Ok. So you take a stand against man’s religion, and what’s the first thing you hear?
That’s right; James 1:27.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” – NET
The hundreds of verses, many chapters, and various books of the New Testament, written to directly combat legalism and authoritarian religion are virtually ignored. Talk about selective quoting. This verse no more justifies religion than Luke 14:26 justifies hating your parents. When a passage seems to go against a truth clearly and repeatedly taught in Scripture, then we must assume there is something being addressed on another level.
Of course, much of the confusion in understanding scripture lies in a wrong approach to the Bible in the first place.
[See also, “A New Kind of Christianity” and “Velvet Elvis.”]
Scripture calls itself good (for training, doctrine, etc). It is not the “end all” in knowing God. we must draw near to Him, and let Him reveal Himself to us. Let Him reveal truth to us. There is so much more to God than the Holy Scriptures. Idol worship is when we worship anything other than God. Many Christians treat the Bible an additional object of worship; a fourth part of the Godhead.
His Word is alive, active, more powerful that a double-edged sword, and not confined to any book. It’s not about the letter. It’s about life in the Spirit.
I do believe the Bible is divinely inspired by God. There is divinely inspired poetry; divinely inspired metaphors; divinely inspired simile, and, yes, that which is divinely inspired to be taken literally. Understanding these different literary styles is vital. And divinely inspired does NOT mean divinely dictated. Big difference.
We must always take into consideration the original audience, as well as the human authors. We must look at the context of the surrounding passages; the letter in general, and (this is very important) the context of the story of God, and his provision of salvation by grace.
The NIRV really brings out the crux of James 1:27. It says:
“Here are the kinds of beliefs that God our Father accepts as pure and without fault. When widows and children who have no parents are in trouble, take care of them. And keep yourselves from being polluted by the world.”
It’s like saying, “So, you think your pretty religious. Well, your better off paying attention to things that really matter; like taking care of the needs of others. And don’t let the world, it’s sin, or it’s religious systems get between you and God.”
Jesus’ greatest detractors were the religious people. Paul battled the “Judaizers,” who tried to rob people of their freedom in Jesus. Today, the battle still rages. Religion was, is, and will always be in opposition to Jesus. God has set us free from sin AND religion. “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!”
Here’s a good definition of religion from Greg Albrecht:
The popular, common denominator of religion is the idea that humans must do, perform and produce works, deeds, virtues or behaviors as stipulated by rituals, rites and regulations. The idea is that having performed ceremonies, having followed religious prescriptions, priests, pills and potions, then God is more pleased with humans than he otherwise would have been. This is the fundamental difference between biblical Christianity and religion in general (whether it be a non-Christian religion, or a practice which claims to be Christian). The gospel of Jesus Christ insists that God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We are, according to the gospel, incapable of pleasing and appeasing God on the basis of our works. That is the definition of religion that PTM uses– and opposes, for it is the enemy of the gospel.