Christianity Is Not A Way Of Life

It seems like so many things could be cleared up with statements like this.

So many of the confusions one finds in western forms of Christendom seem to turn on how the law is understood in relation to the gospel. It explains why one gets so many befuddled looks when trying to make the distinction between “Living the gospel vs. living in light of the gospel,” or, “While Christianity necessarily has a way of life resident within it, it is not a way of life,” or, “Christianity does not make bad people good or good people better.”

I wonder what are some other ubiquitous notions that need correction…

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19 Responses to Christianity Is Not A Way Of Life

  1. John Bugay says:

    “I wonder what are some other ubiquitous notions that need correction…”

    Are you, like, asking people to make suggestions?

  2. Zrim says:

    John,

    I think, like, I am. Got any?

  3. John Bugay says:

    The pope is a great religious leader. The Catholic religion is a good religion. American (western) culture is falling apart. We have to fight them over there, so they don’t come over here. (That last one features “proximate” ubiquity.)

  4. John Bugay says:

    The pope is a great religious leader. The Catholic religion is a good religion. American (western) culture is falling apart. We have to fight them over there, so they don’t come over here. (That last one features “proximate” ubiquity.)

  5. RubeRad says:

    “Christianity does not make bad people good or good people better.”

    But sanctification makes justified people better.

  6. Zrim says:

    Rube,

    (You’re like a dog with a bone. I like it.)

    You might take it up with Riddlebarger, since he’s prone to the bad/good better phrase himself. I can agree to your statement, but I would qualify it by saying that we are more unaware of our “betterment” than we are aware. Which is to say, “better” doesn’t mean what the sarx assumes. The flesh doesn’t readily understand what justification is, neither does it really grasp sanctification. It gets “better” and “improve” and “transform,” but biblical nomenclature is quite alien.

  7. Echo_ohcE says:

    Christianity IS a way of life. The gospel is what is not a way of life.

  8. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    That seems to require a forced distinction between Xianity and the gospel. I use the terms synonymously. If Xianity can be a way of life then the Bible can be literature. It seems to me that cultural Xianity is fine with that.

  9. Echo_ohcE says:

    The gospel is the good news about the person and work of Jesus Christ. That’s not what Christianity is. Christianity is the religion based on the truth of the gospel. That religion doesn’t only have a gospel, it also has a law. Granted, we are no longer under the curse of the law, but we still ought to do what is required by the law.

    For example, James says that faith without works is dead, and John says that anyone who says they love God and yet hates his brother is a liar. Meanwhile, Paul tells us to be imitators of God and walk in love. These things are not gospel by any stretch of the imagination. They are law, and yet they govern our lives.

    It is true that if a man hates his brother, he cannot love God, and if he does not love God, how can he say that he is a Christian? If a man has no works at all, then how can he say he believes the gospel? Because if we really believe the gospel, then the love of Christ will spill out of us like a glass overflowing from over pouring.

    Christianity begins with believing the gospel, but it doesn’t end there. Christianity entails living our lives a certain way. And if there is no fruit in our lives, how can we say we are Christians at all?

    The difference between “Christianity” and “gospel” is not forced at all. The words have two different meanings. “Christians” are followers of Christ. To be a part of Christianity means to be a Christian, which means to follow Christ, which means to obey Christ. This obedience is of course grounded in belief in the gospel, the good news about what Christ has done for us.

    As Christians, we are called to “only believe” for justification. True enough. But we are also called to obey, because we are justified already.

    I don’t understand how you can call it a forced distinction when the two words mean something very different.

  10. Zrim says:

    That’s all true enough, Echo, but I don’t think that is what is generally understood by the phrase, “Christianity is a way of life.” I think what is typically meant is something more akin to natural religion, steeped in law.

    It’s like saying that the gospel is irrelevant. It’s a turn of phrase more meant to challenge common presuppositions. (Sort of like how Horton recently titled a conference lecture with, “Stop Serving God.”) The gospel is relevant, just not the way we naturally think.

    So I think you have a valid point that one can make a distinction between the two phrases–maybe my saying they are analogous isn’t the right tack here because it seems to help get into not-so-helpful distinctions. My main point is to tease out common presuppositions and see how askew they can be. And when you say things like, “Stop serving God; Christianity is not a way of life; we don’t live the gospel,” most seem a bit befuddled. It seems like at this point is when one can begin to make the points you make. Often times, folks seem to not even have the ability to speak in categories like “indicative” and “imperative.”

  11. sean says:

    “Christianity entails living our lives a certain way.”

    I appreciate the technical distinction being made in this reply. But, I really think christians should be forced to express their faith in terms of historical redemptive categories and Lord’s day “rites” for at least the next 40 years before anybody ever talks again about “fruit in your life”. You’re no real help simply because you know how and where to dot the I’s and cross the T’s but have no insight into diagnosing the malady.

  12. Zrim says:

    Sean,

    It could be inferred that you are suggesting that worship is the principle and primary good work of both the individual believer and corporate church, or that the primary purpose of the church’s existence, “…the highest human activity on earth, the greatest privilege of the redeemed, and the nearest thing to heaven experienced in this world…”

    You could be suggesting an institutional expression of faith.

    Or that “…a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshiped; and secondly, of the source from which salvation is to be obtained.” You’d be in good company, as it was Calvin who argued in On the Necessity of Reforming the Church that worship was of such import that he placed it before the doctrine of justification.

    …welcome to loneliness.

  13. sean says:

    “It could be inferred that you are suggesting that worship is the principle and primary good work of both the individual believer and corporate church, or that the primary purpose of the church’s existence”

    It could be and should be, thank you very much.

    I just got back from england, and for all their issues, it’s so refreshing to be around people who aren’t trying to better themselves. I think these people would laugh themselves sick at Dr. Phil and have Joel Osteen committed. We’re so infected with revivalistic moralism in america we ought to be quarantined. And what’s tragic is we’re trying to export it to other countries. You may not want to take your cues on statecraft from these guys but as far as how to be a human being and enjoy the city, we need to pull up a chair and take notes. It’s too bad the protestants here are still in the grip of barth ( The RC are making a comeback of sorts).
    They view our evangelicalism, like they view our obesity, particularly american, juvenile and self-indulgent, and the ones who are buying the moralism are logically and rightly passing over the protestant brand and going right to roman catholicism.

  14. Zrim says:

    Sean,

    Interesting.

    I have had deep pangs of ex-patriotism with regard to what it means to be an American religionist. But then I realized those pangs, ironically, were themselves a function of what ails. The end result has been an effort to neither champion nor disparage my own time and place, but rather see them from a Christian point-of-view, which is to say, sovereignly granted and transcending any temptation to get caught up too much in immediate assessments (while also allowing those immediate assessments their dignity).

    After all, whatever can be shown to be problematic in any given time and/or place will simply be traded for something different in another. I always recall what popped out of my mouth when going back and forth with one of transformers. He was of the championing sort, who wanted to point to the western tradition/democracy/America/etc. as proof of how the Cross kicked off cultural transformation (a version of prosperity gospel):

    He to me, “Are you seriously telling me you wouldn’t prefer our time and place over Jesus’?”

    Me to him, “Of course I would, but not for the reasons you seem to imply, namely that ours is better. I prefer this time and place because it’s mine.”

    The same can be said to those who tip too far in disparaging. Hart is fond of “watching Covies fight.” In the same way, it’s fun to watch Riddlebarger and Stellman fight about America.

  15. sean says:

    “The end result has been an effort to neither champion nor disparage my own time and place, but rather see them from a Christian point-of-view, which is to say, sovereignly granted and transcending any temptation to get caught up too much in immediate assessments (while also allowing those immediate assessments their dignity).”

    I wasn’t championing european culture as much as disparaging american religion. I’ll always be an american religionist to some degree, but there’s nothing like being removed from it and seeing it from a perspective that doesn’t share your predilections, to get a better idea of what it’s value is, and it simply confirms where I’ve been headed for some years. American evangelicalism is largely vacuous and swarmy and I’m not particularly embarrassed about that as much as fed up with it. The only thing that’s largely changed from the days of the “anxious bench” is now we’re therapeutic rather than scolding.
    I have less and less use for american religion and since I’m a recovering american religionist this is a sign of maturity not regression. To take a turn from C.S. Lewis’s evaluation of history; it’s not that other cultures are perfect they may just not be guilty of the same errors yours is bogged down in.

  16. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    A better critique of “Christianity is a way of life” might be that such a statement is mindful only of this world, of this life, of this present age. In the book of Acts, Christianity is called “the way”. But did that mean a way of living in this life? Well, partly, but it meant much more.

    What those ancient people meant was that it was a way of obtaining righteousness from God by faith in Jesus Christ. It was a way of obtaining eternal life, a way of having peace with God, a way of entering heaven and being saved from the wrath of God in hell.

    And that has nothing to do with the law at all, but everything to do with the gospel.

    Nonetheless, Christianity also does entail a way of living this life that is derived from the fact that it is a way to obtain eternal life by faith in Christ in the life to come. Christianity is a way of life, but that’s not ALL Christianity is, unless by “way of life” you mean both “way of living this life” and “way of obtaining life in the age to come”. If that’s what is meant, then so be it.

    E

  17. Zrim says:

    Sean,

    Good word. For the record, what I had in mind with the disparage/championing of culture notion was more what American religionists do of theirs, not that I read you to be championing another.

  18. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    Yes, it’s all in the meaning. And a particluar meaning (all law) is what I am getting after here, one with which I am very familiar in our present context. That is all I’m trying to say.

  19. sean says:

    Zrim,

    Ah, I got ya. Sometimes(most times) it takes me a while.

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