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Burl

Christianity is not a religion.

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According to Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Orthodox Christianity is not a religion. In his For the Life of the World, he wrote, “Christianity is in a profound sense the end of all religion…Nowhere in the New Testament is Christianity presented as a cult or as a religion. Religion is needed where there is a wall of separation between God and man. But Christ, who is both God and man, has broken down the wall between man and God. He has inaugurated a new life, not a new religion.”

https://orientalreview.org/2017/10/22/not-like-religion-the-christian-clergy/

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I can't help thinking religion as it practiced by traditional congregations (not just Christian ones) and the Oxford Dictionary etymology of the word (religion) to reconnect are very difficult to reconcile.

Reconnect to what God? Community? The environment? Each other? The universe? Again my camp video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGK84Poeynk

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Schmemann's seems to have come up with his own definition of religion, as opposed to any definition described in most dictionaries anyway.

But leaving that aside for now, whilst he makes points for Paul's rejection of Judaism, he seems to overlook other voices trying to direct Jesus worship a certain way, including the writer of Mathew who quoted Jesus in ch.5 as requiring adherents to abide by a certain rule set.  That's a pretty common trait of religions.  Indeed, Jesus very much links Judaism to himself, so it seems hard to me to disentangle the two and say Christianity is not a religion when it leans so heavily on a religion.

I don't think there's much merit in his argument about 'orthodox' Christians not having priests.  He may (or may not) be correct about the language roots for the word meaning different things, but it is clear Paul and others in the NT considered certain people to be leaders and elders within the church, to have authority, to take action, to coordinate.  I don't think it's much of a leap there to say they represent very much the responsibilities of a priest, just with a relaxed rule set compared to the former.  

Also, Paul is portrayed as laying down a rule set for orderly worship in 1 Corinthians 14.  That reads very much like religious rules and guidance to me.  I'm not sure how that differs from other religions who define parameters around their organisations' processes and expectations of members.

No, I think his article is more a personal desire to imagine it that way, rather than it truly being so.

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Largely agreed Paul, but his observation that the entire point of Christianity is Jesus erasing the strict barrier between creator and created by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is solid.

It might have better said that this unity of God and mankind created by Jesus makes Christianity a unique religion as God is present within mankind.  Far more than the Buddhist denial of God or the obvious fact that everything is connected, the structure is well defined.

I have said before it is easier to understand Christianity by starting at Pentecost and working backwards.

 

p.s.  Orientalreview.org is an excellent journal on geopolitics.  Not much religion, but I recommend it highly for world affairs.

Edited by Burl

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39 minutes ago, Burl said:

Largely agreed Paul, but his observation that the entire point of Christianity is Jesus erasing the strict barrier between creator and created by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is solid.

It might have better said that this unity of God and mankind created by Jesus makes Christianity a unique religion as God is present within mankind.  Far more than the Buddhist denial of God or the obvious fact that everything is connected, the structure is well defined.

I have said before it is easier to understand Christianity by starting at Pentecost and working backwards.

 

p.s.  Orientalreview.org is an excellent journal on geopolitics.  Not much religion, but I recommend it highly for world affairs.

Schmemann's statement that "Religion is needed where there is a wall of separation between God and man" is actually intriguing although it might not fit the definition of religion. If one no longer accepts or has (in some real way) breached that wall, do they need religion? Is, for example, Sunday worship a celebration of Jesus erasing of the barrier, is it a symbolic reenacting of His accomplishment or is it the recognition that the barrier still exists - thus the worship? This, in part, plays into my understanding that Jesus is not meant to be and should not be 'worshipped:' the point is to be - not worship - Jesus. If we worship him, the barrier remains; if we strive to be (like) him, the barrier is being erased.

 

On another note, whether or not people are traditional or progressive Christians, what does "the indwelling of the Holy Spirit"  mean or how can it be made intelligible (if it is meaningful) to 21st C people?

 

Edited by thormas

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5 hours ago, Burl said:

 

It might have better said that this unity of God and mankind created by Jesus makes Christianity a unique religion as God is present within mankind.  Far more than the Buddhist denial of God or the obvious fact that everything is connected, the structure is well defined.

Perhaps it is better said that Buddhism is a non-theistic faith. As far as inter-connection being "obvious" it seems that the profound "connection" between the faith and lives of many who live the dharma and those who have chosen to follow Christ is often missed by those inclined towards Religion. 

But as you say, Christianity is indeed unique. All the major faiths are unique, just as each human being is unique. And many adherents of each never tire of pointing out the difference between their own Faith and "religion" as such. 

My own view would be that a "well defined structure" is a product of "religion" and therefore of belief. Not of faith. At least as I understand it. 

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, Burl said:

Largely agreed Paul, but his observation that the entire point of Christianity is Jesus erasing the strict barrier between creator and created by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is solid.

It might have better said that this unity of God and mankind created by Jesus makes Christianity a unique religion as God is present within mankind.  Far more than the Buddhist denial of God or the obvious fact that everything is connected, the structure is well defined.

I have said before it is easier to understand Christianity by starting at Pentecost and working backwards.

 

p.s.  Orientalreview.org is an excellent journal on geopolitics.  Not much religion, but I recommend it highly for world affairs.

I disagree that his point is 'solid' as is evidenced by the fact that the religion of Christianity does exist and it has done so since it's fledgling days after Jesus.  Sure it's been refined over time to become more and more religious, but from Jesus' own reported words onward, rule sets and requirements were laid out as necessary for this creator/created relationship - the primary one being the requirement to 'believe' otherwise you couldn't have this relationship apparently.  Jesus may have been about erasing 'strict' barriers, but barriers were maintained nonetheless (the primary one being Jesus' focus on maintaining Judaism - just an improved version in his mind, reportedly).

Jesus' reported words (for example, Luke 14) include rules and requirements for this relationship " If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple".  Disciple is a submissive role, not an equal one.  I'm not sure how Schmemann would explain this away.

I think the New Testament may make some case for a unity of 'God' and mankind created by Jesus, but that would be ignoring much of the NT which promotes religiosity, rule sets and requirements. Christianity is unique in that it says a single God is in relationship with man (well 3-in-1 anyway) but many other religions include Gods amongst men and don't necessarily have a wall between the two.  Hinduism for instance doesn't consider a wall between any God and people because the issue is about achieving 'bliss' through karma and reincarnation, not obeying or believing in any God's divinity per se - a unique religion.

Buddhism too is unique and not technically a religion because it isn't about a relationship with a God or Gods and there certainly is no wall to speak of.  Rather it's about relationship with everything and again, achieving bliss or nirvana.  Not because a God or Buddha requires it, but because it's available (allegedly).  

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25 minutes ago, PaulS said:

I disagree that his point is 'solid' as is evidenced by the fact that the religion of Christianity does exist and it has done so since it's fledgling days after Jesus.  Sure it's been refined over time to become more and more religious, but from Jesus' own reported words onward, rule sets and requirements were laid out as necessary for this creator/created relationship - the primary one being the requirement to 'believe' otherwise you couldn't have this relationship apparently.  Jesus may have been about erasing 'strict' barriers, but barriers were maintained nonetheless (the primary one being Jesus' focus on maintaining Judaism - just an improved version in his mind, reportedly).

Jesus' reported words (for example, Luke 14) include rules and requirements for this relationship " If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple".  Disciple is a submissive role, not an equal one.  I'm not sure how Schmemann would explain this away.

I think the New Testament may make some case for a unity of 'God' and mankind created by Jesus, but that would be ignoring much of the NT which promotes religiosity, rule sets and requirements. Christianity is unique in that it says a single God is in relationship with man (well 3-in-1 anyway) but many other religions include Gods amongst men and don't necessarily have a wall between the two.  Hinduism for instance doesn't consider a wall between any God and people because the issue is about achieving 'bliss' through karma and reincarnation, not obeying or believing in any God's divinity per se - a unique religion.

Buddhism too is unique and not technically a religion because it isn't about a relationship with a God or Gods and there certainly is no wall to speak of.  Rather it's about relationship with everything and again, achieving bliss or nirvana.  Not because a God or Buddha requires it, but because it's available (allegedly).  

I agree with your disagreement: the 'evidence' is only solid for adherents of Christianity (perhaps). 

However I disagree that Jesus set rules and regulations: given his (probable) apocalyptic belief, he thought the End (the establishment of the Kingdom on earth by God) was 'now' - in the lifetime of his followers - there was no time for rules and regulations, only time to turn to God and be ready. I do agree that Jesus was erasing barriers: the point wasn't maintaining Judaism because with the establishment of the Kingdom, Judaism would be 'over' because God's reign would be established and extended beyond the Jews to 'all nations and to the world.'

The citation from Luke, if authentic, shows the imminent arrival of the Kingdom - nothing, nothing (not riches, not status, not earthy power, not friends or family) was more important that preparing for the Kingdom: if friends and family were with you, all the better but you could not let them hold you back if they were not with you, not preparing for the Kingdom. I also disagree on disciple: it is one who follows the Teacher, Wisdom, the Way and in following one is or becomes a son of God.

As for Buddhism, what they call a relationship with everything, the Christian calls a relationship with God/creation (i.e. everything). In both the wall is the lack of relationship (which is breached or disappears in relationship with All) and the Christian too believes he/she achieves bliss (oneness with God/All) and in both cases it is not (if properly understood) a requirement, it is the (only) Way - which, I guess, is its own requirement.

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20 hours ago, thormas said:

I agree with your disagreement: the 'evidence' is only solid for adherents of Christianity (perhaps). 

However I disagree that Jesus set rules and regulations: given his (probable) apocalyptic belief, he thought the End (the establishment of the Kingdom on earth by God) was 'now' - in the lifetime of his followers - there was no time for rules and regulations, only time to turn to God and be ready. I do agree that Jesus was erasing barriers: the point wasn't maintaining Judaism because with the establishment of the Kingdom, Judaism would be 'over' because God's reign would be established and extended beyond the Jews to 'all nations and to the world.'

The citation from Luke, if authentic, shows the imminent arrival of the Kingdom - nothing, nothing (not riches, not status, not earthy power, not friends or family) was more important that preparing for the Kingdom: if friends and family were with you, all the better but you could not let them hold you back if they were not with you, not preparing for the Kingdom. I also disagree on disciple: it is one who follows the Teacher, Wisdom, the Way and in following one is or becomes a son of God.

As for Buddhism, what they call a relationship with everything, the Christian calls a relationship with God/creation (i.e. everything). In both the wall is the lack of relationship (which is breached or disappears in relationship with All) and the Christian too believes he/she achieves bliss (oneness with God/All) and in both cases it is not (if properly understood) a requirement, it is the (only) Way - which, I guess, is its own requirement.

I agree that Jesus wasn't big on creating specific, organisational rules, which was revolutionary for Judaism, and that he was another apocalyptic of the times, but I think he still had an eye on the future (as he believed it) and how He thought the Kingdom should behave.  For instance, when Jesus says a woman who divorces her husband and marries another commits adultery, how is that meant to be interpreted other than a rule of something not to do?  Maybe one is free to do it but to do so is clearly against the wishes of Jesus, so it is a rule in effect for Christianity (modern day ignoring of that rule aside).

So yes, Jesus was into erasing 'strict' barriers, but I don't think that he encouraged NO barriers to God .  Again, the primary barrier being that one must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that acceptance of his death as a sacrifice for our sins is required, otherwise there is no other way for one to be 'forgiven'.  At the very least it is a conditional relationship.

I don't disagree with your assessment of Buddhism & Christianity both considering 'relationship'.  The article author portrays Christianity to be 'unique' in this regard, but I don't see that.

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49 minutes ago, PaulS said:

I agree that Jesus wasn't big on creating specific, organisational rules, which was revolutionary for Judaism, and that he was another apocalyptic of the times, but I think he still had an eye on the future (as he believed it) and how He thought the Kingdom should behave.  For instance, when Jesus says a woman who divorces her husband and marries another commits adultery, how is that meant to be interpreted other than a rule of something not to do?  Maybe one is free to do it but to do so is clearly against the wishes of Jesus, so it is a rule in effect for Christianity (modern day ignoring of that rule aside).

So yes, Jesus was into erasing 'strict' barriers, but I don't think that he encouraged NO barriers to God .  Again, the primary barrier being that one must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that acceptance of his death as a sacrifice for our sins is required, otherwise there is no other way for one to be 'forgiven'.  At the very least it is a conditional relationship.

I don't disagree with your assessment of Buddhism & Christianity both considering 'relationship'.  The article author portrays Christianity to be 'unique' in this regard, but I don't see that.

I don't think there was a future for Jesus to have an eye on. By that I mean the Kingdom had begun. And, once (fully) established, there would be no future, nothing to prepare for, rules and regs unnecessary because the Future was Present. There are rules for behavior to get somewhere or to establish something, for example, a better, just society or there are rules and regulations that govern golf or bowling - but the Kingdom was all God's doing (according to Jesus): rules and regulations followed by people would not bring the Kingdom. As such, rules and regs had no place. I do agree, with the 'delay' of the Kingdom or the 2nd Coming, it became a rule of Christian behavior - necessary to get 'into' heaven.

Perhaps we understand barriers differently: don't think Jesus was merely easing 'strict' barriers -  he was overcoming (and therefore erasing) all barriers between humanity and God: in the Kingdom, there is (so to speak) direct access: all are 'One.'  Jesus did not demand belief in himself or acceptance of his death as atonement for sins (unless one accepts a literal reading of certain gospels) . The NT moved to this and it was firmly established by the growing Church but for Jesus it was whatever was done to the least......the two great commandments. This is how one lived if one accepted the coming Kingdom (one lived knowing or as if the Kingdom had begun and of course this is how one would live when the Kingdom came). I also don't see how believing in Jesus (if required) or loving (the commandments) would be a barrier at all, rather it is the way to overcome barriers. With Jesus (Prodigal Son) and with Christianity (properly understood), forgiven is never a quid pro quo: forgiven is not a reward for action, rather it is gratuitous, a gift freely given - always there waiting for man. There is nothing conditional about forgiveness or relationship with God.

I agree with you that the article oversteps with the 'uniqueness' of Christianity. 

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18 hours ago, PaulS said:

I agree that Jesus wasn't big on creating specific, organisational rules, which was revolutionary for Judaism, and that he was another apocalyptic of the times, but I think he still had an eye on the future (as he believed it) and how He thought the Kingdom should behave.  For instance, when Jesus says a woman who divorces her husband and marries another commits adultery, how is that meant to be interpreted other than a rule of something not to do?  Maybe one is free to do it but to do so is clearly against the wishes of Jesus, so it is a rule in effect for Christianity (modern day ignoring of that rule aside).

So yes, Jesus was into erasing 'strict' barriers, but I don't think that he encouraged NO barriers to God .  Again, the primary barrier being that one must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that acceptance of his death as a sacrifice for our sins is required, otherwise there is no other way for one to be 'forgiven'.  At the very least it is a conditional relationship.

I don't disagree with your assessment of Buddhism & Christianity both considering 'relationship'.  The article author portrays Christianity to be 'unique' in this regard, but I don't see that.

The statement in the antitheses about divorce is hyperbole, just like the other antitheses.  I posted at length about this in another topic.

The author portrays Christianity as unique in that it allows the theistic God to move and act through humanity.  In Christianity, God can flow through mankind like water through a hose.

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On 22.10.2017 at 5:44 PM, Burl said:

Religion is needed where there is a wall of separation between God and man. But Christ, who is both God and man, has broken down the wall between man and God. He has inaugurated a new life, not a new religion.”

 

I can see why claims like "Christianity is not a religion" are so controversial, but on the other hand, I kinda like this particular one. But I think it's too simplified to take at it's face value, and here's why:

 

Let's for arguments sake say that this was true, that Christianity is based on supernatural connection between man and God. Even if that was the case, I think that the claim would still be oversimplified. Even if it was entirely possible to practice Christianity as a living, organic, inborn spiritual life, void of man-made sets of rules etc., it would still also be possible to practice the same religion as a man-made version. For example, I am confident that one could teach a smart monkey to cite the credos, the prayers and follow the crowd in worship and so on. It's infinitely easier to teach a human (especially a young human) to do the same, to practice a religion as a matter of social programming, no supernatural elements involved. A surface level copy of the original. By "surface" I don't mean it to lack intellectual, or philosophical depth, but rather to lack the supernatural element.

 

Also, a pure supernatural religion and a pure man-made copy of the supernatural religion would be just the extremes, likely in practice there would also be various mixtures of both. And because of the hopelessly biased human nature, everyone practicing the socially powered version of the religion would be absolutely confident that their version of the religion is the actual supernatural version of it, it would be impossibility to tell the two apart in a meaningful way. 

 

Even if this unique, organic, supernatural faith is there, it would always be intermingled with this man-made, socially and psychologically programmed version of the same religion. In some cases more so than in others. And also, both of them would claim to be the non-religious religion. 

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2 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

 

I can see why claims like "Christianity is not a religion" are so controversial, but on the other hand, I kinda like this particular one. But I think it's too simplified to take at it's face value, and here's why:

 

Let's for arguments sake say that this was true, that Christianity is based on supernatural connection between man and God. Even if that was the case, I think that the claim would still be oversimplified. Even if it was entirely possible to practice Christianity as a living, organic, inborn spiritual life, void of man-made sets of rules etc., it would still also be possible to practice the same religion as a man-made version. For example, I am confident that one could teach a smart monkey to cite the credos, the prayers and follow the crowd in worship and so on. It's infinitely easier to teach a human (especially a young human) to do the same, to practice a religion as a matter of social programming, no supernatural elements involved. A surface level copy of the original. By "surface" I don't mean it to lack intellectual, or philosophical depth, but rather to lack the supernatural element.

 

Also, a pure supernatural religion and a pure man-made copy of the supernatural religion would be just the extremes, likely in practice there would also be various mixtures of both. And because of the hopelessly biased human nature, everyone practicing the socially powered version of the religion would be absolutely confident that their version of the religion is the actual supernatural version of it, it would be impossibility to tell the two apart in a meaningful way. 

 

Even if this unique, organic, supernatural faith is there, it would always be intermingled with this man-made, socially and psychologically programmed version of the same religion. In some cases more so than in others. And also, both of them would claim to be the non-religious religion. 

The statement "Christianity is not a religion" is not an oversimplification, but rather hyperbole.  The author is making an absurd statement dramatization of his point that Christianity is about a theistic God working directly through mankind rather than worship of a totally external entity.

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22 minutes ago, Burl said:

The statement "Christianity is not a religion" is not an oversimplification, but rather hyperbole.  The author is making an absurd statement dramatization of his point that Christianity is about a theistic God working directly through mankind rather than worship of a totally external entity.

 

To put it another way: "Christianity should be about mysticism, rather than about ritualism or moralism." My peeve with the phrase is that mysticism is seen as opposite of "religion", whereas imo, it is one building block of religion(s).

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From Eckhart, German Sermon 22:-

Now listen carefully! I have often said, as great masters have said, that we should be so free of all things and all works, both inner and outer, that we become the place where God can act. But now we put it differently. If it is the case that someone is free of all creatures, of God and of themselves, if God finds a place to act in them, then we say: as long as this exists in someone, they have not yet reached the ultimate poverty. For God does not intend there to be a place in someone where he can act, but if there is to be true poverty of spirit, someone must be so free of God and all his works that if God wishes to act in the soul he must himself be the place in which he can act, and this he is certainly willing to be. For if God finds us this poor, then God performs his own active work and we passively receive God in ourselves and God becomes the place of his work in us since God works within himself. In this poverty, we attain again the eternal being which we once enjoyed, which is ours now and shall be for ever. There is a passage in St Paul which says: ‘All that I am I am by the grace of God’(1 Cor. 15: 10). But now my words seem to be above grace, above being, above knowledge and will, above all desire, and so how can St Paul’s words be true? It was necessary that God’s grace should be in him, since it was this that made perfect in him what was imperfect. When the grace came to an end and completed its work, then Paul remained what he was.

 

The above is from Meister Eckhart's sermon on "True Poverty". It is obvious to me at least why he is seen as a "dharma brother" by many who follow the Buddha's path.

I'm surrounded by grandchildren at the moment ( if just two can "surround", and recent botox injections for my bletharospasm have left me with misty moisty eyes, walking through water - quite nice at times, it takes the sharp edge off of the world)

Anyway, words tend to divide and misguide. Theism, non-theism. Non dualism means "not two", not that "all is one". I've found that this can be said a thousand times without the difference being known, not least by myself.. Like a book on quantum physics I was reading recently, where ( apparently ) in the weird quantum world A x B gives a different answer to B x A. Algebra was never my strong point , but it seems to have something to do with reality if you tend towards a love of words and see them as definitive/fixed in any way.

Reality as I see it is a constant becoming but at each and every moment we must needs make our "appropriate statement", which according to Yun-men is always the "teaching of a lifetime". 

So we ask God to rid us of God ( as Eckhart says ) This is the absolute poverty of spirit. But like the dharma as raft - for passing over not for grasping - we tend/can leap from the raft before we can swim. We can leave God behind before we are ready. "Gratitude is all a lie" says Saichi the Pure Lander. I still say "thank you" all the time. I sometimes wonder if I shall ever be ready. 

Anyway, back to trying to dress the kiddies. 

 

 

Edited by tariki
Correcting various mistakes

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