What is the definition of Christian?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
What is the definition of Christian?
32
Thu, 03-27-2003 - 12:02pm
So many people have meanings to this word. Is it possible to come up with a defintion that everyone can agree with?

How do you define what a Christian is?

Is it one who follow Christ?

does one have to have certain beliefs?

Let's here it.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 09-04-1997
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 11:30am
Let me say that I come down firmly on the "Lord" side of the question, but I think that there is another alternative to the "Liar, Lord, Lunatic" dilemma, and that is to believe that the Gospels, in the form we have them, are so corrupt in terms of truth value as to make it impossible to "know" anything about the historical Jesus from reading them. This is an interpretation I do not accept personally, but I think it is logically valid.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 2:29am
How about this then?

John 4:25-26 The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he."

I have just had a look through nine different translations, and it is pretty clear in all of them. One (New Living Translation) even has "I am The Messiah".

Two points to make here: don't forget that we are reading in translation. Jesus didn't speak English - sounds obvious, but I have seen people get really tied up in the exact wording and placement of commas, and it just doesn't work like that. We have to look at the thrust of the meaning and be led by the understanding of the people of the time. Their responses usually show us that, to them, Jesus' meaning was pretty unequivocal.

Second point. Note that this bold statement is made to a Samaritan. Apparently to be so "out there" was considered rude in the Jewish culture of the time, and so you will not see Jesus being so direct to other Jews. The polite way of agreeing with someone is to say "It is as you say". (The "yes" is understood) Like if someone offers you tea and you say "Please" and the yes is understood. In some translations it doesn't come across well, but some modern translations have put the "yes" in explicitly for modern readers, while it was understood by the hearers of the time. This is evident in their response.

>>For Jesus to be called "Christ" by Peter, certainly isn't surprising. Even the use of the phrase "son of God" had been used before and not in a surprising way. Son of the living God might be something. I don't think that that includes any idea of the trinity or of forgiving sins or being the literal son of god.

For this reason (translation) I think it is splitting hairs to draw a distinction between "Son of God" and "Son of the living God" - God was understood to be living. Also, look at the response of the Jewish council as previously quoted. They clearly understood Jesus' statements as a claim of equality with God, and therefore blasphemy. I think if Jesus could have avoided crucifixion by saying explicitly "No, this is all a misunderstanding" he would have? Or his disciples would have? He never denies his divinity at all, by either implication or action. I would view "God has revealed this to you" as a pretty direct confirmation, since God was seen as source of all truth.

I'm not sure what you mean by "Christ" and "son of God" being used before in a not surprising way. These figures of speech are almost always used to mean the prophetic figure with the authority of God, who was the literal son of God, who would come to bring the Kingdom of God. The Hosea verse is (I think) unusual in that it refers to all the children of God.

The trinity is not explicitly in the Bible, but is extrapolated from ideas there. Haven't got time to go into it all right now. Forgiving sins and being the literal son of God is certainly in there:

Luke 5:23 Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? (Jesus had just said the first, done the second. Usually understood to be the same thing. Follows the point made by the Pharisees, that no-one can forgive sins but God alone.)

John 2:16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; you shall not make my Father's house a house of trade." (He was speaking about the Temple, claiming it as his father's house and claiming authority to contradict the priests who allowed the sale of pigeons for sacrifice.)

John 5:17-18 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working still, and I am working." This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God. (This is one of the clearest verses I can find right now, which points out not only Jesus' claim to be the Son of God, but that this was understood by his audience to mean that he was claiming equality with God, in effect to BE God, hence the blasphemy.)

I have to go to work now, but this is the thrust of it, in a nutshell. There are more verses, and I think reading the Gospel/s as a whole, the idea that Jesus is the Messiah is a generally unescapable and obvious theme. The disciples, who heard his exact words and saw his actions for themselves were certainly convinced. The claim is certainly there, which is the basis for the "Liar, Lunatic, Lord" trilemma. Jesus claimed to be God, either he was wrong and he knew it (Liar) or he was wrong and didn't know it (Lunatic) or he was right... I don't see any other alternatives.

Sorry I took so long getting back to you - I think my computer is doing something weird with the new boards, and I was locked out for a couple of days. I am posting from work now, in rather a hurry, so please forgive typos and telegraphic speech at times!

Peace!

Elizabby

Avatar for maryrca
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Sat, 04-05-2003 - 7:18pm
I'm not saying there is no right or wrong in the world, and that everything is relative -- I think you're taking a rather big jump there.

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What I'm saying is, this isn't necessarily so. You're looking at a rather narrow definition of Christianity. Many of us are emphatically NOT literalists. We think there are important lessons contained in the bible, but that it is definitely effected by the human beings who wrote it, compiled it, translated it, etc. Every last one of them fallible, every last one of them human.

Even if you accept your definition, the idea that the bible contains all the necessary "truth" and we have but to follow the rules laid out therein, is equally problematic. The translation you're reading from, and deciding what is truth from, is undoubtedly full of mistakes, translation errors, even outright intentional errors. That human stuff, again. Compound that with your *interpretation* of the bible -- or that of whomever you take to be authoritative... again, human beings, and fallible.

I do believe we're all *searching* for the truth. I just do not believe that any one of us has found it. That will, hopefully, come in another life after this one.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Sat, 04-05-2003 - 6:49pm
You said "There simply IS no way for us imperfect human beings to know what's "truth" to any degree of certainty."

Well, maybe. Maybe not. But we certainly should be seeking the truth, not making it what we'd like it to be. And I think many people come up with a version of the truth *as they would like for it to be*. Christians (in general) accept what the Bible says as the truth. We don't just make it up. We believe God gave us the Bible to show us the truth.

"By definition, every individual will have his or her own perception of the truth. PC or not, that's just the way it is."

Yes, different people will have different *perceptions* of the truth. But that doesn't make them right. And it doesn't change the truth. Unless we (and I'm talking all religions and philophies and people) are *all* wrong, some of us will be right and some will be wrong. There are many around today who want to say that there is no right and wrong, it's just whatever suits you or as long as you are sincere, that's all that matters, etc. The truth does matter.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Thu, 04-03-2003 - 10:00pm
Yep, yep and yep!
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Thu, 04-03-2003 - 8:20pm
Well, supposing that the gospels are recorded history and inerrant history containing exact quotes, all of which I doubt, I think if all that was said was said and done, I guess there would be a couple of options. Either he really did think of himself as the messiah, and again, as defined by whom, there were many different ideas of who the messiah was, or he was playing some kind of game or maybe he was loonie. Yes, the whole, lord, liar lunatic argument. I think he could have been any of them or any combination thereof. My personal guess he is that the gospels are a record of events that lead to a theological idea and are highly errant. I also think that possibly Jesus thought of himself in some form of the other as the messiah and "annointed of God" and a special "son" of God but even that idea is highly subject to personal interpretation.
Avatar for maryrca
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Registered: 03-27-2003
Thu, 04-03-2003 - 1:14pm
The difficulty with that is that everyone defines "truth" differently, including you. You may say, perhaps, that you rely upon the bible to reveal the "truth" to you -- others could point out that you're depending upon some human's interpretation of the document.

Any human interpretation, and human institution must be shaped by human wants, desires, knowledge or lack thereof. There simply IS no way for us imperfect human beings to know what's "truth" to any degree of certainty.

By definition, every individual will have his or her own perception of the truth. PC or not, that's just the way it is.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-04-1997
Thu, 04-03-2003 - 12:52pm
Why do you think Jesus woould allow others to say that he was the Messiah, the son of the livng God, the king of the Jews, etc, without correcting them, if that wasn't who he thought that he was?
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Wed, 04-02-2003 - 7:57pm
For Jesus to be called "Christ" by Peter, certainly isn't surprising. Even the use of the phrase "son of God" had been used before and not in a surprising way. Son of the living God might be something. However, this phrase was used before, and from what I can tell not in a prophetic manner but in a particularly affectionate or special way. I refer to Hsa 1:10. What Peter said could very well be "You are the messiah (however this was personally interpreted that to mean) and you are a very special person of God. I don't think that that includes any idea of the trinity or of forgiving sins or being the literal son of god. And even if you did, Jesus said in response only that this was revealed to Peter by god, he does not say, "Bing! You are right!" Jesus was never that forthcoming.

As for "Jesus saith unto him, yes, it is as thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." Not every version interprets this verse this way. And this is very crucial to the overall interpretation, does Jesus say, "Yes, that's right" or did he say, So you say"? I see a mixture of interpretations regarding this verse.

I understand that just the sentence of death because of blasphemy insinuates who Jesus thought he was, and that the forgiveness of sins is an insinuation of Jesus's divinity but what I am saying is that Jesus never really clearly states his nature and his purpose outright. Why not do you think?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Wed, 04-02-2003 - 6:30pm
I don't think that he did say that. I don't think that he directly said that he was the son of God. I think that he allowed others to believe that (if we are to believe scripture) by saying things like, "If you say so" and "you are blessed for saying that", but he didn't directly say this. When did he say that he was dying for our sins?

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