We don’t often see that term used in reference to the Christian religion, but it was once fairly common. An Internet dictionary defines Christianism as the set of tenets held by all Christians. I would that it were true.
You’ll find that in this blog I regularly pan religious Christianity. Unlike many who hate any reference to God or the supernatural, I’m quite selective in my irreverence, loving the Christ of Christianism, but hating what Christians have made it. Oh, I attend a Christian fellowship, and love the folks I’ve come to know there, but my worship and devotion to Christ doesn’t depend on them, or their religious practices and traditions. I am a member of Christ’s body, but not of any religious institution.
You could say Christianity was instituted by Christ, and is thus a valid religious institution. But would you be correct? What exactly did Christ institute? To avoid “words of Christ only” nitpicking, I’ll refer only to the New Testament’s “red” words.
One major Christian denomination claims to be the only religion instituted by Christ, based on Matthew 16:18-19. Yet, as with all religions that make rash claims, their Scriptural exegesis goes only as deep as their chosen translation’s language. Instead of taking their claims at face value, let’s look at the Bible’s standard of judgment:
Speaking to the religious leaders as recorded in Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, … you will recognize them by their fruits. … A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. … Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Historic Christendom has done many great things, but it is also responsible for the Crusades and the religious inquisitions, where millions were forced to convert, or face dire consequences.
Next, in Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus focuses on those who will try to offer him their religious works, but of course, he will see right through them. “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” So, even “good” works can be evil in his sight if they aren’t based on God’s Word.
Then Jesus spoke of the house built upon the rock, as recorded in Matthew 7:24-27. The wise man used the same building materials as the foolish man, but built his house on the rock of Jesus’ words, listened to and applied to his life. Simply apply this parable to Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 16, and we can see that the rock upon which Jesus built his church was the rock of his words, and not just one man named Peter.
I’ve just dealt with the tip of the denominational iceberg here, not trying to debunk all false, Christian religion, but using these examples to illustrate the spirit of presumption that stains so much of Christianism. There are faithful Christ-followers in most “Christian” denominations and sects, who are serving as salt and light where they are, rather than seeking out religious perfection. My point here is that there is no such thing as religious perfection, and devotion to God must go to the source, the Lord Jesus Christ.