The following is an excerpt from an upcoming book, and an attempt to define what a Christian is, exactly:
Before discussing the truth of Christianity, we must clarify what is meant by “Christian.” There are a fair number of people who call themselves “Christians,” but whose beliefs more closely resemble something else, or nothing in particular. One particularly common case is that of “Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism,” or MTD, a growing spiritual world-view that is identifiable by five defining beliefs:
- A loving creator god exists
- This god wants people to be nice and fair
- The purpose of life is to be happy and feel self-assured
- This god does not necessarily need to be involved in one’s life, except when he is needed to solve a problem
- Good people go to heaven when they die
Suffice to say, this is not Christianity, and MTDs who call themselves Christian are wrong. Points 1, 2, and 5 aggressively omit half of the picture within Christian doctrine, while 3 and 4 are, theologically, flat-out wrong. Such fake Christians often give more sincere Christians a bad name, making the faithful as a body appear hypocritical and unconvinced of the truth of what they claim to be of the highest importance.
I believe that a Christian is someone who can recite the Nicene creed and mean it, even if they do not necessarily understand it or know it by heart. It reads as follows:
“I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
I do not believe this is a particularly high standard, and while most believers will probably not understand every aspect of it, they will nevertheless have little difficulty in trusting the truth of the more arcane parts if they have truly accepted the veracity of the core. If you believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three-in-one; if you believe in the historical truth of the Gospels, particularly of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and that his death may bring you eternal life, then you are a Christian. If you disbelieve in any one of these tenants, then you are not a Christian.
…at least, nominally. There are many who say one thing, and do another. Rather than base our definition of a believing Christian upon what is said, I think it will be more helpful to define the Christian on the basis of their actions. Theologically, we would have to measure the Christian’s heart, but since we cannot do this, actions tend to serve as a better barometer of the heart than words alone.
To this end, a believing Christian is the sort of person who does, has done, or is setting about doing, the following:
1. Has been baptized
2. Attends church weekly
3. Prays daily
4. Reads scripture regularly
5. Regularly seeks forgiveness for their sins
6. Makes an honest attempt to treat others as they would treat Jesus
7. Does not worry about this world
Is this 7-point, behavior-based, family-resemblance definition a reasonable one? Are there any superfluous points? Are there any missing points? All criticism and commentary is welcome, but if you are going to challenge a point, or propose an addition, scriptural citation would be much appreciated.