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Discussion Forum : Articles and Sermons : Christianity is NOT a Belief-system. Christianity is Christ

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pilgrim777
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Joined: 2011/9/30
Posts: 1211


 Christianity is NOT a Belief-system. Christianity is Christ

Western society, steeped in Aristotelian rationalism, always seeks a formulated and systematized ideology to adhere to. Christianity is not a belief-system, but the vital dynamic of the very Being of the person and life of Jesus Christ by the Spirit.

Allow me to retell the story of Guatama Buddha who lived some four hundred years prior to the birth of Jesus Christ. He was dying. Some of his devotees came to Buddha and asked how they should perpetuate his memory. "How should we share with the world the remembrance of you? How shall we memorialize you?" Buddha responded, "Don't bother! It is not me that matters, it is my teaching that should be propagated and adhered to throughout the world."

Does that seem self-effacing ­ a noble ideal to avoid ego-centricity? "Don't focus on me, just remember my teaching."

If Jesus Christ had said something like that, it would certainly legitimize what we see all around us in so-called "Christian religion" today. For "Christian religion" is the propagation of various understandings of Jesus' teaching as determined by various interpretations of the Bible. From what we observe in "Christian religion" today, it would appear that most who call themselves "Christians" must think that Jesus advocated the same thing that Buddha is alleged to have uttered.

Jesus Christ did not say anything like that! In fact, what Buddha said is contrary to everything Jesus taught, and everything recorded in the New Testament Scriptures. Jesus did not say, "Just remember My teaching." Jesus said, "I AM the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6) "I AM the resurrection and the life." (John 11:25). Jesus Himself, the very Person and Life of Jesus Christ, is the essence of everything He came to bring to this world. Christianity is Christ!

Christianity is not just another religion propagating an ideology. Christianity is not just another religion remembering the teaching of its founder. Christianity is not just another religion reiterating the propositional tenets of its founder's teaching, and calling such "truth." Christianity is not just another religion demanding conformity to a particular "belief-system" or data-base of doctrine.

The essence of Christianity is Jesus Christ. All of Christianity is inherent in Jesus, His Person and His continuing activity. Christianity functions only by the dynamic of the risen and living Lord Jesus. Christianity is the function of the Spirit of Christ as He continues to live in Christians.

It is a sad state of affairs in what is passed off as "Christian religion" today. There is almost total failure to discern that the essence of Christianity is Jesus Christ Himself. The essence of Christianity is not a standardized belief-system. The essence of Christianity is not a consensus of doctrine. The essence of Christianity is not commonality of creeds. Jesus Christ is the essence of Christianity.

Where did "Christian religion" go off track into thinking that consenting to, confessing and conforming to doctrinal data was what Christianity was all about? When did this "Christian religion" develop the idea that Christianity is the acceptance of a correct and orthodox belief-system?

Christians today seem to be abysmally ignorant of church history. A quick review of church history will assist in answering the questions just asked:

Jesus did not come to bring new information about God, about salvation, about love, about eternal life. Christ came to be Life to all mankind. He came as God, as salvation, as love. He came to restore mankind to what God intended in creation, and that by functioning as God in man, the spiritual dynamic of life.

The redemptive mission to make His life available took place, historically, in a world that was dominated by Jewish and Greek thinking. The Jews wanted to put everything into the context of an organized religion with rules and regulations. The Greeks were influenced by Plato and Aristotle, and their abstract philosophical mind-set of metaphysics and logical patterns of thought.

So despite the clarity of Jesus' teaching, and the clear and simple record of the gospel dynamic of the life of Jesus Christ in the writings of Scripture by Paul, Peter, John, etc., these soon began to be interpreted in the contexts of religion and logical compartmentalization of human thought. The so-called "church fathers" of the first few centuries of Christianity had already reduced Christianity into moralistic and ethical religious rules and into creedalistic concepts of correct content of thought. They so quickly let go of the dynamic life of Jesus Christ as the essence of Christianity, and allowed it to become merely a belief-system.

The Roman Emperor, Constantine, solidified this static concept of Christianity even more in the early part of the fourth century. Constantine wanted to unify everything ­ government, economics, religion, "Christian thought", etc. He organized the Nicene Council in 325 A.D., bringing together these philosophically-based thinkers, theologians, to develop a rigid expression of "Christian belief." They compressed "Christian thought" into logical propositions of truth and orthodoxy and called it the "Nicene Creed," to which everyone who was called "Christian" was to give mental assent, or be regarded as a heretic.

By 325 A.D. Christianity had been perverted into a formulated and fixated belief system, demanding devotion to its doctrine. This process was progressively developed in the institutionalized Roman or Latin Church. T.F. Torrance refers to this epistemologically based rationalism as "the Latin heresy."1

Augustine lived and wrote in the century following the Nicene Council. His Augustinian theology, on which Calvin later based much of his theology, was extremely rationalistic, full of logical determinism with such ideas as strict divine predestination. Karl Barth referred to Augustinian theology as "sweet poison;"2 "sweet" because it emphasized the sovereignty of God; "poison" because it was a system of logical and theological determinism.

The Roman empire disintegrated in about 500 A.D. The seven hundred year period from 200 B.C. to 500 A.D. is known as the "Classical Period" of Greek and Roman thought patterns. The following five hundred years, 500 A.D. to 1000 A.D. are known as the Dark Ages or Middle Ages. All thinking was related back statically to the Classical Period. No new thinking was encouraged or allowed ­ Dark Ages indeed!

Thomas Aquinas appeared as the Renaissance Period was picking up steam, but his Thomistic theology just placed "Christian thought" in a tight scholastic stronghold of the Roman Church. The Church was regarded as the mediator of God's thought. "Believe as the Pope and the Church advocates, or face the consequences!" Many did!

During the Renaissance Period the thinking of "Christian religion" just followed along like a lap-dog to the philosophers and scientists of that day (as it has throughout most of its history.) Rene Descartes introduced Cartesian doubt, "I think, therefore I am." Rationalistic belief was the foremost criteria for being. Sir Isaac Newton developed ideas of deterministic causalism, and these were adapted into theology also.

In the sixteenth century the Reformation exploded with Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and others. It is called the "Reformation" because it re-formed the religious structures that existed in "Christian religion" at that time. But the birth of Protestantism did not restore the centrality of the spiritual dynamic of Jesus Christ. "Christian religion" was still regarded as essentially a "belief-system," but instead of a singular formulated and fixated belief-system in the Roman Church, it became multiple factious and fractious belief-systems competing with one another and beating on one another (both verbally and physically.) Disagreeing on every minute point of theology conceivable, they began to divide and sub-divide into denominationalized belief-system organizations, each believing that they had formulated and fixated their belief-system in accord with God's thinking. There were Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists and many others, all claiming to have the orthodox belief-system; all claiming to have figured-out what God, the "Great Theologue," believes, and supposedly demands that all His adherents likewise believe.

Obviously there was not any recovery of the dynamic understanding of Christianity in the Protestant Reformation. Gene Edwards concludes, "The Reformation was neither revival nor restoration. The Reformation was an intellectual brawl."3

In the next century, in 1611 A.D., King James of England authorized what became known as the Authorized Version, better known as the King James Version, of an English translation of the Bible. The "Christian religion" of that day was still engaged in competing belief-systems.

King James hired translators to translate the Bible into English. The word for "teaching" in the English language of King James' time was "doctrine." The King James Version refers to the word "doctrine" 56 different times. But languages evolve, and the meanings of words change. So it is with the word "doctrine." Looking at a contemporary English dictionary you will discover that although "doctrine" used to mean "teaching" or "instruction," that definition is now regarded as "archaic" or "obsolete." What does the word "doctrine" mean in contemporary English? Webster's Collegiate Dictionary reads: "Doctrine ­ a principle accepted by a body of believers or adherents to a philosophy or school; principles of knowledge or a system of belief." "Doctrinaire ­ dictatorial or dogmatic." "Indoctrinate ­ to imbue with a partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view or principle." Synonyms used for "indoctrinate" include "propagandize, program, brainwash, infect, instill, inculcate, etc." Is it any wonder that newer English translations tend to avoid the word "doctrine"? The New American Standard Bible, for example, uses the word "doctrine" only fourteen times, and even those are probably a carry-over of the traditionalism of ecclesiastical terminology. The Greek words, didache and didaskalia, should be consistently translated "teaching," except when reference is being made to "man-made doctrines" (Eph. 4:14; Col. 2:22; etc.)

In contemporary English language "doctrine" has come to mean "a traditional belief-system as interpreted and accepted by a particular group of people." "Doctrinaire" means "to dogmatically assert a traditional belief-system as interpreted and accepted by a particular group of people." "Indoctrinate" implies "to propagandize or brainwash others with this traditional belief-system as interpreted and accepted by a particular group of people."

Such a definition was most certainly not what the hearers intended when they listened to Jesus and "were astonished at His doctrine" (Luke 4:32 - KJV). They were not "astonished at His traditional belief-system," rather they were "amazed at His teaching" (NASB). The teaching of Jesus was the extending, the offering, the demonstration of Himself ­ His Life. His teaching was Life-teaching. The etymological root for the Greek word "teaching" had to do with "extending the hand" or "offering oneself." To demonstrate what is being taught; that is the way to teach Life!

The fundamentalism and evangelicalism that predominate in popular "Christian religion" in America today tend to key in on "doctrine" as belief-system. That may be the reason they often prefer to retain the King James Version, and interpret the use of the word "doctrine" throughout the New Testament as their particular brand of formulated and fixated belief-system. These religious doctrinarians continue to indoctrinate others and perpetuate the factious and fractious denominationalism of differing belief-systems. Americans, with their fierce individualism and concepts of personal freedom, have elevated denominationalism to an all-time high, a real "religious science", with thousands of religious denominations, divided by disputed doctrinal belief-systems. Those involved in "Christian religion" today still think that Christianity is essentially consent to a particular doctrinal belief-system.

This is, in fact, the definition of "fundamentalism," a grouping of people who has rigidly determined the "fundamentals" of their acceptable doctrinal belief-system. "Fundamentalism" is a word much used today. The newspapers and news reports are full of references to "Muslim fundamentalists" in Iran, Libya, Lebanon, Egypt, etc.; "Hindu fundamentalists" in Sri Lanka; "Christian fundamentalists" barging at and bombing abortion clinics in the United States. Have you ever noticed that fundamentalists always fight? Why is that? They feel they have an obligation to defend the particular way they have stacked all of their doctrinal blocks in their belief-system.

The fundamentalist ­ "Christian religion" in general ­ has allowed doctrine, their belief-system, to become the supreme issue. "Doctrine" becomes their basis of fellowship, acceptance, security, bonding, etc. It is a tragic misrepresentation of the Church when the basis of our commonality is calculated by doctrinal agreement, rather than the indwelling Lord Jesus Christ; when uniformity of doctrine is the primary issue instead of unity in Christ. How sad when much of what is called "Christian preaching" is but tirades against so-called "heretics" who do not stack the doctrinal fundamentals of their belief-system just like we do!

Doctrine has been deified in "Christian religion" today. Doctrine has become their "god." It is a gross form of idolatry when one's properly-aligned stack of doctrinal ideas is elevated and revered to the extent that it must be defended at all costs, even to the point of terrorism, even to the point of dying for it.

God alone is absolute and immutable. His attributes are exclusive to Himself. What God is, only God is. To attribute God's attributes to our doctrine and determine that our doctrine is absolute and unchangeable is to deify doctrine, and to engage in the absolutism that is indicative of fundamentalistic religion around the world.

The Scottish preacher and teacher, James S. Stewart, wrote these words: "Those who have succeeded in defining doctrine most closely, have lost Christ most completely."4

Doctrines, belief-systems, will always be the focus of religion, but not of Christianity. Christianity is Christ! Jesus' teaching was about Himself. He is the essence of Christian teaching, contrary to what Buddha said about his religion.

In Christianity, TRUTH is a Person, Jesus Christ. "Truth" is not just propositional truth statements within a belief-system of doctrinal theology by which orthodoxy is rationalistically determined. Jesus Christ is Truth! Jesus Christ is our Life! He is so exclusively; there is no other Way! John 14:6 - "I AM the way, the truth and the life." (James Fowler)

Christianity is not a belief-system. Christianity is Christ!

by James Fowler

FOOTNOTES
1 Torrance, T.F., Karl Barth, Biblical and Evangelical Theologian, page 215, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1990
2 Torrance, T.F., Ibid. page 122.
3 Edwards, Gene, Church Unity...How to Get There, page 99, Auburn: Christian Books Publishing House, 1991.
4 Stewart, James S., A Man in Christ, New York: Harper and Brothers.

 2012/1/22 12:55Profile









 Re: Christianity is NOT a Belief-system. Christianity is Christ

This was written by James A. Fowler

No religion can give you life - Only Jesus Christ can.

 2012/1/22 13:17
pilgrim777
Member



Joined: 2011/9/30
Posts: 1211


 Re:

Amen tuc.

Yes, I had put credit to JF at the end of the article. The title was too long.

Thank you.

 2012/1/22 13:32Profile
PQ
Member



Joined: 2009/12/6
Posts: 101
Europe

 Re:

Thank you for posting this Brother.


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PQ

 2012/1/22 16:55Profile
pilgrim777
Member



Joined: 2011/9/30
Posts: 1211


 Re:

Your welcome! Thanks for reading it.

Here are some questions that go with it.

1. Was there anything that surprised you in this article?
2. What did you like or not like?
3. From your own “frame of reference” how would you define or describe a belief system?
4. When Jesus was going to depart from this earth, would you say His primary focus was on remembering His teachings or on Himself and who He was?
5. Why do you think this is so?

6. Most “religious teachers” taught to remember their teaching, how was Jesus different? See Jn. 14:6 and 11:25.
7. If you didn’t have anything in writing could you still know Jesus as your Savior? Why or why not?
8. What do you think the Evangelical Christian Church’s primary focus is on today; teaching or the very vital and dynamic Being of the person and life of Jesus Christ by His Spirit?
9. What are the four things the author mentions that Christianity is not?
10.What does he say Christianity is?

11.If Jesus left us just with His teaching apart from who He is what would we really have?
12.What does the author say about how Christianity can function?
13.When doctrinal and theological beliefs become the essence of Christianity what happens to the Church? To the individual Christian?
14. According to your Christian experience so far would you say the teaching you have been exposed to is equally balanced with the dynamic, alive, reality of Christ living in and through you?
15.When you gather with other Christians, what do you talk about the most?

16. If you opened a book entitled “The Essence of Christianity” what are some of the things you would like to see mentioned?
17. Finish the sentence: “Christianity is all about_____________.”
18. When you read “Jesus came primarily to give us what”? How would you answer this?
19. What are some differences between Jewish and Greek thinking? See 1Cor.1:22.
20. What did Paul emphasis in 1Cor.1:23?

21. What does the author say the so called “Church Fathers” reduced Christianity to?
22. What were the “Church Fathers” so quick to let go of?
23. Is this Christianity “more or less” as you know it today?
24. When the Church focuses on the teachings of Jesus as the essence of Christianity aren’t we placing Him on the same plane with other religious teachers?
24. Did Jesus say “who do they say that I am”? or did He say “ what do others say that I teach”?
25. When the Apostle Paul wrote about who we are in Christ, and what we have in Christ, he would always direct his teaching back to it’s Originator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

26. In the writing of Paul, John, Peter etc., there was a clarity of Jesus’ teaching and a simple record of the gospel dynamic of the life of Jesus Christ. Do you experience this in the “teaching” your exposed today? If not, what do you think happened?
27. What council was Constantine well known for?
28. What was his purpose?
29. What allegiance was to be given to this Nicene Creed?
30. As we moved further from the early church and the clear and simple record of the gospel dynamic of the life of Christ, what was Christianity perverted into around 325 A.D.?

31. How does the author describe Augustine’s theology?
32. How did Karl Barth refer to Augustine’s theology?
33. What was the seven hundred year period from 200 B.C. to 500 A.D. known as?
34. What about 500 A.D. to 1000 A.D.?
35. Why do you think this period is referred to as the “Dark Ages”?

36. What church was Thomas Aquinas associated with?
37. What did a man named Rene Descartes introduce during the Renaissance Period?
38. What about Sir Isaac Newton?
39. Why was the Reformation called the “Reformation”?
40. Wouldn’t you think that the birth of Protestantism moving away from the Catholic Church would restore the centrality of the spiritual dynamic of Jesus Christ?

41. What did it develop into?
42. As disagreement began to arise, what did they divide and subdivide into?
43. Do you see the evidence of this today? If so how?
44. How does author Gene Edwards summarize the Reformation? Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
45. So far in this study, what are some things you have learned that you didn’t know or realize before?

46. In 1611 the King James Bible was translated. It has also become known as what other title?
47. Why do you think that is?
48. Why are newer translations moving away from using the word “doctrine”?
49. Before reading this article, when you heard the word “doctrine” what came to mind?
50. In your opinion how is the word “doctrine” viewed among
Christians today?

51. If you were to disagree with some of the things in a Church’s “statement of faith” how well would you be accepted? Have you ever experienced this?
52. How does the author summarize America in relating to
denominationalism?
53. Briefly describe what he says about “fundamentalism”.
54. What does he say has become their basis of fellowship,
acceptance, security and bonding?
55. Do you agree or disagree with this statement, “It is a tragic misrepresentation of the Church when the basis of our commonality is calculated by doctrinal agreement, rather than the indwelling Lord Jesus Christ; when uniformity of doctrine is the primary issue instead of the unity of Christ”? Why or why not?

56. What does the author say doctrine has become in “Christian religion” today?
57. What does he describe as a gross form of idolatry?
58. God is only what God is and God alone is absolute and
immutable, meaning His attributes are exclusive to Himself and only Himself. What do we make a person or object when we place or attach an exclusive attribute of God to that person or object?
59. If doctrines and belief-systems focus on religion (which means to “bind” or “tie up”) what happens when the Christian Church makes doctrine and belief-systems their primary focus of teaching?

60. How would the statement from James Stewart be true?
61. If you were asked, “what is truth”, how would you answer 62. If I said to you, “you are saved by grace through faith”, would that be true? Why or why not?
63. Would the statement be true because it is a statement that happens to be true or is it true because it came “out of” the essence of “The Truth”, the Lord Jesus Christ who is Truth?
64. Does it make sense to you that what is true can only be true in Christ and from Him, and does it also make sense that “truth” cannot exist apart from Christ, who IS the Truth?
65. Can truth be whatever we want it to be? Why or why not?

66. From reading this study can you now see that Christianity IS Christ?

 2012/1/22 19:23Profile
mackaymarsh
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Joined: 2007/5/21
Posts: 132


 Re: Christianity is NOT a Belief-system. Christianity is Christ

Just bumping this back up as I believe it warrants another view in case others might have missed it. I read it several times in order to get the full meaning and it was certainly worth it in my opinion.

Wayne

 2012/6/1 15:21Profile
pilgrim777
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Joined: 2011/9/30
Posts: 1211


 Re:

Bump. This goes with the current thread "Systematic Theology".

Pilgrim

 2012/7/20 19:52Profile
roadsign
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Joined: 2005/5/2
Posts: 3776


 Re:

Quote:
The Reformation was an intellectual brawl


To be honest, I have trouble with this broad-sweeping generalization. It seems to reflect a particular bias more than an informed perspective. The Reformations involved far too many aspects to be pegged with one overall diagnosis. It’s worth considering how political interests and power played a major role. It is also worth considering what God may have been doing during that period - or in later years - through the ground work laid during the Reformation period. (That later kind of content is less likely to hit the history text books than the political content does.)

Quote:
Doctrine has been deified in "Christian religion" today. Doctrine has become their "god."



On the other hand many are concerned that doctrine is being ignored. These days doctrine tends to get blamed for the religious factions. Instead we just need love. Or we just need Jesus. Or we just need tolerance. Or we just need “unity”……… but just not doctrine. So to say that doctrine is deified ….. well - I wonder if this has become the straw man argument of today. The pendulum, it seems, has swung the other way – at least in practice if not in the institution’s doctrinal statement on their website.

I have a question regarding the thread title: If Christianity is NOT a belief system – why did Paul bother writing Romans? That epistle seems to articulate a belief system - an orderly system of thought –that rests on the foundation of Jesus Christ. The many quotations of Old Testament passages by Luke, Paul, and other NT writers demonstrate that this Jesus wasn’t just some faddish cult leader who suddenly popped up out of nowhere. This person, Jesus, was associated with a well-articulated system of beliefs, prophesies, and practices that had long-standing historical roots.

In following Jesus, believers in Paul's day were following far more than a lone individual doing his own thing. They were following something absolutely massive! Same for us.

My overall point then is this: In making an assertion, it is not always best to negate what may seem like its opposite. It is not always either/or – black or white. The truth may lie in the fact that it must be BOTH: both doctrine and Jesus; both belief system and Jesus.

I think the real concern is the possibility of faulty doctrine or a faulty belief system that distorts God’s redemptive purposes and plan through Christ. Also - it is not likely that we all have some degree of faultiness in our beliefs? Need this matter? Should we avoid exploring that possibility - lest we find ourselves at odds with anyone?


Diane


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Diane

 2012/7/20 22:10Profile
andres
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Joined: 2005/6/17
Posts: 285
texas,brownsville

 Re:

Christianity is NOT a Belief-system. Christianity is Christ

Then you must ask "Who is Christ?"

andy


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andy

 2012/7/20 22:57Profile
bakary
Member



Joined: 2010/10/6
Posts: 169
GAMBIA, WEST AFRICA

 Re:

God bless you pilgrims777 for this beautiful wonderful post. I needed to hear this as an exhortation to my growth in Christ in His Life. True the sum and purpose of every other teaching about Christ is This very Life and until then no teaching about Christ have accomplice its purpose. As the article put it it will not be different from those other religions. Christ is Life , the energy of God all is in Him.He can only be received and increased daily within the believer by faith in the heart not by metal reasoning.


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JAMES F JARJOU

 2012/7/21 6:48Profile





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