|Hey take a few minutes to read the article below. It is an interview with Bruxy Cavey who is the Head Pastor at my church the Meeting House. He has written a book which I would be happy to lend out to any of you that would like to read it. The article touches on and summarizes everything that I agree with and believe and try to so passionately communicate when talking with you about what I know to be true.
Original article found here.
Bruxy Cavey is the Teaching Pastor of The Meeting House–a church for people who aren’t into church. This multi-site community in the Greater Toronto area shares the same teaching and vision: To create safe places for spiritual seekers to ask questions and develop thoughtful faith. In his new book, The End of Religion: Encountering the Subversive Spirituality of Jesus (Navpress), Cavey explains why religion is unnecessary in light of the "irreligious message of Jesus."
What brought you to write, The End of Religion? I became convinced that one thing Christians and non-Christians have in common is a lack of understanding of the explosive nature of the Gospel. If Jesus is in some way God coming to us and offering forgiveness and reconciliation then religion is redundant as a way to God. In the Bible we see this play out within a first-century Jewish context, but the lesson is transferable to all times and all religions. With that as a starting point, I wanted to offer a book that could be a meeting place for people of all spiritual backgrounds to (re)investigate the message and mission of Jesus together.
In the book, you note the distinction between Christian faith and Christian religion, what is the difference? I understand that language is fluid and meanings can shift from generation to generation, culture to culture, person to person. I’m using the word religion to refer to any system of salvation. Religion keeps the system, the organization or the institution in the middle of the mix. Jesus claims to replace religion with Himself. The message is radical, subversive and irreligious by nature. Jesus says “trust me on this”–and that is faith. Christ-followers are under no obligation to use the word religion to describe what Jesus came to establish. Jesus never uses the word, but instead puts the emphasis on faith. It means to put trust in someone. Yes, trust in a person is always risky. Relationship is always a leap of sorts–but it need not be a blind one. We should always run the ramp of reason before taking the leap of faith.
Jesus is clearly a philosophical evidentialist when it comes to faith, providing evidence as needed (such as Matthew 9:6, John 20:24-28) and encouraging those with questions to assess the evidence to make their own minds up (Matthew 11:1-6). James, the brother of Jesus, says that the only religion God cares about is showing active compassion in word and deed rather than following in the way of the world (James 1:26-27). Where is the system of rules, rituals and institutions that we usually associate with religion? I think this is why John Wesley said, “What religion do I preach? The religion of love.”
Today, the North American Church in general, seems very interested in books that outline a certain number of steps to becoming a better Christian, or claiming the fact that we "prayed the prayer" as our guaranteed ticket to Heaven. Do you believe predictable methods to know God are readily embraced in order to avoid the vulnerability and risk often experienced in relationships–especially a relationship with God? Well said. I’m with you on this point. Westerners are comfortable being systems managers. If we couple this with our human tendency to deify form over substance, we can see the root of the problem clearly. People often bond emotionally with structure over substance, form over faith. We emotionally bond with the ways, traditions, organizations, denominations through which we have met God personally in the past and become evangelists for those ways rather than for the one who is the Way.
Does religion's inability to quench spiritual thirst account for the many who consider themselves spiritual but want nothing to do with organized religion? Yes, there is a huge demographic of people who are frustrated with the Christian religion, yet who also remain open to Christ. Some of them are Christ-followers while others are holding back from following Jesus because of their anger, frustration and/or just boredom with the Christian religion. I wrote The End of Religion for them.
I think one reason why the new atheist authors are so popular is because atheism has become the trendy way of giving religion (and the God of religion) the finger. Their motivating logic runs roughly along these lines: “Religion tends to increase rather than decrease bigotry, violence and judgementalism. Therefore, belief in God is dangerous.” I want to agree with the premise, but challenge the conclusion. I would say yes, religion tends to fan the flames of bigotry, violence and judgementalism. Therefore, if there is a good God, we should expect Him to stand against religion. And that is exactly what we see in the biblical Jesus.
How did Jesus stand against religion? The examples of Jesus challenging the religious system of His day are woven all through the Gospels. Take His first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding. We often miss the real scandal behind the miracle (perhaps because we’re too involved in discussions that focus on whether the wine was alcoholic or grape juice). Even though there must have been lots of empty wine containers available to use for the miracle juice, John records that Jesus has the stewards serve the wine out of the six stone jars set aside for Jewish religious cleansing rituals. Think of the scandal this deliberate offence would cause. What a way to launch His messianic career. With His first miracle Jesus intentionally went out of His way to desecrate a religious icon.
In my book, I walk through the Gospel accounts pointing out the ways Jesus intentionally called people to faith while simultaneously helping undo the knots that bound them to empty tradition. I divide the numerous examples into five categories of confrontation: Torah, tradition, territory, tribe and temple. By offering God’s forgiveness to people, Jesus was bypassing the temple sacrificial system of His day. He was acting as though He was able to offer everything directly that people otherwise needed the religious system to experience. He was bringing about, one might say, the end of religion.
Bruxy Cavey lives in Hamilton, Ontario with his wife, Nina and three daughters, Chelsea, Chanelle and Maya, along with their dog Toby.