Am I really a Christian? are you?

It seems that is a question that I am always ask myself on any given day, and keep asking myself.

After reading through the Gospels recently it struck me that there is an awful lot being made in the religious world about being saved, and how to do it when Jesus didn’t talk a lot about it himself.

I just posted these comments Here, a LDS/Evangelical Discussion blog.

but I will discuss the idea a bit more here here:

Jesus is quoted as giving some pretty direct statements regarding who would be his true followers and be part of the kingdom of heaven of which he spoke so often. It appears to me that he defined his disciples by those who choose to follow his highest moral teachings. i.e. the Sermon on the Mount and the “New Commandment” to love others as he had loved his disciples.

Reading through the Gospels has put a lot of questions in my mind about what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Jesus is quoted as giving some pretty direct statements regarding who would be his true followers and be part of the kingdom of heaven of which he spoke so often. It appears to me that he defined his disciples by those who choose to follow his highest moral teachings. i.e. the Sermon on the Mount and the “New Commandment” to love others as he had loved his disciples.

After the Sermon on the Mount he is quoted in Matthew 7:

15“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

21Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

24“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

In John, Jesus gives this definition:

34 A new commandment. I give to you,(that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”John 13 34-35 (NIV)

Again in John, Jesus is quoted as saying that the choice to do the will of God was the path to understanding if Jesus was really of God, as opposed to relying on your interpretation of scripture the Pharisees were doing) :

John 7: (NIV)16Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. 17If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.

From my point of view the title of “Christian” is something that Jesus would not give out to all those who claim that title today, Mormons and Evangelicals included. It seems rather clear from these two accounts, that There has to be a will to follow God, and to put Jesus’ teachings into practice rather than a simple confession of faith. Indeed, according to the Jesus of Matthew, a correct confession of correct faith in accord with the learned seems to be something quite superfluous if you actually choose to do God’s will, i.e. you will know for yourself without scriptural confirmation.

So according to Him, isn’t it a bit presumptuous for us to call ourselves “Christians” without searching our hearts to find out if we really want to put the very difficult teachings of Jesus into practice. He does not say: ” By this shall men know that you are my disciples, if you have the correct creed and teaching about my true substance” or ” By this shall people know that you are my disciples, if you belong to my one and only true church”.

It seems a bit strange that we so readily defend ourselves as “Christians” because we believe that Christ died for our sins, when this theological fact was not at all the focus of what Jesus had to say to those who believed that he was the Messiah. I, for one, would think that He would look more favorably on those who sought to put his words into practice, whether or not they believed He died for their sins, was resurrected, was God, a God, or part of a triune substance that is the Trinity. He does say that these people, apparently regardless of their particular brand of theology, will be on the solid foundation when they stand before Him. I mean, may of the much maligned “hell-bound” secular humanists seem to fair better on this front than those who call “Lord Lord” quite often. It seems that the focus on our own salvation and doing what it takes to “get saved” really misses the point, doesn’t it?

So, does it make sense to call yourself a “Saint” (latter-day or otherwise) or a “Christian” without the will and inclination to put His teachings into practical application

____________________________

Others, inside and outside of purported Christianity seem to have previously picked up on this same thought:

As Gandhi observed. “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” discussed here by an Anglican.

An inside LDS Perspective on this Topic from David Haight

and Joseph Smith (verses 34-46)

I think Nietzsche’s perspective was quite interesting:

The everyday Christian.— If the Christian dogmas of a revengeful God universal sinfulness election by divine grace and the danger of eternal damnation were true, it would be a sign of weak-mindedness and lack of character not to become a priest, apostle or hermit and, in fear and trembling, to work solely on one’s own salvation; it would be senseless to lose sight of ones eternal advantage for the sake of temporal comfort. If we may assume that these things are at any rate believed true, then the everyday Christian cuts a miserable figure; he is a man who really cannot count to three, and who precisely on account of his spiritual imbecility does not deserve to be punished so harshly as Christianity promises to punish him.


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9 responses to “Am I really a Christian? are you?

  1. Great post.

    Don’t forget that there are multiple parts to salvation. The first is just beliving in Christ as savior. This gains one eternal life [John 3.16]. This is an important aspect, but the Christian life isn’t to stop there.

    As a Christian, one always needs to be sure that they’re growing in Christ [Sanctification]. You do this by getting into the word and putting into practice how our teacher said to live.

    If your not living the way Jesus commanded, to answer your question, yes, it is missing the point to just focus on what it takes to get saved because Christianity is about one’s whole life. If you’re not following the teacher who you say that you follow, then it makes no sense to call yourself a saint or a Christian if you’re not putting his teaching into application.

    It is true that many who label themselves as ‘Christians’ really don’t live up to the name and this is really troubling to me because it makes others not even want to consider Christ. We, as Christians, need to be sure that we’re living in the way that Christ would’ve wanted us to live–loving others and being the salt and light to the world.

  2. Thanks for your comments Tom.

  3. Just popped over from the Parchment and Pen blog. Yikes! I have a question because my sources are not LDS. Is the label Mormon considered by LDS to be derogatory? And if so, do you know where it originated?

  4. Minnow-

    Mormon is not considered derogatory.

    The label comes from the Book of Mormon, i.e. “Mormons ” are those folks who believe in the Book of Mormon.

    According to the Book of Mormon, Mormon was a man who lived around 400 A.D. , probably in central america, who edited and compiled a 1000 years of religious history of his people, the Nephites. The Nephites were descedents of a group of people lead by Nephi who came to the Americas from Jerusalem in 600 B.C.

    Some Mormons prefer that people call the Church by its proper name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but I have never thought “Mormon” to be in any way derogatory.

  5. Thank you for your response to my question. I have another one from the P&P blog. I thought it was probably better to ask you here (or on my blog if you prefer) then on Parchment and Pen. I do not like interacting with TU&D. Anyway, by this answer:
    “3) Is there anything at all that Christians need to be doing to work toward perfection that they may become Gods?
    Yes. Repent and be baptized, love God and others.”
    are you saying that humans will become gods? Can you explain? Does this come from the Bible? I am trying to understand the LDS faith.

  6. The belief that men will one day become God’s isn’t taught in the Bible. It comes from the book of Mormon. As I understand it, men don’t become equal to God the father, but they are gods. And they will create their own Earths one day.

    Also, not all men will become gods. Only those who are qualified [only way I can think to put it], to enter the third heaven will. Essentially, this is only those who have accepted the Mormon faith here on Earth and have been faithful practicing Mormons.

  7. Minnow and Tom,

    The belief that people can inherit God’s throne, i.e. become like God is not something that is discussed much in the Book of Mormon at all. It is mainly found in the Bible.

    The concept that human beings can become like God is found in many places in the bible.
    We are told in Revelation 3:21 that those people that overcome will sit with Christ on his throne like he sits with his Father on His throne. We are told in 2 Peter that we are promised, through Christ that we can partake in the Divine Nature.

    Eastern Orthodox also believe in a version of christian theosis, the belief that people are promised to become like God through the atonement of Christ. See here; http://orthodoxwiki.org/Theosis
    for details.

    Here are some references from the bible and LDS scriptures
    http://scriptures.lds.org/tg/e/119

    Mormons distinguish between “salvation”(being saved from death and hell) and “exaltation”. A good description from an LDS apostle can be found here
    http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=8671558fcc599110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1

    In essence, Mormons believe that far more people will be saved through the atonement of Jesus Christ than to protestants. We believe that salvation is a gift of God to all who come to him. We believe that God will give all a full and fair chance to understand and accept the atonement and ultimately, as the bible says, “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is the Christ”. Protestants restrict the atonement only to those who have a chance to hear and confess Christ while in this life, which excludes most of humanity.

    Mormons also believe in a pre-existence, i.e. that people existed in heaven as spirit children of God prior to coming to earth and that we collaborated with God in choosing to come to earth to learn and grow and be saved according to God’s plan.

    Mormonism encompasses a whole range of believes, some of them well supported in the Bible, some of them very new, speculative, etc. However, Mormons generally are not that worried about the details of what or how you believe. It really is a different model of religion compared to Protestantism, where a particular confession of faith seems paramount. God gave us brains and a bunch of relatively confusing revelations, I think that he expects that there are going to a lot of different views.

    Tom, your description is a charitable attempt but really falls short of describing Mormon belief.

    If you want to understand Mormon faith I would refer you to Mormon sources. You wont find criticism of the faith, which can be important and informative, but you will find what Mormons actually believe.

  8. Thanks for sharing Nietzsche’s thoughts on the everyday Christian.

  9. I am glad you appreciated it. Thanks for stopping by.

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