Who is a Christian? Who is a Muslim?

This is a rerun from 2007.

church.jpgI have found that for many people the word “Christian” has lost or changed meaning.  It used to mean someone who was an authentic follower of Jesus.  Now it is often used as a synonym for “nice,” as in, “She’s a really Christian person,” or to describe someone who goes to church sometimes but rejects the essentials of the faith.

Theological liberals tend to get very wounded if you imply that they don’t hold Christian views.  They’ve been in theologically liberal churches so long and have such a low view of scripture that they think that is the way church is supposed to be.

Mind you, I don’t go around saying who is and isn’t an authentic Christian.  That’s God’s job.  I’m not qualified and wouldn’t want it even if I were. 

Jesus did say that you will know them by their fruit, so it is fair to examine people’s lives to see if they have evidence for their faith.  But mistakes can be made during fruit inspection.  We would have probably thought that Judas was the real deal, and we probably would have thought that the criminal on the cross was not. 

But it does seem fair to point out when self-described Christians don’t hold views that have historically applied to Christians, as evidenced in the Bible, countless creeds and denominational statements of faith. 

First, consider this conversation:

Me: I’m a Muslim.

Real Muslim: No, you’re not. 

Me: Really, I am, and I’m offended that you say I’m not.

RM: Do you believe the Koran is the word of God?

Me: No, of course not.  It was written by a man, and has obvious errors like saying that a body double died on the cross instead of Jesus.  It was written hundreds of years after Christ, and even sources outside the Bible claim that Jesus himself died.  And don’t get me started about all the violence it encourages!  Why trust the Koran?

RM: Do you believe in Allah as the one true God?

Me: No.

RM: Do you like Jewish people?

Me: Yes.

RM: You aren’t a Muslim.

Me: Yes I am! 

Sounds ridiculous, right?  Now consider this:

Me: Are you a Christian?

Liberal theologian: Yes.

Me: Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?

LT: No, not a bit of it.  Even though it claims to speak for God roughly 3,000 times, I think those are all made up by people.

Me: Do you think Jesus is God?

LT: No.

Me: Do you believe any of the miracles as recorded in the Bible are true?

LT: No.  Miracles can’t happen.  Writers made those up.

Me: Do you think Jesus is the only way to salvation?

LT: No.

Me: Do you believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead?

LT: No.

Me: Do you look for opportunities to share the Gospel as outlined in the Bible?

LT: Of course not.  All religions (or no religions) are valid paths to God.

Me: Do you realize how radically different your basic views are compared to Christians throughout the last 2,000 years, especially to the countless Christians who died rather than recant their faith?

LT: Sort of . . . but we’re smarter than they were.

Me: Indeed.  But you say you are Christian?

LT: Yes.  How dare you question my faith?!

Is the first conversation that much different than the second? 

I haven’t had that complete conversation with any liberal Christians, but it is a highly accurate composite.  Try it yourself.  I’m virtually certain that any of the “Jesus Seminar” members would answer the questions that way.  For example, I read a book co-authored by Marcus Borg (a member of the Jesus Seminar) and he held all the heretical views noted above, plus more.

These people may be terrific citizens and friendly neighbors, but calling themselves Christians distorts the traditional meaning of the word.

26 thoughts on “Who is a Christian? Who is a Muslim?”

  1. I like it.
    When I see all of this, I understand why God gave us the Book of Revelation. Watching the growth of false faiths and false teachers could make one doubt the power of God. But we were warned that this would happen, even if we don’t know why.
    So, what could otherwise be a stumbling block reaffirms God’s existence and power because he knew what would come.


  2. I have had a similar conversation myself! It does blow me away. I do contend that this is not the only time in history this has been happening- or the false prophets for that matter… i believe that the spirit of the anti-christ has been going on since the beginnings of the church. There were false prophets then and those claiming to be christians that were not. I’m not saying there isn’t a literal THE ANTI-CHRIST coming- of that i’m not sure. But this has been happening and will continue to happen. We must always search the scriptures for ourselves and use it as our litmus test for truth. Great post Neil.


  3. Interesting post.

    A couple of thoughts.

    1. There are indeed “liberal theologians” out there who deny the deity of Jesus and much of what the Bible says.

    2. Most folk (in my experience in the “liberal” church world) who might be called or self-identify as “liberal” Christians DO believe in the deity of Jesus. We believe that the Truths in the teachings of Jesus are to be taken quite seriously and literally.

    I find that many so-called “conservative” Christians are ascribing to so-called “liberal” Christians a set of beliefs that they don’t hold to. As a result, “liberal” Christians are demonized and the rift between brothers and sisters in Christ widens.


  4. Neil,

    Great post. You did not mention (perhaps because it’s the subject of another, related post?) the fact that many liberal theologians reject the basic Christian teachings. I’ve known people to call themselves devout Christians who nevertheless believe in abortion, premarital sex, and the like – as moral and religious matters.

    You can’t go into religion halfway.


  5. I know you are an atheist, Bridget, but I sure wish there were more Christians with your grasp on things. {sigh}

    Neil, I have been in a fog lately, so you may have posted this and I missed it, but did you read about the Episcopal priest in the Seattle area who claims to be both a Christian and a Muslim?


  6. Kelly, thank you – I guess…..

    You can’t pick and choose what parts you happen to like. If you don’t want the entire package, or don’t know what you’re signing up for, then you’re an atheist or an agnostic. Or you’re making up your own version of religion, but it isn’t recognised by the other 5,999,999,999 people in the world.


  7. Hi Dan – good points. Maybe I need some more specific labels. I try not to broadbrush “liberals” and “conservatives.” I try to add qualifiers such as “theological,” because I know people fall into various camps, i.e., politically liberal but theologically conservative. I also know people who are politically conservative but hold liberal theological views. If people hold orthodox Christian beliefs then this post wouldn’t apply to them regardless of political affiliation.

    Thanks, all!

    Hi Kelly – Yes, I posted on it in my June 9 Weekly Roundup. It is the last piece and it starts with, “Discernment takes a holiday.” Her positions show how far we’ve drifted from a basic concept of truth as being that which corresponds to reality.


  8. theo………”You can’t go into religion halfway.”

    That is exactly what the liberal theologians do. You are right again. I would be more logical for me to be a “non-believer” than a believer that used his own rational powers to accept or reject the written word. Like I (and others) have said before you either have to believe the claims of Jesus or conclude that he is a deluded liar. To “accept” Jesus and his church and disown the tenents of his preaching is totally puzzling (and illogical)

    I am not a Catholic and strongly disagree with much of their theology, but I have questioned those that claim to be “good” (I always like this self-proclaimed accolade) Catholics and reject some of it principle teachings (like they have a say in what constitutes Catholicism.)

    You probably guess that I am talking about the Left in Hollywood and D.C. that claim to be “good” Catholics but rejects so many of its teachings, not the least of which is that abortion is an abomination……steve

    Neil. Great post. This is a great way for a teaching….. to present an obvious truth and then merely substitute the the players to bring it home…………….steve


  9. Incidentally, Certain people who claim to be good Catholics are actually excommunicated Catholics, known by a fancy a Latin phrase meaning, “automatic sentence”. (I forget the exact spelling.) The basic principle is that there are certain things one can do that automatically excommunicate oneself, no clergy required.

    I almsot said Episcopalians need this sort of automatic sentence, but then I questioned who they’d impose it on. Maybe that’s why a couple months ago they were losing 700 members in the US a week.


  10. Part of the problem is that the “leaders” are the most apostate of all. In the case of the Episcopal priest who claims to be both Christian and Muslim, her Bishop actually thinks that is a good thing!

    I’m not denomination-bashing here. I’m liberal-theologician-lack-of-critical-thinking-skills-bashing. Lots of denominations have the problems of false teachers and lack of church discipline, including Methodists.

    Any priest claiming to be Christian and Muslim should be fired that day. It is even worse than if a HP sales director publicly stated that Dell is just as good.


  11. You make a valid point that is missed by many. As a Muslim myself, I know what I believe and wouldn’t describe myself as such if I didn’t. Being a Christian is really not so different. While there are obvious theological differences between Christianity and Islam – Christianity has certain theological positions which have to be believed for somebody to legitimately describe themselves as a Christian. This is not my opinion, or the author of this post’s but rather written into the fabric of the faith. Of course, many people don’t observe this logic in our present time, and this is unfortunately the cause of much confusion amongst people of all faiths.


  12. Paul, thanks for visiting and for confirming this from a Muslim perspective.

    You are correct in saying that many people don’t observe this logic in our present time. They work overtime denying the existence of truth, even though they make truth claims left and right. They go on and on trying to change the plain meaning of “truth,” when it is simply that which corresponds to reality.


  13. When you lay it out like that it looks completely absurd, but most people don’t realize this absurdity when they act in such a fashion. I have a friend in school who denies many of the essentials of Christianity. (she believes that the bible is “completely man-made” and that Jesus cannot be the only way) Some months ago i confronted her and voiced my concern. I didn’t criticize her beliefs but simply showed her that they didn’t match with Christianity at all. I pleaded with her to drop the label “christian” which she used to describe her beliefs. She refused.


  14. This is a good point to raise. For some people to call themselves Christians and then deny essential Christian teachings is like someone calling themself a vegetarian and then eating beef-burgers. It’s as if they want to use the name without living up to what it means. And it’s pointless for them to say “A Christian means what you want it to. Why can’t I define it in my own way” because if you follow that logic you have no language. Words have no assigned meanings, and therefore nothing makes clear sense.


  15. I think their are some essential doctrines as given by the Bible (which should be at least authoritative to those who profess Christ) that are clear for a Christian.

    “Me: Do you think Jesus is the only way to salvation?

    LT: No.”

    That was definately one of them. I think this one disqualifies someone as a follower of Christ.


  16. @Neil:

    I think we agree more than we disagree, and I believe it is because we share the essential tenents of our faith, honestly; you postings on abortions have made me think in rgeard to what Jesus position would be and how mine should be. Clearly, I believe Jesus would be against abortions period, I am as well. My struggle is how to articualte that position in terms that people who do not share our faith can comprehend and further, I just am not sure that morning after pills for rape victims are abortions, I am not sure when the Nafysh (the Soul) is given to the fetus.


  17. I really appreciate how you can respectfully disagree on various issues, and again I am very glad we agree on the essentials.

    I agree that expressing the pro-life ethic in a non-religous way is important, as it is easy to dismiss our views as just being “religious.” That is why I try to get back to the scientific element whenever possible.

    One way I’ve tried to make progress is to temporarily take the rape issue off the table to see if agreement is possible on the 99% of abortions that take place for other reasons. I have often found that those using the rape issue and arguing the “when does life begin” question don’t want to draw the line at an early stage or just make exceptions for rape. They don’t want any restrictions, ever, and use those topics as smokescreens. I realize that is not what you are doing, and am glad you don’t take that approach. I applaud you for taking the issue so seriously and reflecting on what Jesus’ view is.



  18. @neil:

    You know Neil, there was a time when I might have disagreed with you on that rape and incest issue; however, I have come to an understanding on a few things.

    I know alot of people disagree, and honestly, I don’t think most ladies (or men who choose for the lady) actually look forward to and wnat to ahe abortions, BUT, on the pro choice side, there is, in my opinion, a sinister part of that, a part that hates children (aside form the straight eugenic side who wants minorities to have abortions anyway), I look at it esocterically as an ancient principality or demonic spirit, that bask in the blood of the innocents.

    Of course if I said this to many pro-choicers, they would look at me like I had birds flying around my head, but I believe it to be so. As you may know, or may have guessed, I am of the Ethiopic persuassion (though I offcially am Non Denominational) and a scripture from our canon in the Book of Enoch expands on the issue.

    There is a Watcher that fell from heaven (as you may read in Genesis right before the flood) named Kasdeja, who taught the smiting of the womb. So obviously, it was something that was taught vthat was not to be done (sometimes it helps to have a larger canon 😉

    Of course none of this means anything to a non-believer, but it goes to the point that I believe some people who mask themselves under the pro choice banner are definatly influenced by spirits who seek the blood of the innocents. BUT, I digress, just prattling along….

    Shalom Aleichem


  19. Neil, I have a question. Suppose a new believer doesn’t agree that abortion is a sin. She’s of the opinion that she wouldn’t have one, but won’t tell someone else what to do.

    I think you & I would agree that this is still a sin. But would you say she is still saved? Now suppose that something happens and she gets pregnant unexpectedly. On her doctor’s advice (for whatever reason), she has an abortion. Is her salvation still intact?

    I ask this for two reasons: 1) Recently a well-known Christian singer admitted that he is homo-sexual. Six months ago, everyone would have agreed he was a Christian. Now everyone questions it. 2) I know a man who struggled with alcoholism. He repented and sobered up for a few years and was “a model Christian”. However, problems came up and he went back to the bottle for solutions. I still am unsure as to his salvation, but he claimed Christ as his saviour, even when he was drinking.

    Hard questions for a Monday morning.


  20. Hi Randy – thanks for the . . . uh . . . “softball” to start the day.

    This may sound simplistic but I think this is the big picture.

    Once really saved, always really saved. I know some people will debate that, but I think scripture lines up to support it quite well. And as John MacArthur said, if we could lose our salvation, we would lose our salvation.

    So while the people you mentioned are sinning in rather serious ways, if they were really saved then they are really saved.

    The question I can’t be completely sure of is whether they were really saved.

    We can be “saved and confused” in the sense that we may not have perfect theology. And we are still sinners (see Romans 7). But I think it is fair to question those who continually disagree with and deliberately disobey Jesus.


  21. @Neil:

    “We can be “saved and confused” in the sense that we may not have perfect theology. And we are still sinners (see Romans 7). But I think it is fair to question those who continually disagree with and deliberately disobey Jesus”

    That was very well put. I have heard arguments on the “you can” and “You can’t” lose your salvation camp, generally Ikind of stay out of those, but your position is compelling.


  22. So, is this a fair paraphrase? “It’s very difficult to determine if someone else is saved. But if they continue to sin and ignore the Word of God, it’s a good bet they aren’t.”


  23. I’d have to think about it some more, but at a minimum I’d have to change “continue to sin” to “continue to unrepentantly sin” or something like that. We all still sin. And it isn’t just ignoring the word of God, it is deliberately maligning and contradicting it that would give me pause.


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