Friday, July 26, 2019
The Revelation of God as the Abolition of Religion
1. “The Problem of Religion in Theology”
Only God can establish the reality and even the possibility of objectively and even subjectively revealing himself to us. But God really does reveal himself to us in concrete forms which we may experience. We may even compare these forms with other religious forms. But when we do so, the question we must ask ourselves is this: do we understand God’s revelation in terms of universal religious phenomena or do we understand all human religions, including Christianity, in terms of God’s revelation? In Latin Christendom during the 1500s, freedom in theology meant freedom to understand Jesus Christ as Lord. By the 1800s, freedom in theology came to mean freedom from confessing Jesus Christ as Lord. With this came the substitution of ourselves for Jesus Christ as the starting point of our talk about God. But if we are rightly to understand both revelation and religion, we must again begin with Jesus Christ and understand religion in relation to him.
2. “Religion as Unbelief”
If we look at religion from the standpoint of the revelation to which Scripture bears witness, we must say that religion actually is unbelief because it is both idolatry and self-righteousness.
Religion is idolatry. Scripture tells us that God does not reveal himself to us in response to our faith. He reveals himself to us despite our sinful religious unbelief and in so doing creates faith. In religion, humans talk; with revelation, humans hear and obey God’s living Word. Religion, then, is not human cooperation with God but a human substitute for God. It is an idol which does not point to God but falls before him.
Religion is self-righteousness. Jesus Christ reconciled us with God. Our faith, itself a gift from God, is simply our grateful acknowledgment of this. It is simply our recognition that Christ took our sin upon himself and gave us his righteousness. In contrast, religion is our attempt to reconcile God with us. Religion as self-righteousness, then, does not lead to God because it is contradicted by God’s gift of justification and sanctification revealed in Christ.
3. “True Religion”
Only by grace is Christianity more than idolatry and self-righteousness and apart from grace that’s all it is. In Jesus Christ the Word of God became flesh. In doing so, he revealed God to man and reconciled us with God. From him comes the Holy Spirit by whose power we may participate in the one Church as children of God. In Jesus Christ, or by God’s grace, we may affirm in our hearts and with our lips that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Christianity is the one true religion when we Christians together confess the lordship of Jesus Christ. Apart from that name, we as members of his body are nothing. If we continue to confess his name, it is only because God first has continued to elect us as those who may do so. If God justifies Christianity alone, it is only because in Christ alone we have received an unmerited yet unconditional forgiveness which extends to the one religion named after him in order to vindicate his name for the sake of all people. And if by grace God has justified Christianity, he has sanctified it as well.
Copyright © 2019 by Steven Farsaci.
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