Difference Between Faith and Religion

What People Don't Get

What is faith? How do you personally define it? Also, what is your idea of religion? 

Are these concepts the same? If so, what do you think are their common denominators? Otherwise, what creates the difference between faith and religion? 

The difference between faith and religion is a very debatable topic, right? Theologians, scholars, and historians try to come up with a common understanding. Also, economists conduct statistical research to prove if there is a difference between faith and religion. 

For instance, The Economist YouTube Channel compares religious affiliation and spirituality. One of its videos discusses the roles of religion and faith in today’s time.  

From the observation, the religious profile of the world is continuously changing. However, it does not necessarily change the level of faith. Even if religious affiliation in some areas is gradually declining, spirituality stays the same.  

In a sense, we can say that there is a difference between faith and religion. But coming to think of it, these two concepts are closely related. We sometimes interchange them.  

However, they are not mutually dependent on one another. In other words, they can affect but not necessarily dictate each other’s behavior.

bible

How Do We Understand Faith?

Before we determine the difference between faith and religion, it is essential to define them first. Let us take faith first. It has several definitions and implications.

What the BIBLE Says

Hebrews 11:1 is one of the Bible verses that best define faith. Specifically, it is the assurance of the things to which we are looking forward. Also, it is the conviction of things we have not seen yet.  

Therefore, faith is having unconditional confidence or belief in something or someone. It does not require witnessing first before believing. That is, the knowledge of the entity alone is enough of itself. It leaves no room for any doubt. 

Moreover, faith is essential to salvation. John 3:16 promises that if we believe in God, we will have eternal life. It is our response to Him, Who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. 

 Without faith, it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11:16 states. John 8:24 says that one will die in sin if he does not believe in Him.

 To whoever believes, there is a reward of salvation and eternity. According to John 7:38, “rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  

Now, how can we have faith? Romans 10:17 states that faith comes from hearing the Word of God. By obtaining faith for ourselves, our lives change. By sharing it with others, we inspire them as well. 

With these definitions, how do we draw the difference between faith and religion now?

According to Some of the Leading Theologians and Evangelists of the Church

Doug Batchelor

In one of his sermons, he explains that faith is “believing what is unseen.” In this process, an individual claims God’s promises to the test.

Ptr Bachelor

Suppose your father obtained a critical health condition. You were expecting that in a few months, he would recover. However, it got even worse. Hence, the length of hospital confinement extended to almost a year. 

Seeing no sign of development, you were already feeling hopeless. You’ve done everything by asking for help from your relatives and friends. However, it couldn’t make the situation any better until you realized something. 

One time, you happened to browse through the Bible and jumped on Matthew 17:20. You read that faith can move mountains. Though it is as small as a mustard seed, it grows if it is on God.

 Eventually, you spent the following days praying harder. Reading God’s Word every day, your faith strengthened. Soon, you saw signs of recovery from your father. After some more days, the doctors finally discharged him from the hospital. 

Indeed, faith can move mountains. Now, are you seeing the bigger picture? Is the difference between faith and religion making sense?

Mark Finley

Last February 3, Finley preached about Jacob’s ladder. He mentions that faith means a deeper trust, dependence, and confidence. It prepares an individual “to go through the time of Jacob’s trouble.” 

Jacob’s trouble? What is this? What does it have to do with the difference between faith and religion? 

The time of Jacob’s trouble is a quoted phrase from Jeremiah 30:7. The verse describes it as a great day like no other.  

It begins when Christ ceases His work as the mediator on our behalf. The Holy Spirit also withdraws His power from the earth. Then, God will decide on the case of every man. As such, there will be no more atonement for our sins. It leads to the end time before the second coming. 

However, what Finley is pointing out here is our need for faith. It must be strong enough to surpass this tribulation that is coming near.  

As we can see, it is not about religion anymore. Our religious affiliation won’t save us as much as the light that we receive. Instead, it is our trust in God that matters now. 

So again, are you now seeing the difference between faith and religion?

Faith in a Tangible Sense

There are several facts about faith. We can cite biblical events, historical accounts, and personal testimony. However, let us make it simple.

Suppose you are riding on an airplane. How much do you trust the pilot? How sure are you that he will take care of everyone on the plane? Also, how likely are you to arrive safely at your destination? Upon arrival, how do you expect that your luggage will be there waiting for you?

It is faith indeed!

What about riding on an expressway? Suppose you are the driver this time. Do you have faith that the brakes will work when you need to stop?

Again, it is faith that works here. Hence, can you see the difference between faith and religion?

what is religion

What is Religion?

What We Know

Generally, we define religion as a system of faith and worship. That is, it is a set of beliefs a group of people is upholding. It reflects a worldview that manifests in the development of cultures and traditions.  

For example, the religion of Confucianism emphasizes the social well-being of a person. Thus, standard practices involve maintaining social anarchy and cohesion. 

In another context, religion means belief in a superhuman power. This superhuman entity maybe God or a deity. As an example, the religion of Christianity believes in the divine Creator of heaven and earth. 

Now, can you distinguish the difference between faith and religion?

According to Some of the Leading Theologians and Evangelists of the Church

Ted Wilson

Last January 15, Ted Wilson rendered a sermon about religion, explicitly concerning religious liberty.

As the topic applies to any religious denomination, he defined religion in a broad view. Specifically, it is the right to express one’s faith according to his conscience.  

In other words, it is a privilege to exercise an individual’s beliefs and convictions. In the case of Christians in India, this is very important as they experience persecution. 

Going back, Wilson has another definition. Specifically, religion is “God and the amazing connection we have with Him as human beings.” It is a way of serving Him as the Creator. Hence, the focus is on Him and the kingdom of heaven. 

From here, the difference between faith and religion is getting more apparent.

Ingram Jones

Jones defined religion as a “place of rest” and a “safe house.” It is where an individual finds understanding from people of the same conviction.  

These people usually go through similar troubles. Hence, they come “together in a congregation” with inspiration from their leader. By this, they prepare “to go out and fight on the front lines.”

This idea makes the difference between faith and religion more evident.

Major Religions in the World

Hinduism

Existing for four thousand years now, Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion. Also, it is third among the largest denominations. It has over one billion followers. 

Originating from Egypt and Mesopotamia, these are some of its beliefs and doctrines:

  1. Samsara – a repetitive cycle of life, death, and reincarnation 
  2. Karma – universal law of cause and effect
  3. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – three forms of incarnation
  4. Dharma – principles of right living

Buddhism

With Siddharta Gautama as its founder, Buddhism began in India. Currently, this religion is about 2 500 years old. It has more than 400 million believers worldwide. 

Buddhists uphold these four noble truths:

  1. “Life is suffering.”
  2. “Suffering arises from attachment to desires.”
  3. “Suffering ceases when attachment to desires ceases.”
  4. “Freedom from suffering is possible by following the middle way.”

Also, they give importance to enlightenment. It is the perfect state of happiness, inner peace, and wisdom. To attain this, they have to undergo self-denial.

Confucianism

As the name implies, Confucianism is a religion by Confucius. It once became the official religion of the Chinese. However, the communist government discouraged and banned it. 

The following are three of its beliefs:

  1. Silver rule of behavior: treating others the way you want them to treat you
  2. Five virtues: empathy, stewardship, right conduct, wisdom, and faithfulness

Five relationships: father and son, ruler and citizen, husband and wife, older and younger brothers, and two friends

Taoism

Taoism is another religion originating from China with its founder, Laozi. People consider it the counterpart of Confucianism. 

These are four of its teachings:

  1. Simplicity, patience, and compassion
  2. Going with the flow rather than fighting against the nature of life
  3. Letting go of anything because things change
  4. Harmony and balance of things to make a whole

Like the previous religions we mentioned, Taoism does not emphasize faith. Hence, we can see a difference between faith and religion.

Judaism

Judaism is the system of faith by the Jews. Its establishment was after the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt in the 13th century BC. 

Similar to Christianity, Judaism is monotheistic, meaning it believes in one God. As such, Jews value their relationship with Him. 

Also, this religion follows the Ten Commandments as the written law of life. It comprises love for God and love for men.  

Besides, it believes in the Trinity or what they call Godhead. It consists of God the Son, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit.

Islam

Islam is the religion of the Muslims. Its name means peace and submission. 

Allah is what Muslims call their God. His messenger is Prophet Muhammad, whose teachings are the basis of the Muslim faith. 

Qur’an is their sacred Scriptures. From this book, they uphold these principles and practices:

  1. Loyalty to Allah and Muhammad
  2. Daily prayer
  3. Helping those in poverty
  4. Fasting as a spiritual practice
  5. Pilgrimage to the holy center of Mecca

Christianity

With more than two billion believers worldwide, Christianity is the largest religion today. It originated with Jesus of Nazareth 2000 years ago. 

This religion is much like Judaism. For instance, it is monotheistic, believing only in one God. He comes in three persons being the Son, Father, and Holy Ghost. Also, they uphold the Ten Commandments. Finally, the Bible is its sacred text. 

Christianity also teaches about faith as a prerequisite to salvation. That is, a Christian cannot please God unless he trusts in Him completely. It results in obedience to Him. Only by this can he enter heaven. 

Notice that faith is just one of the teachings of this church. Hence, we can say that there is a difference between faith and religion.

What We need to understand between faith and religion

What We Need to Understand Between Faith and Religion

The difference between faith and religion can find its best answer by gathering all religious denominations. We can imagine endless debates because of diversity in belief. Worst, it may end up in a fight due to unfounded individual ego. For instance, one claims better than the other.  

However, if the discussion is exclusive to commonalities in belief, we can visualize unity and harmony. 

Everyone would agree that God, a powerful supreme Being, exists for humanity’s endless needs and complaints. Peace and love should reign in every heart. Besides, helping and caring for one another is humanity’s responsibility.  

A deeper understanding of the difference between faith and religion directs us to the common denominator. It is a belief in God.  

There is Trinity (Christians), singularity (Jews and Islam), or plurality (Hindus and ancient Greeks). However, belief in God is the fundamental element of all faith and religion.  

Many secular studies point to people’s dependence on God regardless of differences in faith and religion.

For Christians, the Bible is the most reliable reference in the study of God’s Word. 

It is in God where all faiths and religions originate. Despite the differences in doctrine or interpretation, the fact remains. That is to believe in God. 

If belief in God is the goal, why is there a difference between faith and religion? Is one prerequisite over the other? Are both equal in spiritual weight? 

Hence, we need to understand the difference between faith and religion. Let us analyze how they relate and differ.

How Do They Relate?

Religion is the church and the services during worship. Faith is what drives you to go to church and how well you participate in its programs.  

In the context of Christianity, there is no difference between faith and religion. Proof? Jesus Christ’s ministry! 

Specifically, the purpose of Jesus’ ministry was to save and seek the lost. It is from Matthew 6:18, the cornerstone of the legitimate and genuine Christian religion. Salvation is through faith in God (Ephesians 2:8-9).  

Besides, it was the mission He had appointed to His disciples. To gather the saved and protect them from sin, God established His church on earth.  

God established His church as the religion of those faithful to Him. He provided the Bible to serve as their guide. 

It is God no less Who protected His church from selfish human intentions. Corrupt and diluted practices drive these intentions. We come to God in faith and associate ourselves with the fellow faithful to worship Him. It is what Jeremiah 3:15 is telling us. 

Besides, we can find the similarities between faith and religion as in the following:

  1. They pertain to God, divinity, and spirituality.
  2. They can be codependent.
  3. They establish themselves on beliefs and practices.
  4. They shape cultures and social structures, and vice versa.
  5. They allow individuals to find identity within larger groups.
  6. They are mutually reinforcing.
  7. They strengthen religious groups, creating a bond within.

How Do They Differ?

A scholarly opinion asserts the difference between faith and religion. That is, faith is subjective, while religion is more objective.

Besides, faith establishes itself on an individual’s devotion and level of belief in God. On the other hand, religion builds on principles, doctrines, and practices. It is bureaucratic and organized in nature.

The discrepancy becomes wider as religion becomes more flexible with time, culture, and modern living.  

From a spiritual perspective, the difference between faith and religion determines itself by coherence in belief. For instance, a faithful Sabbath keeper cannot enter into the Catholic religion. Why? The first-day observance does not coincide with the seventh-day Sabbath.

Indeed, faith and religion must complement one another. After all, the Word of God is their anchor. They must never compromise for the sake of plurality.

The Most Common Misconceptions About Christianity and the Bible

1

Christianity establishes a blind system of faith.

No! Christianity builds on an intelligent faith. Specifically, science, history, archaeology, and facts support the roots of Christianity.  

There is a notion that Christianity produces an irrational view of life. According to theologian James Kennedy, it is invalid.

Christianity propagates the proper use of reason and argumentation. Mark 13:20 advises us to love God with all our hearts, soul, and mind. Besides, the Lord says in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together.”

2

Christians obtain salvation by good work.

Jesus defied this idea while He was still on earth. He would often rebuke the Pharisees who outwardly showed religiosity but inwardly had rotting souls. 

Moreover, the Bible teaches that men earn salvation by grace and not by works (Ephesians 2:8). Good work is a result of one’s relationship with Christ, not the foundation of it.

In our efforts, we can never earn salvation. Thankfully, God grants righteousness to all who believe through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22).

Truly enough, there is a difference between faith and religion here. Specifically, the former is just part of the teachings of Christianity.

3

Christianity is a list of things to do.

For a spectator, Christianity seems to be a yoke one places upon his shoulder. It gives someone a set of things to do or not. 

However, a Christian sees this in a different light. For a converted soul, the law protects him from the temptations and dangers of sin.

On this note, religion provides a structure on the dogmas of a particular group of people. In the case of Christianity, it gives its followers the freedom to decide and act. What motivates their action is their conviction and relationship with God.

Meanwhile, notice the difference between faith and religion here. The former pertains to spiritual conviction. In contrast, the latter is the system of beliefs and practices.

4

Whatever you do after you get into Christianity doesn't matter anymore.

Some people think that after baptism, a Christian can just do anything he wants. After all, God saved him, and he can always ask forgiveness from Him.

Yes, he now becomes a member of the church. But this does not necessarily secure his citizenship in heaven. Instead, there should be constant self-denial. Through it, the Holy Spirit works in refining his character.

From this, we can infer that faith is something that needs work. Religion can only teach the basic principles, but conviction is in the person. Hence, we can see the difference between faith and religion.

5

It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.

The Bible says that the Word is the truth. Some people may receive a lesser light in comparison with others. 

Sadly, in preaching, we tend to sugarcoat the truth. We preach what is most pleasant for our listeners. For instance, we claim that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.

Yes, the light we receive is the basis of our judgment. However, faith is a continuous journey of seeking the truth. The Bible says that those who diligently seek God can find it (Jeremiah 29:13). Hence, a sincere Christian has to work hard.

6

The Bible's translation has a lot of errors and is not faithful to the original manuscripts.

Among other ancient manuscripts, the Bible is the most accurately preserved text. The Jews held the Old Testament with utmost care. For instance, most of the writings are on clay tablets as inscriptions.

In about 500 AD, the Masoretes took the task of ensuring the Old Testament’s accurate transmission. This group of Jewish scribes established strict rules which succeeding copyists followed. 

Meanwhile, as much as God’s words are infallible, the Bible translators were mere humans. Hence, they could commit mistakes. 

Fortunately, miscopied words do not constitute significant doctrines. Also, areas of confusion involve numbers and not principles, concepts, or thoughts.

7

The Bible contains supernatural events, making it unrealistic and unbelievable.

Naturalists claim that miracles do not exist since the physical universe is all that there is. 

We have supernatural events in the Bible, such as the parting of the Red Sea. Also, the feeding of the 5000 men and the healing acts of Jesus are good examples. 

Unfortunately, most scholars don’t believe they are possible. They claim that whatever science cannot validate may not exist at all. 

However, Christians uphold that there is nothing impossible with the omnipotent God. Here is where faith comes in with an assurance of the unseen.

The Bible does not try to rationalize the possibility of all these. Instead, it claims the truth that these things do exist.

For this, faith is the magic element. It gives an assurance that what we think impossible is indeed possible with God. 

Significantly, religious affiliation has nothing to do with this personal conviction of a person. Thus, we can see the difference between faith and religion.

8

The Bible disagrees with science.

The Bible does not conflict with science. Instead, they correlate with one another. 

Let us take the principles of diet and sanitation as an example. These are biblical, right? Yet, they require considerable knowledge of science. Specifically, they encompass epidemiology, microbiology, physiology, plant pathology, and animal pathology. 

Another example is the miracle of the Red Sea. Yes, it seems impossible, but there is a scientific explanation for this. 

Specifically, Carl Drews wrote for the Public Library Science journal. According to him, the parting of the Red Sea is due to “wind setdown.” It is a condition wherein the speed of wind reaches over 60 miles per hour. It is strong enough to push separate a body of water.

9

Christianity is a life of ease and bliss.

Wrong!

The Christian life is a journey of rocks and thorns. Remember Job? He was a faithful and righteous man. However, he suffered sickness and lost his family and wealth. But he passed this test of faith, and God blessed him even more.

The Bible does not mention religion in the story of Job. Thus, we don’t know if he has any religious affiliation of any sort. However, the book is clear on how faith earned him favor with God. Hence, the difference between faith and religion is a valid argument.

Indeed, when you are in Christ, expect trials and temptations. Satan is always on the lookout to take you away from Christ.

Good thing, the Lord gives us hope! With all the storms and thunders of life, He will never leave nor forsake us. Once, He came on earth not with peace but with a sword (Matthew 10:34).

10

The Bible promotes slavery.

Slavery was rampant in the Bible, right? Thus, we can say that the book was promoting it. 

No! The Lord only allowed it to foreshadow the people’s need for the Savior. He would set them free from spiritual bondage.

However, while slavery is not ideal, Jesus taught people to be humble. Specifically, He told them that the greatest ones must become servants. This message of humility must be the core of every Christian.

11

The Bible demeans women.

We can commonly witness the mistreatment of women in biblical times. 

For instance, Genesis 34:2 portrays Shechem raping Dinah, the daughter of Leah. The case in 2 Samuel 13:22 is similar. That is, Absalom’s brother Amnon raped his sister Tamar.

Aside from this, the Bible rarely mentions women. Often, it does not count them in population. For instance, the miraculous feeding of the 5000 people does not include women and children.

The truth is, Christianity doesn’t disregard women. It’s just that men dominated the Jewish society. People considered women as inferior beings, almost on the same level as slaves. Also, they did not have the right to education and leadership roles.

However, the Bible elevates women as co-equal with men. For instance, Genesis 1:26-27 points out that God created men and women equally. Besides, John 8:1-11 shows Jesus saving the adulterous woman from her accusers and forgiving her.

12

The Bible is out of date, given the strange rules the Jews had to follow.

Rules are essential in the establishment of civilization. And as God’s sovereignty, the Jews received laws from God. These laws consisted of moral, civil, and ceremonial instructions God’s people must obey.

We do not follow the civil and ceremonial laws anymore. However, we still uphold the essence of the law. For instance, we avoid worshiping idols and committing murder. 

Hence, the Bible is not outdated. Cultures and traditions may change, but the principles remain relevant even in our time.

13

The God of the Bible is immoral.

This claim stems from the many instances God destroyed nations for the sake of justice. Specifically, He condemned their evil deeds and taught them lessons.

However, we should not miss the fact that although God is merciful, He is also fair. The Bible shows how God deals with human transgression and disobedience. 

That is, God does not condemn a sinner. Instead, He convicts him through the Holy Spirit. By realizing his sin, he voluntarily comes to Him for repentance.

14

The Bible tolerates adultery.

Some ask, “Why did God allow polygamy during the Biblical times?” Also, “Why did God pardon prostitutes, divorcees, and others?” 

To answer this, we have to realize that tolerating is different from allowing. God has given man free will. He does not forcefully order him to behave in a way that pleases Him.

Though it is not God’s ideal, He allowed freedom of choice through His permissive will. However, a man has to reap the consequences of his wrongdoing.

15

Christianity copied from paganism or other religions.

Christianity did not copy from other religions mainly because:

  1. Scholars agree that Jesus did exist. They have an extensive testimonial and textual evidence.
  2. According to Mettinger, “there were no dying and rising gods that preceded Christianity. They all post-dated the first century.”
  3. Many of the secretive pagan religions and cults established themselves on myth.
  4. The resurrection of Jesus is a unique concept. It questions the parallels that myths draw between Jesus and pagan gods.
16

Christians are perfect or at least trying hard to be such.

Living in a sinful world, Christians are not perfect. However, they look forward to the blessed hope in Christ’s second coming. Through it, they will obtain total character transformation. 

Some people throw stones at Christians for trying so hard to live a blameless life. Most of the time, they label them as extremists, legalists, and fanatics. Though this may be true to some extent, in the end, we are all in dire need of a Savior.

For this, we need faith. It is one of the essential teachings and values of Christianity. However, no matter how the church emphasizes it, the development is in the person.  Hence, it draws the line of difference between faith and religion as they are not the same.

17

We are all under the new covenant. Thus, the Ten Commandment doesn't apply to us anymore.

Many people claim that we no longer need to follow the Ten Commandments. It is because we are now under a different law, the law of love. 

However, this misconception comprises a faulty understanding of love. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

Besides, the great apostle Paul affirmed, “love is the fulfilling of the law.” There is no conflict between the law and love because God is the source of both!

18

There is no hope for a sinner. He will go to hell.

The Lord hates sin but loves the sinner. As such, it is a wrong assumption that there is no hope for sinners. While we were yet sinners, Christ has died for us.

As long as we live, there is hope for us. Probation will only close when we die sinning or when we continuously reject the Holy Spirit. 

For this, prayer is the key. It brings us close to God, Who offers forgiveness of our sins.

19

The Bible predicts the end of the world.

Christians look forward to the second coming of Christ. However, they know that this is not the end of the world. Instead, it is the end of sin. 

We do not know when this time of the end will take place. Our ministers do not know. Also, the Bible does not state. Instead, it foretells the events that we need to expect.

20

There are contradictions in the Bible.

Skeptics, agnostics, and atheists have long been arguing the contradictions in the Bible. For instance, they kept pointing out the minor errors in the process of copying and translation. 

However, these errors do not count as contradictions. They do not have any significant doctrinal impact.

One possible factor that brings such a conclusion is the lack of study of the Scriptures. For example, grammatical and spelling defects may easily sway a reader. He tends to focus on the minor flaws. It happens when he does not seek guidance from the Holy Spirit before reading.

Our Takeaway

Faith and religion are somewhat related to each other. Both can be rooted in trying to understand the meaning of life. Both relate to God, spirituality, and divinity.

However, there’s a difference between faith and religion.  

Specifically, faith is how much you believe and trust God. Hence, it determines the level of your commitment to a relationship with Him. It drives your spiritual maturity. 

On the other hand, religion is more of the system or the theology. It is a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, or worldviews. 

Now, what are your thoughts on this topic? How do you draw the line of difference between faith and religion?

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