Monday, August 11, 2008

Christian Identity in a Pluralist World?

Question Posted by ieatsuka:
This was a question I heard someone else asked, but I have pondered it myself as well: What defines a Christian? In this pluralist, postmodern world, definitions are highly subjective, and anyone can call themselves anything. What's the difference between a Christian and a "christian"? From an essay I wrote tonight:

This is the story of "Joe," a dorm-mate at UC Berkeley last year. Joe had a friend named "Jack", with whom he went to high school. They were good friends and socialites, partying it up and having fun through high school. However in college, Jack was reached by a local church through which he heard about the Gospel in earnest, and started getting more and more involved in it.Being in the same small group at that church, Jack was visiting my dorm and stopped in my hallway. Joe was also present and we struck up a conversation. It came up that Jack had started attending church, and Joe was reasonably surprised - as it was not something you'd expect from Jack. "Church? Nah, you don't need that stuff." Jack did not make much effort to defend his actions.Joe continued by pulling out the christian cross necklace he wore - "look, I'M a Christian," said Joe. "I even wear a cross necklace! It's just that i'm not a very good Christian - i don't go to church and i drink and party, but i can still call myself a christian." And that's the story of the christian Joe and his Christian friend Jack.And I realized, anyone can call themselves a christian - just not a very good one, and *sarcastic voice* who are you to say they are not a christian? aren't christians not supposed to judge others? While Joe was joking in his claim to be a "christian," even in his joking he made a very good point. Anyone can claim to be a christian.

I wrote an entire essay with my thoughts, i'd still like to hear yours. The definitions I came up with are:A CHRISTIAN is a follower of Christ - one who follows with sincerity. Even if his heart is not wholly for God, it is progressing in that direction. A Christian cannot be worldly - if a man or woman's heart is for Christ, it precludes the selfishness, pettiness, and vanity of the world.A "christian" is someone who, for whatever reasons considers himself one, but does not have his or her heart set on Christ - anything else in their heart is moot - they are a "christian." The worst thing about one, is their illusion - of security, of spirituality, or worst of all, of "divine right." These illusions can range from somewhat benign, to unfathomably malignant.


Anonymous said...

wow, this is such a great resource!

Daniel Kim said...

Great definition. I don't think anyone can argue against your definition of a true Christian. The difficulty arises from the fact, though, that no one would argue against your definition, including the nominal christians.

Perhaps that's where the intellectual exhortations reach their limit and the church has to step in to bridge the gap between definition and reality.

Anonymous said...

I agree that you have a good definition. But what do we do with it?

Daniel Kim said...

Yes. Definitions only go so far.

So let's go with the definition "Christian is a follower of Christ".. Well, what does that LOOK like? What does that mean regarding how we view the opposite sex? How we spend our leisure time? Does that have any bearing on our entertainment choices, our purchasing choices, where we invest our emotional and mental energies? Any bearing on our money? That's where people who have been intellectually agreeing with the definitions reveal their fangs and hiss, because it starts to actually touch their lives.

Our church Gracepoint Fellowship will be having a message series called Monday Through Saturday for the next few weeks. I think the answer will get fleshed out through the series.