Is the End of Religion What We Should Be into ?

In the nineteenth century books with titles like The End of Religion were written by those deeply antagonistic to Christianity as a worldview—men like Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872). Today, such books are being written by professing Christians. According to one blog entitled Jesus and the End of Religion the authors have a “deep conviction that Christianity as a religion has got way off track from the spiritually-radical, anti-religious message of Jesus” and that “Jesus did not intend to establish a new religion, Christianity. Instead he showed us a new way to approach God and others. Unfortunately, however, his simple message was quickly institutionalized. Despite its many adherents, the Christian religion has lost its way and is viewed negatively by much of the world because of its history and current distortions. In the spirit of Jesus’ message, it’s time for religion (especially Christianity) to die, and for the resurrection of new faith and life.” There is little doubt that Christian faith communities are not always what they should be, but these statements basically write off the entire history of the Church! Can one read such statements and not see a reading of the second century and later through the old liberal historical paradigm of the development of the early church—charismatic and free and no institutional leaders up to the mid-first century as opposed to the second-century church with restrictions and rules and bishops and increasingly less freedom—nascent Catholicism? The problem with the paradigm is that it simply does not fit historically. Moreover, it puts you in the horrifying position of agreeing partly with the analysis of people like the followers of Herbert W. Armstrong who assert that for nineteen centuries the church had lost her way until Herbie came along! And it is all too easy to junk the entire past—how many times have Christians tried to do that from some radical Anabaptist types to various charismatic sorts in the Puritan and Enlightenment eras—and start over. But we cannot start over completely new, for the simple reason that the past is not so easily shaken off! To think otherwise, is sheer historical naïveté.