Why is it, I wonder, that every Christian I encounter thinks they are True Christians, while most others are not?
A recent survey in the States revealed that belief in God is in decline. Ken Ham of Answers In Genesis decided this is because:
We live in a day when the religion of secularism (naturalism)—with its belief that there is no God, morality is relative, my happiness is all that matters, and we’re simply the products of evolution—is taught as fact in public schools and through the media.
I suggested on Ken’s Facebook page that the reason more people are rejecting the idea of God might have a lot to do with Christians themselves; that Christians’ own public performance was a complete turn-off for many people. I meant by this the way evangelicals in particular:
- align themselves with Christian Nationalism;
- actively campaign to restrict LGBT+ rights (and in some cases to have gay people executed);
- are obsessed with abortion;
- disregard almost totally Jesus’ actual commands and instead –
- waste their time online maligning atheists and other minority groups;
- are downright unpleasant to those who don’t share their views.
Silly me! I was told by a real Christian called Tim Bodnar that Christians who behave like this are not real Christians (despite believing they are):
If we are to know fellow believers by their fruit (or as you say, “public performance”) – we then know that their fruits show them to not be the Christians they claim to be. That’s why our relationship with Jesus Christ is a personal one.
When I pointed out to Tim that this was nothing more than the No True Scotsman fallacy, he told me – passively aggressively but oh so lovingly – that ‘it isn’t difficult to grasp’ what’s going on; Christians who aren’t real Christians are the same as people who impersonate police officers. In any case, he said, Jesus had it covered.
Maybe it’s a good thing Christians refuse to look to themselves to learn why others are increasingly rejecting their God and their beliefs. After all, if they were to make their worn-out old fantasies more attractive, more people might fall prey to them. ‘True’ Christians are to be applauded for discouraging, albeit unwittingly, belief in their non-existent God.
My earlier post had to do with the “no true Scotsman fallacy”. I think you are missing what Bodnar and certainly I mean when we say “those who do those things are not true Christians.” We do not mean that they are not Christians. Neither of us have the knowledge nor right to say that. We mean they do not characterize what a complete and mature Christian should be.
You see things in black and white or think that we should. Maybe that was something you picked up from those you associated with. But that kind of thinking is not biblical. Biblically a Christian is one who has had a new birth in the Spirit and who is on the road to becoming like Jesus by the life of God that now lives in and through him or her.
One of my favorite verses is Philippians 1: 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
“Completion” is the word teleos or as it occurs here epiteleos the epi being used to emphasize the degree of completion and meaning complete or mature or perfect. It is the end of a process. That truth is so regularly found in the NT that I am surprised that anyone could miss it.
Despite Jesus’ exhortation that you should be perfect, together with precise instructions about how to accomplish that? Be that as it may, you’re conveniently categorising Christians who behave irresponsibly as immature or incomplete. You are still using the No True Scotsman argument, not to dismiss people as ‘not real Christians’ but as ‘not mature Christians (like me)’
So they’re not complete; this doesn’t prevent the rest of us from suffering their sometimes reprehensible behaviour (as outlined in the post). For those of us on the receiving end of their nonsense it’s academic whether they’re ‘mature’, ‘complete’ or ‘perfect’. They’re pain in the ass believers regardless of the stage of development they’ve reached.
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There are “pain in the ass” believers as far as the rest of the body of believers are concerned too. There always have been. Sometimes they are such a pain that they are excluded from the fellowship as in 1 Corinthians 5. Though even this man was received back when he repented.
Not mature Christians (like me). I am always a little amused when you think I am putting myself forward as either a Christian with no peers or mature among children. I am far from everything God wants me to be. I am as much in process as anyone. And I confess that to anyone. But that does not mean I have not come a long way and, after some sixty years or so as a follower of Jesus, have not gained some maturity – much of it the hard way – and quite a bit more understanding than what I had at the beginning. That is not even close to a one true Scotsman argument.
I repeat. There is no black and white as far as Christian completeness is concerned. There are only people in process of becoming like Jesus. (I still cannot understand how you miss that in the scriptures.)
Jesus’ instructions about being perfect is a lot like a father’s encouragement to his young son as he goes out to play in a game of football. The father does not expect absolute perfection. He is not disappointed when his son does not play an absolutely perfect game. But he still wants his son to try and reach that goal. And with his fathers’ encouragement he comes closer to that goal with each game.
At the end of the game the father does not berate his son for failure but encourages his son with approval for the improvement he has made.
In your experience in the association of Christians of which you were a part, did this not happen? Was there only the pointing out of your failure? May I say that God is not like that.
No, I didn’t miss the likes of 2 Corinthians 3:18. Nor am I referring to my own past Christian experiences as you constantly assume. I merely look around me and see what Christians are doing in the world, some of it good (I’ve never disputed this) but much of it unsavoury, unkind and uncivil; the evidence is all over the Internet.
Maybe that’s because they are indeed becoming more like Jesus who could be equally objectionable. If this what you mean by becoming more like him?
Of course we’ve been here before: https://rejectingjesus.com/2022/03/10/the-f-word/
Don, you write: I am far from everything God wants me to be and No one meets the holy standards.
What a fruitless endeavor you have taken on. After your “some sixty years or so as a follower of Jesus” and you STILL must strive to be “mo’ betta”. SMH
It’s interesting that you would put the following in bold: We mean they do not characterize what a complete and mature Christian should be — Especially considering it is, once again, nothing more than a judgement of others.
The logical question here is what gives YOU the authority to judge who meets this description? You cannot claim the bible because the same people that you feel are not “complete and mature” ALSO believe they are meeting the “holy” standards.
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You along with Neil must have been associated with a particularly legalistic and judgmental group of Christians. I weep for you and everyone who has had that experience. I don’t wonder that you find that toxic. But it is not the norm. Certainly, it is not how God relates to us. Every one of us fails many times in the process of becoming more and more like Jesus. Each time I have failed, I find God’s forgiveness generously offered and his grace generously given, encouraging me to acknowledge my failure, get up and dust myself off, and make a new start.
No one meets the holy standards, Nan. Not even those who we might think of as the super stars. The body of believers who are the church are to be a grace community, grace-giving to those who fall, as they hope the others in the community will be grace-giving toward them. And at the same time encouraging the one who has failed to get up and start anew. God is like that toward us. We should reflect his grace in our relationships with others.
Nan, there is a old saying from rural American Christians: I ain’t what I ought to be but I ain’t what I usta be. (or something like that)
No, I don’t actually “strive” to be better. That is the beauty in it. Stiving gets you nowhere. I rest in what God is doing in me. And I find that is perfect peace and joy.
All the failures drove me to the Lord where I found his power in me to be more than sufficient. As I listen to others, that is their experience as well. I along with the author of your quote, found stiving a fruitless endeavor. Resting is the key.
I am taken regularly back to Romans 8 where it says there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh (striving) but according to the Spirit. It is a sad thing to watch people striving to be what they believe God wants, feeling his condemnation at every failure. Nan, God does not condemn. He lifts us up, and out of a place of perfect rest he changes us into what our hearts tell us is the absolute best possible place to live.
Gee. Thanks for the sermon, Don. And it’s not even Sunday!!
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If everyone just agreed with me, we wouldn’t be having this problem. 😉
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