October 20, 2017

What Makes A Christian?

A story in this past Saturday’s Ramblings talked about President Barak Obama’s confession of faith in Jesus. He called himself a “Christian by choice.” Yet some of this community refuse to believe he is a true believer. Some think that he has not made a good, complete confession.

My point today is not decide if our president is a true believer or not. No—I want to know what you think makes anyone a believer. Just what makes one a Christian? Is it a specific group of words that must be confessed? A certain set of beliefs that must be embraced? Are there outward actions, such as baptism, that are requirements before one can be “saved.” What is the bottom line for one becoming a Christian?

Now, here are the rules. You may share your thoughts freely. But you may not put anyone else down for their thoughts. Let me clue you in on something, ok? You are not God. And because you are not God, you don’t have all the answers. It is a good thing for you to listen to what others have to say, even if you don’t agree with them. You may ask questions to clarify what others say. You may respond that they are causing you to rethink your position. But if you try to argue against someone’s else’s ideas in this post, your comment will get deleted. My finger is hovering over the “moderate” key. Don’t make me use it.

What makes one a Christian? Your comment should be short enough to fit on the back of a Chick tract. Anything longer than that, and you are probably thinking too hard. Ok, iMonks, have at it. The floor is yours.

Comments

  1. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Believe that and live it being renewed daily by the body of Christ.

  2. What makes one a Christian? Believing the good news that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead, surely, but baptism is essential to that faith. A Christian is a baptized believer.

    Mark 16:15-16
    “[The risen Christ] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

  3. Argh. He’s as much a Christian as I am, if we’re judging by outward actions.

    That’s about what it boils down to: right belief first, deeds after.

    Yes, the necessity of baptism and all the rest of it. But first believe that God is God and one; that Jesus is His Son and died for our sins; that we must repent and believe, After that comes the epistle of James and all the rest of it (“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”)

    Not earning salvation, but recognising the ongoing necessity of santification (because we all fall short, backslide and commit our pet sins) and we all need a community to belong to in order to bolster our faith and practice and give us the necessary discipline that “I can sit at home with my Bible/go out for a walk in glorious Nature and it’s just as good as sitting in church!” does not.

    • You’re hilariously refreshing (argh!), Martha! Thanks!

    • tell me you haven’t joined Pirate sort-or Christian radio, Martha ?? those are some mean pirates over there, matey ……….

      GregR

      • Wouldn’t that be more “Arrr!” than “Argh!”, Greg?

        Then again, if forced to walk the plank by a scurvy blaggard, doubtless one would be going “Argh!” (and then “Gurgle-gurgle-gurgle” as one sank to the bottom of Davy Jones’s locker).

  4. Rob Burke says:

    Christ does.

  5. Like Mich’s point, here’s a radical idea, which I heard from an acquaintance named John;

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    That’s probably already on the back of a Chick tract . . . the trouble is, all the hoops to jump through inside the tract.

  6. What make’s one a Christian?

    Believing the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, and being baptized.

  7. Unlike English, the Hebrew concept of belief is active, and does not consist of mere mental assent. Indeed, the idea that we just need to say the so-called “sinner’s prayer” to be saved has only developed over the last 200 years, primarily courtesy of Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, and ultimately Billy Sunday.

    A Christian is one who has made a commitment to follow Jesus, beginning with repentence and baptism, as described throughout the gospels and the epistles of the New Testament.

  8. If you want to use a couple of Bible verses like: (If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.), you will include a lot into the Christian family. That”s good, – but there are lots of people who believe in Jesus the son of God, but do not believe in a Trinity. Maybe that group includes some of the very early Christians – who never got to hear the sermon about the Trinity and who certainly never read all the Gospels and letters.

    If you want to use the Nicene Creed believers as your cut off, then the group is smaller.
    (I guess I stand somewhere between the first two categories)

    If you want to use the criterion of “right belief” coupled with actions that incarnate that belief, the circle gets smaller.

    But the smallest circle, in my experience, are the folks who study the Bible so intensely that they believe that they understand it better than anyone in the last 19 centuries was able to. They are the Remnant People, and everyone else is just lost.

  9. Tim van Haitsma says:

    The same thing that makes a true scottsman.

    • Buford Hollis says:

      Not wearing underpants…?

      Seriously, I like your answer very much. I was going to say “self-ascription.”

  10. Thinking about Acts 11 where the disciples were first called “Christian”… A person is a Christian when he speaks and lives in such a way that others recognize him as being like Christ. A real Christian shouldn’t have to call himself one; people will just know it.

    • ahumanoid says:

      “A person is a Christian when he speaks and lives in such a way that others recognize him as being like Christ.”

      I agree in theory, but in practice I’d have to say that I don’t know any Christians who meet that requirement.

  11. What about the component of the will of God? What about those who are “called according to His purpose”? What about the “predestined”? (Romans 8:28-30). Is Christianity a mutual relationship between God and man, or is it simply what the man believes?

    • Rob Burke says:

      or is it simply what God chooses?

      Luther vs. Erasmus 1525-1526 over the bondage of the will. The heart of the reformation.

    • Romans 8:29,30 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, …” For whom is this predestination? Those that God in His omniscience ‘foreknew’ or knew before the foundation of the world would be Christ followers. What is their predestination? To be conformed to his image.

      John 1: 12 says, “To as many as would receive him, to them he gave the right to become children of God.”

      John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

      I think this says that salvation is freely offered to all who will receive it. Yet, not all will receive it.

  12. Frankly, I wonder sometimes whether President Obama will enter the Kingdom of God while there are some who proclaim their Christianity who will not. After all, the Pharisees were known for their outward proclamation of their true beliefs, yet God called them whitewashed tombs. Meanwhile, God said that there were prostitutes and sinners who would enter the Kingdom of God ahead of some of them. At the same time, God said in Matthew that there would be sheep and goats, and that the judgment would be based on their behavior. That appears to contradict the part about prostitutes and sinners.

    Obviously, then, being a Christian is not simply linked to “true” belief, in and of itself, nor is it linked to right behavior in and of itself, nor is it linked to the “sinner’s prayer” regardless of behavior in and of itself, but to a more complex relationship with God than many Americans are willing to acknowledge.

    • A person must have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ to enter the Kingdom.

      • Mark,
        what do you mean by a “personal relationship” with God?

        • Christiane says:

          Some say that we ask Christ to come into our hearts.
          But others say that it is Christ who invites us into His Heart.
          What of the ‘need’ to know the Holy Name? Is that a ‘requirement’? I don’t think so.
          Here’s my reason for this hope:
          Perhaps there are some of the gentle sheep of His pasture who only know His Voice,
          and they respond to the calling of the Holy Spirit within their hearts.
          And acting accordingly, they follow Him, whose Name they may only know as the One who asks them to love.

          We are called to love.
          That is what Christians do.

          • Wow, Christine, that was beautiful. Thank you. I share your hope: i trust the gentle Shepherd loves those gentle sheep as much as he loves me.

          • what does this mean:

            What of the ‘need’ to know the Holy Name? Is that a ‘requirement’? I don’t think so.

            so it’s the responding to the call of the shepherd that makes one a christian?

      • Where does it say that in scripture? I thought the words “personal relationship” or “personal savior” don’t appear in the Bible, but I could be wrong.

    • I don’t know about the complex part but I believe you are right in that it is about a grace initiated, ongoing relationship WITH God that includes things like believing and loving and doing (and doubting and sinning and confessing and forigiving).

    • ahumanoid says:

      I agree with your perspective. If one considers all N.T. descriptions, salvation does seem to elude a simple definition.

      • hmmm, and maybe GOD likes it that way…. so that knowledge of HIM wouldn’t be a commodity that’s bought and sold in the religious market place, or made into a weapon to bludgeon the sheep; I’m thinking right belief and works are hopelessly….make that HOPEFULLY intertwined, to include body, soul, mind, will, and spirit.

  13. Funny that earlier comments have implied an equivalency between “being a Christian” and “being saved”. I won’t argue either way on it, but it strikes me as a curious assumption.

    Off the top of my head…

    Being a Christian involves 1) making a conscious choice to “follow” Jesus with your head and heart and soul to the best of your ability, giving up whatever agendas you may have once had, and 2) being willing to associate (and be associated with!) all of the other folks in the past 2,000 years who have done the same!

  14. A few people have mentioned the necessity of baptism. If so, do we need to discuss the mode of baptism? And where does it leave those denominations (like the Salvation Army) who don’t practice baptism at all?

    • In a precarious position and hoping that Holy Baptism is not one of the required steps.

      • it’s a command and it’s for “the remission of our sins” for sure, but many baptised will not enter heaven and many unbaptised will, I am sure. God decides. Baptism is for our healing and salvation; it gives us grace, but not guaranteed salvation. That said, I don’t think someone can call himself a Biblical, historical Christian and not practice baptism.

        • I can understand the reason for that, but it would seem wrong to say that Quakers and members of the Salvation Army are not biblical, historical Christians.

          • Well, this is just as much as I can understand from Scripture and tradition. I’m coming from an Orthodox perspective too. I still fully believe that anyone who hears the voice of the Shepherd and follows Him can be a part of His flock and even those of other faiths who are faithful to God and obey his commandments will be shown mercy as much as anyone. But do you call all of these people “Christians?” It’s a hard question. From my perspective, someone who takes the title “Christian” is a disciple of Christ and the apostles and they taught baptism from the very beginning.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      I find it interesting that the groups who seem to see the strongest ties between salvation and baptism also seem to have the most generous views regarding the modes of baptism. For example, the Catholic church views any baptism that uses the Trinitarian formula to be valid, no matter who it is doing the baptism, what age the baptized person is, or how the water is applied. Thus, when non-Catholic Christians convert to Catholicism, they are not re-baptized, so long as their baptism was “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

      Also, I think it’s important to point out that while baptism is the ordinary rite of initiation into the God’s family, it does not rule out God using any extraordinary means he sees fit. After all, he’s God and can do whatever he wills. I.e. his hands are not tied.

      • Isaac,

        While the two other kinds of baptism rely on God’s mercy, Catholics consider both a red baptism (martrydom ) and white (desire but without the opportunity for a water one) as valid.

      • “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the
        members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is
        Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether
        we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been
        all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but
        many.

        the sacraments of the church I think are help meets to remind us of the reality what christ achieved for us. my thought on baptism is it’s primary importance is as an identification to the spirit baptism which is Gods act of imputing the believer into the body of Christ.

        • “my thought on baptism is it’s primary importance is as an identification to the spirit baptism which is Gods act of imputing the believer into the body of Christ.”

          As a former co-worker once told me: “There is only one baptism that matters.”

          I am pretty sure he wasn’t referring to water. 🙂

  15. A moment by moment relationship with Jesus. He leads I follow.

    • Amen Manny. You’ve reminded me of the verse:

      And He was saying to them all, ” If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

  16. “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ” “…They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:38,42

    A Christian is someone who has been baptised and is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. That person lives a life of repentance and is devoted to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship with her Christian brothers and sisters, the Eucharist and prayer. A Christian is known by her righteous works that come by faith in Christ. Whether or not someone is “saved” or going to heaven is a different topic imo.

  17. Profession that Jesus is Lord, baptism, chrismation, and communion seem to me to be what marks one who says they intend to follow Jesus of Nazareth. There is much that we cannot judge and ultimately God alone is the judge. I would also tend to say we have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved rather than ever point to “salvation” as something we already have in its fullness.

  18. A Christian is someone who has accepted the free gift of Christ’s payment for their sins by His death on the cross. I can’t do it without His payment because I don’t have the resources and if I don’t accept the gift, I don’t get bailed out.

    Many call themselves Christians who haven’t any idea what they really believe. They base their title of “Christian” on traditions and man made opinions.

  19. This question has really got me thinking! Thinking of the thief hanging on the cross, I would have to say being saved is totally a heart transformation – believing in Jesus totally — who He claims to be. Is that the same as being Christian or Christlike? Makes me think..

    • Jim aka Joseph the diviner says:

      Hmm the thief on the cross.. the skys grew dark and didn’t it rain? (Baptism)!.. random thought. Jim.

    • My thoughts too centered on Jesus. He Himself claimed to be the only way to God, and He seemed, to me at least, to promise that simple trust in Him to be that Way leads to life everlasting.

  20. cermak_rd says:

    For me, a non-Christian, I take a simple approach. If someone says they’re Christians, then they’re Christians. So I don’t care whether they’re Nicean, Chalcedonian but not Nicean, or whatever else. If they say they are, then they are.

  21. Dan Allison says:

    A Christian is born again, born of the spirit. We can “believe” this and “confess” that, but without God’s action — the birthing of His Spirit within us, we are not born again. No one “decides” to be a Christian “by choice.” Everyone I know who is a Christian was dragged into the Kingdom, kicking and screaming, by God’s irresistible grace.

  22. Believing in Jesus, with all that meant to a first century person (much more than just intellectual assent).

    Or, as Frederick Buechner puts it:

    “He does not say the church is the way. He does not say his teachings are the way, or what people for centuries have taught about him. He does not say religion is the way, not even the religion that bears his name. He says he himself is the way.”

  23. I must add, as a litmus test for the real Gospel, it must be achievable by someone with Locked-in Syndrome. If Jean-Dominique Bauby couldn’t become a real Christian . . . then no one can. In other words Jesus + nothing, no works involved.

  24. I think many of the comments here so far are on the money, and I probably could not articulate what it means for me to be a Christian any better than what has already been said.

    But as the parent of a severely autistic child who will never read scripture, recite a creed, get baptized, say the sinner’s prayer, confess with her mouth, or profess a belief, I pray to God that his grace extends far beyond what we can envision, understand, or even read in Holy Scripture. I realize this is probably not where the discussion was intended to go, so if this is deleted I will bear no ill will, but I have a hard time not framing these discussions through the context of my personal situation.

    If by “Christian” we more or less mean having a relationship with God that extends into the afterlife, then I just hope that the one who told his disciples to “Suffer the little children to come unto me” has a plan for someday making my daughter whole, regardless of whether I read that explicitly in Scripture or not.

    God bless.

    • ahumanoid says:

      “I pray to God that his grace extends far beyond what we can envision, understand, or even read in Holy Scripture.”

      Me too, me too. . .

    • Maybe the strongest comment here, Jerry. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. This gives me much to ponder. Please comment more often–we need your fresh and honest perspective.

    • I agree with Jeff. Jerry, your personal situation gives me great pause to have to ponder the question and reject all typical answers.

      When I reflect upon the gospels and the varied accounts of Jesus’ healings and the different ways in which He brought people to accept Him, I’m absolutely certain He figure out a way to bring salvation to those who are unable to do the “visible/physical” things that most of us feel are “requirements” for salvation.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

    • DreamingWings says:

      My personal favorite reply to such questions comes from the movie ‘Kingdom of Heaven’.

      “I think God will understand. And if He doesn’t; then he is not God. And we have no need to worry.”

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      Regarding Jerry’s child, again I’d like to point out that while baptism, or confession or whatever may be the ordinary ways of entering into the Family, that does not rule out God using any extraordinary means he sees fit.

      In our Church’s liturgy (an English adaptation of Kenyan Anglican Eucharist) we thank God for those who have entered the kingdom, both those who confessed their faith and “those whose faith was only known to You.”

      • “…both those who confessed their faith and ‘those whose faith was only known to You.'”

        Wow, that’s a cool way to look at it!

  25. Such an important question. I have always loved the way CS Lewis described the house of God as a hallway with many rooms, some closer to others, and encouraged us all to respect those who chose to dwell in other rooms–celebrating our similarities for all of those within the ‘house’ of God, rather than dwelling on our differences. But still, to your point…what defines the ‘house’?

    To me, the simplest thing is not to reinvent the wheel. The Apostle’s Creed has been used for this very purpose ever since c. 180 AD. So why change it now? So to me, to be a “Christian” you must be one who truly believes the following (no more, no less):

    “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

    • Am rereading C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity. His comparison of a “Gentleman” meaning and a “Christian” meaning is pertinent. If one doesn’t believe tha Jesus was born of a virgin, was the Son of God and died for our sins and was resurected on the third day, and sits at the right hand of God. Can one be a Christian? Grace is a docterine, but ethics and being like Jesus is gratitude.

    • The Apostle’s Creed does not include a Trinitarian definition. How important is this to being a Christian?

  26. Anyone who sincerely believes in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. Of course, believing the doctrines contained in the early ecumenical creeds also demonstrates one is a true believer. That is why we need safeguards to determine who is truly in the Body of Christ. A person can claim that they are a Christian (and may even regularly participate in church activities) but if he or she rejects the fundamental tenets of the faith then he or she has denied the faith in principle. For example, a person betrays his or her confession of faith if he or she denies the literal and historical resurrection of Jesus Christ (or the deity of Christ, the divine inspiration of Scripture, etc.).

    Also, a Christian is not someone who has just confessed some doctrines of the faith but actually is transformed by the gospel. There is no such thing as a worldly, carnal, or sin-dominated Christian (1 John 2:15-17; 3:9). Faith without a transformed life is dead (James 2:14-26). Of course, no true believer will ever be sinlessly perfect in this life (1 John 1:8-9), but a true believer will be renewed from within by the Holy Spirit and will demonstrate that regeneration through acts of love, charity, and good deeds (Galatians 5:22-23).

    Thus, a true Christian is one who truly embraces the gospel message by faith for the forgiveness of sins, but not only that believes the fundamental tenets of the historic Christian faith and lives a new life in conformity to the will of God as revealed in Scripture.

  27. Christiane says:

    We find a broad understanding of membership in the partially invisible and mysterious Body of Christ coming from the moving funeral oration of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, which he offered on the occasion of his father’s death in A.D. 374:

    “He was ours even before he was of our fold.
    His manner of life made him one of us.
    Just as there are many of our own who are not with us,
    whose lives alienate them from the common body,
    so too there are many of those outside who belong really to us,
    men whose devout conduct anticipates their faith.
    They lack only the name of that which in fact they possess.
    My father was one of these, an alien shoot but inclined to us in his manner of life.”

    source of quote: ( William A. Jurgens, , vol. 2, )

  28. Michael D says:

    To be possessed by the spirit of God is to be a Christian. The creeds, baptism, faith in Christ, and many more things mentioned by others are indeed important parts of being a Christian. But I’m fairly certain that one can be confused about many things and yet be a Christian. One may or may never get all their spiritual ducks lined up in a way all might hope for. Still, scripture does say that if one has faith coming from God, they will persevere. But once more, it is difficult to always see someone elses persevering faith. It is even difficult to locate ones own at times. Yet since it is spirit of God within that saves us and makes us His child, persevering faith is in the end the best indicator that one is indeed a Christian.

  29. Christiane says:

    I often hear the idea that only those who say the Holy Name of Christ and proclaim faith in Him will be saved. And then we run into St. Matthew’s account of the Final Judgment. And we go ‘wait a minute. . . ‘
    There is something about those goats saying ‘Lord, Lord’ and getting booted out of heaven
    that gives one pause.

    My own Catholic faith teaches that non-Christians have a chance to be saved:

    “Nor is God remote from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, since he gives to all men life and breath and all things (cf. Acts 17:25-28), and since the Savior wills all men to be saved (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4).
    Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through dictates of their conscience—those too, may achieve eternal salvation.”
    “Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life.”

    As for those non-Christians, the gentle sheep of His pasture?
    They know His Voice, and respond to the call of the Holy Spirit within their hearts.
    And acting accordingly, they follow Him,
    whose Name they may only know as the One who asks them to love.

  30. What makes a Christian?

    The worst aspects of the human condition. Doubt, fear, guilt, shame, trauma, loneliness, pain, addiction. The need to be free from those things. And the faith to believe the One who can deliver and redeem. Then to go on and live with him.

    (Side note: I think we need a new word for “faith.” How about “gut-wrenching hope?” Because faith is uglier than we admit).

    • Salsapinkkat says:

      I’m inclined to agree: A Christian is someone who knows their own weaknesses & comes to God naked & wanting forgiveness. (After that they often want to put all sorts of unsuitable clothing back on, but that’s another story!)
      I have friends,believers & not, but with the exception of one friend (who I believe is on her own journey) all of my unbelieving friends have a certain barrier they put up- a front- I guess the root is pride…. At the point where we meet Christ, we KNOW our brokenness. A relative visiting our church once commented on how many of the people there seemed ‘not very together’. I decided to take that as a compliment! It’s about the one thing we all have in common…

    • so true – well said.

  31. You might be a Christian if…

    you experience Divine Love so much that you can love your brother, your neighbor, and even your enemy,

    AND

    your journey through that Love came about through the life and teachings of a first century Jewish heretic we call Jesus.

    • After I posted I was reading “The Mystical Body” by Patricia Treece and found this bit, which describes my point more pointedly 🙂

      In any of the world’s religious traditions, “…passionate love is the infallible sign of holiness–love for God and love for the entire human family down to its least lovable member”. The person who experiences that capacity for passionate love through the teachings of the Jesus traditions is a Christian.

  32. Christ makes the Christian.

    Beliefs are important, but they for our benefit, not God’s.

    1 John 2:7-8:
    Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it.

    To be a ‘Christian’ in terms of identifying with a historical tradition may be measured in many ways… beliefs, actions, lifestyle, practices, attendance at church etc etc… but to be God’s child is to love, and be loved in return.

  33. A Christian is one who is helping to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth through following in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth, also known as the Christ, the human represention of God. Most Christians will adhere to the beliefs (or similar beliefs) as written within the Apostles’ Creed. How they practice what they believe will be greatly influenced by their culture, traditiions and the community within which they worship.

    • conanthepunctual says:

      Well said. I might make it even a little broader in the practice area to include how they approach understanding the Bible or even if they have access to it, and define “community within which they worship” to include the possibility of a person outside of any church.

  34. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

    Looking at the historic understanding of the Fathers and whatnot, it seems that anyone who is baptized is a Christian in a visible sense. I.e. baptism is the ordinary way one becomes identified with Christ. Modes and means of baptism are irrelevant. To that end, my congregation welcomes anyone to Christ’s Table as long as they have been baptized Christians in good standing (the honor system is used. No one is checking baptism certificates or calling visitors’ pastors to ensure they’re in good standing)

    That said, it is not baptism that saves a person, it is faith in Christ. God is free to use any extraordinary means into the family that he sees fit, including faith that is known to God alone.

    The sad reality is that there may be a good number of baptized folk who do not enter the Kingdom. The happy reality is that there may be a good number of unbaptized folk who do. Ultimately, only God knows.

  35. Remarkably charitable responses here, by and large, Jeff D must be praying for the rowdy mob of I-Monkians fervently. Thanks , Jeff D….. and great post idea BTW

  36. Jim aka Joseph the diviner says:

    Hmmmm. great (salvation) what does this mean? I suppose we are not refering to life since it is appointed for all to die one death…If we are refering to salvation from sin, so we can once again enjoy the relationship with our God then good.

    How are we saved? is it by turning from sin? is it a process that requires time? does it require a greek water baptism? or does it require a Mikveh or complete cleansing? what if we die only 98% sin free? I suppose that would be the finnish of our faith, death that is.

    Isn’t the real question does Jesus know us? for many in that day willl cry Lord Lord, we know the rest. Is it possible to follow Jesus so perfectly that we can indeed say some day that we are free from sin and doing the will of him who sent me?

    I worry that as modern Christians we have come to the point that the real meaning of scripture eludes us. that it was written for people of a place and time who we really don’t understand well.

    Kind of like me saying to you that’s cool. a thousand years from now that might be accepted as meaning I was refering to the temperature of something. I think that baptism is a good example of this the greeks saw someone being immersed and well baptism.

    But that greek witnessed a Mikveh which translates as cleansing, wether a foot washing as Jesus did for peter or an immersion in a stream as John did for Jesus. the concept of submission to the will of God and allowing a cleansing to take place, wether a cleansing of the heart or the soul. It is done with faith, with hope and with joy.

    Sorry I just got off a long night of work and am feeling pretty random. Jim.

  37. all i know is that i am a Christian, i truly don’t know about anyone else and truly cannot know. but if someone tells me that they are also a Christian they should be accepted as a brother or sister and seek to grow and worship God together. seems to me i would rather err on the side of being to accepting than not accepting enough.

  38. At the risk of being just a tad silly…

    If being born in, and living in America makes ones an American, than being born in and living in Christ would make one a Christian.

    And to me. living in Christ means attempting each and every day to live as Christ would live, attempting to be obedient to Him. attempting each day to love others as He would love, to do the works he would do.

    I simply believing was enuff, even Satan could be called a Christian, since Satan KNOWS Jesus Christ is Lord, and trembles

  39. We can quote chapter and verse but some have already done. The reformers definition still rings true notitia, assensus, fiducia … We have to know, agree with and trust (active not passive belief) in Christ

  40. MelissaTheRagamuffin says:

    I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

    That’s the Apostles’ Creed. I learned that in Catholic school many years ago. I have read a lot of conflicting accounts of how old the actual Apostles’ Creed is. The version we have now probably dates to Charlemagne. Someone writing around the year 200 makes reference to a creed that is almost exactly the same (creator of heaven and earth is not in it) as the Apostles’ Creed. This particular writing makes it sound like the Creed had been around a long, long, long time. Some people say it actually dates back to the apostles – hence the name – and came about in response to gnostic heresies. What I think we can agree on is that the Apostles Creed is one of the oldest – if not the oldest – statements of faith of the Christian church.

    Here are some of my observations about the Apostle’s Creed: Conspicuously absent is any reference to the inerrency of scripture. That might have a little something to do with the fact that when the Apostles’ Creed was written the Bible as we know it had not been put together yet. Also absent is any reference to HOW or WHEN God created heaven and earth, the diety of Jesus Christ (which I absolutely believe in), any reference to the baptism of the Holy Spirit and blathering in tongues, the Rapture and all the various debates (post trib, mid-trib, pre-trib) that surround it. Actually, absent from the Creed is most of the subjects we like to get our panties in a twist over and shout that some other group or individual isn’t really Christian because of their position on those subjects. Assuming for just one minute that the Creed was actually laid down by the apostles these are the points they considered non-negotiable. This were the points you HAD to believe to be baptized and join the church: God the father (check), Jesus Christ, only son our Lord (check), crucifiction and resurrection (check, check) and on down the line we go. So, if the apostles, themselves, the people who actually knew Jesus didn’t think that those issues were important enough to exclude people from the church over – where do we get off doing it?

  41. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

  42. A reading of 1 John seems to help us with this question. I think that a person is a Christian based upon his/her lifestyle of love (as seen in Jesus). You can say the right sinner’s prayer, be baptized, attend church 3X/week, believe the right doctrine, etc., but if you do not love your brother you are simply not a Christian or a follower of Jesus. I think when when we get to Heaven, we will be surprised. We might ask, “What is (insert name) doing here?” and “Where is (insert name)?”

  43. What makes an American Christian? I count four primary influences:

    Ayn Rand
    Joseph Campbell
    E.W. Kenyon
    Abraham Maslow

    Throw in a sprinkle of Charles Finney, and there you go.

    I can say I “believe” in “Jesus” or “God”, but under that statement are ingrained American ethos and pathos which dictate the meaning of those words. I routinely see professing “conservative” Christians stand up and recite the creed and then fill their heads with teachings which run in direct contrast to that creed to which they just professed.

    Reading Jeremiah is really eye-opening: it begins with condemnations against the people at the time of King Josiah – you know, the “good” king who removed the high places and re-instituted the law of Moses. It was a superficial reform; underneath, the idolatrous culture which drove the country was alive and well.

  44. As I read all the responses that point to specific scripture, I think back to the period of time after Jesus died and before there was such a thing as mass printing. There was a time when people couldn’t pick up the Bible and read it. There was a time when a person couldn’t study and analyze the gospel accounts and the epistles to the extent that we’re able to now.

    It makes me wonder…shouldn’t it have been harder back then to know what being a Christian meant? Are we making it harder now than it should be? We’ve got the cheat sheets that the early Christians didn’t have, yet are we struggling with issues like this more than they did? Is the struggle the same? I could probably go to Amazon right now and find 500 books on what being a Christian means. Why do we make it so difficult?

  45. Frankly, I think it’s different for everyone. Jesus dealt with everyone He encountered in a different way, a different healing, a different miracle (even in the OT). It’s not the words, baptism, prayer, etc…it’s all about the heart…always has been, always will be (God desires obedience not sacrifice). The best part is, I don’t get to decide, God does, and He will judge righteously–something that eludes all of us! If someone wants to call themselves a Christian,ok, it’s just a word that now has different connotations. I no longer call myself a Christian though….it’s lost it’s meaning.

  46. A Christian is someone who is trying to become more and more like Jesus each day.

  47. I thought all that was required to be a Christian was to vote Republican and watch Foxnews.

    • nononono….you vote Democratic to tax the other guy to help the poor, and you lay sod in New Orleans and call it “mission work”.

      • MelissaTheRagamuffin says:

        I’m sorry, but God cares for our physical need as well as our spiritual needs. Read the book of James. So, I don’t see doing work in the clean up of New Orleans as any less mission work than going and preaching.

    • Hey, that wasn’t this Fish. It sounds like me but I resisted the urge and I would have added Baptist anyway. Maybe I need to be the Original Fish?

  48. Jonathan Tucker says:

    Hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but according to so called orthodoxy, as described by the councils, you cannot receive salvation without believing in the trinity, in the incarnation, that Jesus had two natures, etc. It galls me that our christian faith continues to be spelled out for us by the Roman Catholic church, because the Reformers (Calvin, Luther), did not totally seperate from the church doctrinally as did the Anabaptists. Our faith is based on the finished work of Jesus, following his teachings and living in obedience to the scriptures. It involves the whole person…”thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, soul, strength & mind”. You are now a living sacrifice, set apart for the Lord to do good works. We are his hand and his feet til he comes.

    • MelissaTheRagamuffin says:

      Sorry, to burst your bubble, but the Anabaptists believe in the trinity, the incarnation, Jesus had two natures, etc. The biggest doctrinal shift brought about by the Anabaptists was a return to the believer’s baptism and a rejection of infant baptism, and of course, many (maybe most?) of the early Anabaptists were pacifists. They were also the first to embrace that wild and crazy idea of separation of church and state – that you can’t legislate belief. In terms of orthodoxy Anabaptists are really not all that much different than the Catholic Church, it’s just those few things where they differered were so significant (especially the idea of freedom of religion) that both the Catholic Church and Luther were willing to kill them for it.

  49. I think obedience is what God wants. Belief is cheap. That’s why the life of Jesus is so important to me. He didn’t just tell us, he showed us, what the Kingdom of God is like, and when we become Christians, we choose to live as he did even if it means (as it almost always does) that we will be hated by the powers and principalities of the fallen world, including those who pretend to be “Christian.” I prefer to think of myself as living in faith rather than belief and to define faith as “trust.” I trust that God exists though I cannot prove it, I trust that love is greater than evil though the world screams in pain around me, I trust that I can live as Jesus told me to in the Sermon on the Mount though I stumble daily and the world despises me for it, and I trust that the Father really raised Jesus on the third day as a way of saying the crime the world committed in putting him to death would not be the last word. I will not believe something that is demonstrably false (so I try to avoid the error of fideism), but I choose to answer the great void of my own finitude with the faith and hope that Jesus taught me.

  50. Matt Hoverter says:

    I believe that beyond believing in God and knowing that he sacrificed himself for us, God wants a continual daily relationship with us. He wants a dialog with us like we would have with the closest of friends. All God wants is for us to lean into him for everything. That faith of knowing that he will take care of everything and that nothing is to big or to small is what makes you a christian. Go to God with EVERYTHING, I believe that is what he wants.

    If we do this then everything else like pushing yourself to be a better person, studying the bible, leading others to him, they all fall into place. They all become your desires.