Who is a “Christian”?

This question was asked on a forum I participate in. Here’s the answer I posted:

The classic way is to agree with the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father,
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

This sums up the core theology and was adopted when the church was still unified, not under a single church leader but rather because of a shared faith.

That would be an official criteria then.

But, that’s not really enough for a lot of churches. I can say that all I want and still not be accepted by many. And, I’m not sure that merely acknowledging statements as accurate is enough. Doesn’t seem like Jesus ever made that a requirement.

What did he require?

Acknowledgement, participation, hope.

We acknowledge Jesus as our Lord. We participate with his Spirit in this world. We hope for the future that God has already accomplished so as to live in a new way in the present.

The first includes salvation from sin. The second includes works that are not for our salvation but because of our salvation. The third includes freedom from fear that is marked by progression in holiness and wisdom and discernment.

I would say if we lack these things we are probably not a Christian. If we are marked by these things then we are a Christian, and it really doesn’t matter what anyone else says on the subject.

Only Jesus gets to determine who and who is not truly a sheep or a goat, and his standards are sometimes not exactly what the various churches would choose.

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