The Purpose of Religion



Dr. King argues that the purpose of religion is not to "perpetuate a dogma," but to create witnesses to the power of God. He also considers whether salvation comes from upholding a particular creed or whether it comes from an individual reconciling with God.

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The Purpose of Religion
Transcripts & Translations


[Page 1] M. L. King Jr. [Page 2] [Inserted in margin: The Purpose of Religion} What is the purpose of religion? Is it to perpetuate an idea about God? Is it totally dependent upon revelation? What part does psychological experience play? Is religion synonymous with theology? Harry Emerson Fosdick says that the most hopeful thing about any system of theology is that it will not last. This statement will shock some, but is the purpose of religion the perpetuation of theological ideas? Religion is not validated by ideas, but by experience. This automatically raises the question of salvation. Is the basis for salvation in creeds and dogmas or in experience. Catholics would have us believe the former. For them, the church, its creeds, its popes, and bishops have recited the essence of religion and that is all there is to it. On the other hand we say that each soul must make its aim reconciliation to God; that no creed can take the place of the personal experience. This was expressed by Paul Tillich when he [Page 3] said, "There is natural religion which belongs to man by nature. But there is also a revealed religion which man receives from a supernatural reality.” Relevant religion [inserted: , ], comes through revelation from God, on the one hand; and through repentance and acceptance of salvation[inserted: ,] on the other hand Dogma as an agent in salvation has no essential place. This is the secret of our religion. This what makes the saints move on in spite of problems and perplexities of life that they must face? This religion of experience by which man is aware of God seeking him and saving him helps him to see the hands of God moving through history. Religion has to be interpreted for each age; stated in terms that that age can understand. But the essential purpose of religion remains the same. It is not to perpetuate a dogma or theology; but to produce living witnesses and testimonies to the power of God in human experience.
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