Christianity as a Religion?

"it was the intellectual conviction that only in terms of the Christian
view of things could I make sense out of the social history in which we live and
the ethical decisions we humans have to make."

- Langdon Gilkey Santung Compound, p. 73 (Harper and Row, New York, c. 1966)

I am currently reading Langdon Gilkey's Shantung Compound. In my reading, I was struck by how Gilkey describes his acceptance, as a young adult, of the Christian religion. His experience and decision to choose Christianity based upon his interest in what the religious faith stands for and represents stands in contrast to my experience of Christianity as a religion that results from a relationship with Jesus Christ.

His description describes so aptly the religious faith of some of my classmates that I am curious to see how his understanding of Christian identity changes (within this cultural study/biography) and how the class discussions about Gilkey's faith will wander and progress.

Based upon his description and my recent encounters I almost want to say that true Christianity is not a religion, but rather a change in relationship with God. Thus, if Christianity is seen as a "religion" with a specific sets of beliefs and practices that are then chosen as sounding "good" and "right" to it's followers, then I might say that I am intellectually, morally, or by practice a Christian. But, in reality, it is by the grace of God and the overthrow of the possibility of my old life (through Christ's blood) and a re-birth into something new (by Jesus' resurrection) that allows me to encounter God as my personal Lord, which then makes me one who knows and is known by God, a "Christian". Thus we have two definitions of "Christian." The first being, "one who accepts and practices a certain set of beliefs related to an understanding of Jesus as God's son." And the other being, "one who has a personal relationship with God, faith in Jesus Christ, and is filled with the Holy Spirit."

Comments

Katie Z. Dawson said…
this is a really interesting post! I think in many ways, I chose to practice Christianity, like Gilkey... the practices and the beliefs form us in a certain way (or rather they should... my frustration is that people don't really practice Christainity!)

in some ways though, at least from my perspective, I think you really have to practice the faith consciously in order to have the relationship with God. I guess that's why I'm a good methodist... there are means of grace and by practicing them, the Holy Spirit is better able to enter our lives. The practice and the relationship are not necessarily separate things.

I guess a better way of putting it would be that I desire a relationship with God. I choose to build that relationship (from my end) by practicing Christianity (and by doing so the way my denomination sees as the best). I choose to be Methodist the same way that i choose to be Christian. Or mabye it chooses me? Maybe that is why I am so open to other religious traditions? Because I think deep down we are all trying to experience, know and be known by the divine... we just might do it in different ways... and I can't say for certain that I'm completely right in the way I practice... it just feels right to me. Christian conferencing, the Lord's Supper, visiting those in prison... they are all ways Methodists practice being Christian and by doing so, we encounter Jesus face to face.

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