What is a Christian?

Discussion in 'Philosophy, Religion and Spirituality' started by hanzosbm, Mar 31, 2016.

  1. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    What is a Christian? A seemingly simple question, but with an incredibly elusive answer. The problem is, like with any word, the meaning depends on the agreed upon definition. But then that begs the question, 'agreed upon by whom'?

    From the time that Jesus was walking the Earth there were people disagreeing about his message. The church did their best to eliminate any different views during the middle ages, but owing to human nature, differences in opinion will always exist. These days, the larger, more mainstream churches all seem to recognize each other as slightly different takes on Christianity, but how far away from the mainstream can ideas go and still be considered Christian. While the blue lodges do not concern themselves with the specifics of a man's beliefs, several appendant bodies do, so the importance of the label and who does and doesn't fall under it becomes a practical one.

    So, what makes a person a Christian? Christ-like behavior? Believing in Christ as a savior? Believing in Christ's teachings? And if so, based on whose interpretation of his teachings?

    What are your thoughts?
     
  2. Classical

    Classical Premium Member

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    Anyone can use that nomenclature for themselves these days. That's good on one level and bad on another.

    I personally view a "Christian" as a person who makes a public identification with Jesus Christ as their Lord (your prime authority) and Savior (the one who saves you). Placing any other caveats on that is problematic, because when you do that, you're into sectarian beliefs. I'm personally a Confessional Protestant Christian, so I have additional labels. :)
     
  3. Chaz

    Chaz Registered User

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    The term first applied to those that followed the teachings of Yeshua.
     
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  4. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    First of all, brother, thank you for responding. A discussion is exactly what I'm looking for.

    Now, will all the respect in the world, if I may play devil's advocate; what about early Christian sects such as the gnostics and arians who saw Jesus as a mortal man and prophet, but not divine? To them, he wouldn't have been seen a savior unless it was a matter of being saved through his teachings?
     
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  5. Classical

    Classical Premium Member

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    The early sects still regarded Jesus as savior and lord. So, yes, I say they were true Christians, just not orthodox or apostolic. :) (Labels, see?)
     
  6. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    Absolutely, and I think labels are at the very heart of this matter.

    I don't claim to be an expert in early Christian sects, however, if the Arians (for one) considered Jesus to be a mortal man, if we set aside the savior aspect for a moment, surely they couldn't have felt that he was their prime authority when the believed in God. While the orthodox churches believe in the holy trinity and therefore do not have a conflict between Jesus and God, the Arians did not. Would they then, not be Christians?
     
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  7. Classical

    Classical Premium Member

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    Well, my understandings of Bishop Arius and his followers is that they were Adoptionist. They thought Jesus was born only human then ascended to divine. He was still regarded as their savior and lord, but the mechanics of how that worked were different than Nicene Orthodoxy. As far as gnostics go, some identified as Christian and some did not. My guess is that the dividing line was how much trust they placed on one teacher, Jesus, to be their way to the light.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2016
  8. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    One of the difficulties is the rise of "higher criticism" in the 19th century when it was discovered that much of the Christian writings have very close parallels in pre-Christian writings.

    As a simple example, Horus (son of the Widow Isis) raised Asar and Jesus raised Lazarus.

    Thus the question of what is uniquely Christian becomes problematic.

    St Augustine dealt with the issue by declaring that the one true religion has always existed but only recently has been called Christian.
     
  9. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    Very interesting. I was not aware of that, so thank you. And I think this brings us back around to the point you made earlier about labels.

    I once read a philosophy/theology about the human soul being a small piece of God. Some form of this idea exists in many different lines of thought. Following this idea, any human would be both mortal and God. Applying this concept, Jesus would indeed be thought of as Lord, but no more so than any one else. Would someone adhering to this philosophy satisfy the first criteria previous listed?

    And again, brother, I don't want this to come off as arguing or me challenging your's or anyone's beliefs. Simply a discussion.
     
  10. Classical

    Classical Premium Member

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    I'll promise you, I'll never be offended by anyone discussing religion on the internet. ;) Seriously though, I "talk religion" for a profession, so it's no big deal for me to share and listen.

    As far as your discussion question, I think it again comes down to our own personal comfort with the definition of "Christian". I would hesitate to try to say someone was not a Christian by trying to dissect their interior definitions of the concepts we are discussing. It's their business how it works and they need to read the 4 gospels for themselves and meet Jesus there. Truth is, we ALL hold erroneous beliefs here and there. It's what makes us human and in need of a Savior who is not ourselves. But yeah, I think Christians need to believe Jesus is unique in some ways.
     
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  11. BroBook

    BroBook Premium Member

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    Well my brother, the term was first used in a derogatory form " followers of that dead man " and like our " goat" it stuck, next we do understand that there is a difference in what the Holy Writings say ( all of them) and what people teach and believe, but I would say that a Christian is one that accepts The Anointed One ( Christ ) as the Rightful ruler of the Earth.
     
  12. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

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    There are more than 3,000 sects of Christianity in the world and many items they don't agree on with each other... what is a Christian? Good luck finding a modern answer.
     
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  13. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    Thank you for that, brother Classical. First, for your maturity on the subject. I know we act like it should be easy to discuss differing beliefs, but sadly, that's not always the case. Secondly, for your input on the matter.

    Truth be told, as I tend to be a bit more esoteric than the average bear, I would say that I agree with the teachings of Jesus as I interpret them. However, I acknowledge and respect that my interpretations tend to be quite different than those of most people who would consider themselves Christians. Between appendant bodies and my upcoming wedding (the Pastor is my bride's uncle) the question of whether I would label myself as a Christian seems to always be right around the corner. In these cases, I feel it'd be a lot easier to come to a consensus for myself that will allow me to give a much easier yes or no answer first than go into a very long discussion about my beliefs with someone who may or may not be as open minded as yourself.
     
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  14. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    Well, it's interesting that you mention 'what the Holy Writings say'. Let's not forget that it was the council of Nicea that decided on which writings made it into the Bible and which did not. If someone followed writings found outside of the Bible that claimed to be the teachings of Christ, could they claim to be following what the Holy Writings say?

    It dawns on me that this argument could easily find analogue in Freemasonry. There is a vast array or organizations that could be classified as Masonic, but which groups do and do not fall under that classification vary based on personal opinions. Prince Hall, Shriners, Eastern Star, Grand Orient de France. All of these organizations have people who both do and do not consider them to be Masonic organizations with varying degrees of agreement. While each GL may make a cut and dry determination on this (just like various Churches may make cut and dry determinations on the required criteria of being a Christian) when it comes to the general public, even the very well informed general public, it becomes a matter of opinion.
     
  15. BroBook

    BroBook Premium Member

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    That's my exact point, a thing is what it is regardless of how individuals may see it.
     
  16. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    I recall the priests attempting to deal with the fate of people that were not Christians. The view seemed to be that every person at some time in their life would have a choice about Christ. The problem of course was that it would be unjust to condemn people to hell just because they had never had the opportunity to join the one true religion.

    These days the same question could be formulated in terms of non-Earth people (aliens) of which there are countless reports. Are aliens Christian?

    How unfair would it be that aliens have to come to Earth to become Christian?

    Could aliens be Christian without ever having heard of Jesus?

    And that takes us back to St Augustine again: the one true religion has always existed but only recently been called Christian.

    Is this Anderson's religion in which all men agree?
     
  17. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

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    There's a huge difference between "a Savior" and "a Messiah" and "lord" and "Lord".
     
  18. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

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    1. Anyone who claims the title.
    2. Anyone who claims the title and summarily condemns others for claiming the title falsely.
    See the submitted items 1. and 2. above.
    One would hope that this "Christ-like behavior" include accepting responsibility for one's life and accepting accountability for the choices and decisions one makes in life, doing so without excuse and not allowing others to do so on your behalf, thereby creating a scape-goat culture.
    Which raises the question, "savior of what?"
    Which raises the question, "Those that are reportedly his or those that were actually Paul's representation of his teachings?"
    Exactly!
    Important.
     
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  19. dfreybur

    dfreybur Premium Member

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    There are going to be external and internal discussions on the topic and they will be different discussions.

    "Anyone who claims the title". From the outside looking in this definition matters greatly because of the importance put on profession. It introduces all sorts of problems. When outsiders see insiders call each other not Christians for disagreeing it becomes very hard to dismiss even the nuttiest folks who profess. It's an inherent problem with having an announced criterion for inclusive plus very many group criteria for exclusion. It becomes very hard to draw the line where disagreement ends and nuttiness begins.

    I don't know how to approach this part of the topic, but when I see one group dismissing another as not Christian I can't help thinking that's a cop out. Trying to resolve a disagreement by exclusion. The fact that often nuts are easily identified helps nothing because there are folks at every point along a spectrum from clearly sane to clearly insane and everywhere in between.

    Who's a nut and who's a seed? I can decide for myself but I can't ever decide for anyone else. That's how opinions work. It makes the edges very cloudy.
     
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  20. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    I like your comparison to a spectrum, and I completely agree with you. Right now, in parts of the world, there are various groups who the outside world would consider extreme killing each other because they disagree on their extremist views. The protestant reformation claimed so many lives over differences that most us today would consider so small as to be almost laughable. Prior to the reformation, there were Christians. Then, there had to be a new way to divide Christians, so we had Catholics and Protestants, or Lutherans. When the Protestants started disagreeing, we started seeing all kinds of new groups popping up, all of which called themselves Christians. I wasn't alive then (regardless of how old I feel some days) but I'm sure there were people claiming that those groups weren't 'real Christians'. Today there are so many different beliefs out there, some of which have titles, some that don't. As you said, they all exist along a spectrum. The problem with labels is that it requires a line to be placed on that spectrum that differentiates Christian and non Christian, and people disagree about where that line ought to be drawn. How light does a shade of red need to become before it is considered pink? Ask 10 different people and you'll get 11 different answers.
     

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