Faith or Religion

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If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

On Worshipful Wednesdays, we take a look at God’s word and His kingdom to see what we can learn about ourselves, Him and/or our relationships with Him.

In a crossword puzzle I worked the other day, one of the clues was “faith.” The puzzle word it was the clue for was “religion.” To some, my reaction to this may seem a bit OCD or nitpicky, but I can’t help it. It angered me.

Not surprisingly, Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary renders similar definitions of the words “faith” and “religion.” I say not surprisingly, because it is a secular reference source, compiled by academicians for the use of the world in general.

For Christian definitions, I turned to The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, a work by Merrill F. Unger, a Christian scholar, with the help of numerous other Christian scholars. Here, the definitions were quite divergent.

“Religion” is defined by Unger’s as “to bind back, thus representing religion as the ground of obligation. The word thus translated in the New Testament, where it occurs but three times, is threskeia, and it means outward religious service.”

“Faith,” on the other hand, is defined by this source as “belief or trust, especially in a higher power.” It goes on to say “the word is used in scripture most frequently in a subjective sense, denoting a moral or spiritual quality of individuals, by virtue of which men are held in relations of confidence in God and fidelity to Him. . . .”

Do you see the difference here? Religion is seen as an outward thing, not an inner quality. Most Evangelical Christians would say that religion is man’s attempt to appease or pacify God.

Faith, however, is an inner quality. Evangelical Christians frequently define it as the evidence of things unseen or hoped for. We see our relationship with Him not as an attempt on our part to appease or pacify God, but as one resulting from His seeking us out. Faith then becomes that quality which solidifies our belief that He is the one who initiated the relationship, not we.

We don’t see God as some horribly powerful but capricious being waiting to zap us if we fail to appease Him, but as a benevolent and loving being who wants to bring us into relationship with Him and who sent His Son to make that relationship possible.

Every religion I know of sees itself as an attempt to pacify or please God. Christianity alone represents a God who reaches out to lift up His people into a proper relationship with Him.

You may say I’m splitting hairs if you want to, but to me there’s a gulf as wide as an ocean between faith and religion.

How do you define these two words? What meaning does their difference make in your own life and that of your family? I’d love to hear your comments.

Have a New Testament passage or concept you’d like to see discussed here? Maybe something you’ve never quite understood. I’d love to hear from you about that, too. I’ll try my best to explain it.

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For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.

For more information about his books, click on “Books” above.

Contact him at dnwalkertx@gmail.com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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5 Responses to Faith or Religion

  1. Pingback: Faith | David N Walker

  2. I watched the news through the ‘national’ lens regarding the ‘none’ definition for religion yesterday and disected it further this morning via my 4 regular newspapers: US Today, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Denver Post. None of the news outlets swayed my opinion on the subject. I was raised in the Methodist Church and was okay there but like many baby-boomers, I wanted to see what other religions were out there and tried a few others on for size. Nothing felt real. I didn’t want to hear political views from the pulpit. I wanted God’s Word. I also don’t want the same old lesson every Sunday/Wed, etc. I want ideas to spur my thoughts and allow me to consider a subject. Most often I come full circle and continue to embrace my original thought process. The primary thing I don’t like about the ‘none’ category, it doesn’t allow a Christian an opportunity to profess his/her love for God’s Word or for living by God’s Word in his/her daily life. I will admit, I’ve found more trueism (I don’t think that’s a word) in non-denominational churches than I have in my traditional Methodist Church.

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    • There is a large and growing body of sincere, born-again Christian believers who eschew traditional churches and get their fellowship either through small home groups or face-to-face meetings with other believers. I wonder how these people are counted in the statistics. They are non-church-goers, not non-Christians.

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  3. DId you see the news yesterday? It was reported that 1 in 5 people do not consider themselves affiliated with any religion. Hmmmm. Methinks this explains a lot of the incivility we’ve got goin’ on right now. I don’t care what religion people are (well, I care that they are not Al Queada extremists), but most religions offer peace and suggest that others follow The Golden Rule — amongst other important tenets: tolerance, patience, love. We could use a whole lot more of that right now.

    It made me feel sad, actually. You?

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