I'm sick and tired of hearing fellow Christians bad-mouth and bash "religion." It is an insult within Christian circles (especially the charismatic ones) to be labeled "religious." Religion is bad. Religion is the problem. Religion is what's wrong with the church. You hear this kind of thing all the time these days. I can't take it anymore. I have had my fill of popular religious leaders attacking "religious people." The modern church's attack on religion is like a drowning man attacking a life vest. The church today needs a lot more religion. We don't need to be warned about too much religion; we need to be warned about too little religion.
If you believe in God's Law, you're just being religious. Even if you just believe in ethical standards, you're just being religious. If you believe that, in worship, all things should be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40), you're just being religious. If you "do not let your good be spoken of as evil" (Rom 14:16), you're just being religious. Morals? Religious. Form? Religious. Modesty? Religious. Propriety? Religious. Suit and tie? Religious. Discernment? Religious. Church bulletin? Religious. Self-control? Religious. Everything seems to be labeled religious unless it is spontaneous, casual or carnal. Somehow, within Christian circles, "religious" has become the insult of insults similar to "intolerant" or "legalist" or "bigot."
At the risk of being labeled "religious" for doing so, I am going to use Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary to define the word "religion." I know it is not very postmodern or emergent to define terms these days but here I go anyway:
- Religion, in its most comprehensive sense, includes a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of his will to man, in man's obligation to obey his commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man's accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties. It therefore comprehends theology, as a system of doctrines or principles, as well as practical piety; for the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to his will or commands, is not religion.
- Religion, as distinct from theology, is godliness or real piety in practice, consisting in the performance of all known duties to God and our fellow men, in obedience to divine command, or from love to God and his law. James 1.
- Religion, as distinct from virtue, or morality, consists in the performance of the duties we owe directly to God, from a principle of obedience to his will. Hence we often speak of religion and virtue, as different branches of one system, or the duties of the first and second tables of the law.
James continues by adding, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:27). Performing our duties to our fellow man and keeping ourselves unstained from the world is religious, yes, but it is also good. Pure religion is the only true religion. As Noah Webster said: "the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to his will or commands, is not religion." False or filthy religion is not religion at all. Also, reverence, respect, ritual and rote does not quench the Spirit. When we do not allow the Spirit to be seen in our actions (pure religion), that is when we suppress or “quench” the Spirit (but that's another post). What we, the modern church, need is more religion. May the Holy Spirit grant us more religion.