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One who accepts the ChristianGospel. (todo: Bible? ref)

Some may allege that this condition is not sufficient to be considered a "real" Christian - one must also show some visible sign or other of having accepted the gospel. Typical conditions may range from being baptised, attending church, reading the Bible, giving to church / charity etc. to e.g., the requirement that one occasionally speak in tongues.

Some may allege that this condition is not necessary - everyone who calls themselves Christian should be considered Christian for whatever purposes we mortals ever need to know one way or the other.

A Christian is a baptised follower of Jesus Christ. (That will be too catholic a definition for most Wikizens, but I am not convinced Christianity is about a set of beliefs.  It's not something that one necessarily "opts" into, although one would be expected to affirm one's own faith if possible).  Incidentally, whilst having a look into this, I discovered this page: http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_defn.htm (which might just pre-empt our discussion).  --AR 

It's not catholic enough for me. Primarily because there are believers in Jesus, particularly children of Baptists, who have not yet been [baptised]. Incidentally, how would you define "following Jesus" - or would you? --Bobacus
If you were Christian and unbaptised (and of an age where, according to your denomination, you could be), you would get yourself baptised. The definition may have bugs, but it's not bad. --Requiem

I believe that believing is generally required (unlike Orthodox Judaism where obeying the rules is required and not much else it seems), otherwise I would be a Christian.  I don't think that baptising someone at the age of 2weeks is going to make them into a Christian. - Naath

I would say that baptism (at any age) is the beginning of the path to salvation.  It won't produce the completed Christian, but it is at least the first step.  I contend, as many would argue that the Church Fathers do, that baptism "does something".  It's not only a sign of faith, but an action of God that produces faith in a person which the Church must nurture.  The definition of Christian that I gave includes the words "baptised" and "follower".  I think you're correct to say that baptising someone at the age of 2 weeks won't make them into a Christian, but that's where some of us begin.  Making Christians involves practices that extend over an entire life-time.  I don't think "Christianity" labels the result of holding beliefs, nor is it what it means to be truth to those beliefs.  Instead, being part of the Church is the condition for knowing what we believe about Christianity. --AR
The Wiki's Christians would define these things in a variety of different ways (as hinted at by the above-linked webpage). Most but not all of us would say that there's often a time when one "becomes a Christian" - as in, decides to put his own will secondary to God's will - but often there's not. Although we'd agree with AngelaRayner that the habits and practices associated with being a Christian are something that one grows into over the course of a lifetime, I suspect most of the Protestants would locate the distinguishing factor more internally than that, although it must necessarily have external outworkings: NIV: James 2: 14,26. It would be very interesting to get the comments of Requiem here. --AlexChurchill
I hope you're not using the word "Most" in a way that is an attempt to flex wiki-muscle!  By what I wrote, I did not exclude the possibility that some are able to name a time when they "became a Christian".  However, from what I wrote, it ought to be clear that I think that that is too narrow an understanding.  What do you mean when you speak of the distinguishing factor being internal? --AR
It certainly wasn't my intent to be especially forceful; please forgive me if it came across that way. What I was responding to was your comment that "Making Christians involves practices that extend over an entire life-time". I was attempting to distinguish between "becoming a Christian" (undergoing the transition such that one wasn't a Christian before and is afterwards) and what Requiem called "being a good Christian" - which is hopefully what a believer grows into over the course of a lifetime. I'm not sure that you'll agree with that distinction, but I think it's important to at least have the alternatives pointed out.  --AC
The language you are using here reminds me of somthing I've read previously, but don't have to hand.  I think that Protestants define sanctification and justification to be two different things.  Catholics do not.  (Now that's a brief remembering from a basic intro. to Christian theology by Alasdair McGrath?.  I'll stop here and look it up when I have access to the book.)  If that is the case, then I probably don't accept your distinction.  Obviously I have to use the word "probably" because I find myself constituted as an Anglican.  It's not at all clear whether Anglicans are able to clearly define themselves as "Protestant". --AR

I'd agree that all baptised followers of Jesus are Christians - but is that a definition? To some extent, I'd say that a Christian is anyone who, deep down, believes themselves to be a Christian. Now, to be a good Christian, you need to go to services, do good deeds etc, but the whole basis of the thing is this. If you have faith - really have faith - in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, then you're Christian. And you will do everything else. Not because you're told to - but because you want to. And so we may observe people to be Christian by seeing in them the fruits of the Spirit, but faith is internal, quiet and invisible. --Requiem
I don't see why you need to go to services to be a good Christian. That could be evidence that you're a good Christian, but it doesn't make you a good Christian. Someone who goes to church three times a week, but is otherwise a horrible person, isn't a very good Christian, wheras it's  hard to argue with someone who says "I don't have time for Church; I'm too busy doing volunteer work at the kitten orphanage". -- Xarak
H'm. It's more that good Christians go to services than the other way round, really. I'd question someone who didn't have time for Church at all due to doing volunteer work, though. For example, I can't make services in the morning due to circuit training - I go in the afternoon. It doesn't have to be matins on a Sunday to count as a church service. --Requiem
Requiem, I think you're right to question whether the statement I proposed is a definition.  There is a sense in which if one is a follower, then one is a Christian.  It's somewhat self-fulfilling.  However, I dislike the definition that anybody who believes herself to be a Christian is a Christian.  Oddly enough, despite disliking the definition, I'm not in the business of wandering around telling people whether I think they're Christian (how would I know?).  I do, however, have a suspicion of those who claim to be Christians, but seen to have no ecclesial rooting.  One needs to go to services to be a good Christian in order to be aligned with one's community, to meet Christ.  Being a Christian is not something we do alone.  Doing volunteer work at the kitten orphanage is service, but not necessarily Christian service.  I suppose I ought to add that I agree with Xarak that one can go to services and still be uncharitable.  Perhaps it's necessary to go more often! :-) --AR
As I am a solitary practicioner of my faith, and know many other people who simillarly have no faith based support network local to them, I don't think you need to interact with others in order to believe, or in order to obey the rules.  In generally I find Christian churches ridiculous, overlly political, overlly controlling and often down right rude, I'm fairly sure that if I believed in their god I would still find many attitudes of 'the church' stupid, contradictory and annoying, I'd still find some subset of other believers stupid and wrong headed, I'd still be annoyed about sitting still for an hour listening to some guy wibble on about stuff... thus I doubt that I would attend church even if I agreed with most of the things that the church was saying -- Naath
Perhaps you don't need to interact with others to have some kind of generic faith.  I can't really speak for those who aren't Christians.  But for Christian faith, you do need to interact with others.  Christian faith is not generic, not some universal experience one can have without being shaped by others.  One would not know what to believe (in terms of Christian doctrine) or which rules to obey (broadly, Christian ethics) if one did not interact with others.  It is not surprising that many "one-person" faiths are springing up.  I think this is an indication of what some call "post-modern".  Obviously, I don't agree that church is: ridiculous, stupid, contradictory, overly political, controlling, rude and wrong-headed.  I am glad that it has made some kind of impression.  It's hard to overcome apathy these days, let alone actually have anybody bother to call you foolish!  --AR
Ah. That's very interesting. The impression I got from CICCU was that they thought the Bible was everything you needed to be saved, and to be a Christian. A community of fellow believers was a bonus, but theoretically, if a Bible washed up on a desert island and the one guy stranded there read it, he could be saved. I think they would consider the idea that the Bible isn't a self-sufficient guide to Christian doctrine and ethics ( or at least all the important points therof ) to be diminishing the glory of God; after all, if the Bible is the totality of God's word, then He wouldn't have left out any important points. -- Xarak
Oooh, something to pick up on! ISTM there's a world of difference between "the Bible is God's word" and "the Bible is the totality of God's word". See KnowingGodsWill etc. for that debate. -MoonShadow
I have no idea what CICCU think :).  Well, actually, I've a few ideas, but I don't rate CICCU highly because I think they're just an Evangelical evangelism society.  That's fine, but it doesn't give them authority to say what the Christian faith is or is not.  They are parasitic upon the Church.  That's a good thing, of course, but the next question that ought to be asked is "Which part of the Church do they represent?".  All Christians are, in a way, parasitic upon the Church because we need the Church to enable us to know, for example, how to read the Bible.  (Of course, you can read it alone, but there's a possibility that you'd end up in a one-person faith, thinking that you had the truth...)  CICCU still interpret the Bible.  They give it a slant.  That's unavoidable for anybody.  However, it follows that if we're all giving it a slant and we want to read it corporately, we need a good tradition from within which to interpret it.  (It's the same for scientists.  One is unable to approach scientific texts, or say, French literature, without prior training.)  Thus, I don't think the Bible is everything you need to be saved.  I don't think they'd say that either.  They'd probably say it contains everything you need to be saved.  I'd disagree.  I think you need the Church to be saved.  Part of my problem with CICCU is that I think that they marginalise the Church.  There is an attempt to be "inter-denominational", but they simply don't work well with some denominations, especially those which have a "high" view of the church.  I don't know whether they'd consider the idea that the Bible isn't a self-sufficient guide to doctrine to be diminishing the glory of God, but it does seem rather odd when it's put into some kind of historical structure.  Throughout much of history, Christians have been unable to read.  We only have the Bible because some people considered Jesus important enough to write about.  Those people were, yep, you guessed it, the Church... :-) --AR
OK, so there are two questions here: "What does it take to be saved?" and "What is a Christian?".  From what I think I know of early church history (which admittedly isn't much), it wasn't the believers that called themselves Christians; other people gave them that name.  Which, to me, implies that a "Christian" is, to some extent, someone that is living in a certain way (as a result of their beliefs), rather than someone who merely believes certain things. Am I in the right ballpark? -M-A
Spot on.  I think the living in a certain way often comes before, rather than as a result of beliefs, but I'm nit picking.  I think you're in the right ballpark.  I like it when people take mess and make "two questions" out of it.  It's not soemthing I'm capable of :-).  I think the two questions you highlight are quite key, but also have slightly different answers. --AR
Check out "ChristianGospel" for debate on "what does it take to be saved". This is why I tried to define "What is a Christian?" in terms of that at the top of the page. - MoonShadow
I still think that there are two slightly different questions being asked.  "What is a Christian?" is a different question from "Are non-Christians saved?".  I think that's the distinction we're talking about.  I could be wrong!  --AR
Isn't that talking about different things, though?  There are some things that are the minimum required to become a Christian, but then there are other things that you should have if at all possible to help you become the best Christian you can be.  Also, you have to bear in mind that different things apply to different circumstances.  So, if you are all alone on a desert island, a Bible would surely be sufficient but, in a society, you shoulg seek out other Christians, partly because it helps re-affirm your identity, and also because you can help each other reach a better understanding of God. --M-A
Rather controversially, I often think that if alone on a desert island, I might use the Bible to burn on a bonfire, to keep myself warm or to cook food, or perhaps as loo paper.  There's no guarantee that handing somebody a Bible when on a desert island will enable them to be skilled enough to read it.  If it were written in a language they could understand, they'd be able to read it as literature.  But I think that to make sense of it requires a community.  Lots of people get upset when I say that it is important to have training to read the Bible.  But one needs training to read a Part III Maths paper (I'd have no chance), and I don't see that the Bible is any different.  Now if the question you are asking is "will they be saved?" or "are they going to be ok?", that requires a different answer.  It's up to the grace of God. (Incidentally, I hope I'm not being too irreverant when I say what I might use the Bible for on a desert island, but not all of the Christian tradition considers the text as text to be important). --AR
PeterTaylor cheekily wonders which pages you'd use first (but doesn't want to divert the entire discussion). (BTW you'd be better off with a copy of TheTimes? for loo paper).
Heheheh :).  The pious answer might be "I'd use the pages that I've already memorised..."!  However, I shall not deign to answer that question!  I probably would use a copy of TheTimes? first, but I assumed this was a desert island scenario where you were landed with very few items... I wouldn't use the Bible if I had other paper available!! :) --AR

Now this is an entertaining EditConflict. Here's what AlexChurchill wrote to Naath: I think you make excellent points, Naath. Lots of churchgoing Christians do still find many attitudes of "the Church" stupid and annoying (and even disagree with their own church's policy on some things). Pretty much everyone finds some subset of other believers frustrating, stubborn, hypocritical or judgmental. The page on CityChurchCambridge demonstrates a tiny amount of the disagreements that occur about how long is appropriate to sit and listen to some guy wibble, although the sermons tend to at least be interesting or relevant at a lot of the churches ToothyWikizens attend. This is why I say you make good points: we share most of them! But we still go along most weeks. The answer to "why?" would probably vary widely, but in my case a large part is just that they're my family. The people have foibles and flaws and none of them are perfect, but they're part of the same family I find myself adopted into with them, and in general I love them to bits (even though I can't stand some of them). --AlexChurchill

I fear I could point at many examples historically who went to any number of services and still didn't show many signs of charity. I know you're keen on these things being addressed by "participating in church", but in cases like this I really think what might be more useful could be serious consideration of Jesus' character and teachings, or honest discussion with fellow believers, rather than just going to services. These others can of course also be done from the context of church. --AlexChurchill
Interesting; are you saying that salvation is by works not faith, then? Or that "Christians" does not equal "saved people"? -- Xarak
One interesting thing about pointing at people who go to services, but don't show charity is that we start to question our salvation :-).  If we are Christian, we want to think of ourselves as saved.  Faith alone, and all that... --AR
I've been pondering on the question of whether "Christian" means "saved".  We tend to use them as synonymous.  If a Christian is a baptised follower of Christ, we'd assume that salvation would follow.  I think a more Calvinistic model always assumes salvation whatever a Christian does, until one does something so bad that one "clearly wasn't a Christian to begin with"...  I think a more catholic model sees salvation as something that is begun, but continues as one lives the Christian life.  So "saved" is not such a static concept for all Christians. --AR
I think that perhaps it's nearsighted of us to think of ourselves as 'saved', even if we truly are. Being Christian, we're on the path to salvation, and by all our efforts we try and walk along that path. Without Jesus to bring us the rest of the way, we'd never make it - but that doesn't mean we should make Him bring us the whole way. So, yes - salvation by faith, because God is all-forgiving and all-merciful in the end. But also salvation by works, because everything we do to make the world better in God's name brings us a step closer to who He wants us to be - a step closter to God. --Requiem

It's certainly a good point that it is at least as much why you're doing something as what it is you're doing. Perhaps the definition would be improved by including a little of my statement below - that a Christian is someone who holds a specific set of beliefs. The marginal cases are, however, a difficult call. --Requiem
I'm afraid I steer as far from the beliefs thing as possible.  I acknowledge that Christians do hold a particular set of beliefs, but I don't think that's what makes them Christian. --AR

Reading that site, I can see what they mean. There are a lot of people self-labelled as 'denominations' who other people would label as 'non-Christians'. To me, the difference is simple. Anyone who accepts and believes in the Trinity, the Ten Commandments given to Moses and the Two given by Jesus, according to the Bible - they are Christian. Otherwise, they aren't. We can sit and argue all day about absolution, transubsantiation, the Sacraments and so on - but they are fringe theological issues compared to the belief in the Trinity and God's law. Notice that I don't emphasise the Bible heavily here (but that's possibly a discussion for another page). --Requiem

Separate question pulled out from the above - why bother to try and define "Christian" at all? MoonShadow would say that there is some importance there for evangelism - namely, if one is approached by a set of people who say one should be baptised by immersion to be considered "proper", another set who say one should start speaking in tongues - otherwise one hasn't really accepted Jesus, another set who say one should read an extra book by someone called John Smith that all the others shuffle away from, another set who say one should ask the Virgin Mary to pray for them which gets the first set of people really upset, another set who say one should literally believe God created the world in six days and the theory of evolution is inconsistent with the Gospel and so a work of the Devil.. then they all start bickering with each other and turning aside to you and not quite saying "don't listen to that other lot, they're not really Christian, join us" but implying it - or sometimes just coming right out with it and denouncing a group of people calling themselves Christian as a sect, - kind of like some of the comments on UnitarianChurch imply it's not worth considering 'cos they don't really believe anything..
..how does someone who hasn't made up their mind yet or been indoctrinated into one or another way of thinking know who to listen to and who to ignore, or even whether to listen to anyone or ignore anyone at all? Angela, you mention above that you know to be suspicious of certain types of people calling themselves Christian. Surely that's because internally you've got a template you're comparing them to? - an idea of what a Christian should be like? - and you get suspicious when they don't quite match up?

Hmm.  I'd want to define it just so that I could attempt to share a usage with others when describing the way the world is.  There is some need for it when trying to do evangelism, but it's probably not that crucial a question.  I'm cautious with it.  I've been pondering about this a little this morning.  (Apologies for the excursus...) When I was a few months old, I was baptised.  My parents took me to church and I was confirmed when I was 10.  If you'd asked me whether I was a Christian, I'd have said "yes".  At the age of 13 (or so), I distinctly remember "praying the prayer" (something that will be understood by some Christians here).  If you'd asked me whether I was a Christian, I'd have said "yes".  Through a set of circumstances I shall skip over, I ended up (aged 16) in a charismatic church where I "became a Christian".  How did that happen?  Well first it meant having to deny that I was a Christian before that time.  I can't remember whether this was from pressure upon me by those around me in that congregation /or/ whether because I had now had a new kind of experience ("a personal relationship with Jesus", accompanied by an emotional-group-worship experience) and so I defined the previous experiences as invalid.  I was then "baptised" (or at least dipped in water) again, so there was at least one sense in which the congregation previously considered that I was not a Christian.  If you'd asked me at the age of 16 whether I had been a Christian all my life, I'd have said "no".  I'd only "become a Christian" recently.  However, having now reached the ripe old age of 23, and run kicking, screaming and yelling away from charismatic Christianity, I think I've been a Christian all along.  That's why I say that being a Christian is something that one grows into.  I realised when editing a set of web-pages containing "my testimony" that I had been subtly persuaded to adopt a certain group's description of "what it meant to be a Christian".  Asking "how does one know...?" is a very good question.  That's why I find it interesting to go back and ask about how Christians have been defined historically.  I prefer more inclusive descriptions.  I don't trust anybody who says that they're the only group who are "true Christians", but I have sympathy with those groups (Roman Catholics, for example) who hold that certain groups do not have a fullness of faith.  The advantage of that is that you can still affirm somebody is a Christian, but you are not required to entirely agree with them.  I suppose I prefer to define from the outside in terms of baptism, but then you might ask "whose baptism or which baptism?"  The thing with baptism is that it is done "in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit".  That means that I'm cautious of those who do not baptise in the name of the Trinity (Unitarians at least).  So the "template" you refer to is more or less accurate.
I would question whether (some) Quakers and Unitarians are Christians.  Actually, you will find that that dialogue occurs within those groups as well.  Many Quakers don't want to be identified as Christians.  (Just to add to that, I think that those people who really are concerned about the salvation of other people who consider themselves Christians are wasting their time.  There are plenty of people in the world who are not Christians.  It might be better to spend time, inviting them to be a part of the community, as opposed to slagging off others as "not Christian")  --AR

A name, usually but not always shortened to Chris.  The ChurchillCollege JCR President is called Christian

There is a [quiz] here to see what flavour of Christian you are. It seems quite well-informed (despite an irritating punctuation error in one question).
Although we have all noted that it lacks the general MiddleOfTheRoad? English denominations such as Anglican. --CH
It lacks anything remotely Calvinist, indeed, any tradition dating back to the Reformation. Could it, perhaps, have been written by a Yank?
It has references to election, atonement, justification by faith, sola scriptura ... what do you mean? --B
The reference to sola scripture scares me. It's worrying enough that the author of the quiz thinks that some people might consider sola scripture more important than, say, soteriology, but even more worrying to think that he could be right. Incidentally I tried to investigate the weighting of that question for the various targets, and began by selecting the middle option for each question to get a baseline. The result is a tiebreaker question where it asks you to pick the "Most true" out of (corresponding position indicated in italics):
Karl Barth's theology is hugely important (Neo-orthodox)
Speaking in tongues is one of the most important parts of being saved (Charismatic/Pentecostal?)
Inner experience is key to understanding God and is a good assurance that he exists (Classical liberal)
Older churches are unintelligible to modern people (Emergent/Postmodern?)
Preaching the word is more important than worship (Reformed Evangelical)
It is right to baptise infants (Roman Catholic)
God's grace enables us to respond to him (Holiness/Wesleyan?)
The world was literally made in six days (Fundamentalist)
The Gospels tell us more about the early church than they do about Jesus (Modern liberal)
I must say I'm baffled by the use of "modern" in the postmodern option. It seems a bit Cheshire Cat - words have technical meaning when I want them to, and otherwise I'll use them casually.
I also discovered that the way it scores is rather poor. Each question affects one of the numbers, so each of the 9 classifications has 7 questions. You start at 50%; strongly agree is worth about +7% and strongly disagree -7% or vice versa, mild (dis)agreement is worth half of strong (dis)agreement. To me that devalues the quiz a lot. To give an obvious example, the answer given on sola scriptura should have a roughly inverse effect on the scores for Catholicism and Evangelicalism.
Oh, and for the record the description for Reformed Evangelical contains explicit reference to TULIP, so the quiz author has probably heard of Calvin. --PT
Given that it seems to categorise almost everyone as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan?, and there's a fairly wide spectrum of Christianity represented here, I'm dubious about its value. (As a side note, I'm not even sure that it makes sense to talk about Holiness/Wesleyan?. Wesley probably wouldn't have been a speaker at Keswick had they been contemporaneous, and AIUI modern Methodism is closer to classic liberalism). The target audience seems to be quite specific: theologians who are either North American or Anglican. Who else has an opinion on the relative importance of the theologies of Barth and Spong? --PT
Rachael got:  Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan? 79%, Neo orthodox 64%, Emergent/Postmodern? 64%, Roman Catholic 46%, Classical Liberal 43%, Reformed Evangelical 32%, Charismatic/Pentecostal? 32%, Modern Liberal 25%, Fundamentalist 14%
AlexChurchill got:  Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan? 89%, Emergent/Postmodern? 86%, Neo orthodox 71%, Reformed Evangelical 68%, Roman Catholic 50%, Fundamentalist 46%, Modern Liberal 43%, Charismatic/Pentecostal? 39%, Classical Liberal 32%
ChrisHowlett got:  Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan? 71%, Classical Liberal 68%, Neo orthodox 61%, Roman Catholic 54%, Reformed Evangelical 50%, Emergent/Postmodern? 50%, Fundamentalist 29%, Modern Liberal 25%, Charismatic/Pentecostal? 25%.
M-A:  Emergent/Postmodern? 82%, Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan? 71%, Reformed Evangelical 61%, Classical Liberal 61%, Roman Catholic 50%, Neo orthodox 46%, Charismatic/Pentecostal? 36%, Modern Liberal 29%, Fundamentalist 25%
Admiral got: Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan? 86%, Neo orthodox 82%, Fundamentalist 57%, Reformed Evangelical 57%, Emergent/Postmodern? 54%, Charismatic/Pentecostal? 36%, Classical Liberal 36%, Modern Liberal 32%, Roman Catholic 32%
Requiem got: Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan? 93%, Roman Catholic 79%, Emergent/Postmodern? 71%, Classical Liberal 71%, Neo orthodox 64%, Modern Liberal 50%, Reformed Evangelical 46%, Fundamentalist 25%, Charismatic/Pentecostal? 21%.
Nat is: Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan? 71%, Emergent/Postmodern? 68%, Neo orthodox 57%, Charismatic/Pentecostal? 54%, Roman Catholic 50%, Classical Liberal 43%, Modern Liberal 39%, Reformed Evangelical 36%, Fundamentalist 29%.
Bobacus is: Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan? 89%, Neo-orthodox 71%, Reformed Evangelical 64%, Fundamentalist 54%, Roman Catholic 50%, Emergent/Postmodern? 46%, Classical Liberal 36%, Charismatic/Pentecostal? 32%, Modern Liberal 14%. He looked up [Spong] and [Barth] to help answer those questions, but struggled with the meaning of 'literally' in the 6-day creation question ;-)


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