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I Want a Divorce! Jesus vs. Religion

Like all divorces, this one is going to be messy.

You’re the judge, so try sorting this out: The complainant files papers saying she’s trapped in a loveless marriage. There’s neglect and even some abuse. The complainant wants full custody of the kid and certain rights and privileges to the house and the bank accounts — none of which would exist if the plaintiff hadn’t built them in the first place.

This is roughly where we sit as people try to divorce Jesus from religion.

The complainant is the solitary Christian, burned out and disenchanted with religion, which the Christian accuses of abandonment. This Christian wants total custody of Jesus, no strings attached, and rights to handle marital assets like doctrine, Scripture, and the sacraments any way desired.

But this is where it gets messy. Divorcing Jesus from religion is harder than it looks.

Jesus established (or depending on your perspective, reformed) religion.

It’s hard to see him as an enemy of (or even disinterested in) religion when he taught doctrines, interpreted Scripture, instructed his disciples to pray, appointed leaders within his movement, instituted ritual sacraments like communion and baptism, allowed his followers to call him rabbi (“teacher”), and said things his followers wrote down and revered as Scripture. Sounds pretty religious to me.

Alright, what if we only go that far? What if we allow that Jesus embodied and taught something we might begrudgingly call religion? Shouldn’t we be able to separate that from “institutional” religion?

Maybe we need to amend the complaint and divorce Jesus from the church.

I’m afraid that’s just as messy.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, his apostles assumed control of…what?

The New Testament writings assume an institutional church. The apostles clearly exercise authority.

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