What Does It Mean to Be Christian?
Many of us were raised in a Christian home and may take our faith for granted, perhaps not even giving it much thought. Growing up, we went to church on Sunday because, “that’s what we do.” Such is the way of cultural Christians: Those who have a basic understanding of the Gospel due to exposure but are not practicing the faith out of true devotion.
This often is the result of the individual having received a watered-down version of Christianity that amounts to little more than, “Jesus loves you.” As people often mistake doing something (e.g., going to church every Sunday) with actually knowing something and possibly not having received proper instruction, many mistakenly conclude that Christianity has little more to offer than trite sentiment and weak platitudes about kindness and love.
Sadly, it is obvious that there are a lot of people who were raised in a church and yet know hardly anything about the depth of Christian spirituality and doctrine. These are the ones who likely think they understand Christianity and yet look elsewhere for truth. This is evidenced by the growing number of people who would say that they were raised Christian but now espouse Buddhism, Islam, a form of “New Age” philosophy or worse…they proudly proclaim some vague and vapid nonsense which they cannot even explain like, “I’m spiritual but I’m not religious.”
A common misunderstanding that, if adopted, leads people further from the Truth which is Jesus Christ and only Jesus Christ, is this: “All religions are basically the same.” If you hear someone say this or imply it in their writings, pray for the individual because he/she is either ignorant or deluded and will lead others into error.
Those who believe all religions are basically the same fail to understand the difference between ethical principles and doctrine. The fact that many religions teach murder is wrong, theft is wrong, lying is wrong (i.e., ethical principles) does not mean that the same religions agree on doctrinal matters (i.e., truth claims) like the nature of God, the nature of reality, attributes of God, God’s relationship to humanity etc.
A simple example: Both Buddhism and Christianity teach that murder is wrong. This is an ethical teaching. As a matter of doctrine, Buddhism teaches that enlightenment is something that is achieved by the individual (usually after being reincarnated many, many times) whereas Christianity teaches that salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone. With this in mind, someone who asserts that all religions are basically the same is woefully ignorant, intellectually lazy or simply dishonest.
Jesus therefore said to them again: Amen, amen I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All others, as many as have come, are thieves and robbers: and the sheep heard them not (John 10:7-8).
Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me (John 14:6).
There are people who I assume are agnostic or atheistic who say things like, “I believe Jesus was a good teacher but I cannot say that he is God.” This makes no sense whatsoever in light of Christ’s claims. He claimed to be God. So either He was telling the truth or He was not. Either His claim is true or He is a liar. If He is a liar, one certainly could not call Him a good teacher. C.S. Lewis put it this way in Mere Christianity:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher; he’d either be a lunatic — on a level with a man who says he’s a poached egg — or else he’d be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.
You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
The point is, all religions are not the same. Christianity is not one among many equally good choices. Those who would call themselves Christians must be absolutely certain of the identity of Jesus Christ. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the great, “I AM.”
I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Rev. 22:13).
God said to Moses: I AM WHO AM (Exodus 3:14).
Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am (John 8:58).
This is our profession of faith.