Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

What is a Christian?

15 Comments

I’ve talked about various issues related to doctrinal differences between denominations and individual Christians.  Those are important, but not faith shattering. The foundation of the Christian faith rests on how one question is answered.

Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”  Luke 9:20

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Matthew 16:13-16

And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” Mark 8:29

Who do you say that Jesus is?  That is the question.  I used to think I knew who he was.  Jesus Christ, Emanuel, God with us.  The God-Man, born of a virgin, second of the trinity, God himself wrapped in flesh, Savior of the world who died as a propitiation for my sins, was buried, and raised again to life everlasting at the right hand of God the Father.  The perfect, spotless lamb, the sacrifice in my stead.  Because of the sin of the one man, Adam, God sent his own son into the world to become sin for us, for me, so that we might have eternal life, joint heirs with him, adopted into the family of God through Christ. And all I had to do was believe it.

The problem?  Suddenly none of that makes any sense to me.  I don’t know who Jesus is.  Is he all of that?  Or is all of that embellishment and exaggeration?  I’m about to embark on reading Thom Stark’s The Human Faces of God.  Somehow I think I could read a thousand books and still wonder who Jesus is.  An apocalyptic prophet?  A martyr?  God in the flesh?  Therein lies a problem.  That’s a question that must first be answered before I can even begin to worry about the doctrinal issues I have. 

I’m just not sure that Jesus is God in the flesh.  That doesn’t mitigate the possibility of there being a God, and it certainly doesn’t mean there is no value at all in scripture.  It just means that Christianity may not be all that I once believed it to be.  But at the most basic level being a Christian isn’t just about following the teachings of Jesus.  It is about believing that he is the divine, perfect, spotless sacrifice for all of mankind. If I don’t believe that I don’t believe myself to be a Christian in the true sense of the word. 

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15 thoughts on “What is a Christian?

  1. D'ma;this is a cracking subject, and really should be the starting point for the whole xtianity lark.I've recently read a little Leron Shults who has a nice history of "christology" in his book "christology and science". A couple of things stood out.1. Thinking about "what/who" jesus was has a history of argumentation in the church. And none of this is hidden! The discussions and conclusions are all there, still on paper, to be read. It's not unchristian to battle with this, even to get unorthodox ;)2. Many of the categories we use to identify jesus have their own specific philosophical history – much of it in greece. what if jesus was a "perfect" vessel, or an expression of divine will, or perfect submission, or a perfect example, or the representation of human-divine relationship, or the fulfilment of god's intentinality for huamnity.. the possibilities are endless. 3. Shults casts his over many issues such as biology and how can jesus be incarnate of a spirit (god) if humans do not have a spirit. He doen't try to provide an answer, but suggests the assmuptions about jesus being god's spirit might be inaccurate. 4. shults also spends some time in the most overtly "theological" gospel – john, discussion the heavy references to logos as a desciption of jesus. very interesting stuff.worth a read, is what I'm trying to say !

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  2. I can identify with many of these thoughts and will be interested to read your review on Stark's book.

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  3. D'Ma, I think it's great that you are asking these questions. They are questions too few Christians ask. Regardless of how you ultimately answer these questions, regardless of whether or not you eventually turn back to the faith, I have a lot of respect for you, or anyone who takes the time to fully consider what they believe. I'm enjoying your candid disclosure. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

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  4. Exrelayman saidToday your site is much easier to read. If you changed anything, I hope it stays this way." The foundation of the Christian faith rests on how one question is answered."And you went on that the question would be, 'who is Jesus?'. No problems, mate.However, equally as vital a question is, 'why believe the Bible?', since it is only through the Bible that we obtain any info, true or false, about Jesus.As I have previously cited for you good free online stuff to examine pertinant to that question, I will leave it to your discretion when, if ever, to look at it. It seems everyone has some point they want you to study about. You decide what and when to read. You sure don't have to please anyone but yourself. That said, for what it's worth, it seems to me that you are doing fine.

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  5. Exrelayman,I'm not sure I understand you exactly, but you seem to suggest that prior to the canon, or at least prior to the writing of the NT texts, it was not possible to be a christian… I posit that the bible is not necessary to be a christian, simply becasue there were christians before the bible.

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  6. phil,Thanks for introducing me to Shults. I had not heard of him and those sound like interesting points. I may get around to reading that at some point. ==================================================LAC,I've never done a book review, so I'll try to do it justice. I'm a reader and sometimes have to re-read several times when it's not a book of leisure. I just think overall before I can even tackle any doctrinal issues I have to settle in my mind: Who is Jesus? If Jesus was who I've believed him to be I'll then tackle those major issues. If there is, in fact, more than one way to God, if there be such an entity, then I can relax on all that doctrinal "stuff". It's not very important. If the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God, then I'll have to make some serious decisions.=================================================TWF,Thank you so much for your encouragement. Those are very kind words and much appreciated. I think I'm past the shock of realizing that things weren't what they seemed and can now approach this with more objectivity. At least that is what I hope to do.==================================================Exrelayman,I haven't read those particular documents you provided a link to, but I have spent some time listening to John Loftus and Robert Price and I've read a good bit at Richard Carrier's blog and at infadels.org. I will get to those references you cited and let you know when I do. Thanks for the information and the encouragement as well. This is a much unexpected journey I'm on. Never in a million years did I think I would be where I am now.=================================================EI,I like the link! Although, as I understand it, we're being punished for our own sins. Now those sins were a result of "Adam and Eve's" decision. So I guess there isn't much difference, eh? Why did I inherit a sin nature just because two people botched it up in the garden? An allegorical garden at that. So I suppose I don't really understand why it is that I'm deserving of hell and Jesus had to sacrifice himself when God created us all, if you believe in such a thing, screwed up to start with.

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  7. If we are honest with ourselves intellectually we can't help what we believe. What appears to be true will be accepted. However, we can't form an honest opinion about anything if we haven't studied the matter for ourselves. So many never set about to do that. Congratulations for having the integrity to question, question question!

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  8. Exrelayman saidPhil,You protest too much what I said. We don't have those pre-canon Christians to talk to, do we? All we have is the Bible. Many Christians say there are 3 prongs: scripture, tradition, reason. Where cometh tradition if not from scripture and contemplation of same?Reason learns about scriptural provenance (and inconsistency, contradiction, brutality, incoherence) and denies its truth. Of the 3 legs, reason is king. Of course Luther and others don't have kind words for reason:-)'If we all thought the same way, every man would want my wife.' 'No, if we all thought the same way, no one would want your wife!'

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  9. D'Ma,I'll certainly be interested in your opinion of Thom Stark's book. I haven't had time to get to it. I wish I could figure out my opinion of Jesus as well. It is a crucial matter for Christianity.

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  10. Exactly. Am I REALLY a Christian? I don't know anymore. I believe Jesus was sent by God on a mission to save mankind. Does his murder wash away my sin? I don't think so.

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  11. Oh honey, I wish I knew the answer to that question. I'm finding out the more I learn the less I know. Welcome to the blog, and thanks for commenting.

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  12. Exactly. Am I REALLY a Christian? I don't know anymore. I believe Jesus was sent by God on a mission to save mankind. Does his murder wash away my sin? I don't think so.

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  13. phil,Thanks for introducing me to Shults. I had not heard of him and those sound like interesting points. I may get around to reading that at some point. ==================================================LAC,I've never done a book review, so I'll try to do it justice. I'm a reader and sometimes have to re-read several times when it's not a book of leisure. I just think overall before I can even tackle any doctrinal issues I have to settle in my mind: Who is Jesus? If Jesus was who I've believed him to be I'll then tackle those major issues. If there is, in fact, more than one way to God, if there be such an entity, then I can relax on all that doctrinal "stuff". It's not very important. If the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God, then I'll have to make some serious decisions.=================================================TWF,Thank you so much for your encouragement. Those are very kind words and much appreciated. I think I'm past the shock of realizing that things weren't what they seemed and can now approach this with more objectivity. At least that is what I hope to do.==================================================Exrelayman,I haven't read those particular documents you provided a link to, but I have spent some time listening to John Loftus and Robert Price and I've read a good bit at Richard Carrier's blog and at infadels.org. I will get to those references you cited and let you know when I do. Thanks for the information and the encouragement as well. This is a much unexpected journey I'm on. Never in a million years did I think I would be where I am now.=================================================EI,I like the link! Although, as I understand it, we're being punished for our own sins. Now those sins were a result of "Adam and Eve's" decision. So I guess there isn't much difference, eh? Why did I inherit a sin nature just because two people botched it up in the garden? An allegorical garden at that. So I suppose I don't really understand why it is that I'm deserving of hell and Jesus had to sacrifice himself when God created us all, if you believe in such a thing, screwed up to start with.

    Like

  14. D'ma;this is a cracking subject, and really should be the starting point for the whole xtianity lark.I've recently read a little Leron Shults who has a nice history of "christology" in his book "christology and science". A couple of things stood out.1. Thinking about "what/who" jesus was has a history of argumentation in the church. And none of this is hidden! The discussions and conclusions are all there, still on paper, to be read. It's not unchristian to battle with this, even to get unorthodox ;)2. Many of the categories we use to identify jesus have their own specific philosophical history – much of it in greece. what if jesus was a "perfect" vessel, or an expression of divine will, or perfect submission, or a perfect example, or the representation of human-divine relationship, or the fulfilment of god's intentinality for huamnity.. the possibilities are endless. 3. Shults casts his over many issues such as biology and how can jesus be incarnate of a spirit (god) if humans do not have a spirit. He doen't try to provide an answer, but suggests the assmuptions about jesus being god's spirit might be inaccurate. 4. shults also spends some time in the most overtly "theological" gospel – john, discussion the heavy references to logos as a desciption of jesus. very interesting stuff.worth a read, is what I'm trying to say !

    Like

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