Determining who a Christian believer is and what he or she stands for has become a complicated exercise over the last half century or so it seems.
When I entered my teenage years, the world’s population was divided into two people groups the “saved” and the “lost”. You were one or the other. That was my simplistic opinion at least.
If you were fortunate to be among the “saved” you were likely a fundamentalist or an evangelical. A handful of others professed to be “Christian” but affiliated themselves with “liberal” protestant denominations thus causing me to question their salvation. I had all the answers and had established myself as the supreme judge.
Then there were the Catholics. Even though they accepted the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, sinless life, death, burial and resurrection, their veneration of Mary, belief in purgatory and insistence that entrance to heaven was gained though infant baptism made them suspect. How could you be a Christian and a Catholic at the same time?
With the passing of time the term “fundamentalist” became a label to be scorned, resisted and even despised by some. The fundamentalist’s tendency towards legalism caused many to abandon the term and refer to themselves simply as “evangelicals”. Nowadays some are even re-thinking that terminology and defining themselves in other ways.
At times it seems like the things that separate and distinguish us from each other are greater than those that bring unity. Reading some of the current “Christian” literature, books and magazines makes you feel as though you’re from another planet. What are these writers talking about anyway? My own biases will become apparent here. The proliferation of terms like “moving in the prophetic” and “the new apostolic reformation” scare me. Am I “less than” because I’m not an apostle or a prophet? But I digress…
So what label do those who claim to accept Jesus Christ as God’s only means of salvation accept? Here is where the waters get muddied. We could be classified by any mixture or combination of the following terms. Pick one, two or even three or four, add them together (in any order) and define yourself.
Arminian, Amillenialist, Baptist, Bible-believer, Calvinist, Charismatic, Contemplative, Cessationist, Dispensationalist, Evangelical, Emergent, Full Gospel, Holiness, Independent, Liturgical, Name it and claim it, Non-cessationist, Post-modern, Post-post-modern, Premillenialist, Postmillenialist, Pentecostal, Preterist, Reformed, Spirit-filled, Word of Faith, ad nauseum.
So who am I? How would another Christian define me when they don’t really know what I believe, what I think, what I aspire to? How could they know when much of the time I’m not even sure myself?
I’m a child of God, redeemed by His grace alone, a recipient of His mercy, forgiven, transformed and being conformed into His likeness, guaranteed a place in heaven according to His promises.
I could add more but…we’d be back where I started from…confused.
April 13th, 2008