Have you ever wondered why religions try and convert people? It’s not just religion, nearly every institution known to man strives to assimilate us into it’s fold. The subtext is that we are somehow deficient, broken, or lost without institutional control. One of the longest standing and most successful lies in history has been that we need a king (institution) to rule over (govern) us (1 Samuel 8:4).
Now imagine the scandal of a spiritual teacher who claims that we don’t need a religion, or a process, or a theological framework to somehow put things right with God. What if that scandalous idea even said there wasn’t anything any of us could do to put things right, because it was already done for us? What if the only gap between humanity and God is the delusion in our thinking that a gap actually exists? We call this gap unbelief, because we can’t believe the news is just that good.
I can hear them now: “There’s no way God has put things right with those people.”
Such a scandal would be really Good News for non-religious people, but the no strings attached part makes it unbelievable. This scandal completely subverts institutional power plays and so its even harder for religious people to believe it. The truly devout call it heresy or cheap grace. Two thousand years later the scandal, known as the Gospel, is still a stumbling block for both religious and non-religious alike.
For most modern people, it remains a stumbling block because the Gospel offered by modern, so-called Christianity is not the “no-strings attached” kind. As a result people stumble over the sub-text of God only loving some people.
I’m starting this year with a fresh set of eyes on the book of Galatians. This book unpacks the scandal described above. I will prove that the Gospel Paul is promoting is NOT the gospel modern churchianity is offering. My goal is to teach this book as though Paul is teaching it to the modern marketplace of ideas. The first thing he would say is that putting things right (justification/ dikaiōw) doesn’t happen through institutionalized religion (Galatians 2:16). This exposes the real reason why religion is trying to convert people.
Let that sink in. Really sink in…
If you are not a religious person, can I ask you to not dismiss this series simply because you’ve concluded you don’t need the bible for your spirituality? Maybe you have a knee-jerk reaction to bible stuff because you, like many others, are a victim of religious power plays and cruelty. If so, I can show you how something so unbelievable has already put everything right in your own life, and you didn’t have to subscribe to a religion in order to experience it.
If you come from a strict religious background or a tradition that has established a litmus test for innies and outies, can I invite you to not dismiss these conclusions until I’ve had a chance to open up the texts from the vantage point in which they were written? If so, I believe by putting things right, you can regain the power and scandal of the gospel and experience the freedom that is behind Paul’s writing in this book.
The stage is set. The scandal is laid out, and next week both religious and nonreligious people will have the chance to see beyond everything.