Saturday, January 14, 2006

SO WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?


Ok, so in my last post in a fit of frustration I went a little overboard in frustration and claimed that Pat Robertson simply is not a Christian. I do have a tendency at times to get a thought that I feel is half right, mostly tongue and cheek and put it out there expecting that readers would know that I am being facetious.

Commenting as the voice of "reason" my buddy Shane scolded me a little saying:

"I never thought I'd be on here defending Pat Robertson, but I wouldn't go as far as to say he isn't a Christian. His organization has done a lot of good things. Maybe some of the things he does aren't Christian, but saying someone isn't a Christian is a big deal. I avoid doing that even when I suspect it's true about someone."

SO HERE'S WHAT I'M WONDERING NOW:

What constitutes being a Christian? Is it "correct belief"? Is it simply "accepting" Jesus Christ as your "personal" Lord and savior? Is it by works and doing a "lot of good things"?

What constitutes being a Chrisitian?

I suspect it has something to do with living a certain or particular "way of life". Where do we find out how to live that particular way of life? Well for Christians I'm assuming it's the Church- the body of Christ called to live out and model the life of Christ.

If this is true then I suppose we have to believe certain things about the world, believe certain things about God, believe certain things about Christ and believe there are certain "practices" that make up a "way of life". Although, we all know that within the Body of Christ we as Christians have discussed and debated what constitutes some practices over others.

I wonder, can you be a Christian and not be a part of the Body of Christ? Is that possible? Would that be like a severed finger that claims to be "body" but is not really functioning as part of the human body (assuming that a finger can think). Can someone who has disconnected his/her self from the Body of Christ still be considered a Christian? Can I believe in the lordship of Jesus Christ but not like organized religion and decide to not be a part of The Church? This might suggest that being a Christian who practices a "way of life" is more than just belief but also PARTICIPATION in the life and ways of the community of Christ.

So what constitutes being a Christian?

I'm not sure I have all the answers (if any) but in my humility I think of the story of the rich young ruler. After Jesus says that it is impossible for the rich to enter heaven he gives the wonderful dramatic pause.... "all things are possible with God."

Thank God that God's grace goes beyond our understanding and I can say things that "aren't very Christian" and I can do things that "aren't very Christian" and live among others who are in the same boat and still be called The Body of Christ. I don't really know how that works but I suppose that it does.

Thanks Shane for holding me accountable in posting my thoughts. That's part of being the body of Christ. I admit that it was not very Christian for me to claim that someone is not Christian when I do not know the inner workings of Pat Robertson.

But for conversation sake I still throw out the question: So what constitutes being a Christian?

15 comments:

Dale said...

Jonathan,

Thanks for this post. This body of Christ thing makes it hard sometimes; I have not fared too well on the issue of accepting those parts of it that do not live up to my expectations, which, of course, doesn't bode well on my own concept of the BODY OF CHRIST.

BTW, sometime, I still want to get around to having that conversation that I intended to do when I got back from DC in November.

Thanks again.

Dale

St.Phransus said...

yes, we need to. i'll be in classes this next week and in st. simons over the weekend. maybe when i get back we can get together. i want to hear more about this church in dc.

i have a very good friend who has a strong eccessiology but chooses not to attend a church. he struggles with this choice, but he says that he has never found a congregation that practices what he thinks a community of christ ought to. i wish he would find a congregation that might fit his ecclessiology.

shalom,
jonathon

Dale said...

Your good friend sounds a lot like me. A lot of that comes from having been exposed to the Church of the Saviour and their living of the "Resident Alien/Recovering Cultural Addict" approach, whcih includes very serious accountability to one another for their journey, in all that entails (both Inward Journey and Outward Journey, and how those two poles are different and not different (iow , part of the same dichotomy).

I look forward to that get together.

Dale

Mike said...

Can you even claim to be a Christian? Or does Christ claim you?

Thunder Jones said...

I think we can reasonably state that he isn't worshiping the God revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. That's not an attack on his sincerity of belief so much as the object of his belief. For instance, God doesn't favor the assassination of Hugo Chavez for the sake of US economic interests.

Doug said...

I believe being a Christian means receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour and then living the life He would have you live according to His word but we can surely be far from perfect at times. I think the primary work or fruit from out faith should be having some part in bringing others to the same salvation that we have found. I have the same frustration with Pat Robertson but I realize Christians can be in lesser states of devotion not as close to God as they should be influenced by the flesh more than they should be and utter errant remarks. The question is how long will Robertson remain under his emotionally decieved spirit where he can actually claim another christian should be killed. The christian right is under emotionally laden zeal and remarks like the one on Sharon, in my experience with them, are made by those christians in private who believe they know the heart of God. With a right-wing president in office they get a bit giddy, I suppose, and feel they are free to share their judgemental conclusions. I like your thoughful words here. We need a lot more of that these days.

St.Phransus said...

thanks for your reflections doug.

Andy B. said...

The Wesleyan in me wants to say that being a Christian is not only being of the same mind as Christ, but walking the same walk as Christ. Being a Christian and acting like a Christian are therefore pretty much the same thing, aren't they?
Gotta Walk the Talk,
Andy B.

Michael said...

Would there be a difference between being a disciple and being a Christian? I ask because the followers of Jesus in His days on earth were typically Jewish, but they still followed Him. Peter proclaimed Him the "Messiah, the Son of the living God" but bolted when Jesus was on trial.

A disciple as a student would mean that while we may struggle to emulate His life, we are still nonetheless "students" on a never-ending quest to learn. Could there be more to it than that as a definition?

Joel Thomas said...

I would describe Pat Robertson as a heretic rather than a non-Christian.

St.Phransus said...

Michael,
i would hesitate to distinguish, at least, Jesus' followers as just disciples and not Christian on the fact that they were jewish. Jesus was also jewish and never actually "christian" apart from his own tradition. christian became the name associated with this small "jewish sect" within judaism.

i wonder if disciple is not "particular" enough to hold the weight of what this all means. anyone can be a disciple of something or to someone. shouldn't a christian be someone who has aligned himself or herself to the reality of what the God of Israel and Jesus is doing and has been doing in the world? Ought a Christian be someone who embodies the practices and teachings of Jesus and live those out in the life of a community who also embodies those teachings together?

just thinking out loud,
jonathon

Mike said...

Jonathon,

Thanks so much for your honesty! This is a question that always looms at the back of my mind as well.

These days that question brings so many negative stereotypes for me. It's like saying if you're not a Christian then I won't listen to anything you have to say. I just think God is so much bigger than that than to fit in our little boxes. So I become more concerned with the question, "What way of living is in tune with the way of Jesus" than I am about whether or not I 'm asking whether someone is a Christian or not. I guess I just feel it's focusing on the wrong thing. I want to recognize what is tune with the way of Jesus and celebrate that, no matter what someone labels themself or someone else does.

I totally believe in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, and that it's the starting point, but I guess I'm much more concerned about how we can bring the Kingdom of Heaven/God to earth than trying to figure out who's Christian or not. It seems Jesus had this crazy idea to entrust it to people like us.

I'd throw this out there...maybe the question we can also ask is "What is a disciple?" I think this would shed a lot of light in wondering what kinds of people would be walking in tune with Jesus. www.followtherabbi.com has been very helpful for me in this. There is a link on the home page on the left called "Rabbi and Talmid" that explain what the Jewish understanding of a disciple meant. It's very informative (and quite honestly profound and life-changing!).

I know it's a long comment but I hope that is helpful.

St.Phransus said...

thanks mike for your comments. they are extremely insightful and thought provoking. i'm going to check out the followtherabbi website, too.

jonathon

gmw said...

Jonathon, thanks for asking for a basic definition of a "Christian." It's much easier to call ourselves and others than to actual identify what we mean.

One of the major difficulties in defining what a Christian is (and, by implication, isn't--which is important) is at the intersection of (1) our concern for both orthodoxy and orthopraxy and (2) the holy love of God manifest in his grace in the person of Jesus Christ. Said a little differently, perhaps we would say that we're concerned not to get into "works-righteousness" but that we also recognize that being a Christian ought to entail a change in how we behave. A second major difficulty involves how we connect eternal salvation with being a Christian--this makes the conversation awfully personal awfully quick.

That said, I'll suggest that a Christian is a person whose life is being drawn God-ward within the community of God's people through the grace of God in Jesus Christ, the power of God in the Holy Spirit, and by personal participation in God's work within oneself.

BeggerFeedingBeggers said...

Intersting blog, everything you are poundering is spelled out in scripture, including what it means to be part of the body of Christ (romans 12:5)(1 Corinthians 12:27). Remember Christ lives in you, so that is the context (Romans 8:10). You are part of the body when you accept him.

Church is where you can go to worship, learn and fellowship with other believers.

Dont ask yourself if you should be going to chruch, ask yourself if you should be worshipping, learning and fellowshipping with believers. If you do that, church can be anywhere (school gym) or Starbucks. Read Matthew 18:20 - where 2 or more are gathered he is there!

You mentioned organized religion, don't confuse being part of the body as going to church. Being a christain is being part of the body! Church is a place to worship, learn and fellowship with believers. Everything beyond that is a matter or tradition and its those things that attract different people to different churchs, or have the opposite effect and turn them off. The point is, Christ calls you to learn his word using the bible, and to worship and fellowship (amoung other things). If you know a better place to make that happen than the corner church I believe the holy spirit will prompt you to go there instead! Which in a sense would also be a church!

I'm not an expert, but here is what I know, the bible is where you should look for your answers! I dont see scripture in the blog or comments. Just loose passive qoutes and thoughts which are of men - not of God's word. If you get answers that are not from the Bible, odds are they are wrong, partial truths, or guesses.
(1 timothy 4:7)

good luck!