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Christianity: introduction and definitions

So you disagree with our
definition of "Christian!"

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Background:

This essay was born out of frustration. We receive many Emails critical of our definition of "Christian." On 2007-DEC-20, coincidentally my 71st birthday, I received an extremely long letter on this topic. I spent over an hour answering it, only to find that the return Email address did not exist. So I decided to take excerpts out of that Email response and expand them into this essay.

Definitions of "Christian" -- our understanding:

bulletMany, perhaps most, Christians are totally convinced that their personal definition of "Christian" is the correct one.
 
bulletWe have listed over 40 different definitions of the term "Christian."
 
bulletThese definitions differ significantly from each other; many are mutually exclusive.
 
bulletEach definition has been developed by one or more sincere, intelligent, devout, thoughtful person(s). Most or all of them sincerely believe that their definition is the true one.
 
bulletAccording to the ARIS study in 2001, 76.5% (159 million) of American adults "said" that they are Christian.
 
bulletMany people who consider themselves to be Christians do not recognize others as Christians.
 
bulletSome definitions are quite inclusive and include approximately 160 million American adults -- over 70% of the population. Others are so restrictive that they might only include a few tens of thousands of adults (perhaps 0.02% of the total number of adults) in the U.S. as Christians.

The definition that we use:

We define "Christian" as follows:

We accept as Christian any individual or group who devoutly, thoughtfully, seriously, and prayerfully regards themselves to be Christian. That is, they honestly believe that they follow Yeshua of Nazareth's (a.k.a. Jesus Christ's) teachings as they understand them to be.

Included as Christians are members of the Roman Catholic church; the Eastern Orthodox churches, conservative, mainline, and liberal Christian faith groups; The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormons); Jehovah's Witnesses, Unification Church, Christian Science, and a thousand or so other religious organizations that identify themselves as Christian. We also consider the early Jewish Christian movement led by James the brother of Jesus and Peter as Christian, even though their beliefs, practices, and expectations do not match modern-day denominations.

Also included are those who consider themselves to be Christian even though they do not identify themselves with any particular religious group.

Common negative comments we have received about our definition of Christian:

bulletYou have no academic qualifications to make definitions: Ours is a multi-faith group consisting of an Agnostic, Atheist, Christian, Wiccan and Zen Buddhist. None have a theological degree or diploma from a Bible college. We consider this an asset, because such an education would bias us in favor of one wing of Christianity, and against other wings. We look upon ourselves as reporters, not theologians. We feel that we have done a competent job in collecting a broad range of definitions created by others. We do not create any theological beliefs. We merely report what others believe.
 
bulletWhy not use the Bible's definition of "Christian?" The Bible is not clear on what a Christian is. Its text is ambiguous. If it were clear, then there would be a single, universally accepted definition in use among all Christian denominations. We have collected over 40 conflicting definitions. There are probably many more out there that we have not included.
 
bulletWhy not use God's definition of "Christian?" We could have the theists in our group attempt to pray to God to determine his definition. But we conducted a pilot study on assessing the will of God through prayer. We found that it doesn't work. Again, if people could assess the will of God through prayer, then there would be a single universally accepted definition of "Christian" among all Christian denominations. If prayer worked in this way, there would have been no schisms in Christendom over theology. In fact, all of the religions in the world would be consolidated into one denomination or tradition in one religion.

This discussion continues in another essay

If we have not addressed your concern....:

If you have a complaint about our definition of "Christian" that is not covered above, please feel free to write us. We will consider adding it to the above list. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to answer your Email.

Site navigation:

 Home page > Christianity > Introduction > Who is a Christian? > here

 Home page > Who is a Christian? > here

 Home page > Glossary of terms > Who is a Christian? > here

or Home page > Religious Information > Who is a Christian? > here

Copyright © 2009 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-DEC-20
Latest update: 2012-JAN-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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