So What is a Christian

It gets harder every day to explain my spirituality to others. I am a follower of the Master Jesus, and an independent priest. But am I a Christian? Many would say no, because I have unorthodox beliefs.

C. S. Lewis argued, in Mere Christianity, that “Christian” should mean someone who claims to hold to the “Christian doctrine”. He was arguing against those who prefer to use “Christian” as a word meaning someone who is loving and charitable. Lewis would prefer us to say of a baptized scoundrel, “he’s a bad Christian” rather than “he’s not a Christian”.

But what, exactly, constitutes “Christian doctrine?” At one time, we could identify the earliest Christian creeds and doctrines and insist that a Christian must claim to believe them. But with the emergence of early Christian writings such as the Nag Hammadi texts, our view of what early Christianity looked like is changing. Early Christians were a much more diverse bunch than originally thought. From the very beginning, there existed apostolic groups with radically different notions of what Jesus message was.

I would tend to call myself a “gnostic” Christian, but this is misleading also. No Christian group actually called itself “gnostic”. This was a catch-all phrase for several groups that differed considerably with each other. There are a few common features of “gnosticism”, such as the emphasis on individual enlightenment, that are appealing. Then on the other hand are the strange cosmologies and a very negative attitude toward the material world.

“Mystical Christian”, “Esoteric Christian”, and “Hermetic Christian” are also possibilities, but seem to conjure up strange images in the modern mind.

So, what do you think is the best self-label for an “inner” Christian in the modern world?

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3 thoughts on “So What is a Christian

  1. Connie

    My beliefs have changed over the years. I haven’t always even considered myself Christian; in fact, the term Christian has sometimes had negative connations for me, since there are those who call themselves “Christian” who conduct themselves in ways that do not seem ‘christlike’, or of Christian (being a follower of Christ) would imply. So what is my definition of Christian? To me, to be called Christian should mean that one has opted to follow the teachings of Christ, or Jesus of Nazareth, as he gave them while on the earth and to emulate them, with sincerity. A Christian should be, in other words, honest, sincere in worshipping God, compassionate, humble, teachable and attempt to obtain the other qualities Jesus preached. Do all Christians attain this level? probably not, but the mere act of attempting helps us to become better people, and….perhaps…that is an end in itself. I have always found it so very fascinating that so many various religions….some differing immensely from others…all claim the Bible as their ‘writ’. One would think they would all be identical, yet, they are not. It’s because of the same reason we have so many lawyers…anything written can be interpreted in many different ways. Hebrew scholars, for instance, are known to spend their lives interpreting and arguing over parts and passages of ‘holy writ’. I find this an endlessly interesting notion. SO…you ask…what is TRUTH? is there any such thing? Most churches I know of claim to have THE TRUTH. No one else is right but them…interesting…when they all differ so much, isn’t it? There are many, like you, who claim to seek the truth. What makes you think you’ve found it? How do you know when / if you’ve found it?


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