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Why Call Ourselves Christians?


Yvonne
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Lately, I have been thinking about the historical Jesus and the terms “Christ” and “Christian”. I did a search in the forums for discussions about Jesus, and found some useful discussions. However, I would like to ask everyone this question. Are we in danger of taking Christ out of Christianity? These questions came to me because of the “feel” I'm getting from forum posts. If the term Christ means anointed or appointed, and if we do not take the resurrection and ascension literally, what use is the term? If the term Christ has no validity, why call ourselves Christian? Or is it all just semantics?

 

I am genuinely interested in thoughts.

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Hi Yvonne,

 

I guess my own view would be that words in general in the area of linguistics is often a matter of semantics. Words do change in meaning and relationship and perhaps that is why semantics is a branch of linguistics itself.

 

To me if we mutually accept the meaning of Christ as an anointing of God, as in the sense of a smearing together with God which a study of the root word Christ might encompass, i think the term has lasting validity. While some historical references use the word Christian merely to mean followers of Jesus, i think that it is his teachings that were most important and is what we follow lest we focus on a man and lose sight of what was said.

 

Now i realize that some (myself not included) believe that the historical Jesus was a myth. Personally, i look past opinions either way because i wasn't around as far as i can recall to know either for certainty. And to be frank, even if the word Christ and Christian as terms disappear, i am most certain from my own experience that those teachings that i initially attributed to Jesus and that smearing together with God will continue to live on regardless of linguistics.

 

Thanks for the question. Just my own perspective to share,

Joseph

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Something to think about...there isn't really any inherent connection between "Christ" as annointed, and the story or idea of a literal physical death, ressurection, and acscention....

The term "Christ" from the Greek, Mechiah/Messiah from the Hebrew, was a term/concept applied to many clearly mortal humans, as evidenced by the many "messiahs' found in the Old Testament. The concept a a person "anointed" "smeared together", "infused with" the Spirit of God held no such meaning.

So in considering how Christ relates in any way to Christianity and Christian faith, I think that is a start point. The validity of Jesus as "Christ" is not inherently connected to a physical death, ressurection and ascention apart from that concept within some Christian religious doctrines.

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Hi Yvonne,

 

Good question. I agree with Joseph that the truth that Jesus embodied would remain lasting and relevant regardless of the name.

 

Touching this subject, I like to quote something from the introduction to 'The Play of God', a book written by a Hindu mystic Devi Vanamali:

 

At one of her talks, someone asked about whether Krishna is an actual historical figure. Her answer was interesting. Devi, whose whole life is lived in devotion to her Lord Krishna, said that if it was proved that Jesus Christ was not an actual historical figure, many Christians would feel that the underpinnings of their faith had been destroyed. But if it was proved that Krishna was not an actual historical figure, Hindus would hardly care! The message of this book is of a reality that transcends cultural and historical particularities.

 

I think the same can be true for Christian faith -- though I personally do believe that Jesus actually existed and that the disciples had post-Easter experiences of Jesus, even if the resurrection/ascension stories as we have them are embellishments.

 

I think the sacred reality of Christ can be an enduring thing. Christ has remained relevant for centuries, both as an historical figure and more than an historical figure. One can get a sense of this reading some of Dionysius, or Eckhart, St. John of the Cross, Lossky, Guyon, Merton, etc.

 

'Christian' is definitely a slippery term, since it means a million things to a million people. Indeed, many Christians would deny that most of us on this board are Christian. It's very ambiguous, but 'Christian' to me refers to an organic interconnectedness, connected through culture, philosophy, theology, experience, language and history.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Mike: The concept of interconnectedness is one I have been spending quite a bit of time on during my meditations.

 

Joseph: I certainly do not disagree with you. My concern, though that is too strong of a word, is that I might possibly maybe losing some of Jesus' message. If the message is one of our connectedness with God, of compassion, and of forgiveness, great. If the message of Jesus is more than that..??

 

I think because I seem to borrow heavily from mystics (Christian, Jewish, Budhist, etc), I belong to the First Church of Eclectic Mystic Connectedness! :P

 

Silliness aside, when did the term "Christian" first show up? Did the NT authors refer to themselves as such?

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Silliness aside, when did the term "Christian" first show up? Did the NT authors refer to themselves as such?

 

Here is a link to an online book. Thomas Sheehan is a reputable author.

 

 

The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity (1986--electronic edition 2000) Thomas Sheehan

 

The link is to the third part.

 

III How Jesus Became God

 

http://www.infidels....ming/three.html

 

Near the bottom is an illustration that is hard to grasp - at least for me. The basic idea is the further we got from Jesus in time forward the more we created Jesus's importance in the time before his historical presence.

 

 

Dutch

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from the online book

 

The first mention of Jesus anywhere in literature was made twenty years after he died, and is found in a text that records the already developed status of his reputation. Writing around 50 C.E., Saint Paul began a letter to a group of his converts in Greece with the following greeting:

To the Church of the Thessalonians

in God the Father and

the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace. (I Thessalonians 1:1)

This greeting--the very first sentence of Christian Scripture ever to be written--shows that within two decades of Jesus' death the Christian community had already elevated the prophet beyond his own understanding of his status and had endowed him with two titles, "Lord" and "Christ," neither of which he had dared to give to himself.

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When I drive to San Francisco from Reno I take (I 80). There are many ways to San Francisco and there are many ways to say I 80. People ask me what spiritual path I am on, and I say Christianity because I use Christian symbols, Jesus teachings and the Christ mind as a guide as well as other sacred scriptures. In my mind Christ is a state of being present and Jesus is a man, a consciousness who lives in the present moment, I call God consciousness. Many Christians say I am not a Christian because of the way I interpret those symbols and non-Christians have preconceived ideas of what I am because I say I am a Christian. One thinks I am too broad and the other thinks I am too narrow and that is life. I don't have the energy, inclination or time to worry if Christ was a real person or not. I really don't care because in my mind the image is real and the path has brought me through many rough times to many rewards in the present moment of my life. The path could be called Christian Buddhist because when I speak with a Christian I use their language or concepts to communicate and when I am with a Buddhist I use those terms, the same with the symbols from Shiva or Krishna. I am surfing the Cosmic wave and I feel Christ made my surf board, but I have noticed Shiva and Krishna also make a good quality surf board that rides the same wave. It doesn't matter to me if I hang the ten commandments or ten toes as long I can unite with the wave, soul, or Divinity in the present moment I like to call God.

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The problem with asking "are we taking Christ out of Christianity" is the problem of defining what Christianity is. Even from the very beginning of the religion, Christianity has always been a diverse faith with all sorts of different views about the nature of Jesus and which scriptures to accept and the routes to salvation. Way back in the ancient world, some Christians believed Jesus was a human being with no divinity at all whereas other Christians believed Jesus was fully divine and that his physical body was just an illusion. Other Christians believed Jesus and the Christ were two separate beings and that the Christ was a supernatural being that lived within Jesus' body. Some Christians thought Jesus was literally the biological son of God born from a virgin while other Christians thought he was adopted the son of God when he was baptized whereas other Christians thought he didn't become the son of God until he was raised from the dead. This doesn't even scratch the surface with all the diverse views within Christianity on which gospels to believe in and what moral teachings to accept and even the number of gods that existed fell into dispute. Even today in modern times, though people try to lump all Christians together in one monolithic movement, there is a wide diversity of views within the different denominations and no two Christians will agree with each other on everything. So before we can answer the question if we're taking Christ out of Christianity, we have to address the problem of which Christ are we talking about and how do we define what Christianity is.

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PCers,

 

Are we in danger of taking Christ out of Christianity? These questions came to me because of the “feel” I'm getting from forum posts. If the term Christ means anointed or appointed, and if we do not take the resurrection and ascension literally, what use is the term? If the term Christ has no validity, why call ourselves Christian?...” Yvonne

 

"i think that it is his teachings that were most important and is what we follow lest we focus on a man and lose sight of what was said." Joseph

 

'Christian' is definitely a slippery term, since it means a million things to a million people. Indeed, many Christians would deny that most of us on this board are Christian. It's very ambiguous, but 'Christian' to me refers to an organic interconnectedness, connected through culture, philosophy, theology, experience, language and history. Mike

 

The problem with asking "are we taking Christ out of Christianity" is the problem of defining what Christianity is…so...we have to address the problem of which Christ are we talking about... N.G.

Of related interest, Michael Dowd’s Evolutionary Christianity emailing from 8/30 promotes a 12 week web program being presented by Leslie Hershberger in partnership with Ken Wilbur called “Coming Home“ .

 

Dowd briefly describes the program’s use of Wilbur’s “Integral framework” in expanding the understanding and experience of Christian faith: “Moving deeper into this inquiry, (Leslie) asks us to reflect on Jesus’ simple, but penetrating question, “Who do YOU say that I am?” Our response will bring forth everything we have loved and still love about Christian community and practice in the current conditions of our life.”

 

So I'm curious, PCers, how do you answer the Master?

 

In friendship,

Brent

Edited by Brent
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Actually, interesting you should mention that particular question, just now, and under this particular thread...synchronicity at work. This is actually the topic I am already working on to submit to the new "Sunday Sermon" feature here on the tcpc boards....

I'm taking this timely "coincidental mention" as an affirmation of approval of my topic choice from my "Master editor."

 

:D Jenell

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Soma, thanks! I can't wait to write it! I've been excited about it since the idea occurred to me, and the thesis began forming in my mind. I have started some notes, actually had thought to be further along on it than I am, lol, sometimes unexpected things distract from a course temporarily...I'll get there!

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Just a thought, coincidences cease to be luck, a fluke, a quirk, or a twist of fate, but an act to teach, guide, comfort or synchronize. A natural event that happens in the exact time of synchronization. My desire to read your paper is nudging you along. Thanks for your deep thoughts.

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Thank you, Soma. You have understanding here, in what we speak. The principle of synchronicity is well established in my persponal beleifs system...has quite a track record for me to fall draw upon for my confidence in its valdity. I am more sensitive, aware of it at some times than others, but its always there. it gets my notice. I'm accepting the diffiucult events in my personal life that have me distracted right now.,, the timing, is not random or inconvenient thingk, but rather also somehow connected...perhaps from that will come something more I need to be ready to put that piece together.

Jenell

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Yvonne wrote: "I am learning so much so fast that sometimes I have to stop and let myself assimilate it all."

 

Wow, can I identify with THAT feeling! Sometimes we just feel we have to step off the ride and sit a few rounds out at the station, before we're overcome by dizziness!

 

Synchonicities popping,,,1 2 3...slow this ride down a bit and let me get my head back together, lol! A possiblity I speculated in my just previous post, that perhaps the emergence of distractions from my completing the piece of writing I have been working on being perhaps in itself part of the synchronicity pertainiing to that idea....well, actually, I think that was spot on, already revision going on in my mind and notes has me glad I hadn't completed and submitted it just yet.

 

:D Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for this great topic choice!

 

I have struggled with whether to call myself a "Christian" anymore. I guess as of now I do identify as such because of how I think of the term "Christ."

 

I do think Jesus was a historical figure, fully and completely filled with God's spirit, God incarnate. But I take the spiritual meaning of "Christ" to indicate a living out of the grace, love, and compassion of Mystery. And I believe myself to have seen Christ, or the same spirit that I (by the grace of God) have, in Muslims, Jews, agnostics, etc. I concur to J. Phillips Wogaman's interpretation of Paul in I Corinthians 1, which is that “the claim…implicit” in Paul’s argument is “that we gain the really important truths, not through reasoning but through encounter with moral realities in human form.” If Wogaman is correct here, then there is biblical grounding on which I stand. To experience God’s spirit in those of different backgrounds than I is a “moral realit[y] in human form” that leads me to a “really important trut[h]”; that is, God's spirit works through all, not just people with the "right," "Christian" understanding.

 

Thus, I can see being an expression of Christ as being an expression of the divine: an expression of love for God, neighbor, and self. That is what I am seeking to be; I hope to work with others to move this world of pain and brokenness towards a world more representative of God's intention. In a strict sense, then, I would call many, if not all people, "Christians" or "Christs" within my theology, though it is not my intention to offend any who would not label themselves similarly.

 

Blessings!

Derek

Edited by dirkello165
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I do think Jesus was a historical figure, fully and completely filled with God's spirit...

 

As do I, Dirk. From my studies, I think Jesus was, at some point, understood to be the messiah by the early church. But there are two aspects of this that I think are important.

 

The first aspect is that the concept of messiah in Jesus' day was "God's liberating king." This "king" was thought to be a person, a human being, anointed by God to act on behalf of Yahweh to restore the kingdom of Israel. Most concepts of this messiah included a violent bent, such as calling down fire from heaven to destroy the wicked, burning up the wicked, ridding the land of evil-doers, by God-sanctioned violence. This was John the Baptist's understanding of messiah. The messiah was expected to be the warrior-king in the line (or vein) of David.

 

The second aspect is that I think Jesus came to reject the first concept of messiah. When he refused the holy jihad role, John the Baptist expresses his doubts in Jesus and wondered if the Jews should wait for another messiah. Jesus, imo, embraced the suffering servant of Isaiah and Psalms. This was not the general concept of messiah in his day and that is probably why Peter's statement that Jesus is the messiah is such a profound insight on his part. Of course, a few verses later Jesus chastizes Peter for telling Jesus that Jesus would not die. Messiah was supposed to rule on the throne "forever."

 

It's my opinion that under the leadership of the apostle Paul, the church eventually rejected the historical Jesus (who was a different kind of messiah than what was expected) and embraced a mystical "Christ." When this happened, the Jewish "messiah" transitioned to the Greek "Christ" and no longer referred to the historical Jesus. Paul says as much when he says that we no longer know Jesus "in the flesh." The historical Jesus seems to be of little importance to Paul other than as a sacrifice for sins. Paul repeats none of Jesus' teachings and none of his parable. What mattered to Paul was this mystical (or perhaps metaphysical) "Christ" which Paul never seems to define. Again imo, Christianity tends to follow this mystical Christ and, as a result, "Christ" and "Christian" can mean almost anything.

 

For my part, because of the ambiguity of "Christ" and "Christianity" (with 38,000 denominations of "Christians" at last count), I am reluctant to call myself a Christian as it means almost nothing. Or, to the secular world, it has very negative connotations associated with it. I am more comfortable saying that I try to follow the best teachings of Jesus. This lets people know that I'm not into following Paul or Church traditions. But I will, as Paul did, "become all things to all people" and sometimes wear the label "Christian" because that label, though ambiguous, at least points somewhat to Jesus.

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"I have struggled with whether to call myself a "Christian" anymore."

 

Boy oh boy, can I relate to that one. I'm a modern Gnostic type Christian and try explaining that to traditional church going Christians you meet. And only on this Progressive Christian forum are the majority of Christians liberal. Go to most any other forum of Christians and right-wing Christians prevail, Jesus to them somehow promoting the Republican political agenda. If there was another word for one who follows the teachings of Christ I would welcome it but there isn't, so we're all stuck with the mixed bag of Christians, some of whom would scare the be-jesus out of Jesus with their "Christian" beliefs.

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some of whom would scare the be-jesus out of Jesus with their "Christian" beliefs.

I have been literallly studying this thread since I started it, and I have to say 'thank you" for making me chuckle at a point when my mind finally said "huh???"

 

I guess, perhaps, this is all too mystical for li'l ol' me to grasp, because I really don't get it. Just like the thread I started on who/what is the Christ. Perhaps, as Jenell implied, I need to get off the merry-go-round for a while and let the dizziness clear.

 

Sometimes (and only rarely), I wish I could return to the good old days of being absolutely certain in my faith. *sigh*

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I have been literallly studying this thread since I started it, and I have to say 'thank you" for making me chuckle at a point when my mind finally said "huh???"

 

I guess, perhaps, this is all too mystical for li'l ol' me to grasp, because I really don't get it. Just like the thread I started on who/what is the Christ. Perhaps, as Jenell implied, I need to get off the merry-go-round for a while and let the dizziness clear.

 

Sometimes (and only rarely), I wish I could return to the good old days of being absolutely certain in my faith. *sigh*

 

Your not alone Yvonne. I just happen to be comfortable with dizziness and uncertainty and personally consider i have little that i am certain of to be uncertain about. :blink::)

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If there was another word for one who follows the teachings of Christ I would welcome it but there isn't, so we're all stuck with the mixed bag of Christians...

 

Probably so, Waterbear.

 

But there is the term "Jesusian" that I rather like. Labels are shorthand and therefore always nebulous, but Jesusian usually means someone who tries to follow the teachings/example of Jesus instead of the teachings of Paul or the Church.

 

Here is a poem I found on a blog that illustrates this particular label with broad strokes:

 

Jesusian

 

I am no Christian. I am a Jesusian (gee-soos-ee-an).

I love and follow the example of Jesus as much as possible.

I am still wearing my training wheels.

 

I do not follow Jesus because of sanctimony.

I do not follow Jesus because of being born again.

I do not follow Jesus because of convention.

I do not follow Jesus because it is The Only Way.

I do not follow Jesus because he died for me.

I do not follow Jesus because he sits at the right hand of God.

I do not follow Jesus because I was raised that way.

I do not follow Jesus because I want eternal life.

I do not follow Jesus because of fear I will go to hell.

I do not follow Jesus because I want to go to a heaven.

I do not follow Jesus because of the social connections.

I do not follow Jesus because the Bible tells me so.

 

I follow Jesus because he is a madman.

You know what a madman is, don't you?

A madman in this society is one who is highly sane.

A madman in this society is one who does not follow the rules.

 

You know the rules, don't you?

Here are some of them.

Get as much as you can for yourself and your buddies

and kick ass if anyone gets in your way.

Keep yourself entertained.

Don't make waves.

Live your sweet little life and hey, it's too bad about them.

That's the way it was back then and that's the way it is now.

Jesus was a madman. He would not follow the rules.

 

I love and follow Jesus the madman.

We have service with communion regularly.

Maybe I can drop these training wheels soon.

 

http://embodyingspirit.blogspot.com/2009/01/drop-training-wheels.html

Edited by sbnr1
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