The term “religion” could be understood fully through the exposition of three Latin words: “Ligare”, “Religare” and “Religio”. Ligare means “to bind”, or “to put together”. Religare means “to unite” or “link together” or “to put together”; while Religio means relationship. Religion thus means to tie or bind myself to that relationship which is decisive or essential.
Religion is therefore a relationship or a link, or a bound between two persons. It can also be seen as a unity between persons or between two parties. Religion is a “bia-polar” phenomenon or relationship; that is, that the relationship is a two way phenomenon, not unipolar.
On the one hand, we have the human pole while on the other hand, we have the divine pole. What goes between these two poles is what we call religion. It is an encounter between the human person and his/her creator. Some define it as the human person longing for “ultimacy;” and also the ultimacy relating with the human person. Some others say that religion is that which matters most for a human person.
However, due to the innate quest for truth and answer deeply rooted in the human fabric, there is the desire to come to a comprehensive nature of that which goes between these two poles; the human pole and the divine pole. It is a search that carries the entirety of the human person and employs both faith and reason. This inquiry is known as theology.
Theology is a study and this study is for the whole of our lives. Theology makes use of our reason and mind since it is an intelligent discipline. It is a reflective discipline. It helps us to search for the truth. Theology is faith venturing (i.e., faith suffice) trying to ask questions. So theology deals with the question which faith brings up.
Now theology is asking question. Faith is not sedative (luring), it has no pre-packaged answers, it has no ready-made answers. Faith asks question, it quests, it searches (it is not blind). Faith prompts questions; it fights the inclination to accept things simply as they are. It has nothing in common with either indifference to search for the truth or the arrogance claims to possess truth fully. The distinction between faith and theology became one of mere assent to God revealing in contrast to a discursive understanding.
Faith has to be distinguished from religion and it has a number of connotations. Faith is a divine gift and a human task. On one level, faith is a gift or grace or a call and also an inner longing or ageing. It is a pull, a feeling of being grasped by someone beyond myself. Faith is invitation of God to a relationship and friendship with him. It is a not force though. Faith is the knowledge born out of religious love.
On another level, faith is a free response to that gift or invitation of God. That is, after the free gift of faith, we are called to give a positive response. It is a response to revelation. Faith implies a personal commitment to a person; to you, to God etc. Faith is not theology, while theology is dependent on faith. Religion is not theology; religions are organized movements or communities dedicated to singular traditions of belief, therefore religion is not theology.
Faith should be distinguished from fideism (blind faith). Fideism says we reach a point where we say we must stop our enquiry. Stop enquiring, simply believe. Faith keeps on seeking and asking. Fideism undervalues the role of reason in examining religious claims. It emphasizes the force decision of faith, at best, fideism rightly challenges the attempt to demonstrate scientifically the truth of Christianity. At worst, fideism represents faith as a blind-leap in the dark.
There is no room for fideism in theology. Theology draws out of this dynamism of Christian faith insight, reflection and enquiry from the truth. The object of Christian faith is God Himself. However, God does not cease to be the subject because ‘faith is a relationship between I and thou; God and man. God is a mystery beyond comprehension but that does not mean we cannot understand him. Believers are not immune to asking questions that rise in their own situation, and this is what Contextual theology is all about. Believers may be perplexed, but faith helps them to find answers to those questions. Believers encounter hard questions but also confirming question between faith and the real life (reality).
Faith makes us wonder. Human beings are open when they ask questions; at this time they keep seeking, they are filled with love for the truth. When persons enter on the pilgrimage of faith, they do not suddenly stop being humans, they become more human. We should expect to be shaken off from our old ways of thinking. When faith no longer frees people to ask questions, it becomes inhuman and dangerous, and questioning faith soon stops into ideology, superstition, fanaticism and idolatry.
In studying theology, we have to be self-critical and know our own social context and also our own ecclesial context. So theology cannot be restricted to provide information about God, but has to be critical, coherent. Theology cannot be abstract speculation rather a concrete reflection that arises from our experience of faith. Theology is pluralistic, limited, applied, critical, constructive, and imaginative.
Religion, theology and faith work together to build, strengthen and uphold belief. The person’s belief has to be firm so as to recognize that concern, that ultimacy, that transcendent, that divine. Belief is not the same as faith and it is important to make distinctions. Belief is a rational acceptance of certain formulations about ultimate truth. A belief is the acceptance of judgments of facts and values that religion proposes. Faith is God given, it is one and objective. Faith is permanent, transcendent and personal. Beliefs are many and diverse. Beliefs are subjective and symbolic.
We can thus say that faith and belief are geared to make the person truly religious; that is creating a synergy between the beliefs professed and the life lived. Thus for a person to be called religious implies that the person’s behaviour has to transcend his or her own ego. And also, to make sure that he or she benefits others.
- The Church, a Community or a Building
The connection between church as a building and church as a community of worshippers goes a little deeper than simple metonymy or linguistic and etymologically explanation. The early Christians understood the assembled people of God as the body of Ch