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What is a Christian? – by C. Matthew McMahon

Musings on Christian Themes

Can You Guess the Christians?

What is a Christian?
by C. Matthew McMahon

Here is a partial list of names that have something in common. Let’s take a quick test. See if you, the astute reader, can figure out what all these people have in common.

Jacob Arminius, Remonstrant University Teacher in the 17th century
Karl Barth, Neo-liberal theologian
Billy Graham, Arminian Evangelist to millions
Harry Emerson Fosdick, Liberalism’s popularizer
G.K. Chesterton, Roman Catholic essayist, poet, and writer
T.S. Eliot, Modernist poet
William Miller, The Founder 7th Day Adventism
Ignatius of Loyola, Roman Catholic Founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits)
Catherine of Siena, Religious Mystic and political activist
Walter Rauschenbusch, Champion of the social gospel

Tell me, what do all these people have in common? They are, according to Christian History Magazine, part of the top 131 Christian people everyone should know about. That’s right, Walter Rauschenbusch, who is the Champion of the social gospel, and T.S. Elliot modernist’s poet, and Rome’s founder of the Jesuits – Ignatius Loyola, are among those “Christians” that Christian History Magazine says you should know. Shame on you if you didn’t get the answer right to this little quiz.

It seems, however, that the term “Christian” simply means someone who in Religious History has done, or accomplished something noticeable by a great many people. They wrote a book people read, or a poem, or preached a sermon, or even founded a cult. It seems that the word “Christian” has lost its biblical derivative – those that actually follow Jesus Christ and His teachings.
The 21st century modern church seems to thrive on its inclusivistic nature, where, on the other hand, Christ was always the opposite. Christ was an exclusivist. The Gospel He preached was exclusive, given to a few, given to a remnant of chosen people, chosen by God, to receive the implanted Word. Yes, many are called, but few are chosen.

The modern church of our era has it quite backwards. Christians are not simply people who write religious books, or quaint poems, or even preach to a congregation of listeners each Sunday. Doing something noticeable and drawing attention to one’s work is not the criteria for being called a Christian. Otherwise, when little 2 year old Johnny throws up on his mother’s Sunday blouse during the morning sermon, we’d have to call him a Christian too.

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23).

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