As one who studies culture for a living– most specifically, religious culture, I will tell you that technically there are over 40,000 Christian sects in the world.
But realistically? There’s only two kinds of Christian– and honestly, I’m tired of pretending there’s not.
It doesn’t matter what kind (denomination) of Christian you are; there are still only two types: one is the member of a Christian religion, and the other is someone who is actively living like Jesus.
I don’t believe the word “Christian” was ever intended to be used the way we use it in America. When it was first used, the term wasn’t in reference to a well-crafted religion with a long list of tenets, but instead was simply used to describe people who actively did what Jesus said to do. Essentially, the word meant “little Christs.”
Christian, as the word was intended, was measurable– or at least observable. You could tell who was and who wasn’t, and that wasn’t a “judgement” about the state of their heart, either. Being able to tell who was Christian, and who wasn’t, was something one could do by simply observing their outward behavior.
Do they follow the teachings of Jesus, or not?
But that’s not what the term has come to mean in Americanized Christianity. For many of us growing up, if you said a simple prayer at the end of a sermon and “asked Jesus into your heart” you were automatically a Christian. Becoming a Christian was something done in secret, in the most quiet place in your heart. You repeat the words given to you and signify your transition into the group by quietly lifting your hand with “every head bowed, every eye closed,” and at the end you’re part of the group. Since becoming a Christian was internal and not external, there was really no way to know who was a Christian and who wasn’t.
(Well, except if they were gay. If they were gay they *definitely* couldn’t be Christian, but that’s beside the point.)
It strikes me that American Evangelicalism invented an entirely new version of the Christian religion with its own concept of “salvation,” and the consequences of this religion are dire. It has taken the message of Jesus and the biblical mandate to pattern our lives after Jesus, and in so many was reduced it to the near-effortless act of “accepting Christ into your heart.” In fact, it’s become a bizarre religion where one can actually refer to themselves as a Christian while simultaneously disagreeing with what Jesus taught.
That’s not how this thing was originally supposed to work, folks. If one disagrees with Jesus, the word Christian ought not apply.
In Americanized Christianity we use Christian as a noun when originally, Christian was more of an adjective. It wasn’t so much about something you were, but was more about something you were doing. You were actively living out the teachings of Jesus, and this was easily observable– either you agreed with Jesus and did what he taught, or you didn’t.
The confusion of having two types of Christian and a totally different use of the word, creates all sorts of problems. Mainly, it has the ability to lull people into the idea that they’re Christian when often they’re not– at least, not in the original sense. It also complicates things for those of us who want to teach others to be Christian, because we’re no longer able to easily do what was done 2,000 years ago– we’re not able to walk with new disciples and show them, “Here is an example of Christian. Here is an example of not Christian.“
Case in point: Franklin Graham. The other day I stated that he was not Christian (in response to his anti-immigrant/anti-refugee beliefs), and of course, I immediately got the expected push-back to such a statement.
“How do you really know?” (Implication: how do you know his heart? How do you know he hasn’t “accepted Christ into his heart?”)
Or, of course, some will ask rightly, “is it your job to decide who is or is not a Christian?”
Since Christian has come to mean something different in Americanized Christianity, these objections are totally valid. Since we are operating in a culture where Christian is a noun, and where anyone can secretly be one regardless of what they think about what Jesus said, I don’t know who is that type of Christian and who isn’t. Certainly I don’t know if Franklin Graham has ever asked Jesus into his heart, though I would bank on the fact that he has. Neither is it my place to declare who is part of the Christian religion or not– there’s ultimately 40,000 versions of that and I am not the gate keeper for any of them, let alone all 40,000.
But to me, there are only two types of Christian, and the second one– an adjective instead of a noun, is observable. It doesn’t require the ability to judge the individual heart. It is not something that can only be done by a gate-keeper as if they have any power anyway. It is simply the act of returning Christian to an adjective, and being honest in that it does not apply to people don’t want to do what Jesus said to do.
For all the damage that Americanized Christianity has done, the foundational damage is that it has distorted the word that was first used to describe the disciples of Jesus: Christian.
Instead of describing members of a religion, the word used to mean something so much more. It used to describe what people were doing, and who they were following. It used to be so loaded with meaning that the act of being Christian was totally observable and obvious to anyone around you.
The reality in Americanized Christianity is that you can be “a Christian” without actually being “Christian.” They are two, totally distinct identities.
That’s not how it’s supposed to work.
Christian used to actually mean something, and I don’t think we should be afraid to say it.
Been saying the same thing for quite a while now. I’ve stopped referring to being Christian or people becoming Christian. But yes, the way of life. The most fundamental challenge to this is that the way of life to which we are called – to give up ourselves, presents huge problems of interpretation. I think Jesus faced them all of the time. Especially when he knew that we was going to die, which he didn’t want to do. Wasn’t that a call too far, which could have easily been avoided and nobody, just nobody would have blamed him. The way of Jesus is not just counter-cultural, it is self-denying. Perhaps this is the same as saying that there is no self? In any event, Jesus gives to us a tension and I think that those who call themselves Christian whilst not following, imitating Christ are avoiding the tension. Christianity for many turns Jesus into a doctrine of individual responsibility for yourself and not for others, personal freedom to acquire because that’s what God wants and a tidiness that wants people to agree with “me”. All of this is about the self, whether it is an illusion or not. Jesus says take responsibility for others – you are your brother’s keeper, it is better to give than acquire and encourage everyone, just everyone to find their voice as he did with the Canaanite woman at the well.
I have to wonder how many people “invite Jesus into their hearts,” only to have a lower-astral entity (masquerading as Jesus) take up residence there instead.
Ben – You very aptly describe the current American religion and its followers. Franklin Graham is a good example. This American religion will always seek to destroy the witness of Christians as serious followers of Jesus. Our hope is in Jesus’ promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against his followers in carrying out God’s mission in the world. Last night, in debating Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz used the term “American exceptionalism” This American cultural context is at the root of the American religion and its “reconstructionist”and “dominionist” followers. American Evangelicalism has, unfortunately drunk the poison.
A contrast between ‘Tribalism‘ and ‘Self Realization‘.
Any hint of ‘politics‘ indicates the former, and ‘selflessness‘ the later.
Actually this isn’t just an “American” thing. It’s been going on for two millennia. “…so faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:26 Too many people quote only partially Jesus’ teaching when they say, “Judge not lest you be judged…” In spite of his teaching seeming to be quite plain and literal, it appears that many people still don’t get it. To paraphrase accurately what Jesus is teaching, it would be, “The standard of mercy you show to others will be the standard that God will use to grant you mercy. If you are merciless or have little mercy to others, then God will be merciless or have little mercy towards us.”
American “christianity” is a counterfeit false and dangerous form of nationalism and ego centred deified “individualism”! It holds to a Jesus that never existed let alone proclaimed the Good News. The most sinister form of this cowboy fake Jesus cult is what is called “America evangelicals” whose true deity is the Golden Calf wrapped in the red white and blue racism of a a so called “free market capitalism”! These are the “goats” that Jesus said are “accursed of my father” and was never known by him or served him. Yes either you are a follower of Jesus and live by his love or you are a three piece suited charlatan peddling profit and religious prostitution.
Too harsh…I think there are some bad men in sheeps’ clothing that lead astray the gullible Christian but even I can be too cynical. Maybe some of these leaders are really not as well read in the gospels as they should be. Maybe they view the Democrats as so anti Christ that Republicans do not see their own failings in contrast. I really do not see Christ in any politics but I DO lean more toward Democrat, but rather see all politics through eyes that love Christ. I am just praying for a miracle and praying for my country to be made whole. I actually believe we are in the end times and I diligently am praying and waiting for His healing and return.
So….now capitalists can’t be Christian? I beg to differ. The most generous people I know, including my husband, are conservative/libertarian “capitalists.” If they weren’t earning money, for themselves and for their families, how could they afford to be do generous. ? Think that one over.
I think He is greatly saddened and Satan is having a heyday with many a religious leader and gullible Christian.I LOVE the gospels and the rhetoric spewed about the poor and those we do not understand whom are our neighbors really hurt my heart. I love my brothers and sisters in Christ and I never felt so alone except for Christ Whom comforts me.
In many ways I agree with you but reality is far more complex than that. There are any number of ways that the pie can be sliced. There are any number that can be lifted up for why American Christianity is particularly “American” Christianity.
Evangelicalism was meant to transcend denominational/theological differences to promote evangelizing the world. One thing that has happened is the combining of Calvinist theology with Wesleyan theology. Calvinist theology of eternal salvation is combined with the Wesleyan theology of assurance of salvation. Hence if we have the experience of salvation, then we are eternally saved.
That is not what Calvin taught nor is that what Wesley taught. Calvin taught that we are eternally saved but we will only know that WHEN THE BOOK OF LIFE IS OPENED AT THE END OF THE AGES. Contemporary “Calvinism” would be better named as Bezan theology. While Wesley taught that you can experience salvation, HE ALSO TAUGHT THAT YOU COULD LOSE YOUR SALVATION.
Jesus never told us not to judge. The complete teaching of Jesus is, “Judge not lest you be judged. FOR THE JUDGMENT YOU GIVE IS THE JUDGMENT YOU WILL RECEIVE.” I believe that most people think that they will receive mercy from God, BUT Jesus is telling us that the way we judge others IS THE STANDARD HOW GOD WILL JUDGE US.
I would agree that Franklin Graham is not taking the whole counsel of God about how to treat the stranger in our midst.
This simplicist to-do-concept of christianity has its weak points. First, the best way “to do” anything whatever, even sowing or mowing, comes from an emotional process (or a change of heart); i.e. we reasonably should emphasize the role of “the inner life” – but then, a change of heart will not always and for everyone manifest itself in the same doings. So we have to accept a certain difference of actions.
Then Jesus did a lot of different things; he was not mostly occupied with prophetically rebuking powers or warring for social justice causes. For example, he did a lot of miracles, or else he suffered for mankind. So a healing pastor of an Evangelical sect or a sick Catholic nun who offers her pain for mankind are definitely part of the imitatio Christi. Well, you don’t think that we have the authority to do miracles? Then, perhaps we haven’t the authority either to prophetically rebuke any powers …
In practical terms, ‘Christian’ is a tribal affiliation, like being the supporter of a ‘team’ or ’cause’. That’s it– one can be a Christian and a fundamentally awful human being in the most callous way, one can be a Christian and a humanist activist for good and justice, and everywhere in between. For many reasons, particularly philosophical reasons where we really want 2+2=4 to be true, this is an unhappy situation. It’s frustrating to say the least.
Still, that seems to be looking at the world as it practically has ended up.
◄ 1 Corinthians 5:12 ►
“New International Version
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?
“New Living Translation
It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.”
If the religion of Jesus is all behaviors and no tenets/beliefs, why bother with theology? Why run twice as fast to get to the same place?
Because Jesus was all about theology…..
I thought he was all about the ice cream.
It’s coz Christianity is not without any tenets/ beliefs…
To the author:
Well, not all the teachings of Christ. Dime off his teachings are pretty good. Some are just bad advice no one should follow.
Hi Benjamin. You refer to ‘actively living like Jesus’… as a former (Christian) theist, now atheist, I wonder what that precisely means. If, for the moment, I accept there is some accuracy in some of the gospel narratives – and I am writing off all the highly implausible supernatural stuff, eg, incarnation and virgin birth, healing miracles, walking on water, resurrections, levitation etc etc – what am I supposed to aspire to? Beyond what the Skeptics Annotated Bible classifies as the Good Stuff, mainly variants on the Golden Rule, do I go around turning over tables in cathedral and church bookshops? Or maybe I aim a little hatred at relatives because they have to play second fiddle to the Incarnated One? Or perhaps I just tell the ungodly (like me) and those of other faiths that they are going to burn in hell, along with Gandhi and Einstein?
You should read more Ben’s articles. He covers all of that.
It is true there are two types of Christians. One type is lost and without Jesus the other type is born again with Jesus. Jesus said “one must be born again to see the kingdom”. I used to be what I called a Christian and was NOT one and had no idea what Christian was or even what it meant. My point is many call them self a Christian but they are not and without Jesus. I also have trouble using the word Christian. I prefer to ask people if they are born again or not. Simply because it is too easy for a lost person to be what is called a name dropper by using the name of Jesus whom they do not know.
What matters most? Whether someone is born again, or whether that person obeys what Jesus said? If a person who claims to be born again also rejects the stranger, is he a Christ follower or not?
What matters most is Jesus and what He said about being born again. In order to obey Jesus one must be born again. For all are physically born once. I was then born again by my own decision through the blood of Jesus after I was convicted I need Jesus.
Jesus didn’t sit in a safe space and click out blogs on a laptop.
Ben’s life has been anything but a ‘safe space.’
Jesus also didn’t sit in a safe space and click out blog comments, so I guess you’ll discontinue posting blog comments.
Did I author the condescending article?
Did I write the condescending article?
The term “Christ follower” is more clear than “Christian.” In the Great Commission, Jesus told his disciples to teach nations “to obey everything I have commanded you.” If obeying Jesus is not the priority for those calling themselves Christians, then they aren’t Christ followers.
Most Christians don’t know Christ to follow. They have only gotten as far as the Pharisaical study of God with a ways to go before they reach the relationship with and in God on earth.
Many are invited but few are chosen. It is not a grand privilege to be chosen when it hurts so bad to know, in my Christian sect of birth, too many who call out Lord, Lord and the Messiah does not know them without the Spirit of truth in them.
Today, as was within the Jewish sect of Jesus’ carnal birth, there are disciples following God’s teaching and separate disciples in the same community following their church authorities’ teaching. Disciple means pupil.
Christian does not always mean, defined from the fruit of each member, Christ like.
Thank you, Paul!
Perhaps, but it is very doubtful that Christ had American Evangelicals in mind as the torchbearers of all things Christian. And hypocrisy is not the hallmark of true Christianity.
Franklin Graham says and does a lot of things that I don’t care for. But here’s where I take issue with you: You seem to be of the belief that following Jesus unambiguously translates into a particular set public policies on ALL issues. You make it seem as though one CANNOT believe in smaller government and follow Jesus at the same time. In Greg Boyd’s fantastic book, “The Myth of a Christian Nation,” he (rightly) calls out those on the right who do that. But honestly, most of the time it just seems like you’re the left-wing version of the same thing.
If you’re truly following Jesus, then you have no choice but to care about immigrants and refugees. That’s absolutely true. But does that also mean that you can’t believe that the immigration process shouldn’t be chaotic? Does that mean that you can’t support safe-zones in foreign countries that share the refugees’ culture (instead of insisting that the US take in everyone)?
If the people are already here, then I agree that we should be humane and help them in any way we can. But I think well-meaning followers of Jesus can disagree on what the best public policy should be regarding some of these issues. As long as we understand that many people on both sides of the debate are coming from the right place, we should be able to have rational discussions. But people on the right AND left (including BLC at times) seem to want to attack the person they disagree with’s character. Guess what? Conservatives and libertarians don’t generally hate poor people or immigrants or gay people or trans people or any other people-group that you want to name. It’s just that following Jesus doesn’t always SPECIFICALLY translate into a particular public policy position. There’s nothing wrong with having a debate.
“You make it seem as though one CANNOT believe in smaller government and follow Jesus at the same time.”
What are you defining as a smaller government? Much of the time (although I have seen notable exceptions, they seem to becoming fewer in number as people radicalize on the issue) when I see people who claim to be Christians talk about wanting smaller government, the only portions of government they want to reduce are the parts that actually help people. The portions that harm or devastate people, even though vast amounts of money go to them one way or another, these same people either want to avoid cutting or want to spend more money upon them.
ZackBop, I believe in and follow with all my allegiance the smallest and most perfect government of all time, the Lord my God; defined best as a benevolent dictatorship.
I don’t see any where in your dissertation any thing relative to carrying your own cross while following Jesus.
You have been misled if you truly believe our immigration process for entry into the USA has been chaotic. Most immigrants from the Muslim nations recently highlighted take over two years to vet. This process could be improved but stopping all immigration from refugees who virtually have no country is not following Christ’s lead. The United States of America is the prime target of terrorism in the world and for the last 18 years we have been relatively safe in a truly unsafe world.
We cannot have rational discussions when we cannot trust in God to protect us as mankind. The God I know tells me to not ever shut out anyone of Man and to allow myself, according to my Father’s will, to be placed on my cross that my enemy might live who I ask forgiveness for because they know not what they do; even and especially in the name of God who they do not know (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, …).
The first twelve disciples debated all the time in the presence of Jesus. None sinned against Jesus except the one who gave up on Jesus as his lead. Paul, Peter and James obviously didn’t get it all right because they debated among themselves. None of the children of God on earth get it all right because children can’t by nature. It is not the debate in discussion here but whether we are a member following the authority of a Christian sect or a follower of Christ who has all God’s authority in heaven and on earth.
I never suggested that we should shut off immigration from anywhere. My point, which was larger than the specifics of this blog post, was that well-meaning Christians CAN disagree about which policies would be the best for society. As long as both sides are coming from a place of love, then we shouldn’t be demonizing the other people who happen to disagree with whatever political position we happen to have on any given issue. And that’s something I feel like BLC slides into every now and then. What I’m getting at is that American people who follow Jesus can disagree about what immigration policies make the most sense, while still agreeing to love and serve those who wish to genuinely become a part of American society. Same thing with poverty, or any other issue hot-button issue.
This was the crux of Greg’s book (and BLC is a big fan of Boyd, so he should know this). But many of Ben’s posts come off as suggesting that someone CAN’T have conservative/libertarian views on ANYTHING if they claim to follow Jesus. And that’s something that I don’t buy.
I do not see how anyone can call themselves “Evangelical” and promote the exclusion of Moslems. Surely Moslems are among those who need evangelism.
“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” John 4:35
Of course, to evangelize one must love. Jesus commands “Love your enemies … “
While I like the gist of the article and its premise, the French coined the term “bigot” about 1000 years ago in reference to overly religious zealots with a need to judge other people and meddle in their lives. Religious bigots caused the Holy Inquisition, caused the English Revolution, sparked the Salem Witch trials, wrote the 1838 Mormon Extermination Order in Missouri, and gave us the post-atomic McCarthy Era. American Evangelicals are simply the latest and longest enduring example of the wrong side of Christianity.
I wouldn’t be so quick to cast aspersions on the English revolution. Despite Cromwell’s many excesses, even his wanton murders (what he did in Ireland is especially shameful), still, it was much more a quarrel between the haves and the have-nots than about religion in the narrower sense, and the Puritans WERE on the side of the have-nots. As, I would argue, true Christians ought always to be.
While I agree with a lot of the sentiment expressed, what bothers me most is saying the word should go back to being an adjective. That’s backwards. Christian appears in the bible only 3 times and ONLY as a noun, referring to people who follow Christ and his teachings. (Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and I Peter 4:16)
The PROBLEM is that WE have made it an adjective: Christian music, movies, businesses, parties, t-shirts, etc.
We use it as some kind of marketable label for what is supposedly good and acceptable. When in reality it usually just means what appeals to the lowest common denominator of religious group think loosely associated with Jesus.
I hate the word Christian as an adjective. But I’d like to rescue it as a noun.
To me it would only apply as a noun if someone is “adjectiving” it. 🙂
I would phrase it a little differently… There are those who have Jesus as Lord and Savior and are following Him to the best of their knowledge and ability, and there are those who have taken the name, “Christian” for other reasons.
God bless you for saying this. Franklin Graham acts like a right-wing Republican. He may have accepted Jesus in his heart, but it does not inform his politics. He has a right as an American citizen to be a right-wing Republican. He has no right to act as an authority of who is Christian or not. I cover my ears when the man prays because it is a travesty to me.
Franklin took out a full page, anti-gay ad in our local newspaper during the 2012 election season *and* he signed his father’s name to it. It was clearly a lie. His Dad would never had done that. Franklin is a creep.
Amen, i totally agree with you (and Benjamin). Billy G understood it a lot better i think. I compare it to the difference in libertarian between Ron Paul and Rand Paul, but that’s all i’ll say as it’s off topic. 🙂
If this either/or binary is valid then there are no Christians.
The division is simple–those who follow Jesus are “Christ” and those who call themselves Christian but don’t follow Jesus are “Antichrist.” If you read the verses which describe Antichrist or the Enemy, all of those verses apply to conservative so-called Christians like Graham, Huckabee, and Santorum. They are tickling people’s ears by saying they don’t have to give up their violence or racism to follow Jesus. They are like angels who offer another gospel which doesn’t require giving up the worship of guns or political power. They are offering the exact same tempations Satan offered Jesus in the desert. So why can’t followers of Jesus identify conservatives as what they are–Antichrist? Their goal is to destroy the Church and persecute those who want to live like Jesus did. Their goal is to preach convincing but false doctrines in order to lead believers astray into a false gospel which preaches violence, divisions, slander, and lie after lie. Trump is nothing if not the father of lies–and he is an idol for Graham, Falwell, and Huckabee–and the cheering crowds at the Values Summit..
Very good, ashpenaz; you have said more truth without multiplying words such as the “Superchristians do. Amen Amen. They do overlook the “Groper in Chief”, Huh?
“One is the member of a Christian religion, and the other is someone who is actively living like Jesus.”
I didn’t realize the realities were mutually exclusive.
I see people living like Jesus who are also members of their Churches.
I’m Canadian, so I may be missing something. But the article has really confused me.
The term, Christian, denoting “belief in JESUS CHRIST” is badly misused many times, in today’s world! There is only one kind of true Christian, you are either a Christian or you are not a Christian! False Christians are who claim to be Christian and refuse to accept HIS teachings, as the truth! To be a Christian, you must live according to what JESUS CHRIST taught us to be! That does not mean that we never make a mistake, since we are human ,we will err on Satan’s side, We get up, out of the dirt, brush ourselves off, repent and go on trying to follow our Savior!!! 1John 1:8 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”
Oh me too , Rob Bear; they do multiply words, “Mary has chosen the better part”. “When you pray, go to your room and pray in secret and God who sees you will reward you in secret; if you love me, just keep my commandments” It’s simple.
Good article. The word Christian is so misused these days. Truthfully I am not sure I even want to be called Christian because so many times the meaning relates to religious group or political party. I want to be known as a follower of Christ.
I feel the same way.
Well thought out and well put, but there’re only two types of Christian.
The way I understand Christianity is this. Jesus did it all on the cross. We WILL struggle but if we accept His free gift of salvation and turn our lives over to Him, He will save us (we will wear His cloak of righteousness and salvation) and He will help up in times of struggles.This makes me aware that a homosexual CAN accept Christ but still struggle until the Holy Spirit changes them and helps them out of that particular sin, IN HIS TIME. We ALL sin and fall short. Even the best of us only present but dirty rags of righteousness but for Christ!! Christ WHOM is the redeemer. Because of all Christ has done for me, I do purpose to forgive 70 times 70. Am I struggling with this? Oh yes!! Do I see the merit and redemption in it? Absolutely!! I see my words as sacred yet I still struggle with a foul mouth at times…but do I see merit in asking the Holy Spirit to help me overcome? Yes. Do I see merit in giving to my the poor? YES, but I could give more…and I do struggle with my selfish side. I utterly depend on Father God to help me fulfill His plan for me. I see Jesus sacrifice as the ultimate act of love and I also see Him as a constant in miracles and consistencies. Because of this, I think many are going to be in Heaven that some thought too sinful, but those that forgot their own sin will recognize their failings in this department now (or once they are in Heaven). I also read the second death as simply death. Christ is a gentleman and very loving and kind. He will never force one to accept Him but the fire is the punishment which is eternal…actual death….and we can take that literally that it is death…not eternal suffering…which to me and many others …not God’s character. Look at Gomorrah which was quickly destroyed…it is the precursor to Hades..which will be empty after the consumption. Even Satan himself will be destroyed eventually. If he is not eternally punished, then it stands to reason, neither will those that do not accept…for many are born into the wrong belief and God is just in His character and Love for mankind.
James 2:14 – “Faith without works is dead.” If you have truly accepted Christ in your heart, your deeds will show it. Your faith will drive your life as you try to live as He did, as you strive to make the world as He would have it. Others will know your faith, because your deeds will show it to them.
You can know the false Christian, he who claims to accept and love the Lord but in fact does not, for his deeds shall show him to be false, to be unlike Christ; to be un-Christian.
It is not enough to be forgiven. To be Christian, to be as Christ, you must also forgive.
(PS God does not help those who help themselves. That’s a Greek saying; it is the Zeus and the Greek Pantheon that help those whom help themselves. You will find no version of the phrase in the Bible.)
Fundamentalism, a uniquely recent American experience, is in no way similar to what Jesus advocated during his ministry.
One becomes a Christian (noun) n will be enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit to be Christian(adjective) through a born-again experience in accordance to John 1:12,13… Both noun n adjective “Christian”
are reconciled into one by faith in n obedience to The Word of God…
The blogger’s stand in insisting on d adjective alone is judgmental on a poor child of God still in the process of sanctification… If God is patient with His own children, who r we to judge?… Besides it’s a sin to judge anyone who has accepted Christ genuinely as not a Christian coz he is not very Christianly (yet) based on one’s external n most probably biased judgement … an abomination!
A Christian (noun) is saved by faith… n if a truely saved, the Christian (adjective) fruits will show at its own pace… ❤?? …
So, god is patient with his own children. It seems to me that most of his children are the ones who need to learn patience with others. There are many Christians who also rely on The Lord’s patience who are harassed by the other “children”.
Although I might not use the same words you used in your comment, I too agree it´s both/and rather than either/or. Noun and adjective together — always striving and saved for eternity.
I think you probably already understand, though, that many on this blog have abandoned this idea or have never embraced it at all. That said, we might all just have to agree to disagree theologically speaking while we also as iron attempt to sharpen each other in peace and love.
Although your title drew me in i’m going to have to disagree with you because interpretation has a lot to do with how people act… How do you follow with your whole heart when you could easily be interpreting the gospel wrong?
By turning Christianity into a fear-based religion, most Christians appear focused on themselves, not others. I really don’t think Christ intended for this to happen, but it has. “Church Fathers” seeking secular power changed a gentle loving belief system into a religion of fear.
Treat others the way you would want to be treated, that’s all.
Living according to the Sermon On The Mount e.g. only owning the clothes on your back?
I do not think the writer has gotten the differentiation quite correct. There are people who call themselves Christian because they believe a certain set of dogma’s or doctrines, and there are people who follow the way of Christ, who try to live as Jesus taught and showed us – who may or may not call themselves Christian.
I disagree with the blogger. Jesus never taught an ethic apart from Himself. He never said- do as I do. He said, “Follow Me. I am the way the truth and the life.” Christianity is not a lifestyle. Christianity is life itself.
That is why Paul could quote the prophet Habakkuk and give it meaning- “The just shall live by faith.”
Living by faith means imitating Jesus. If you don’t do what he said, you don’t actually believe in him.
Both Paul and James quote “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” But Abraham believing God meant that he went up the mountain with Isaac. It meant the he left everything he knew and went to Canaan.
Living by faith means ACTING and DOING.
The letter from James can not be reconciled with the teachings of Paul. The pitiful thing is most of the church world is still bound by the legalisms of James. James was a Jew and never stopped being a Jew. Paul revealed the gospel of Christ which sets men free.
“He said, “Follow Me.”
He said, “TAKE UP YOUR CROSS and follow me.”
I no longer consider myself a Christian. I still love Jesus and believe in a creator of the Universe, but there is no place within the established Gay or Straight church that respects women. Gay men are in many ways worse because they completely write us out of the narrative. John 3:16 does not say I have to be a man to be saved. We all create god in our own image…..to me God does not look down on women.
An interesting remark, Beverley. Your choice of John 2:16 is interesting, because the work for “all” there is “pantes,””everything.” God so loved all the world, everything in God”s created order.” That certainly includes you. You are correct in that the church has often belittled women or left them out – even, in the case of Augustinian theology, identifying them as the source of sin in the world.
The other part of what you say is also interesting. I”m not sure who said it off-hand, but the quote is, “God made man in his own image – and man returned the favor.” We can’t help, at least to some extent, to create God in our own image – whoever we are. It is our attempt to get close to God, I think, that we picture God as very much like ourselves. The problem is when we insist that these ideas of a God who is much like us is the only way to view God – and push those ideas onto others, making, for instance, a white, blue eyed, blonde Jesus to be the only way we can envision Jesus.
The writers of the various Gospels faced the same kind of problem – each writing to a different group of people, trying to express in different terms what this Jesus might appear to be like if they saw him walking down the street. We go from Mark’s man of action, very much involved in the fray, to John’s intellectual Jesus, who is very much above the fray.
Somewhere in there, perhaps in Mary or Lydia, or some of the other great women of faith, I hope you also find yourself. Mary of Magdala was called “the first apostle” because she was the first to see the risen Christ. Perhaps the testimony of your faith has to do with a resurrected Christ, who gives you a resurrected sense of self among all the nay-sayers of the world (including those in the church). Maybe your identification is with Lydia, who gathered people in her home; whose faith grew one of the most vital churches in the early church. Or perhaps some other woman of faith who has inspired your walk.
At any rate, you are not alone. God does not look down on women – he picked a young woman to be the vessel through which he brought salvation to to the world. Note how important her place is in the Gospels, especially Luke’s. Joseph is barely mentioned – she and her testimony is so powerrful that it overwhelms him.
Anyway – I would definitely call you a Christian – the most wonderful kind of one. May God bless your walk!
The Apostle Paul might disagree. I 1 Cor he called some believer, babes in Christ or carnal. But then facts don’t matter when opinions are in play.
This is what I call the Good Jesus/Bad Jesus problem. https://medium.com/@berniezaleha/good-jesus-bad-jesus-understanding-the-difference-in-the-age-of-donald-trump-8c51a5f17d99#.fw0nwq4h4
Bravo Benjamin. Dear Francis of Assisi based his brotherhood (and dear Clare her sisterhood) on DOING rather than knowing, believing or debating. Although they were of course within the Catholic tradition, they were on the “fringe” where what they did (as Christ in this world) defined who they were, without the emphasis on whether they were rightly “believing.” More of us need to get back to such a form of Christianity.
And for the first 300 years of ‘christianity’ you couldn’t be a ‘christian’ if you weren’t a Jew.
No, that was settled at the Council of Jerusalem in about AD 50. Acts chapter 15.
The problem with this is that the real Jesus was a zealous Jew who has been lost in Christian doctrine. So, the question is just how did a zealous Jew live? He was executed by Rome for sedition because he was not the person that Paul invented. To see the real Jesus, you must see through the emendations layered over the gospels’ Jewish source.
There are only two types of Christian, and you can tell the difference.
Fixed that for you.
I refer to them as Republican Jesus Christians and Jesus of the Gospel Christians.
Spot on, sir!
What about a member of the Christian religion who is actively “seeking” to learn how to follow Jesus? There are many roads on the journey. I would bet my last dollar that that’s where you started.
True enough. I imagine a lot of us are seeking Jesus through different lenses (teachings). Most of which is likely distorted or complicated.
We often seek validation, the kind given to one of the thieves on the cross with Jesus. The noun part; we’re saved.
The verb bit is tougher. Love God, love our neighbors, carry our cross daily. Easy to fail this part.
In my comments to this blog, I often use the word “Antichrist.” I don’t think there are two types of Christianity. I think there are people who follow Jesus and people who follow the Antichrist. You can judge them by their fruit. The people who follow Jesus do the sorts of things Jesus would do and are concerned about the issues Jesus is concerned about. Those who follow Antichrist deny that Jesus has come in the flesh by ignoring or twisting His commands.
Why are progressives afraid to use “Antichrist?” Why can’t we write apocalyptic fiction with a Trump-figure as the Beast? 1984 and It Can’t Happen Here should be the template for the progressive Left Behind.
FACEBOOK FEATURES TWO DISTINCT TYPES OF CHRISTIAN FORA: Fundamentalist-Evangelical, of the sort we see across the media, and Christian Left, less prominent but just as vocal.
My own take on the Christ figure of the four canonized gospels (I’ve read all the others, as well) is an amalgam of a number of different personalities, some mutually contradictory (Watch the Text); and the emergent result, when evaluating our two distinct Christianities, is identical to what we see when we evaluate our polar politics.
On the one hand, there is a large cognitive cluster of authoritarians: determined to exalt a great leader, outsource their beliefs and decisions to him, and consider all who do not follow him to be an enemy to be vanquished; outsiders are to be opposed, and loyalty to the group to be prized above all. They look forward to their Christ returning and blasting the earth clean with righteous fire.
On the other hand, there is a large cognitive cluster of egalitarians: determined to worship an emergent Christ to be found within those around them, committed to lifting up those of low degree; outsiders are not enemies to be vanquished, but of value as great as any in-group member. They look forward to “thy kingdom come…on earth.”
This reflects, almost note for note, what we see in politics: lines that were blurred to some degree in the past have been polarized into stark clarity in recent years.
Two points: first, the canonized gospels offer up both Christs, the authoritarian one and the egalitarian one; the two different Christianities are simply gravitating toward the one that makes the most sense to them…
…which leads me to the second point: both of these points of view are valid, natural, real – they reflect the social reasoning of the ancient human brain. Neither is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – they are built into our differing cognitive configurations, greatly amplified by the clustering.
The unification of American Christianity, then, depends upon the same concessions we need in politics: a commitment to diversity, a diminishment of cognitive clustering – and the abandonment of that most sacred Christian binky, “I Am Right!”
It’s both/and not either/or
The point is that egalitarian Christians consider their worldview superior to that of authoritarian Christians – and neither worldview is a clear winner in holy text (though both sides try their hardest). Both egalitarianism and authoritarianism, as predispositions of personality, derive from brain features we are born with. The social behaviors that follow are reinforced by our religious in-groups, both of which teach us our view is the correct view from the time we can crawl.
Condescension toward and derision of the Christian Right by the Christian Left is as empty and pointless in the end, then, as the squabble between political Right and Left: since the divide is between naturally-dispensed cognitive styles, it will never, ever be resolved through condescension, derision, or squabble.
The Christian Left rises to its claims about itself when it starts viewing the Christian Right as people, not opponents, and by “people” I mean beings with nervous systems that operate according to natural phenomena like genetics and biochemistry, and in anthropological terms. We are, after all, the branch of religion that takes science seriously, right?
This approach beats self-righteous anger, hands down. It humanizes me, my friend on the Right, and the playground bully.
“Since becoming a Christian was internal and not external, there was really no way to know who was a Christian and who wasn’t.”
This was one of the reasons the puritan/ protestant work ethic was introduced. The external method that they used to measure God’s favour on their lives was/is material wealth from hard work. This ideology forms part of the basis of capitalism.
The “ask Jesus into your heart” is doing for American Christianity what Constantine’s Sword did for the early church. There is no cost to discipleship and thus a cheap grace as it has been called.
Eternity where will you spend eternity? Death is a reality we all must face and the question you need to ask yourself is: Where am I going when I die? The bible says that when we die we either go to HEAVEN OR HELL. To get to heaven on our own merits we must be perfect. However no one is perfect. In fact, we have all sinned against God. We naturally do which is wrong: we lie, steal, lust , hate,… disrespect God, get drunk etc. Because God is good judge he must punish sin and the way he punish sin and the way God will punish us for our sins by sending us to hell for eternity. However God provided the way for you to have your sins forgiven and enter heaven when you die. Jesus Christ came to earth to die on the cross in the place of sinners and 3 days later He rose again, defeating sin and death. To be forgiven of all your sins, you must repent (turn from and forsake your sins) and trust in JESUS death and resurrection as the only means by which all your sins can be forgiven. Please do that today
Where did you spend eternity before you were born?
Probably the same place as when you die.
“As one who studies culture for a living– most specifically, religious culture, I will tell you that technically there is over 40,000 Christian sects in the world.” Loved the article, but shouldn’t it be ” . . . there ARE . . .”?
Brilliant explanatory,… The anabaptist-mennonite historical narrative plays out interestingly in the experience of U.S.President Thomas Jefferson,POTUS-No.3. While in office he read the bible and upon retirement rewrote the bible having studied it in four different languages. In removing the “ignorance-and-roguery-of-men” he published the jefferson-bible,the philosophy and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth,1904,U.S.Government-printing-office. After graduating for the college of william & mary,[second oldest college in america] he wrote the U.S.Declaration of Independence,U.S.Constitution,various other laws and governance of the commonwealth of Virginia, in addition to U.S.President, he held the offices of U.S.Vice President,U.S.Secretary of State,and U.S.Ambassador. He was more than a philosopher, upon which the U.S.Library of Congress,the world’s largest,whose library was built. He found the philosophy and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth to be superior to any of the ancient classical philosophers. The role of ancient philosophers, it seems to me in my view was to reach understanding of truth using argumentation – usually taking the didactic of dichotomy to reach a tertium quid. But not usually used to construct the messy realm of law and governance. Jefferson,was different,he not only understood principles of philosophy but was able to harness his understanding to forge bold declarations for practical thinking and governance – a republic democracy. Upon deeply examining the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth he could easily discern the “diamonds-in-the-dung-hill”.
When forging the U.S.Constitution he corresponded with the NewEngland Baptist association to understand the concept of separation of church and state. A concept carried over from the first baptist church in america by Roger Williams who was familiar with the mennonite doctrine. Williams made it clear the christian doctrines of the puritans of Boston,Salem, and pilgrims of Plymouth did not accurately reflect biblical understanding. Baptists,as the amish are second generation mennonites.,… just saying.
“Christian” is a noun. It’s just that the definition has changed so that we have to find new language – like “Christ follower.” Just as a one time Jimmy Carter was not just a “Christian” but a “born-again Christian.” Just as the beautiful word “Evangelical” has been co-opted. I find that “Christian” makes a lousy adjective as in “Christian nation.” which is oxymoronic when one understand the Kingdom. I use the word “americhristian” to refer to those who have this warped sense of having Jesus’ lordship in one very small sphere of their lives. what I am saying is I agree with you completely in that there is a bunch of folk living in the last vestiges of modernism who believe Christianity is a belief system divorced from behavior (love), but my nomenclature/grammar is shades different than yours. Somebody important said you will know a tree by its fruit.
I was awakened to this right after the first Gulf War during the Rush Limbaugh craze. But almost all of it finds its source in American nationalism. We have imagined idols as golden calves, but today they are red, white, and blue high places.
American Evangelicalism/fundamentalism is a form of tribalism , it is not a faith. Adherence requires only minimal thinking/aptitude, which is something that is preferred by the leaders of the tribe.
I recently received the greatest compliment ever from a young gay man I have known for many years. It was simply that more people, himself included, would be Christian if more people were like me, living the faith rather than telling him why he was wrong. That continues to mean a great deal to me. I agree with this article on so many levels, especially in the current political climate.
there is no such thing as a gay christian. “such as some of you were, but you were washed santified, justified…” christians aren’t identified by their sin or their past they are new creations. liars thieves fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God. “God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet sinners christ died for the ungodly”….THE GOSPEL IS PREACHED AND LIVED!! “God commands everyone everwhere to repent because he has set aside a day when He will judge the world in righteousness by the One He appointed”
While I agree with the general sentiment you are in danger of defining “Christian” as “someone who agrees with me in political and social issues”.
If to be a Christian means to perfectly follow Christ, there aren’t any and never will be, until Christ returns and the world is made perfect and reconciled to him.
If people e.g. support the refugee ban through misguided fear, or oppose some social security measure because they have bought into the ” dependency harms the poor” con, they are less than perfect Christians, sure, but unless you are perfect, be cautious of saying they aren’t Christians at all.
That being said, it’s difficult to see how a “Christian” whose supposed “faith” does nothing to motivate them towards even the most imperfect compassion can really be said to even be making the attempt to follow Jesus.
I agree with this article. I think it represents one place where the Protestant emphasis on Grace over Works has gone off the rails (I identify as Lutheran, by the way). True that all the endowed monasteries in the world are not going to save you if you are in fact a black-hearted villian. But neither will just saying the words “I accept Jesus” if you don’t try and do the things he says. (edited for a missing word)
This is a very thought provoking piece! I like your phrase:
“The reality in Americanized Christianity is that you can be “a Christian” without actually being “Christian.” They are two, totally distinct identities.”
I think this can be read in several ways. For instance, I believe you are using to describe being nominally Christian without living the Christian way. But I think it can actually be understood as showing that one can even be non-Christian nominally but live in the way of Christ. What this shows me oftentimes is that living like Christ is more just living ethically and obeying the commandment “love one another”. At the end of the day, if we are doing that, there is no need for the formalized structures of the church and the inherent judgment that goes hand in hand with that.
Paul made a big deal about the fact that one did not have to become “A Jew” to become Christian. Maybe if he were writing to the churches of America today, he would also agree that one did not have to become “A Christian” in order to become Christian.
This is fascinating… so, Dr. Corey, I genuinely admire the moral example of Jesus and do my poor best to emulate it as I can, but at this point, I can’t say I believe Jesus (or anyone) is specifically divine. I simply don’t see good evidence for that interpretation.
Does my desire to follow Jesus’s ethical teachings make me a Christian in spite of my lack of faith? Am I able to do “Christian” as a verb while not finding enough evidence for becoming a noun “Christian?”
Mr gimpi1… you asked…
“Does my desire to follow Jesus’s ethical teachings make me a Christian in spite of my lack of faith? ” …
Sorry to day, Mr gimpi1… No, u r still not a Christian… One becomes a Christian by being born-again into God’s Kingdom as a child of God…
Not through good works nor by being good or by being a good example or kind person, etc to others…
It is by faith n repentance by which the Grace of God will continue to sanctify His child… This living out of one’s faith n new identity is what makes one truly Christian… It’s not the other way round…
Sorry, n thank u for reading.. Hope u wl just take one more step ie to take time to consider the Truth…. Find a Bible-believing Church to find out more… God bless…
Thank you for responding. However, to paraphrase Dana Scully from the X-Files, “I’ve seen the ‘truth.’ Now, I’m looking for the facts.”
The problem I have with Bible-believing, literalist churches is that not only are the facts not on their side (The earth really is 4.5 billion years old, both the fossil record and DNA proves life evolved from common ancestors and the best evidence is that the Exodus never happened), they actively reject real, easily verified facts that don’t jibe with their world-view. I can’t do that. To be honest, I don’t want to. Facts matter to me, deeply.
Do you have any facts that I’m not aware of?
The radical internalization, individualization, and spiritualization of what it means to be a Christian has had a staggering amount of effects, not just in personal belief, but as you point out, sociology as well. Missiology and evangelism, too.
In fact, it’s hard to think of anything in the standard theological edifice of American evangelicalism that has not sliced and diced the Bible through that grid, and it’s equally hard to think of practices that are not impacted by it.
There is just a world of difference between, “The kingdom of God has come in your midst” and “if you believe the right things, you’ll go to Heaven when you die.”
This is nothing new. Jesus said by their fruits you will know them. James said works and faith go hand in hand. Paul said ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.’
Yes, Ms Realist1234…. If we claim ourselves to be Christians (noun) ie true Christians in accordance to John 1:12,13… we must indeed be seen to be Christian (adjective) … ie bearing the fruits of the Spirit in our lives… Allowing the Holy Spirit to continue to live n work in us bearing fruits into the fullness of a Christian life… That is what will truly glorify God, it’s not in naming ourselves Christian that glorifies Him… God bless… ❤?? …
Its ‘Mr’ last time I looked lol!
See the chapter titled “the two gospels” in “A Conspiracy of Love: Following Jesus in a Postmodern World.”
I live in a country where the secular realm of government, in its current policies, often looks very Christian, but many in the government would probably never call on Jesus as Lord and Saviour. They seem to “get” the life and teachings part but not the salvific part. It’s the reversal with many conservative evangelicals (mostly American) and that is of great concern to me as well.
Because of this tendency toward polarization, I will continue with my both/and mantra.
Absolutely, but of course using the term ‘American Christianity’ raises flags for many.. you’re stepping on people’s patriotism; don’t forget America is a christian nation. Also worth noting that this version has been spread far and wide across the planet, where it’s seen as THE version.
Thank you for this. I’ve long thought the same thing. Christians (noun) are quick to say “you can’t know someone’s heart,” but only when criticism is being applied to someone on the “inside.” But apparently, Christians (noun) can absolutely judge someone’s heart if that person is outside of that “narrow gate” that they’ve appointed themselves gatekeepers of.
At the risk of proof-texting, there are so many verses about “salt of the earth,” “light of the world,” etc. – and this is exactly what those verses are talking about. Jesus said this so many times. The two verses that I think hit it home the best are Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” And John 13:35: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
The “Christian noun” movement HAS, in many ways, simplified Christianity into an effortless “ask Jesus into your heart” kinda deal. And the thing is, they didn’t need to simplify it because Jesus already made it so simple: he said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.“