Chapter 5: It’s Confusing According to the World
Now that we know who the Christians were historically we will now turn our attention to what a Christian is in our present day. If you think it is an easy task to define a Christian, think again—there are hundreds of definitions of a Christian that have been generated by people and institutions over the centuries. Not all of them can be right as the variations are sometimes mind numbing.
In this chapter author Eric Shuster researches the definitions of a Christian offered by respected secular publications, religious organizations, America’s ten largest Christian Churches and the internet at large—the world’s view if you will. The result is a convoluted set of definitions with little commonality and plenty of confusion.
First are the definitions offered by two widely known secular publications: Webster’s Dictionary and Encyclopedia Britannica. Webster’s suggests a Christian is anyone who claims a belief in Jesus Christ. Encyclopedia Britannica suggests a Christian is a person who aligns themselves with the traditions, cultures, and precepts of Christianity.
Next are the definitions offered by the world’s largest religious organizations including the National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches, World Evangelical Alliance, American Council of Christian Churches, National Association of Congregational Christian Churches and the Council on Christian Unity. Half of these organizations focus their definitions of a Christian on faith in Jesus Christ, the love of God, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the Bible being the word of God. The other half offer similar statements of faith; however, each includes an implied requirement of Trinitarian belief as a qualification to be a Christian.
Next are the definitions offered by America’s ten largest Christian Churches defined as those considered Christian by the World Christian Encyclopedia and included in the 2012 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches published by the National Council of Churches. Each church was contacted and publicly available content examined. The result of the exercise demonstrated further confusion in trying to nail down a useful definition of a Christian. The variations were breathtaking.
Finally a comprehensive search was conducted via the internet for the definitions of a Christian provided by apologetics, religious leaders, and various institutions. As one might suspect the definitions of a Christian offered were widely different with only snippets of commonality.
The result of Shuster’s research revealed five different definitions of a Christian to be considered: 1) a Christian is one who believes they are a Christian; 2) a Christian is one who believes in and follows Jesus Christ; 3) a Christian is one who embraces a particular set of beliefs; 4) a Christian is one who is born again; and 5) a Christian is one who is a member of a particular church.
These five definitions are a leading indicator of the confusion in today’s world in defining a Christian. With the world in confusion in defining a Christian Shuster turns to a more native and reliable source to gain understanding—the Bible.
Go to www.findyourchristianity.com to watch the book trailer, find out what type of Christian you are, and to order the book