“The Life of Religion”

I have always loved reading the histories of local churches: they record the joys and triumphs, struggles and challenges of believers whose names are not recorded in the story of the Great Tradition of the Church, but whose names are written on the hands of the Crucified One and inscribed in that great Book of the Blood-bought brothers and sisters of the Lamb. Quite recently I was given a copy of the history of St. George Baptist Church, St. George, Ontario: 150 Years: St. George Baptist Church, 1824-1974 ([St. George, Ontario]: [St. George Baptist Church, 1974]). My attention was drawn to a statement of faith at the beginning of the book (p.3) and this clause: “The life of Religion consisteth in Communion with God and Christians.”

There are some today who find this incongruous since they have erected a linguistic distinction between religion—which is a bad thing—and “communion” with God or relationship—which is a good thing. For some, they are like east and west: the twain shall never meet. Such a view finds these words of the St. George statement of faith utterly contradictory: by definition, religion can never entail relationship.

Of course, at a fundamental level the problem here is the failure to understand language as it has been used in the past. But is there more? Does such a view as outlined above assume that the Christian message is only about relationship? If so, is there not more? If the heart of Christianity is communion—is it not the case that this communion/relationship is expressed in times of formal and informal worship? Does it not involve catechism and creed? In other words: the Christian religion is the inevitable result of Christian relationship and those Baptist forebears of St. George were on to something us moderns (or should I say post-moderns?) need to embrace.