I 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. That means that they are either “saved and confused” or not real Christians.
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 historical errors like saying that Jesus didn’t die on the cross. 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?
RM: Do you like Jewish people?
RM: What do you think about pork?
Me: Mmmmmmm . . . bacon!
RM: You aren’t a Muslim.
Me: Yes I am! How dare you question my faith!
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. 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?
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?
Me: But the Bible teaches that in over 100 passages!
LT: [Pause] Uh, so what? The Bible was written by men . . . [trails off because he didn’t know that]
Me: Do you believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead?
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 precise 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. Most of the theologically Liberal people at the Sojourners’ blog are just like that.
These people may be terrific citizens and friendly neighbors, but calling themselves Christians distorts the traditional and real meaning of the word. Again, if I claimed to be a bacon-loving, Jew-loving, Koran-denying, Mohammad-denying Muslim, would you take me seriously? So why take seriously those who claim the name of Christ yet mock the essentials of the faith?