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What Is Necessary?


AdrianC
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I've been thinking about what is necessary to call oneself "Christian".

What beliefs must one have?

Do we have to believe that any of the Biblical account is historical?

Can we just say: "I like the Christ story, it resonates with me, and I want to live in tune with how this Jesus lived"?

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Adrian,

 

I have come to the conclusion (tentative) that a theology that is centered on Jesus is what distinguishes a Christian from all others. So, this would include those whose focus is on the divinity as well as those whose focus is on his ethical teachings.

 

I am clear that it doesn't require a belief that the Bible is the inerrant, and exclusive, word of God. However, I think the Bible, necessarily, would be a (maybe the) primary text.

 

George

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I think I would have to say that, for me, being Christian is living my life based on the principles lived by Jesus of Nazareth as demonstrated in the NT. Since I'm not sure about the historical Jesus, or about Jesus' post-Easter presence, this will have to do for me.

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I wonder if a Christian could simply be a person who uses Jesus as an example of how to live one's life. I'm not so sure that any theology is even required. For instance, if one didn't theologise and simply said Jesus was a man who demonstrated a way to live life that resulted in satisfaction and then practised that Way, I think they would be a Christian. I have been questioning this a bit lately and reading a website called The Christian Humanist. The author claims that one can be a Christian without believing in God ( http://christianhumanist.net/default.aspx ). I think there are some excellent points made there.

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Thanks.

 

I think of Christianity as a way to live. The Way, in a sense.

 

I’m still a part of a faith community and I still enjoy it and contribute. The community is what keeps me from turning away from the label “Christian”.

 

On Sunday morning I got to hold the newest member of our community, baby Savannah, as we did our usual things. We sang a song. We had a discussion about joy vs. happiness. We prayed for one of our young men, and for peace, as we sent him off to war. We listened to our leader as she talked about joy and peace, and riffed on something some first century poet wrote. We talked and drank coffee. We caught up on each other’s lives. I invited a friend going through a tough time to come have lunch with my family, our treat. She came and we had a nice lunch together.

 

I just helped my wife store a bunch of food and drinks in the basement, bought for the meal our small group hosts at the local homeless shelter. Our kitchen is also stacked with bags of groceries for the food pantry. I guess it was a good day for coupons yesterday.

 

This is what I believe in, this community of people. Nobody has it all together, but we’re doing what we can to make a small contribution to our wider community. Is Christianity in some sense the motivation for these people? I think so. I don’t want to give up on it, on them, over some doctrine or list of beliefs that doesn’t matter all that much.

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I don't think that the way one lives their life is a good test of whether they can be identified as a Christian. To apply this criterion would rule out many people who are considered devout Christians and would include many who deny it (Jews, Muslims, atheists, etc). It would also include those who know nothing of Jesus, the Bible or any other Christian attributes.

 

I really don't think that we can identify all highly moral, ethical people as Christian and those who fail to meet the standard, irrespective of their theology, as non-Christians. To call an ethical Jew, as an example, a Christian might be taken as insulting to Judaism. This would suggest that Judaism, Islam or whatever is not sufficient in itself to encompass moral behavior.

 

Having said this, I do think it is incumbent on all of us, particularly those who self identify as Christians, to live a moral, ethical life.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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I've been thinking about what is necessary to call oneself "Christian".

What beliefs must one have?

Do we have to believe that any of the Biblical account is historical?

Can we just say: "I like the Christ story, it resonates with me, and I want to live in tune with how this Jesus lived"?

 

 

Jesus showed us the way, just as Jesus was the way. It is written that; “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:17-19)

 

 

 

To believe in the name of Jesus is to believe in the character of Jesus. In other words, it is to believe in what he stood for, and the Spirit behind the man. A name is how we identify an individual, but we actually come to "know" one another by character and by what each individual is known for in life. Those who believe in Jesus’ name are those who take to heart the character Jesus was known for, and the excellence thereof (love).

 

 

When I think of Jesus, I think of His character, what he did, the life he led, and the Spirit behind the man. I never knew "the man" as he was, but I can certainly identify with his character, just as I can identify with the Spirit he lived through. We are called to mirror his life in our own life, which is how we are able to know him. We come to know Jesus by living through the same Spirit he was graced with. We come to know him by living our lives through the same love he lived his life through.

 

 

Coming to know Jesus is about believing in what he lived for, and by demonstrating our faith in him by loving others as he loved us. Otherwise, we condemn ourselves for not embracing the life that Jesus himself embraced. It is the Spirit of love that Jesus lived through, and it is the Spirit of love that gives us life, whereby we ourselves become “born again”

 

 

It is written; “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) Can we truly claim to know Jesus without living through the same Spirit he lived his life through, or without exhibiting the same characteristics he was known for in our own lives? Can we truly claim to know God’s love if we never share God’s love with others? Likewise, can we truly know God without first embracing God as our sustainer, in whom we have our life?

 

 

Anyone can call themselves "Christian", but if I were a betting man, I'd say that few truly meet the mark. Being Christian is about following the footsteps of Jesus and living our lives through the spirit of love. No offense intended, folks. I simply believe there is more to being called a Christian than claiming the title itself .......

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It seems to me, the name Christian is a label that is applied to oneself to communicate that one is a follower of the same spirit of love that was exemplified in the teachings, and recorded life of Jesus. The name to me is a work in progress and does not indicate the quality of that progress which is between the follower and spirit and is in my view of the teachings best left not measured, in my opinion, by others.

Joseph

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Anyone can call themselves "Christian", but if I were a betting man, I'd say that few truly meet the mark. Being Christian is about following the footsteps of Jesus and living our lives through the spirit of love. No offense intended, folks. I simply believe there is more to being called a Christian than claiming the title itself .......

 

I doubt those of us who have responded thus far would disagree with that. I like the way you put it. B)

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Anyone can call themselves "Christian", but if I were a betting man, I'd say that few truly meet the mark. Being Christian is about following the footsteps of Jesus and living our lives through the spirit of love. No offense intended, folks. I simply believe there is more to being called a Christian than claiming the title itself .......

 

I'm not really over concerned what I call myself, but if pressed I prefer calling myself a Pure Land Buddhist. Which may seem a bit "exotic", living in the totally secular world of the UK where - at least in my own neck of the woods - you would be branded "strange" if religion of any description was mentioned..... :huh:

 

Yet my only comment regarding the above would be classed as virtually "fundamentalist" in a certain sense. "Living my life through the spirit of love" is something I am aware of purely by missing the mark, not by "achieving" it. In missing the mark, however, I feel an empathy towards others, who also seem to "miss the mark", more often than not. And to a certain extent I rejoice in the imperfection of us all, and see the profound implications of Blake's words.......mutual forgiveness of each vice opens the gates of paradise.

 

Certainly, as far as "hitting the mark", Joseph's words make sense. "A work in progress".......as Thomas Merton (who else!) has said.....Our real journey in life is interior: it is a matter of growth, deepening, and of an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts.

 

A "greater surrender", as I see it, a surrender of "self", or more accurately, a surrender of self achievement; as achievement, or accomplishment - when held to self consciously and identified with - in my own experience leads to division and judgement of others, who do not measure up to our own assumed "walk".

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Being Christian is about following the footsteps of Jesus and living our lives through the spirit of love. No offense intended, folks. I simply believe there is more to being called a Christian than claiming the title itself .......

While I agree with this sentiment and don't want to be argumentative, I respectfully disagree that this is the exclusive definition of Christianity.

 

I think that Christianity is a big tent with a wide variety of beliefs. Some of these focus on the ethical teachings attributable to Jesus and others focus on the divinity of the person and concern for the afterlife. I am not prepared to say that the latter are not Christians.

 

As an example, I grew up in the segregated South. Most white people, including members of my family, believed that African-Americans were inferior. Many of these were otherwise decent, honest people trying to live as they understood the Bible to teach. They were, IMO, misguided, but I am not prepared to say that they were not Christians.

 

I also accept the idea that other religions promote moral behavior and have adherents who behave in a Christ-like manner. But, this doesn't, in my opinion, mean that they are Christians. In fact, they might take offense at such an assertion.

 

Being Christ-like and being a Christian are, IMO, two different things.

 

George

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While I agree with this sentiment and don't want to be argumentative, I respectfully disagree that this is the exclusive definition of Christianity.

 

I think that Christianity is a big tent with a wide variety of beliefs. Some of these focus on the ethical teachings attributable to Jesus and others focus on the divinity of the person and concern for the afterlife. I am not prepared to say that the latter are not Christians.

 

As an example, I grew up in the segregated South. Most white people, including members of my family, believed that African-Americans were inferior. Many of these were otherwise decent, honest people trying to live as they understood the Bible to teach. They were, IMO, misguided, but I am not prepared to say that they were not Christians.

 

I also accept the idea that other religions promote moral behavior and have adherents who behave in a Christ-like manner. But, this doesn't, in my opinion, mean that they are Christians. In fact, they might take offense at such an assertion.

 

Being Christ-like and being a Christian are, IMO, two different things.

 

George

 

I understand your sentiments, and I'm not one to determine who is or who is not a Christian. That is not my call to make. Even so, I could claim to be 100% African American, but if I don't have the genes inwardly, nor the appearance outwardly, then that would make me a liar, even if I were raised in an African American family. Being Christian involves a very real inward change, whereby one's outward actions mirror the change that has taken place within. Christianity isn't about a persons beliefs (IMO), but rather it is a way of life that we are enabled to live once that change takes place.

 

We're not going to walk the path perfectly, but we can live our lives through love the best we are able. We are human, and even though many have experienced a change of heart, I think we will always miss the mark to some extent. Being Christian is not about being perfect, but rather it is about allowing ourselves to be perfected through the Spirit (love). I think there are mature Christians, and many more who would be considered not so mature. The determining factor being how we live our lives.

 

 

Work in progress ==>> JZM

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