What is a Christian?

What makes a person a Christian? Who decides who is a Christian and who is not?

I know where the term was first used, but I am curious as to what might have earned Christians that particular moniker. I am aware of no "inside the Bible" answer, no formal definition, and so I realize that everyone that comes to the table for this discussion will have to go outside of our common source and into their personal sources (whatever they may be).

Personally (and let me know what I miss and what I have right, if you like) I think the meaning of the word Christian is, "one who follows Christ." We might add subordinate clauses, like "one who accepts the Apostle's claims about Christ," or "one who accepts the authority of XXXX regarding Christ." I just want to know what makes us embrace the name "Christian."

What makes YOU a Christian?

(play nice)

michael_legna's picture

I would include being born again as part of following Christ

To limit a definition of Christian to be "those who are following Christ" needs too to define the Christ to which they are following. Is it the Christ portrayed on the Cross as the Catholic's see Him, or the Christ portrayed as the Protestants? Or someother version of another "messiah" or "christ" like David Karesh?

Sure, I agree completely that just claiming to follow Christ (which is all someone who is following the wrong Christ is doing) is once again not enough. You must be following the true teachings of the one and only Christ. We of course can disagree on just what those are those, so it all comes down to how tolerant do we want to be in accepting another person as a Christian. We can take the arrogant attitude that we know for certain the exact perfect teachings of Christ without error of any type and thus deny that anyone who does not match our doctrine exactly is a Christian. But I think we would find ourselves alone very quickly. The other approach would be to humbly admit that we do not know everything and be willing to accept others who identify themselves as Christians and enter into dialog with them to both reveal and correct the errors which exist in either of our positions.

PastorDave said -
I don't mind being Catholic for a moment and agree with you if we aren't saved until the end (which is technically true), then salvation cannot be in the definition. Yet, what is your response to being "born again"? Can we not agree that being "born again" is a pre-requisite? Regardless of whether one wills it to happen or can lose his salvation due to that willfull disobedience, at some moment in time a changed status must occur in the Lamb's book of Life.

I agree but our definition of being born again would also be different I think (since mine focuses on the Sacrament of Baptism). In my definition, being born again is part of following Christ, so it was included (though not obviously) in my definition of what it means to be a Christian.

PastorDave said -
Now, returning to my normal status of truth ;-) as a Calvinist ... we might find it difficult to find agreement on a definition if and when religion or theology is pulled into play. It may only be in the secular view that a Christian is a follower of Christ only and that would have no theological ramifications. Like being a Jew by birth or Circumcision doesn't necessarily mean you've got your ducks in a row with God. Or like being Catholic because you're parents baptized you as an infant, sent you to school and you no longer do anything Catholic but believe in God. And we can't forget the Baptists here who were raised in a church but never harken its doors as adults.

Yes, and I would say that theology and religion (as it pertains to a definition of Christianity) enters into the discussion only so much as to know the true teachings of Christ (which is theology as in coming to a knowledge of God - Hos 6:6) and following them (which is religion as in visiting the needy and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world - James 1:27)