what is a christian?
Prompted by another probing and insightful post from the daily delights released by Clare Flourish, I got to thinking about what makes a person a Christian. This popular religion has two millennia of auspicious history under its belt; followers in 197 countries; around 41,000 denominations; and around 3.2 billion adherents. Given these impressive statistics, I think it’s important to be clear about exactly what beliefs make a person a Christian. And, to this end, I present an almost scientific analysis of key Christian beliefs.
Bible – The key religious book of the Christian faith.
- Fundamentalist Christian groups believe the Bible is the inerrant word of their omniscient god. No mistakes or contradictions.
- The Catholic Church agrees that the Bible is the divinely revealed word of their god. However, they have a very significant add-on. “God’s Revelation comes to us through the Apostolic Tradition and teaching authority of the Church.” So, supplementary texts are encouraged, just like in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who have their Book of Mormon.
- The United Church of Christ takes an open view, with conservative and liberal interpretations, but urges the importance of understanding the historical and cultural context around the Bible.
- The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America believes “God’s inspiration is confined to the original languages and utterances, not the many translations”.
- Some people believe that the King’s James Bible is the only English translation worth considering and that anyone reading the New International Version is “truly blinded by Satan”.
- Some groups, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, have their very own, more correct translations.
Baptism – A key ritual of the Christian faith.
- Baptists and Seventh Day Adventists are among the groups who believe that immersion baptism of believers is the only way to do it.
- Catholic Church Canon Law states: “Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptised within the first few weeks. As soon as possible after the birth, indeed even before it …”
- The Lutheran Church concedes there “is no example in Scripture of a baby being baptized” but goes on to state that “infants are born sinful and are in need of forgiveness”. They then quote Jesus “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; he who believes not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). They therefore believe that if a baby dies before it’s baptised, it’s going straight to a place called Hell.
- Mormons believe that people can still be baptised when they’re dead.
Trinity – A key doctrinal point of the Christian faith.
- Jehovah’s Witness state that neither the word nor the doctrine of the trinity is mentioned in the Bible.
- Yahweh’s Restoration Ministry does “not believe that the Holy Spirit constitutes a third person of a trinity, which is a concept conceived in ancient mystery religions.”
- Andrew Womack Ministries “believe in one eternal God who exists as three separate persons; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Phone the help line for orders and prayers)
I think we can wrap this up now and examine our findings. Christians are people who believe there is a supernatural creator we cannot see, hear, smell, touch or taste, but can visit us in the form of a spirit. They believe a man called Jesus, who was also their god, visited the earth 2000 years ago to leave a message for humanity. If you are a Christian and think that anything else you believe is ‘correct’, you are mistaken. As my work has demonstrated, unfortunately there is only a one in 3.2 billion chance that this is the case. And that’s assuming that one person currently alive could be viewed as having a ‘correct’ view of an imaginary deity’s beliefs.