Friday, September 30, 2005

The religion of Christianity?

[Here's the "primer" I recently mentioned (using an NAB translation). seb-/euseb-/thresk- = religion, piety, devotion; religious, pious, devout Don't let your eyes glaze over with scriptural refrences. Try to imagine the fun I had making this and make ti your own. Approach with the question, "How do I as a __________ feel and think about 'religion'?"

As always, I welcome edifying corrections, insights, questions, etc. Meanwhile, I really do need to get religion.]

Acts 3:12
When Peter saw this, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why are you amazed at this, and why do you look so intently at us as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety [eusebeia]?”

Acts 10:1-2, 4, 7
Now in Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, ... devout [eusebes] and God-fearing along with his whole household, who used to give alms [eleemosunas] generously to the Jewish people and pray to God constantly. ... [An angel] said to him, “Your prayers and almsgiving [eleemosunai] have ascended as a memorial offering to God. ... When the angel who spoke had left, he called two of his servants and a devout [eusebe] soldier from his staff....

Interestingly, because God accepts from all peoples whoever fears him and acts uprightly (i.e., work righteously = ergazomenos dikaiosunen) in 10:22, Cornelius, who was not yet a Christian, is described as righteous (dikaios), and clearly on account of his religious devotion (i.e., prayers and alms [cf. 10:4, 31]) prior to faith or baptism.

Acts 17:22
Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: “You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious [deisibaimonesterous].”

Acts 17:23
“For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines [sebasmata], I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship [eusebeite], I proclaim to you.”

Acts 26:5
“They have known about me from the start, if they are willing to testify, that I have lived my life as Pharisee, the strictest party of our religion [threskeias]. But now I am standing trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors. Our twelve tribes hope to attain to that promise as they fervently worship [latreuon] God day and night....”

Notice how Paul unites himself as a Christian to our religion, our ancestors, our tribes and the worship of our God in hope of our Savior. Cf. worship = latreian in Rom 12:1. So much for Christians claiming Jews worship a different God.

Colossians 2:18
Let no one disqualify you, delighting in self-abasement and worship [threskeia] of angels, taking his stand on vision, inflated without reason by his fleshly mind.... While they have a semblance of wisdom in rigor of devotion [ethelothreskia] and self-abasement [and] severity to the body, they are of no value against the gratification of the flesh.

2 Thessalonians 2:4
[The antichrist] opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god and object of worship [sebasma], so as to seat himself in the temple of God, claiming that he is a god....

1 Timothy 2:2, 3:16, 4:7-8, 5:4, 8, 6:6, 11
2:2 [Pray] for all kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion [eusebeia] and dignity. ... 3:16 Undeniably great is the mystery of [our] devotion [tes eusebeias].... 4:7 Avoid profane and silly myths. Train yourself for devotion [eusebeian], 4:8 for while physical training is of limited value, devotion [eusebeia] is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future. ... 5:4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let these first learn to perform their religious duty [eusebein] to their own family and to make recompense to their parents, for this is pleasing to God. ... 5:8 And whoever does not provide for relatives ... has denied [ernetai] the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. ... 6:6 Indeed, religion [eusebeia] with contentment is a great gain. ... 6:11 But you, man of God, ... pursue righteousness, devotion [eusebeian], faith, love, patience, and gentleness.

2 Timothy 3:1, 2, 5, 10-12
3:1 But understand this: there will be terrible times in the last days. 3:2 People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents [cf. 1 Tim 5:4, 8!], ungrateful, irreligious ... 3:5 as they make a pretense of religion [eusebeias] but deny its power. Reject them. ... You have followed my teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, and sufferings.... In fact, all who want to live religiously [eusebos] in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

deny = ernemenoi; cf. “denied” in 1 Tim 5:8.

Titus 1:1
Paul, a slave of God and apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones and the recognition [epignosin] of religious truth [eusebeian]....

James 1:26-27
If anyone thinks he is religious [threskos] and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion [threskeia] is in vain. Religion [threskeia] that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

2 Peter 1:3, 5-7, 2:9, 3:7, 11
1:3 His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion [eusebeian] through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. ... 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, 1:6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion [eusebeian], 1:7 devotion [eusebeia] with mutual affection [philadelphian], mutual affection with love [agapen]. ... 2:9 [The] Lord knows how to rescue the devout [eusebeis] from trial and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.... 3:7 The present heavens have been reserved by the same word [i.e., of God] for fire, kept for the day of judgment and of destruction of the godless [asebon {“religionless”} anthropon]. ... 3:11 Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, ... [conduct] yourselves in holiness and devotion [eusebeiais]....

If faith alone (sola fide) is perfect and sufficient for our salvation, how or why could we add anything to it (cf. 1 Pet 1:5)? If sola fide is sufficient, why did Paul command the Thessalonians to remedy “deficiencies” (usteremata) in their faith (cf. 1 Thes 3:10; 1 Cor 15:2)? And if we already have received faith and righteousness as divinely perfect gifts, gifts which we can never lose, how could we pursue and increase them (cf. 1 Tim 6:10, 21; 2 Tim 2:18); or, for that matter, how could some wander from, and lose, such gifts? See Heb 3:12-14, 6:4-8 (which use the same metonyms for true Christian salvation as in Heb 10:26, 29, 32; 1 Cor 6:11, 2 Cor 4:6; Eph 1:18; 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Tim 2:25) and 2 Pet 2:20-22 (which uses the same terms [esp. knowledge = epignosis] of these fallen-away Christians as the Bible does of saved Christians [see 2 Pet 1:2-4; Col 2:2-3, 3:10; 1 Tim 2:4, 5:8; 2 Tim 2:25, 3:7; Tit 1:1-2]).

In his first letter, Peter expresses the same urgency about our efforts in holiness: “Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy because I [am] holy.’ Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works [ergon], conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your [earthly] sojourning, realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct...” (1 Peter 1:13-18). For the same idea – of the ultimate importance of our holy or unholy efforts/works – see Ezk 18:20-24; Mth 6:14-15, 7:13-23, 16:27, 18:26-27, 32-35; Lk 8:11-15, 13:6-9; Jn 15:1-2, 5-10; Ac 10:34-35; Rom 6:11-13, 16-19, 8:12-17, 11:19-22; 1 Cor 9:23-10:13, 15:2; 2 Cor 5:9-10; Gal 5:16-23, 6:7-10; Col 3:23-25; 1 Tim 6:11-13, 18-19; 2 Tim 2:15-22; Tit 3:8 [kalon ergoon = good works]; Heb 10:26-31, 12:14-17; Jam 2:1, 12-26; Rev 2:5, 19, 23, 3:2, 8, 15-19, 20:12-13, 22:12.

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