Is Truth in Religion?

by J. D. Watson

Based upon Ephesians 1:13-"In whom ye also trusted, after ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation"-we ask again: where is Truth? Two of the greatest claims to discovering Truth are made by science and philosophy, but religion is another strong contender.

In a very real sense, what we've observed regarding philosophy applies equally to religion, for religion is nothing more than philosophy. Webster defines "religion" as "a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices."

Of course, in a sense biblical Christianity is a religion. The Puritans, for example, often referred to it as religion. But it's interesting that in the five verses where the word "religion" appears in the New Testament, it is always qualified by a modifier. Speaking as a Pharisee, Paul refers to "our religion" in Acts 26:5-that is, the works-oriented religion that Judaism had become. He does so again in Galatians 1:13-14, where he uses the term "the Jew's religion." James uses two modifiers, calling one religion "man's religion" and the other "pure religion" (James 1:26,27).

So there is a difference between "religion" per se and "pure religion." The word "pure" (kathars) means that which is genuine, or that which is free from any improper mixture. Biblical Christianity is, therefore, the genuine article, in contrast to just religion. "Religion," therefore, is false religion, in contrast to biblical Christianity.

Consequently, when one examines religion, he finds that from Cain, through the pagan cults, and right up to today's countless religions, every one of them has its own belief system, philosophy, and view of Truth. Every religion is simply man's works-oriented way of getting to God (or enlightenment, nirvana, or whatever). Like philosophy, religion is invention, not revelation. Religion is not Truth.

Perhaps the best example is Judaism. After all, if any "religion" could be called Truth, it would surely be Judaism. God Himself gave the Law, instituted the sacrificial system, and established Temple worship. But the Jews totally perverted all of it and turned it into just another works system. Throughout their history, especially during the Babylonian Exile and the Intertestamental Period, they added thousands of man-made traditions to God's law and made them equal to God's law. The rabbis searched Scripture to find various commands and regulations and then added supplemental requirements. As our Lord declared to the scribes and Pharisees, "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition" (Matt. 15:6).

Just one example of many we could give was the command not to work on the Sabbath. To that law they added the idea that carrying a burden was a form of work, but then they had to answer the question, "What constitutes a burden?" After much discussion, they decided that a burden would be defined as food equal to the weight of a fig, enough wine for mixing in a goblet, milk enough for one swallow, honey enough to put on a wound, oil enough to anoint a small member of the body, water enough to moisten eye salve, paper enough to write a customs house notice, ink enough to write two letters of the alphabet, reed enough to make a pen, and so on. To carry anything more than those prescribed amounts on the Sabbath was to break the law.

But even such a list could not answer every situation, so a lot of time was spent arguing about such things as if a tailor who went out on the Sabbath with a needle stuck in his robe, or if moving a lamp from one place in a room to another, or if wearing an artificial leg, or if using a crutch, or if a parent lifted a child, or if a doctor healed a patient on the Sabbath was considered carrying a burden and therefore sinful.

Such meaningless works and outward ritual have been repeated millions of times, throughout thousands of years, by hundreds of religions. And religion is all it is, just man-made tradition. And Truth is always forced to give way to religious tradition.

The complete study ("The Truth About the Truth") on which these installments are based, is available online at www.TheScriptureAlone.com. A 36-page booklet is also available free of charge (Sola Scriptura Ministries; PO Box 235; Meeker, CO; 81641). The booklet includes the plan of salvation and can be used as a witnessing tool ($1.00 per copy in any quantity).

 

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