Theology or Religion?

Ex 9:16 “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”
Dear CBC Family,

“There is a profound difference between the study of religion and the study of theology.” That quote has been grafted into my mind for many decades now. While on the surface “religion” and “theology” may sound like synonyms, the truth is they are fundamentally different.

The biggest difference between religion and theology is best seen when you look at each of them through the lens of “faith.” Immediately you will see one is “God-centered,” and the other is “man-centered.”

Historically, the study of humanity was always to be pursued in light of our understanding of God. Since man is created by God and we are the image-bearers of God, in order to have a proper understanding of what it means to be human, we have to first study the prototype rather than looking at the reflection. The study of theology is the study of God Himself first and foremost, while the study of religion is the study of a particular type of human behavior as it relates to his beliefs.

There are all kinds of religions in the world, and when people are involved in religion, they’re involved in certain characteristic things like prayer, worship, singing, devotions, and so on, all of which belong to the trappings of human religions. When we study religion from a human perspective, we are examining how people who have certain beliefs about the supernatural behave in their personal lives and in their corporate lives.

However, when I say that Reformed theology is a theology, not a religion, I mean that it is not simply a way of behaving that we can determine by studying the affairs of men. Rather, it is a belief system that is an entire life and worldview with God at the center. The difference is night and day and takes discernment to see it clearly.

In the first chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul says that God has revealed Himself through the things that are made so clearly that everyone in this world knows the eternal power and deity of God. Yet, the primary sin of the human race is to take that knowledge of God and push it down, to suppress the truth and hold it in unrighteousness, and then exchange that truth for a lie and serve the creature rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:18–25). The exchange is between the incorruptible, transcendent, holy God who is, and the corruption of creaturely things.

In other words, the most basic sin that we, not just pagans in far-off lands, commit is the besetting sin of idolatry. Idolatry involves religion, but even the Christian religion can be idolatrous when we strip God of His true attributes and place something other than God Himself at the center of our worship. In our day God has been replaced by man in many places at the center of all.

We live in a day when people say that theology doesn’t matter. Much of what is called Christianity is nothing other than religion. There is no longer a place for truth! What counts is feeling good, being ministered to in our felt needs, and having a place where we can feel the warmth of “fellowship” and have a sense of belonging and relevance. Theology, according to the religionist, is something that divides and stirs up controversy and debates. “We don’t need doctrine,” we are told, “We need life.”

At the heart of historic Christianity is theology! From the very beginning, Christianity was the affirmation that theology is life because theology is the knowledge of God. And, no more important knowledge exists to inform our lives than the knowledge of God. This is what the Protestant Reformation was all about and this is what CBC is all about as well. We are a community of believers who are united in theology. That theology gives us purpose and dictates all we do and focus on.

What is needed today is not just more religion, not unity in human ideas or opinions but genuine Christianity! Perhaps it is time for another reformation.

Join us this weekend as we gather to study and learn about the God who is! Anyone can spread their religion but only the historic Christian can be an instrument in God’s hands as HE declares HIMSELF through them!


Pastor Scott




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