This originally appeared here in June, 2008 under the title “Extra=Biblical Christianity.” Jeff McQuilkin of Tulsa, Oklahoma blogs at Losing My Religion. Here, literally ripped from his own website, is today’s post.
Have you ever stopped to think about how much we say/do in Christianity that is not found anywhere in the Bible?
Not saying all of it is bad–I have mentioned in previous posts that I feel the Bible purposefully gives us a lot of latitude in how to “do church”. So just because something isn’t in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s wrong. But what is kind of interesting–and a bit funny, even–is when we treat our extra-Biblical stuff as sacred, as if it were in the Bible. Things we’re so attached to that we wouldn’t feel like it was “church” or “Christian” if it weren’t there.
Far from being a comprehensive list–below are just a few examples of what I’m talking about. And again–I’m not saying these are right or wrong. Extra-biblical doesn’t mean anti-biblical. So if it works–keep it. :) Just thought it might be fun to take a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the stuff we might take for granted. So…here we go…
- The term “personal relationship with Christ”. Are you surprised that this is not in the Bible? (Not messing with good theology here–not saying there is no such thing, or that you shouldn’t have a personal relationship with Christ–just saying this isn’t how the early believers would have referred to it.)
- “Going to church”. In the Bible, the people are the church. (How do you go to yourself? You’d have to be schizophrenic or something…) The church “assembled together”, but people didn’t think of it as “going to church.”
- Revival. (Also related phrases like “move of God”.) These days, many Christians live from revival to revival, chasing after the next “wave” or the next “move of God.” There are many examples of “outpourings” of God’s Spirit in the Bible (Pentecost being probably the most well-known), but “revival” isn’t a word any early believer would have used. In their minds, the supernatural was normative, and the focus was on following Christ, not manifestations. (The word “revive” means to bring back to life; so if you have to have a revival, it suggests something was wrong to begin with.)
- Meeting in a designated building. This didn’t happen until the church was several hundred years old–before that, most meetings were held in people’s homes. Yet there are many people today who don’t feel like they’ve “been to church” if the meeting is held in someone’s home.
- “The Sinner’s Prayer.” This term didn’t come around until the 19th century. There is a strong principle of genuine conversion in Scripture, but the idea of leading someone to Christ by leading them in prayer is a very new concept.
Then, of course, there is the Christian-ese lingo we use, where lots of those terms are found in the Bible, but we’ve lost the depths of meaning by making them into catch-phrases…things like “anointed”, “blessed”, “hallelujah”, “glory”…things like that. In this case, we’re talking according to the Bible, but our usage of the words lessens the value.
So what else do we Christians say or do that’s not in the Bible?