No True Christian

Allow me to present to you a hypothetical situation. Let’s say I’ve just finished reading The Case for Christ. There was something about Lee Strobel’s ingenious and fool-proof arguments that has miraculously convinced me that Jesus exists, God exists, the bible is true, and I ought to become a Christian. Well then, what should I do next? Join a church? Get baptized? Stop drinking alcohol? Hang bible verses up on my walls? Should I love my neighbor, or should I become homophobic perhaps? There are so many options!

For the most part, there seems to be a consensus that to be a true Christian means to, in some capacity, believe in, love, and follow Jesus. When I asked this on Twitter, some of my Christian followers kindly answered thus:

I find it noteworthy that both of their responses included not only the belief but the ensuing lifestyle as a priority. So what does this lifestyle mean?

Because they are Christians, my fiance’s grandparents never drink alcohol. Because they are Christians, my sister and her husband lead an LCMS church. For this same reason, Aaron Hartzler’s parents never allowed him to go to the movies or listen to normal music (his memoir is really good, by the way). Because they’re Christians, my old college roommates would take Sunday Sabbaths, enjoying long naps after church and brunch. This is the same reason that intelligent design apologists do what they do, and why the Westboro Baptist Church does what they do, and the reason why people go on missions trips and build houses, and why people do things like buy and wrap presents for Operation Christmas Child.

Even if we take a step back, the beliefs themselves also tend to be as scattered as the actions that result. You have your Ken Hams (literal Genesis, 6,000 years, 6 days), your Francis Collinses (theistic evolution) and your in-betweeners (Genesis but with an old earth spin; the day-age theory and the gap theory inserted into the Genesis narrative). Even with the bible, its internal and external contradictions mean that believers must choose for themselves what they see as truth, saying “Yes, I believe in Genesis, but I also acknowledge the evidence for evolution,” which can lead to cognitive dissonance and a weird acceptance of only microevolution, an awkward theistic evolution approach where they see Genesis as an allegory, or altogether deconverting to atheism or agnosticism.

As I recently learned and hope to write on extensively in the future, not even the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has an official position on the age of the earth or origins. Look at it this way: there is all of Christianity, which is massive; you zoom into the Lutheran denomination, and there are three main groups (ELCA, LCMS, and WELS), and not even at this level of Christianity—the LCMS—with its very specific set of beliefs regarding things like baptism and transubstantiation, can they agree on an interpretation of what their holy book means by “in the beginning”.

This disparity within this one sect leaves me astounded for all of the thousands of interpretations of what it means to be a Christian beyond just loving and serving Jesus. In my rhetoric class last semester, we learned about the traditions of several denominations, like Lutheran, Catholic, Calvinist, Mennonites, Presbyterian, Quakers, and more. This got me wondering: all of these people do what they think God wants them to do, but they all do wildly different things. It seems impossible to actually nail down what that is.

It could be said that all God really wants of Christians is for them to love him, love one another, and keep the commandments the best that they can. But depending on each person’s interpretation of the bible, everything else varies wildly. An easy way to visualize this for me is to consider a Christian’s stance on homosexuality. There are extreme views on this, all within Christianity. Some condemn homosexuality altogether and chant “God hates fags”, some aren’t comfortable with it because of their beliefs and would check off “regretfully decline” on an LGBT wedding invitation, some believe that there is no conflict between homosexuality and Christianity, and some are very proud to be both gay and Christian, saying that God himself made them that way in his image.

Richard Dawkins said in The God Delusion that it is not the radical Christians (and Muslims, to which this applies but isn’t really my focus) who commit terrorism in the name of their religion, it is the true Christian who is following God’s commands verbatim. This may very well be true, but you may have noticed that most Christians are not murderers. As a matter of fact, it seems that the majority of Christians are quite opposed to terrorism. Does this mean that they are not true Christians?

In my eyes, they are not. This is because there is not one true Christian. There’s not one true denomination with all the perfect instructions on pleasing God. With a book that long, and that messy, I think that there is no way that everyone will agree on what it means to be a Christian. To me, it is rendered meaningless because of this. Drink alcohol, or don’t. Get tattoos, or don’t. Go to church, or don’t. I believe that Christianity is so vague that the believer can mold it into whatever they think it is. As the Godless Iowan said, Christianity is:

I often get messages from people trying to reconcile Christianity to me by saying “I just wanted to tell you that the type of Christian that your mom is, or that your old apologetics teacher is, isn’t true Christianity. True Christianity is all about loving your neighbor and accepting people for who they are.” First of all, I’d like to see you tell my mom that her Christianity is not the one true Christianity, and see how that goes. But to me, it is as Godless Iowan said: as long as you mention Jesus or the bible, Christianity is whatever you want it to be.

30 Replies to “No True Christian”

  1. Interesting and partially factual. I do believe that Christianity has parted from it’s true intent over the decades. The term Christian in essence means Christ-like, to believe and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Over time different religions have developed because many had their own opinions and ways of thinking and living that resulted in a break off of many sectors within the church. The true heart of Christianity is a lifestyle of worship(a willingness to serve Christ and others) because of the love of a God who choose to give His only son for the sake of all mankind. Who would display such a love for you that you would not want to reciprocate it back? Anyways I will not get into scripture and all but I do believe Christianity has parted from it’s true intent and purposes but there will always be a rotten apple in a good bunch, does not mean you throw the whole batch away. Also the life of a Christian is meant to be lived within the blueprint that Christ gave us (bible). To be studied for ones edification and the edification of others. When one purchases something do they not look to the instruction manual for directions on how to use it? Likewise as Christians we must refer to the word of God to understand what it means to walk this life. Does not mean we’re perfect not does it promise us that we will not struggle or deal with things. Nut it gives us hope and faith to believe that a God whose supernatural strength and power that lies within us can and will help us and see us through those times. I can understand your logic indeed but Christ is a beacon of hope and love for many and our worship to Him should be based out of gratitude for such a courageous and grand display of love. Not judgement, malice, criticism or disingenuous love. For the love that He shows far outweighs the love that we give because we are humanely limited. I pray that you may understand Christianity and the life of Christ more. And that you may get your questions answered my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminds me of my religion course when every single Christian there had a different viewpoint of Christianity and how to be a true Christianity. All were offended by the professor and by one another. The only true Christians are those long since past and have made contributions as once small alienated people. Since the expansion of Christianity, as well as the several editing of the Holy Bible (thousands of versions and deviations) one can be the best Christian of whatever viewpoint they mock and follow. The question should be posed is how to be a Christian in a world full of those Christian-in-name-only. Or the person may vaguely follow a few memories of the faith without ever having touched their Book or having studied alone cover to cover about their religion. And for those truly devoted to the studies to learn about the early Christians and their beliefs. So few Christians actually are devoted to their religion, which may be the cause for the mocking of viewpoints rather than knowing. Again, how many are devoted and how are Christians devoted and studying their religion and history?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. one thing stands out for me: the answer to “what is a true Christian” is so often answered by someone stating a belief in Jesus and that the Bible is real. Why is it necessary to even say that?
    If you ask someone “what makes a true hunter” do they answer, ;’I believe in guns and that deer exist”.

    It shouldn’t be necessary to defend a rug that you’re already standing on, unless you aren’t entirely sure that is a rug and that you are actually standing on it…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmmmm . . . I think that the best place to start is to figure out the history and not so much the religion. There are dissenting positions within each of the Christian religions, but tbh, I think that the situation that you have just posited is what an Apologist would categorize as having entered into “Christian Apologetics.” This is not so much as settling on a church, but settling on Christianity in-of-itself. I tell people to look at the early Christian Church as a basis for understanding where everything has come from. How did Christianity go from being one religion comprised of mini churches (the Pentarchy) to being a religion with thousands of denominations? When did this occur and for what reasons? Figuring out what church is not so much the case as figuring out which church is right, which one follows best what was laid down by Christ, the Apostles, and the subsequent tradition of the Gospel. Obviously, I have my own bias, but I will stick with that as a start to your question. Sorry if anything is a little out of context.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. @TheGodlessIowan captures it perfectly
    Regardless of your stance in almost any matter, you can find a verse or two in the bible to support ( or can be made to support ) your views.

    Well before christianity became “christianity”, when the term christian first came into use, it meant “people who are like christ”, though what the term christian means in this present time is quite different depending on who you ask

    But that what I believe it means to be a christian and well, I was raised a catholic and their take on the issue is somewhat similar ( not exactly )

    By the way when I saw the post title, what I thought the article was about is many christians claim that “Ex-christians were never true christians”. That’s by the way

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sarah. I think on some level many theists recognize that your 3rd point is a command in numerous religions. Taken by itself, this cannot realistically be a criteria to be Christian. Thus not surprisingly there is a wide variety of belief in the doctrine and variations on what one Christian will take literally or figuratively within that doctrine. To be a Christian one must use something specific to the doctrine that makes it different from other religions. There is of course some uniqueness to the stories of the bible, but of course many of them are similar to stories that existed long before. Thus to really be a Christian, or to be any other follower of a religion, one must not only believe in the truth of the doctrine on some level, but believe in it’s originality and ignore the similarities to other faiths, belief systems, etc. If there is one thing that made me less impressed by religion as a whole, it was simply by learning about other religions.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi! I think the specificity comes in because you have to include all three of my points. Of course, taken by itself the third point could be from any religion. I don’t think we as humans can make judgment calls on who is and ins’t a “true” Christian, partly because as CA said there can’t be one “true” Christian. Christians are humans, so our own individual practices are as different as we are. That said, generally speaking, I think believing the first two points constitute cultural Christianity, and adding the lifestyle third point constitutes practiced Christianity. I think the differentiation is just that Christians believe Jesus was God and no one else was. Doesn’t everyone believe their God is the true one? Isn’t that the differentiation for belief? (Is that what you mean/what you’re asking..?)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you for the response. I guess it’s the humanist in me that simply says that being a good person should be a commonality among all humans and that it is generally a common thread in most religions (and secular philosophy) that I know about. The specifics of the nature of God of course vary, but I guess I wouldn’t look to that quality when defining a Christian in particular. Or perhaps even religious people in general, since there are many who would claim to be of a particular faith yet don’t practice loving people, or rather love in a very narrow way.

          I guess for a 3rd criteria I might put a belief of the resurrection of Jesus as central to being a “true Christian” (again if there is such a thing). I think that his divinity is very strongly tied to that, not to mention sacrifice and redemption being a key theme to the Christian religion. Again, in practice forgiveness and sacrifice have not been practiced widely by those claiming to be Christian.

          But you bring up an interesting point. Is someone’s religion defined by what they do in practice or what they believe to be true? While I would want the former to be true, I would think that most who call themselves Christian, Muslim, or whatever do so because of what they believe to be true and not the actions they perform. In fact I think many people dupe themselves into thinking they’ve got a get out of jail card simply because they believe wholeheartedly in the truth of the story of their faith, and less about the actual things their holy book tells them to do.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I def see what you mean. On your second point yeah, that would definitely be necessary for belief. I guess that’s part of believing he was God; if you don’t believe he was God I think believing the resurrection is false would follow. But yeah, that should definitely have been included.

            I would want the first part to be true of course also. I’m sure you’ve considered the fact that religion can’t make us perfect bc humans just suck. But I think you’re right, and that’s something religious people really need to watch out for, especially American Christians where belief and routine lulls us into apathy. Its a work in progress I guess. We all know the Christian religion and those of us in it have a lot to answer for. And that’s the understatement of the decade.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I agree, that certainly if one is a God, death is something that one should be able to overcome, but it is possible to argue for Jesus’ divinity based on miracles performed as well. The dying for our sins and coming back from the dead just seems to be a crucial part of the story. I like to look at it in a figurative and inspirational sense, but I suspect that if a Christian did that, they would have a hard time fitting in with other Christians in general. lol

              Your thoughts about ritual mirror my own. I find our propensity for rituals to be quite interesting and wrote this piece about it some time ago on my blog. I think you might enjoy read even in my non-perfect human writing. 🙂 https://cloakunfurled.com/2016/05/25/the-ritualistic-human/

              Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi, CA. I have long said, “Every atheist has their own understanding of what atheism means to them. No one but me believes in my particular brand of atheism.” I see no reason why religious folk of any persuation should not be given the same opportunity to believe their religion as they so choose. It only seems fair. Having said that, the churches that want to rule the religions would become the big losers, all those church donations would dry up as believers would not know who best to pay their tithes to. After all, the bible makes no commandment that god’s children must tithe, does it? Tithing is the way religious leaders accept welfare payments without seeming to be needy.
    The approach you are taking of late seems to be more a condemnation of churches/religions than it is the believers themselves, UNLESS those believers are supporting a particular church or religion. I personally think this is a very much more realistic way of looking at belief than just outright condemning all believers “en masse”!

    I am an atheist, that can never change. And as much as I believe belief is a mental disease, or an addiction, those conditions make belief a necessity for those people who need it. Who are we to take that panacea away from them? Would you take away nicotine from an addicted smoker, or alcohol from an addicted drinker? Not by force you wouldn’t, or even by reason (logic). So why would you want to take away belief from a believer. When they are ready to leave their beliefs behind, they will. And they will leave them behind, it is a part of spiritual evolution. When they are ready, it will happen. Just like when you were ready, it happened. It is all part of life, you just have to bide your time…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. …or heroin away from a heroin addict? Not by force maybe. At the moment we’re hit with words like ‘aggressive’, ‘militant’, ‘offensive’ just for suggesting that there might be a problem with taking heroin! An addict might eventually work it out for themselves, and then have the strength to give up. But if they’re surrounded by people encouraging them to continue, and if they themselves are encouraging others to start using drugs, should we just let them get on with it?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. My question is, Do we have the right to interfere? If they are committing crimes to support their habit, then, yes, we have that right. But if they are able to somehow manage on their own, as most religious believers are, then IMO we do not have the right to interfere. Maybe without their addiction of choice, they become sociopaths or pychopaghs, or just plain bullies. We don’t know–we can never know unless we try, and if something bad happens, we become responsible. I don’t mind being responsible for others, in fact that is how I try to live, taking away other’s pains if I can help. But if I take away some pain, but that results in pain to others, I have to be prepared to say it is my fault this extra pain was caused. That is how I have chosen to live, but that is not how everyone has chosen to live. That part is up to (the general) you. Is that a choice you are resdy to take?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Well, religious leaders interfere plenty, from the moment a child is born (and immediately claimed for the church) to standing over them on their death bed to make sure they don’t make a run for it at the last moment. I believe everyone should have a choice (i.e. freedom of belief). Don’t we owe it to our fellow human beings to at least make sure they know there is a choice? Surely freedom, as the song says, exists within unconditioned minds?

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          1. Which is why i propound the idea that the nuclear damily cannot continue on as it has fron the beginning of human time.
            But just because others stoop to brainwashing children a nd eveb adjlts does not give us the right yo retaliate in kind. Choice comes from ending the brainwashing, not from thinking only our way is the right way. Try reading my post on changing the nuclear family on my rawgodsspiritualatheism blog on WordPress. It was written in 2017 in Feb or March I believe,

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  7. This is intriguing. Though I will send you an email of my thoughts on this post. But only because I have so much to say and I think an email would be more appropriate. Cheers 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Nice post. I can see (partly) why Christianity has gotten so popular. In theory, there’s a vague message about loving others, alongside a confusing belief system which you can mold into anything you like. In actuality, it isn’t so nice for a lot of people though.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Re “It could be said that all God really wants of Christians is for them to love him, love one another, and keep the commandments the best that they can.” It could be said, but there are 605 commandments and I don’t see any organized effort to obey them (in Christianity).

    This post expands upon an excellent point. I think every Christian out to go through an exercise before becoming a member of a church. They should write down what they truly believe and justify it through the Bible. The Church would probably want them to harmonize it with what it claims one needs to believe, but that is up to them.

    For example, for people who believe Christians shouldn’t drink alcoholic beverages (my sister is one) how does one reconcile Jesus creating wine out of water for the wedding guests (of which he was one) at the wedding at Cana? Is this the behavior of a god who does not approve of imbibing?

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  10. Your last paragraph… how many different sects of Christianity believe all the others are untrue! It’s amazing. I just got into a debate with someone on this very topic who is “Born Again”.

    “ 2) believing that he said about himself is true”
    Did Jesus say something about himself? I haven’t found any of Jesus’ writings. Strange that someone who was “God” did not document anything.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi! I’m the one that tweeted that and I just wanted to clarify that what I meant by what Jesus said about himself was his claim that he was God. Obviously those claims were documented by people other than him, so there’s clearly room for documentation, historical, and all sorts of other errors. And I know you believe it all to be BS. But for those that think the documents that make up the Bible are legit, I think that based on the Bible, believing Jesus existed and that he was God is the beginning of Christianity, and that was what I meant by that second point. I can be long-winded so I don’t usually talk Christianity on Twitter for this reason. Again, just wanted to clarify that because I am paranoid about being misunderstood. Hope you have a good day 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you for your clarification. I don’t think EVERYTHING is bs, I’d wager that their either was a Jesus (new age Rabbi for that age) or there was a movement in which “disciples” spread teaching and attributed the teachings to Jesus. Maybe he was the Buddha of his time. Why if he was “God”, did he not put his words into writing? We have nothing! (except his disciples.. et al) There is lack of extrabiblical proof. People do point out Flavius but scholars believe the text is subject to Christian interpolation.

        Knowing in that time, an known empty tombs meant divinity (see also Alexander the Great), I ask why are all other “divinity” claims invalid but Jesus is the exception?

        Along with the “Bible”, I have read the Jefferson Bible, it’s actually a good read. When stripped of the “artificial vestments” (Thomas Jefferson) it actually makes for good moral parables. I guess I go along with Jefferson who believes the story of Jesus was corrupted.

        I read somewhere that either you hike or camp, that makes you a good person in my book 🙂 …and yes, I can be long winded too. Obviously we both have two different views on the subject and that’s okay. I often learn from people I differ with… and I hope they learn from me too 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, that’s definitely a good question. I wish I could give some examples of extrabiblical proof but I’m not a Bible scholar or historian sooo. I am a lot farther than I would like to be from being able to back up my beliefs to others with secular proof, but I also know that there’s always going to be someone who will refute. You know? I came back to Christianity because if Jesus was real (and obviously I think he was), I think he was super legit and I love the philosophy of loving others and being good to them no matter what. (I suck at living that, but I try.) I’ve also noticed my mental state is healthier and more positive since coming back so because of that and several other reasons, for me, it’s the right choice.

          Lol, odd good person criteria but I’ll take it! Learning from others is exactly why I’m here, as well. It’s dangerous to isolate ourselves with people who believe exactly like we do.

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          1. I would say that the philosophy of loving others is not unique to Jesus or the jews as we have similar teachings in other cultures in different geographical location and in times that predates the Jews and similar behaviors have been observed in other life forms

            Though like you said you have improvements in your general well being due to your faith, that’s what is important. Though, I may want to believe that you could have had such gain without religion but that’s by the way
            What’s important is that you have gained alot from your faith and it does not affect the well being of others

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Your first paragraph there is getting into what someone else brought up in response to my comment down below!

              I actually made a lot of huge personal gains in the three years I rejected Christianity and that’s part of the reason I was able to come back to it. But that’s a lot to get into in someone else’s blog comments 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

          2. I should have said it was a rhetorical question.. 🙂

            If the philosophy of Christianity helps you, if it gives you a positive outlook on life and as you said, a healthier mental state, excellent! Who am I to say you’re wrong. Although I am an atheist, I like the basics of Buddhist philosophy. I’m a free agent 🙂 I can pick and choose what I like from all religions and make it my own.

            …but with everything… Sometimes we hide our problems in religion or concepts. Take an alcoholic who goes to AA, perhaps discovers God and focuses on stopping drinking. It sounds like a positive step… but sometimes people have underlying issues and those issues are never addressed. The god concept for them can be a great first step but they also need to address the root of their problem.

            I seem to have what I call a “Negative Default”, for whatever reason my first reaction to anything seems to be negative. Honestly, I think I get that from my parents but…. I never seemed to be able to break free from it. Buddhism helped but once the concept wore off, I found myself being negative again. It may sound crazy but I find if I can just set the intention of being positive when I wake up and see how long it takes before a negative thought pops up. When that negative thought pops up, I try to turn it into a positive. It feels good at the end of the day when I can see the difference I made. Again, it is a concept 🙂 I’m not sure I can break totally break free from the negativity I experienced growing up, it’s almost ingrained in me but I recognize it is an issue and will always focus on doing the opposite 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  11. “True Christianity is all about loving your neighbor and accepting people for who they are.”

    That was my understanding of Christianity, based on my reading of the Gospels. But, in my teen years, I slowly began to understand that most church members did not meet this requirement. That was when I started questioning.

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  12. The last quote–so true. From reading the New Testament alone, you can come up with several different religions. Someone who only had a copy of the epistle to the Romans will have a very different Christianity than those who learned from James.

    Liked by 2 people

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