self-imposed exile from God. Oh, if they would only open their hearts and let God’s unconditional love in they would be so much happier!

  • SamTrenholme

    A lot of people who practice the rituals of Christianity but who might not have a loving relationship with Jesus Christ practice what I call “polemic Christianity” (Polemic, of course, is a fancy word for an essay or article which is less interested in finding truth and more interesting in criticizing a belief system or point of view). They go to church where the sermons are about how the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Muslims, whoever are wrong and practicing a “counterfeit Christianity”.

    They spend all their time reading and preaching polemics about how they are right and other doctrines and beliefs are wrong instead of sharing the love of God with others by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting people in jail, etc. (Yes, I am invoking Matthew 25:31-46).

    I just can not see someone who has felt God’s true love can get so hung up on doctrines instead of on God’s universal love.

  • soter phile

    Your read here makes Jesus schizophrenic – or at the least self-contradictory.

    “No one comes to the Father except through me…” well, um, except for that earlier ‘many rooms’ thing…

    Yes, heaven will have more than Southern Baptists. But unless you think Jesus was flawed (which poses bigger problems for any self-styled Christian), he is abundantly clear here… as he is with the problem of sin (which no other religion addresses as he does)… as he is on salvation by grace (which no other major religion offers)…

    For Hindus & Muslims to be right, Jesus has to be wrong. Even a cursory reading makes that clear. Just glance at the Quran’s passages on Jesus.

    No, that’s not limiting love. That’s listening to Love self-define.
    Or do you think you’re in a position to tell Jesus what love really means?

  • Cynthianna Matthews

    Are you? If you’re not Jesus, then perhaps you don’t know what love really means, either. Think about that for a while. Could it be possible you’ve missed the entire point of the Gospel? It’s the “Good News,” you know–not a DIY on how to hit people over the head with your Bible and tell everyone how right you are. That’s not love. That’s anger. Why are you so angry? God loves you, too!

  • Cynthianna Matthews

    Same here. I can’t see what the attraction to being angry and unloving toward any of God’s children is. I think these poor souls are just very unhappy deep down. Perhaps they don’t think God loves them, so they have to convince others that they are unloved by God, too. Two wrongs don’t make a right. It makes for some very unhappy people. God wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves–Jesus demonstrated that in his actions. Actions always speak louder than words.

  • soter phile

    Read Mt.23. Jesus got angry when self-styled religious people misrepresented who God was. Like a loving father, his anger is his settled opposition toward anything that threatens what he loves. Or do you think God fails to be angry in the face of injustice?

    No, the bible is not a mallet with which one is called to hit people over the head. But it also is not silly putty with which one can fashion a god in one’s own image (Isa.44).

    Note well: the same cross that saves us also denounces the sin that destroys what he loves. calling ‘good’ what God clearly says is not good fails to hear the Good News.
    “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom.6:1-2)

    If you’re unwilling to let God’s Word define love… whose definition are you using? And what do you mean by “love”? You’re equivocating.

    The same letter that explicitly states “God is Love” (1 Jn.4) also says that when Christ appears we shall be like him (1 Jn.3:2). And consider carefully: that entire book calls us not to continue to walk in sin, but to obey him. Does “Love” call you to repent of sin?

    In short: “God loves you” ≠ “God affirms whatever you want.”
    No, God’s love looks like the cross (Rom.5:8-10).

  • Cynthianna Matthews

    So, we’re supposed to beat our neighbors over the head with the cross as well as the Bible because “we love them”? If that’s showing “God’s love” then I can see why so many are leaving Christian churches in droves. Christianity could be seen as just an excuse to beat up on people we don’t like or agree with 100%. Somehow I don’t think Jesus would see things quite that way. He gave his life for us because he loved us–not because he wanted to beat us over the head with a book or a wooden stick. Get back to basics and learn to love others. Your anger makes you sound cynical and self-loathing.

  • blogcom

    Lean not on thine own understanding.