Talk debates religion vs. faith

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Chapel speaker Jeff Bethke spurs students’ attention Sept. 10 and 12 with the Christian challenge that believers in Jesus call the Great
Commission found in Matthew 28: 19-20 — “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”

Jeff Bethke, creator of the controversial “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus” YouTube video, told the California Baptist University community in chapel Sept. 10 and 12 that as a Christian school, CBU has an obligation to make a difference in its community.

Bethke noted that if it only took 12 disciples to change the world, a school of more than 6,000 should be capable of making a huge impact.

He challenged students to invest in at least one person throughout their years at CBU. He said that if the students and staff cannot do that, why would CBU call itself a Christian university?

Some students walked away from the chapel presentation still contemplating how Bethke distinguishes religion and faith.

“We definitely need to live in a way that lives in God’s grace. I guess the world views religion as how to get to God but they see it through works,” Elizabeth S. Johnson, sophomore English major, said.

When Johnson originally saw the video, she said she was confused because she thought that Christianity technically was a religion.

Johnson said she now agrees with Bethke, because hearing him speak at chapel made her understand his point more: That working to get to heaven (his definition of religion) won’t save you; rather, salvation is through faith alone.

Some, like Sarah M. Swanson, freshman graphic design major, did not quite know what to think of the YouTube video.

However, she said she did agree that people should not just know that a person is a Christian by his or her Facebook status but by how that person acts out his or her faith.

Others completely agree with Bethke.

“I totally agree with what he said,” said Raymond H. Epps, freshman applied theology major. “To most believers it should be apparent that God hates religion; he didn’t design religion and that’s a part of what (Bethke) says.”

Both Dr. Fyne Nsofor, associate professor of intercultural studies, and Jared Dobbins, assistant director of Mobilization, agreed that faith and religion are different.

Nsofor explained that religion is “often associated with a body of institutionalized myths and beliefs, rituals and symbols.”

He added that there are two types of religions — “official/ formal” and “folk” — but “most practitioners of any religion live out their religious lives at the folk level.”

However, Nsofor described faith as “personal/individualistic” whereas religion is more “institutional/communitarian.”

Dobbins referred to Matthew 23:27 where Jesus tells the Pharisees that they are like tombs that only look good on the outside but are filled with dead people’s bones and uncleanness inside to illustrate that religion means nothing without faith.

In his video and lectures, Bethke describes faith and religion as totally separate because as he said in his video, “Religion says do; Jesus says done. Religion says slave; Jesus says son. Religion puts you in shackles, but Jesus sets you free. Religion makes you blind, but Jesus lets you see.”

Bethke said that Christian schools are big on fake Christianity because they like to change all the rules of the game so that they will want to play, metaphorically speaking, and end up perverting God instead.

He said it is “moralistic infinite deism” and morphing Christianity, morphing God; it is idolatry.

He said he believes that God saves a person, not religion; Jesus died on the cross for people, not religion, not “behavior modification.” Jesus saves people.

Bethke said religion often ridicules God’s people but Jesus is about love, salvation, and being made new in Him.

“The church should not be a museum for good people; it’s a hospital for the broken,” Bethke said. He explained that the church is not “museum for good people” because God already loves people, with all their flaws included.

Bethke spoke about the Luke 15 parable of the “Prodigal Son,” in which the son asks for his inheritance and leaves home, but comes back having ruined everything.

Bethke reminded the audience of Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

About Sarah Schopick

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