Deconstructing Evangelical Theology: Is It a Religion Or a Relationship?

Many Evangelical Christians hate religion. And not in the way that someone who used to work at McDonald's is sick of Big Macs. No, these Evangelicals hate religion because they believe that they are not, in fact part of a religion.

They're part of a relationship! It's completely different!

As usual, they've redefined words to suit themselves. Religion (often referred to as 'cold, dead religion') is what those other people at those other churches do. They have rules and rituals. Ugh.

If you are an Evangelical and honestly believe your relationship doesn't have any rules, I encourage to partake in any one of the following experiments.

  1. If you're a woman, tell your pastor you're interested in becoming an elder.
  2. If you have a newborn baby, ask your pastor to baptize it.
  3. At your next Bible study, mention the awesome Rob Bell book you're reading.
Ok, but what about rituals? Evangelicalism doesn't have those, right? 

Except that praying is a ritual, no matter how you look at it. The rituals of Evangelicalism are less rigid, sure. Prayers are free form, not memorized and spit back. But a free form poem is still a poem, just as much as a poem that follows iambic pentameter.

If you don't think that an Evangelical service is a ritual, try shouting out a question in the middle of the pastor's sermon. Let me know how that goes. Or, throw down some cardboard and start break-dancing while everyone else is singing "Mighty to Save".

Still don't believe me? Let's go to the Bible:

"Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless."

James 1:26

Remember, Evangelicals take the Bible to be inerrant - the ultimate authority on everything. The verse above describes a situation where religion is worthless. This means that under some circumstances, religion is not worthless.

This is called "the exception that proves the rule". Not in the way most people use it - most people say "it's the exception that proves the rule" when they really mean "the exception rather than the rule". No, the exception that proves the rule.

Example: Say you see a sign that says 'No parking on Sundays'. From this sign, you could extrapolate that parking is, in fact, allowed on the other six days of the week.

If the Bible is inerrant (not that I'm saying it is), and religion is worthless, why bother describing this specific circumstance where it is?

This post part 2 of a series. The previous post is Do the Pharisees Get a Bad Rap? and the next post is "You Were Never a True Christian".

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