Have you ever tried to define “religion”? It’s not easy. We can recognize a religion when we see one, but defining the term is a different ballgame. I’m currently reading through John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Christian Life. In the fifth chapter he cites the work of Roy Clouser, who asks the question: “What do all religions have in common?” You’d be surprised to learn that not all religions have ethical codes, they don’t all have a personal supreme being, and they don’t all demand worship. So what do they all have in common? Frame summarizes: “All systems of thought include belief in something that is self-sufficient, not dependent on anything else.”
Get this: Everyone ascribes absolute power to something. We’re all depending on some absolute idea, some perceived liberty, some grand philosophy or system of thought, to give life meaning. Even naturalistic atheists, as Philip Johnson points out in Darwin on Trial, ascribe religious meaning to evolutionary theory. For many, evolutionary theory explains it all. And they are banking on this theory being true just like a Muslim is banking on the Koran. So there you have it: We’re all religious.
This is exactly the point that Paul is making in Romans 1:18-32. When people turn away from the true God, they substitute him with replacements, what the Bible calls “idols.” And the reason is never intellectual. It’s moral. People shape their beliefs primarily so that they can live however they want. If I enjoy living out my own desires, why would I accept a belief system that tells me its wrong to do so? You see how this works.
Listen to Frame’s conclusion: “The great division in mankind is not between those who worship a god and others who do not. Rather, it is between those who worship the true God and those who worship false gods, or idols.”
Everybody’s worshiping. The question is What are you worshiping?