You say you are a "Christian". Does God agree? ...

What is your religion?

The 2001 Census in Britain poses the question "What is your religion?" Many will respond "Church of England" - the standard reply when most British citizens are asked the question in hospital. But it could also be Roman Catholic or Baptist or Buddhist or Muslim or Hindu. There's an amazing variety of faiths in our world. It's been said that all of us have a `religious bone' in us! Even `atheists'!

It doesn't take all that long to identify someone's religious claims. You can tell a person's religion by their religious behavior. They worship on Friday, observes Ramadan, hope to attain Paradise, pray towards Mecca - clearly Muslim. Or they attend synagogue on Saturday, fast on Yom Kippur, wear a skull-cap and possibly have beards and large black hats - Jewish. Or they wear saffron robes, ring bells, shave their heads - Hari Krishnan. Then there are the people who attend church on Sunday, observe Christmas and Easter, hope to go Heaven - Christian. But stop! There are Christians and Christians!

Christianity Divided

Most citizens of the Western world are, at least nominally, Christian. Most of those who make a profession of Christianity vary little from one another on the surface - church on Sunday, same festivals, belief in the New Testament. Of course, scratch the surface of Christianity and you unearth a kaleidoscope of beliefs. Whatever doctrines or practices a Christian professes, there will be other Christians who disagree. But, in general, all Christians are as readily discernable from Hindus and Muslims and other faith systems, as these are from one another.

Such differences within Christianity arise through varied interpretations of the text of the Scriptures. Added to this is the practice of mixing in `tradition and reason' - adding to the teachings of those same Scriptures under the guise of `guidance by the Spirit' or of church tradition.

However, here's something curious.

Christianity - and Christianity

Take those two identifying planks of Christianity - Sunday worship and the observance of festivals: Lent, Easter, Saint's Days, All Hallows, Christmas, Epiphany and others. Not a one of these is to be found in the New Testament! Now that has to be something of a worry, in view of such teachings as: "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2). That's what Paul taught. Then there's Jude: "...contend for the faith that was once entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3). No additions, please!

If Paul or any of the first Christians were to rise among us they would indeed recognize modern Christianity. But they would not recognize it - even superficially - as the faith they had been taught, or followed, or at times gave their lives to defend! Yes - the words Christians use are often still the same: sin, redemption, justification, Jesus, Sabbath, Holy Spirit, repentance, Gospel. The same words but now they have different meanings. In fact, Christianity has become a different religion.

Didn't the apostle Paul warn his hearers to beware of `a different gospel' (Galatians 1:8-9)? And didn't he warn about `another Jesus' and `another Spirit' (2 Corinthians 11:4)?

Modern Christianity, in contrast to `the faith once entrusted to the saints', is simply a hybrid version of the faith the first Gentile Christians had abandoned in order to follow Jesus Christ.

Christmas? Well, one of the festivals the Christian converts supposedly left behind was in late December (Saturnalia). It had gift-giving and evergreen trees and candles and special temple services - and a surfeit of food and drink.

Sunday observance? That was an astrological superstition indulged in by the pagans, and a big thing in Roman religion. They supposedly quit that, too, to become Christian.

Lent and Easter? That was the festival dedicated to Tammuz and to Astarte, ancient `heroes' who were worshipped as divinities.

Then there's All Souls, a remembrance of all those who had passed on to heaven. Except that was what the pagans believed. The first Christians knew that heaven - or hell - was not what happens when you die. Virtually the whole world - except for true followers of the teachings of Jesus-believed in an `immortal soul'. And still do. That was Satan's original lie: "You shall not surely die" (Genesis 3:4).

What passes for the Christianity in the twenty-first century bears only superficial resemblance to the true faith of the Bible, but a lot of similarities to ancient pagan religions.

It's for all our readers to 'examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith" (2 Corinthians 13:5).

To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.

For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Vol. 5 No. 2, March-April, 2001. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.

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