I’m some little bit dismayed when I come across defenders of “religion” who trumpet an attack whenever someone like you (or me) demands that “Relationship” trumps “religion”. Last time I faced this, I pointed out (uselessly?) that the battle is only one of semantics.
Generally a “religion” loving church-goer points out the (only) verse which appears to support “religion”. It’s in James where he refers to “true religion is this…”. It occurs to me that actually, that verse ought to be used to defeat the “religion is good” argument rather than defending it. After all, James says that “true religion” is taking care of the widows and orphans — and that’s not what most “churches”pitch their primary efforts towards… Most of what churches focus on (growing larger congregations, staying out of the red financially, building and maintaining physical properties, impressing on others that their’s is the only “true doctrine”, protecting religious traditions, performing “sacred” rituals or sacraments, etc. — all things that have NOTHING to do with the apostle James’ definition of “true religion”.
Commonly, I see someone people who claim that “religion” triumphs over “Relationship” go to a dictionary to “prove” their bias:
• the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods: ideas about the relationship between science and religion.
• a particular system of faith and worship.
Then the person asks, “Don’t YOU worship a personal God?” which is where I cry foul at trying to use semantics to bypass the real issue between “religion” vs. “Relationship”.
Many people, claiming to be Christians but never having personally experienced God (or Jesus Christ) for themselves, reject “Relationship” as some sort of “mystical nonsense” — something greatly inferior to an “accurate interpretation of the Scriptures”, the “faith of our Fathers”, the “Faith” worth fighting for, flawless “doctrines”, etc.… all capable of being mastered (and manipulated) within the human intellect when actually Paul rejects human intellect as being able to understand ANY Spiritual things (things able to be known only by the Presence of the Holy Spirit within any individual who is in Christ. see 1Cor 2.13f.)
Such people cringe when a Believer speaks of their “personal, intimate Relationship” with God or Jesus Christ, His Son. But they do this in ignorance of John the Evangelist’s “definition” of “life everlasting” in his gospel, chapter 17.3. He defines everlasting life as “knowing God and the One He sent” (His Son, Jesus Christ” — and the kicker is that in the original Greek, the word for “know” is *ginosko* which is defined — in contrast to intellectual or rational “knowledge” — as experiential knowledge. “Experiential” knowledge is “knowledge gained through personal experience.“
This is also the kind of “knowledge” (ginosko) that John later referred to in his first letter:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have HEARD, which we have SEEN with our EYES, which we have LOOKED AT and our HANDS have TOUCHED — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have SEEN it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you Eternal Life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.” [1Jn 1.1-3]
All of John’s terms concerning knowing Christ are ginosko — experiential knowledge. But his reference in his gospel (17.3) declares that OUR “knowing Him personally; experiencing Him” is the basis of our OWN Everlasting Life.
Basically, religion — when considered as a means (or the means) of “attaining” everlasting life — ultimately fails when divorced from *Relationship* and *experiential knowledge* of the Person, Jesus Christ.