Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Is a Christian Anyway?

There seems to be a controversy over who exactly is a Christian. The title of this article is "What is a Christian Anyway?" rather than "Who is a Christian?" It was purposefully titled that way since asking the who question elicits an immediate response of "Why, of course, anybody who believes in Jesus Christ." 

Asking the what question makes people give more thought since it calls for a definition of the word "Christian." 

The difficulty lies in the fact that there are a number of definitions of the word depending on who defines it. This article starts with the simplest definition to the more complex. 

1. A Christian is a person who claims to be a Christian. 

No other qualifications are required. 

2. A Christian is a person who tries to live the teachings of Christ, whether the person attends church or not. 

This means the person is a good family member, good neighbor, helps the needy, and is trustworthy and honest. 

2. A Christian is a person who attends (or belongs to) a Christian Church. 

Some would say that not all churches that profess belief in Jesus Christ are really Christian. (More on that later.) 

3. A Christian is a person who believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ. 

This does not necessarily mean a person who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ but in the virtues Jesus taught. 

4. A Christian is a person who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ and him as Savior and Redeemer. 

Usually this means that the person strives to live by Jesus' teachings. 

5. A Christian is a person who is "saved" by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Usually, being saved means having a spiritual experience where the person accepts Christ as savior and redeemer.

6. A Christian is a person who believes in the orthodox or traditional theology of Christianity. 

This last definition of what is a Christian is the more difficult one to come to any conclusions. 

What is orthodox and traditional Christianity? 

It all depends on the theology of the various Christian religions. 

For example, some would say that a Christian is a person who believes in the orthodox Trinity, meaning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost being three entities in one. 

What if you believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as three separate beings (as do Mormons and other people who profess a belief in Jesus Christ)? 

What if you believe that a Christian must partake of the saving sacraments of the Church (as do Catholics and some Protestant churches)? 

What if you believe that, in addition to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you must provide good works as a token of your Christianity? 

So, after thinking about these definitions of a Christian, which is the true definition? Who is the authority that we look to for the true definition? 

Is it the Pope, Billy Graham, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention, or any other religious leader? 

How about God Himself! 

In the end all Christians believe that God will judge all people. And their Christianity (that is, their belief in and adherence to the teachings of Jesus Christ) will be the final test as to whether they go to heaven or not. 

It all comes down to the person's relationship with God. It doesn't matter what others think. It's between God and the person (the Christian).