Christian Faith is Not a Religion

Thomas Hopko (excerpts from Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction, 95-98)

[The title of the book is very unfortunate because it does not do justice to all that Fr Hopko wonderfully discusses in the book about Sexuality overall – RAS]

main_image_worldview“Christian Faith is not a “religion” (except in the conventional everyday use of the word). It is the fulfillment of all religions in their search for divine truth and human meaning as inspired by God’s law written on human hearts. In this understanding, God’s Gospel in Jesus is the end of all religions as human constructions, however good and inevitable they are in their desire to deal with life’s mysteries and to comprehend the ways of God (or the gods) and creatures in a demon-riddled, death-bound world.

Christian faith and life, as witnessed in apostolic Scripture and the lives and teachings of the saints, belongs to a “new creation” (Gal 6:15 ; 2 Cor 6:17). It does not belong to “this age” whose “form is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31). It is “from above” and leads always to what is  “beyond.” It is not from human beings, and it transcends human history. It is not contrary to nature and reason, but surpasses their limitations. It discloses the original nature and purposes of things, reveals their ultimate destiny, and illumines human minds and hearts to “the knowledge of the truth” about God and all things in Him. As such, Christian faith and life is God’s gift of divine truth, light, wisdom, and power given to creatures as completely and perfectly as is now possible within the conditions of the corrupted cosmos.

When Christians understand Christ’s Gospel to be but one of humankind’s many religions, even the first, best, and greatest, the Gospel ceases to be what it is. It becomes but another product of sinful humanity in its fallen form: good, true, and beautiful in many ways, yet incomplete and dangerously deceptive. As such, it is inevitably deformed into an ideological mythology, or mythological ideology, employed to promote and defend the “merely human” and, inevitable, sinful persons and societies that use it for this deplorable purpose. This is so whether this Christian religion is fundamentalist and sectarian, or whether it is relativistic and inclusive, seeing itself as no better or worse, and essentially no different from any other.

Those who consider their Christianity as a religion, whether sectarian or relativistic, inevitably see themselves as somehow superior to others who do not see things as they do. They are convinced that they possess a special calling to convince others of the truth they possess, whether they think they have this truth as a free gift or have discovered it for themselves by their diligent labors. And they understand themselves as called to save all others from the evils from which they have set themselves free.

Such Christians do not see themselves as one with the “others” to whom they are sent . .  as bound together with them in a common web of ignorance and enslavement from which only God can deliver them . . . . do not see themselves as those most in need, before all others, of the saving Gospel they proclaim and defend. . . .do not allow themselves even to consider that they may, in fact, be mistaken about one or another, or even all, of their convictions . . . they are always in a crusade and a war that they must win at all costs. And it is exactly they, and not God, who must win it.

Christians, if they be truly Christian, resist every temptation to identify themselves as anything other than an assembly of sinners without competence or calling to judge anyone for anything . . . . they live in constant awareness that they may be mistaken in their most heartfelt convictions . . . they know that no one is infallible . . . thus they are ever ready to listen, to be corrected, and to repent when repentance is necessary.”

 

 

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Comments

  1. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

  2. In James 1:26 the word for “religious” comes from root “θρησκός” meaning “God-fearing” or “pious” in practice (Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament) ; “pertaining to being devoted to a proper expression of beliefs” (Louw & Nida) Furthermore, Fr Hopko clearly states “In the Orthodox view, Christian Faith is not a “religion” (**except in the conventional everyday use of the word**). Christianity is the fulfillment of all ‘religions’ in their search for divine truth and human meaning as inspired by God’s law written on human hearts.”

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