The Mutt’s Nuts

Where religion is about as attractive as a two week holiday in Afghanistan

Who are the real Christians?

with 16 comments

I’m confused. There are so many different brands of Christians in the world that I wonder whether they could all be considered true Christians, or whether one group is more “Christian ” than the others. Is the only requirement for being a Christian a belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, or do other things matter too?

For example, are you a Christian if you believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God in its entirety? Or can you still be a Christian if you think that some of the more outlandish parts of the Bible are probably just made up? Are you a Christian if you condemn homosexuality as evil, or can you also be a Christian if you are tolerant towards homosexuality and maybe have gay friends? Do you have to believe that God literally created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days to be a proper Christian, or can you accept evolution and regard Genesis as an allegory, yet still categorise yourself as a follower of Jesus?

What if you don’t believe in the virgin birth? Does that mean you’re not a real Christian? Can you be unkind to people and swear like a trooper, yet still count yourself as a Christian because you’ve accepted Jesus as Lord?

To be a proper Christian, do you have to sell all your goods and give the money to the poor, as Jesus suggested to the rich young man who asked what more he could do to be a true follower? Should you shun your family in favour of following the Lord, as Jesus taught his disciples? Can you really claim to be a Christian if you don’t love every one of your “neighbours” as yourself?

I suppose what I’m really asking is: can you be a liberal, a moderate or a fundamentalist and still claim you follow the same religion? Whichever one of those positions you espouse when it comes to Christianity, would you still consider the other types of people to be just as much of a Christian as yourself?

Why do you think people can often take radically different positions with regard to their Christianity (e.g liberal and fundamentalist)? Is there something about Christianity that allows people to basically pick and choose what they want to believe as long as they accept Jesus as their Saviour? And, if so, doesn’t that sound suspiciously like a man-made belief system that is so flexible it can more or less give everyone what they want?

Even Jesus himself offers different things to different types of people. For example, there’s the compassionate Jesus who fed the 5,000; the gentle Jesus who raised a young girl from the dead; the furious, whip-wielding Jesus who set about the temple money-changers; the irritable Jesus who cursed the barren fig tree; the arrogant Jesus who insulted his local religious leaders; the sociable Jesus who feasted with his friends; the tolerant Jesus who mingled with prostitutes and tax officials; the bigoted Jesus who refused to heal a woman’s child because she was a Canaanite; the divisive Jesus who came to set father against son and mother against daughter; the war-like Jesus who came, not to bring peace, but a sword (in contradiction of the angel’s announcement at his birth).

If you like the idea of peace, love and kindness, you can pick out the scriptures where Jesus demonstrates those attributes. If you think tolerance is important, you can find examples of Jesus being forgiving and non-judgemental. But if you think people should be punished for not believing as you do, you can find plenty of passages where Jesus talks of the fiery hell that awaits the damned. If you want to justify an attitude of superiority over other races, you can find support from Jesus for that view. If you think that the way to deliver your message is through a raised voice, dogmatism and criticism, you’ll find a Jesus that sets that kind of example too.

Whether you think Christianity should be gentle or harsh, loving or condemning, forgiving or intractable, you can find support for your attitude in the Bible, even in the behaviour of Jesus himself. Does this not sound contradictory? You could argue that Christianity is all-inclusive, that it welcomes people with many different views, but it could also be seen as a very human belief system, reflecting many of our prejudices, fears, desires, and ideals, our fascination with the supernatural and even our blood lust.

So what does it mean to be a true Christian? And who has the most accurate definition?

Isla

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Written by islaskye

January 20, 2008 at 7:04 pm

16 Responses

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  1. You ask some very good questions, and though I don’t agree with your conclusions, these are issues that are worth addressing.

    What does it mean to be a christian? To be a follower of Jesus Christ.
    Not a follower of men’s ideas of who He was and is, and what they say He taught, or of a certain group or denomination; just simply a follower of Christ.

    Jesus summed it all up with these words

    “Love the Lord God with ALL you heart mind souls and strength and love your neighbor as yourself; on this hangs all the law and the prophets.”

    The only harsh words Jesus ever had were for the religious leaders of the day who kept the rules and law diligently, but did not have the Spirit of God living within them which manifests His life through believers life with love and compassion. This does not mean accepting sin, but rather He offered forgiveness rather than condemnation, saying afterwards “Go and sin n more, lest a worse thing happen to you.”

    He did not shun His family ( they were among His followers ) but rather said loving God was of primary importance ( above everything, not just family ).

    He did not refuse to heal the Canaanite womans child but asked a question which was intended perhaps to see what was in her heart ( and probably those around him listening in ),; Jesus did in fact heal him.
    And so it goes…

    Christianity is NOT about religion; it is about having a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son, being born again of His Spirit who lives within us, enabling us to live a life that honors and glorifies Him as we reach others with His message of forgiveness and eternal life.

    Susan

    January 20, 2008 at 8:02 pm

  2. Good question. Since God is not the author of confusion, let the words of Christ explain itself. Jesus said to Nicadimus, ” You must be born again.” Many tried to follow the rules of Judiasm but failed. Just as today many seek approval with goodworks and obeying the rules of religion. Many at the judgement day will say to Christ, “Did I not obey your commands or give my tythe or do good works? Christ will say “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Christ said many times in the Bible, “My sheep hear my voice.” Do you hear the voice of Christ? Do you know the purpose for which you were made. If not, keep searching.

    Only a spirit led person understands the things that are spiritual. If you get a chance, catch the laws that govern the spirit world at my blog called “Pathway to Enlightment”.

    If you have any other questions drop me a line at my email address.
    Obviously you are searching to answer the tuggling on your heart by God. Seek to answer the call.

    Patricia

    January 20, 2008 at 9:32 pm

  3. Susan said, “Christianity is NOT about religion; it is about having a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son.” Could you point me to the passage(s) in the Bible where the relationship is explained clearly? Sometimes the metaphor is parent-child, sometimes the metaphor is husband-wife, sometimes the metaphor is master-slave and so on. Also, what distinction do you see between Christianity as a “religion” and Christianity as a “relationship?” What is your foundation for making this distinction?

    Patricia, what does Jesus mean when he uses the term “born again?”

    If Christianity is as simple as you both seem to believe it is, then why is there so much confusion about it? Even Christians can’t agree among themselves which of them are in and which are out.

    the chaplain

    January 20, 2008 at 10:27 pm

  4. I believe there is more to the story of Jesus of Nazareth than just the religious figure. The key is to look “behind the scenes” and discover, for yourself, the essence of Jesus’ teachings. Love, Forgiveness and Service. In “The 99 Success Secrets Of Jesus” (Xulon Press) I try and show Jesus not as a religious figure but as someone we can all emulate to live more successful and fulfilling lives.

    Don Daniel Ortiz

    January 20, 2008 at 11:59 pm

  5. Susan,

    ***What does it mean to be a christian? To be a follower of Jesus Christ.***

    I don’t know if you’re being deliberately vague, maybe to avoid specifically saying which Christians are in and which Christians are out (to use The Chaplain’s terminology), but you didn’t answer Isla’s question. I know she’s not a brain surgeon, but seriously, I think it’s safe to assume that she understands that Christians are followers of Jesus Christ. Saying, simply, that Christians are followers of Jesus Christ isn’t good enough, as that doesn’t clear up all of the confusion as to what constitutes a proper Christian.

    Curmudgeonly Yours

    January 21, 2008 at 6:10 pm

  6. Susan

    Saying that a Christian is a follower of Christ is not really answering my question. What type of follower is classed as a Christian? Is it a fundamentalist like Jerry Falwell or a liberal like Bishop Spong? Would gay bishop Gene Robinson be considered a real Christian, or the gay-hating members of the Westboro Baptist Church? You see, they all claim to be Christians and would probably all class themselves as followers of Christ.

    The problem as I see it is that the Bible is open to many contradictory interpretations, which all claim legitimacy. Certain interpretations of Christianity and the Bible can engender intolerance, hatred, even murder in a fanatical minority of believers. If the Bible is the word of God, why is it open to so many diverse constructions? Surely God’s truth should be unequivocal.

    You say that Christians shouldn’t follow men’s ideas about who Jesus was and what he did. Unfortunately, the gospels are exactly that – the ideas that certain men had, and wanted to portray, about Jesus. The gospel writers were not Jesus’s contemporaries – they had never even met him, but relied on tales passed down to them by others. Maybe this is why they don’t always agree on the details of events and timescales.

    You may see the essence of Christianity in Jesus’s statement about loving God and one’s neighbour but, again, this is open to interpretation. How do you know when you – or someone else – loves God as completely as he requires? And how is it possible to love neighbours that one doesn’t even know? Some Christians might argue that they show love to their fellow human-beings by berating them for their sins and warning them of the consequences of following a certain path. Are they any less of a Christian than a person who goes about quietly helping others and trying to set a good example?

    Jesus did have some very harsh words for his religious leaders – Matthew 23 is a good example. He continually called them hypocrites and referred to them as a generation of vipers and as whited sepulchres that are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. That sounds very much like name-calling to me. Would you be as rude as that to people? How would you feel if someone branded you a hypocrite and went on to apply several other choice epithets to you in front of your friends and associates? Is there really any excuse for such rudeness by someone who tells his followers to love their neighbour as themselves? It seems that Jesus didn’t always practice what he preached.

    As for his family, Jesus showed little consideration for his parents when he disappeared for three days at age 12 to go and talk to men in the temple. At the wedding feast he asked his mother “What have I to do with thee?”, which doesn’t seem particularly respectful. There were times when he was not the most dutiful son.

    The Canaanite woman had to literally beg Jesus to help her and at first he ignored her. He then told her his work was only with the Israelites and likened helping her to taking bread meant for children and giving it to dogs (i.e. other races or tribes of people). In other words, he humiliated her and only her persistence in accepting her place as a dog that eats the crumbs falling from its master’s table persuaded him to relent and perform the healing she pleaded for. Was it really necessary for him to treat her in this way?

    The chaplain made a good point about relationship versus religion which I agree with, so I won’t address this point, but look forward to reading your reply to her on the subject.

    islaskye

    January 21, 2008 at 7:31 pm

  7. Patricia

    Actually, what Jesus said to Nicodemus was: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5). This suggests that one must be baptised (born of water) as well as receive the Holy Spirit in order to enter God’s kingdom.

    However, that doesn’t really tell me how to spot a true Christian, because there are various forms of baptism (full immersion, sprinkling etc) and no clear indication of who is actually authorised to perform it.

    Anyone can claim they’ve been “born again” or are filled with the Spirit but, again, how on earth are we to know what that even means and whether one person’s perception of rebirth is the same as another’s? It seems that the Bible is so vague on this and many other subjects that it really doesn’t provide any clear guidelines on who can and can’t be considered a true Christian. You speak of being “spirit-led”, but what does that mean in concrete terms?

    By the way, it really annoys me when believers assume that anyone who questions them about their faith is searching for God. The reason for my questions was to point up the fact that the Bible is useless as a guide to what a true Christian should be. It will justify virtually any kind of attitude and action among believers – including bigotry, intolerance and arrogance. Far from searching for God, I am very happy to say that I cast off my belief in God several years ago and really could not believe in him again if I tried.

    islaskye

    January 21, 2008 at 7:56 pm

  8. Don Daniel

    You’re right – Jesus isn’t a religious figure, he’s a mythical hero figure.

    islaskye

    January 22, 2008 at 6:31 am

  9. chaplain

    You’ve hit the nail on the head – Christianity will always be confusing as long as believers don’t even agree on who is and who isn’t a Christian.

    islaskye

    January 22, 2008 at 6:36 am

  10. Dear Isla,
    Do you want to really know what it means to be a true Christian?
    I met one…and my life was forever changed.
    He..his name was Morris..had the most accurate definition.
    His name was not in lights…he walked an obscure kind of walk,,,outside of mans dead,,and faithless religions of today……but ..there was ..power
    This is needed to verify true Christians…I Corinthians 4:20…for the Kingdom of GOD is not talk,,,but power
    and I do not mean necessailrly big money,worldly kind of power…but the power to see GOD handle your own personal case…day in …day out..

    this same GOD handles my case,,,as my personal doctor,,and insurer against accident or injury prevailing over me..and has since 1983….so of GOD I boast…but not of my own self…for only GOD is good!

    Anyone who wants to find GOD …really find GOD in this present generation ,,,needs to be real firm and serious,,and be outside of organized religion..with a copy of the Word of GOD..open at your house,,,every day,,,seeking the will of GOD

    In my walk,,with GOD,,,I like Paul..have suffered the loss of everything,,,and count it as rubbish,,,as compared to knowing Christ JESUS my LORD..my own personal GOD ,,WHO handles my case,,,day in ,,,and day out…anything I need!
    Praise His Name!
    sincerely
    Douglas Runner
    Ashby Ne

    Douglas Runner

    February 11, 2008 at 12:49 am

  11. Douglas

    I understand that you’re saying a true Christian has “power”, but not sure from your comments how that power is manifest and what exactly it consists of.

    IslaSkye

    February 11, 2008 at 7:55 pm

  12. Dear Isla,

    It is not important who is the real Christian. the very important thing whether we have accepted Jesus as the Lord and Saviour. Without Jesus we are nothing for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. everyone who sins is a slave to sin. So if Jesus sets you free you will be free. God loves you and die for you. you are not a slave to sin.

    May the Holy spirit direct you in understanding the Truth of God.

    Sincerely,
    Rine

    Rine

    March 9, 2008 at 4:48 am

  13. Rine

    I presume you define “sin” as an action that opposes God’s will, or that makes us imperfect and therefore unworthy to be in God’s presence (hence Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden after the Fall)?

    If you believe that God made humankind, then he is the one who created the susceptibility within us to “sin”. He even puts temptation in our way, if you believe the story of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Therefore, he has responsibility for our “sinfulness”. He allowed us to become “slaves to sin” so that he then had to “free” us. The way he chose to do this was through a horrible blood sacrifice, that of his own son. Doesn’t sound very loving to me.

    And if we don’t accept Jesus as the Lord and Saviour, and so die in our sins, he’s made sure we burn in hell for all eternity. More evidence of God’s love?

    If God had a little more imagination, he could have dealt with the whole “sin” issue in a completely different way. For a start, he could have made much more allowance for the fact that we are human and act according to our natures, perhaps by redefining “sin” so that those things that we do which don’t harm others are no longer counted. And what’s wrong with simply accepting our heartfelt remorse and sorrow for transgressions that do have a damaging effect on other people? Or at least revising the consequences of sin in the next life so that the punishment fits the crime.

    Either way, he could do away with the need for a blood sacrifice to redeem sin and the alternative of eternal torture in hellfire for unbelievers if he really wanted to. Maybe God is just too bloodthirsty and vengeful to want to give up these dreadful aspects of his plan for the redemption or punishment of the people he created.

    islaskye

    March 15, 2008 at 10:16 am

  14. He is human
    He is God
    He is Saviour

    The word “christianity” is so abused now that it sometimes seems to mean nothing at all.

    What it’s really all about is Jesus, and His Word
    You can’t get to heaven through relidgion or a certain organization.
    I have a denomination, but that doesn’t mean everyone who does not attend my church is wrong and won’t go to heaven.The only way is Jesus. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He didn’t say being baptist is the only way to get in- or being Catholic, or anglican. Jesus is the only way- no one get to God (heaven) except through him.

    To get to heaven you must be a believer in and a follwer of Jesus Christ. Religion is not the point. Religion, in a way, i s the ‘cup’ that holds this living water Jesus speaks of. And some people, instead of drinking the water to quench their thirst ‘lick the cup’ so to speak and miss the whole point.

    As for the bible, you can’t “pick-and-choose” what parts you do and don’t like and just believe those. God did not intend for you to use the bible that way. The bible is how He wants it, and all of it is important. Choosong certain things and ignoring others is a form of idolitary- in doing this you are making up your own god.

    This includes the evolution theory. God said He made heaven and earth. And so He did. Looking at a sunset alone makes a solid case for intelligent design. If you want the science behind creation I recommend “Case for a Creator” By Lee Strobel.

    The points about homosexuality- it is a sin. It is the same as any other sin. Everyone has different temptations and lusts set before him he must deny. What’s worse murder or cursing the name of the Most Holy? Being covetous or having an affair? Giving in to homosexuality or stealing? Sins are all equal. God knows our hearts. Homosexuality is still a sin, but you should NOT label people with their sins. We should be just as accepting of those who are gay. We are all sinners. Christians are to love everyone. Jesus, who was perfect, loved sinners. No less should we, ourselves being sinners, show love and acceptance to everyone. Not justifying any sinful behaviours here, just saying we’re all equal.

    Christianity is not just about pick the Scripture you like and make up your own Jesus. He represents so many things.
    Our God is loving, but just. He is merciful but righteous.
    Unbelievers don’t go to heaven. God gave us Jesus- the blood sacrifice necessary- His own Son to free us from the bondage of sin. But if we reject what God has offered through a personal relationship with Jesus we choose hell. That scares me.

    I can’t say everything I’d like to say. But I hope I’ve helped.

    jinx3

    August 8, 2008 at 3:28 am

  15. Not bad, but you can go deeper… For example:

    Who are the real Atheists?

    I mean…

    Nobody talks so constantly about God as those who insist that there is no God.
    ~ Heywood Broun (1888 – 1939)

    And yet…

    If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
    ~ Voltaire (1694 – 1778)

    Regardless…

    I always admired atheists. I think it takes a lot of faith.
    Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider

    Could be intriguing to flip the coin… 🙂

    Seeker

    December 15, 2008 at 12:05 pm

  16. The difference between people who understand the scripture in all its perfections, and the people who cannot figure “it” out for all its contradictions, is faith.

    Mindy

    May 24, 2009 at 5:55 pm


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