Paul Allen on the Question of Christianity
Paul Allen of Hope Church Australia sums up the debate I’ve been having with Caleb and Bruce Gerencser on the definition of a Christian. Caleb and Bruce seem to think that anyone (e.g. Fred Phelps) who claims that he is a Christian is (the minimalist view), where I’ve been arguing (to a brick wall, it seems) that there are other factors in determining it (the maximal view). Allen says this:
If you were proposing marriage to someone, what would the one receiving the proposal say if you said, “I want you to know this proposal changes nothing about my allegiances, my behavior, and my daily life; however, I do want you to know that should you accept my proposal, we shall theoretically be considered married. There will be no other changes in me on your behalf.” In a strange way we have minimized every sacred commitment and made it the lowest common denominator. What does my new birth mean to me? That is a question we seldom ask. Who was I before God’s work in me, and who am I now?
The immediate results of coming to know Jesus Christ are the new hungers and new pursuits that are planted within the human will. I well recall that dramatic change in my own way of thinking. There were new longings, new hopes, new dreams, new fulfillments, but most noticeably, there was a new will to do what was God’s will. (source)
Too often, in becoming a Christian, a person just wants the “lowest common denominator” Christianity. They want to go to church on Sunday and claim spirituality, but never really let it affect who they are or what they do. Jesus predicted this when he told the parable of the wheat and weeds (Mt 13:24-30, 36-43).
Despite what many skeptics say, including Bruce and Caleb, there is more in determining someone’s Christianity than merely a profession of faith. In addition to professing faith, the person in question will seek to do God’s will. They will listen to James when he wrote:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (Jms 1:22-25)