Jesus Came to Abolish Religion? A Socratic Dialogue


Sam: It’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship.


Justin: What do you mean when you say “religion?”

Sam: Mindless observance; superstitious acts of piety; following the rules.

Justin: Well, if that’s what you mean by religion, then I agree with you. I can’t think of anyone who would disagree with you! What do you mean by “following the rules?”

Sam: Thinking that unless you do such and such, God will be angry with you or something.

Justin: I believe—and I hope you believe too—that God’s love is unconditional. He loves us perfectly on our worst day.

Sam: Amen!

Justin: So what you’re saying isn’t that we shouldn’t follow the rules—by which I mean God’s commands—just that it’s better if our desire to follow them springs from our relationship with Christ as opposed to fear of punishment?

Sam: Precisely.

Justin: I agree. Incidentally, now that I understand what you mean when you say “religion,” where are you getting that definition? I don’t find it in the Bible.

Sam: Don’t you recall what Jesus said to the religious people of his day? Check out Matthew 12:38 where he calls the pharisees and scribes “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?” He doesn’t sound like a friend of religion to me.

Justin: Is he calling religion a “brood of vipers”? Or those he was speaking to?

Sam: Those he was speaking to . . . who were religious. He’s bashing religion by association.

Justin: He’s “bashing” religion by association . . . Hmm. Do you know what the fallacy of association is?

Sam: nope.

Justin: Funny, because you’re doing a terrific job at committing it. It’s attempts, to show that the qualities of one thing are inherently qualities of another, merely by an irrelevant association. [1]

In other words:

1. A is a B

2. A is also a C

3. Therefore, All B’s are C’s

That would be like arguing John is a Lutheran, John has a lisp, therefore, all Lutherans have lisps.

Sam: I’m almost certain that that’s not what I’m saying but continue.

Justin: It’s just, when I read the Scriptures, I don’t see religion being defined the way you’re defining it. Check out James 1:26, “If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain.” Notice James doesn’t say, “if anyone doesn’t bridle his tongue but deceives his heart he is religious!” He’s distinguishing true religion which he thinks is a good from false religion. He even says as much in the next verse.

Have a look. Verse 27 says “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” So you see, James seems to think that there is a religion that is pure and undefiled.

Sam: Doesn’t it say in the Bible, I forget where; I know, I may as well be a Catholic, right? But doesn’t it say, “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?” I think that was the prophet Jefferson? or something like that.

Justin: I’m pretty sure that was a crappy YouTube clip.

Sam: Nooo. Was it?

Justin: Yep.

Sam: But look at the evil religious people have caused throughout the centuries.

Justin: COUGHfallacyofassociation

Sam: What was that?

Justin: Oh, I just coughed at the same time that I said “fallacy of association”

Sam: I know. Why?

Justin: Because I wanted to pretend like I didn’t want you to hear it. But I did want you to hear it.

Sam: Why?

Justin: I don’t know why I do the things I do, Sam. Put it down to me being religious if you like.

 [box type=”info”] See my other Socratic dialogues here.[/box]

8 thoughts on “Jesus Came to Abolish Religion? A Socratic Dialogue

  1. Great topic! The word “religion” has been getting a bad name lately. The funny thing is a lot of the people who try to distance themselves from that word are themselves intensely religious. It’s like they’re trying to say their religion is really faith whereas your faith is merely religion. Whatever that means.

  2. Thank you, Matt. This is another great one. And thank for that Bible verse. It’s funny how they say “it’s all about the relationship not about the religion.” It’s like saying “I love Christ but I hate the Church He established.”

  3. Great job (as always)! Thank you for this. 🙂

    Could you do a post on the difference between a relationship and religion sometime please? I’ve been hearing that a lot and I’m not quite sure what it means.

    God bless!

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  5. I hope there is a part 2. I felt like this conversation didn’t go as far as it should have. I liked how realistic is was though. Both Justin and Sam were annoying and disrespectful at times haha.

  6. I think many of us Christians make false dichotomies between Jesus + Religion. The unfortunate fact is, because the Church is full of imperfect people, we fall short. We try to make Jesus into who we want Him to be, instead of who He is. I think the danger here is Sentimentality (being governed by feelings or emotional idealism), which basically we are drowning in as a Church.

    Here’s an excerpt of Benedict XVI’s remarks on Sept. 3, 2012: Excerpt of his remarks: And here is the problem: when the people establish themselves in the land and are the depository of the Law, they are tempted to place their certainty and their joy in something that is no longer the Word of the Lord: in possessions, in power, other “divinities” that are not in fact real, that are idols. Certainly the Law of God remains, but it is no longer the most important thing, the rule of life; it becomes rather a veneer, a shell, while life follows others paths, other rules, interests that are often the self-centered ones of the individual and group. And thus religion loses its authentic meaning, which is to live a life of listening to God to do his will – which is the truth of our being – and thus to live well, in true freedom. Religion is reduced to practices of secondary importance that satisfy the human need of feeling right with God. And this is a grave danger in every religion, which Jesus encountered in his time, but which, unfortunately, is also a phenomenon in Christianity. Thus, Jesus’ words against the scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel must make us think too. Jesus made the words of the prophet Isaiah his own: “This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching doctrines that are the precepts of men” (Mark 7:6-7; cf. Isaiah 29:13). He then concludes: “Neglecting God’s commandment, you observe the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8). Also in his Letter, the Apostle James warns against the danger of false religiosity. He writes to the Christians: “Be those who put the Word into practice and not only hearers of it, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).

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