Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics: Volume 1. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1968.
Chapter A3 “The Number of Religions in the World”
In essence, Pieper says, there are two religions in the world. There is that which seeks to be reconciled by man’s works and that which trusts in Jesus. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus gives his followers the command to disciple all nations. The gospel is seen as having exclusive claims and power. Compared to this our man-made philosophies desire to make all beliefs stand together.
Many define religion as having a common element of a personal relation between man and God. yet when viewed this way, the non-Christian religions approach God in fear, hoping for appeasement. This is a hopeless religion. A Christian, on the other hand, approaches God as a loving father, with the fear erased.
If religion is a common way of worship, we find Christian worship directed to God who has already shown grace. Again, there is no fear.
If religion is a striving for fulfillment, again Christianity is different. Fulfillment does not come through striving but through receiving.
Psychology also makes differentiations. The Christian has peace and confidence while others have fear and guilt.
Progressive theologians wish to remove a divine element from religion. To do this with Christianity effectively removes all that makes it distinct. It can be done with all religions dependent on works but not on that one which depends on faith.
Chapter A4 “The Sources of the Two Existing Religions”
After demonstrating that there are only two types of religion - human and divine - Pieper asks where the religions come from. The religion of the Law comes from human reason. Pieper enumerates three steps involved in the formation of this human religion. First, natural but fallen humans have some knowledge of divine requirement. Second, people have an evil orientation. They have broken God’s Law and are condemned. Finally, fallen man devises good works to purchase forgiveness. Pieper continues with biblical commentary on the situation.
The divine religion, on the other hand, is not oriented toward man’s works. We remain fallen and guilty but God has saved his people apart from their own works. Jesus paid the penalty for all our sin and removes the guilt and separation from God.
What of Christians who place some burden on moral good? Pieper mentions Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and synergism. His conclusion is that those practices should always have been rejected because they are ultimately man-made religions.