What Do You Want To Be Known As?
May 11, 2016 | by: Dave Maniquis | 2 Comments
Posted in: Theology
I always find it interesting that there are people who need to be known “as” something. There’s this human need that relentlessly pushes to self-title so a person is not considered “ordinary.” It has the potential, at least, to set the person apart from others; to stand out. What’s interesting is that it can be in play for an individual as well as for a group when it self-titles itself. However, sooner or later for the title to stick the person(s) have to meet criteria for the title to be taken seriously.
A “master automobile” mechanic who can’t change a flat tire is hardly deserving of the title. A “head chef” who needs a recipe to boil water should have a restraining order against ever coming within 50 feet of a stove. A “carpenter” who slams his thumb every time he tries to hammer a nail should be pitied above all creatures. And of course a “custom tailor” who forgets the buttons on a tailored-made suit should have his sewing machine confiscated. The thinking would go like this: “I’m around cars, stoves, hammers and nails, or cloth so I’ll title myself in line with those occupations.” That’s how a person can delusionally self-title or self-identify.
In our post-modern world it would seem that this same phenomenon is going on in Christianity. Anyone can self-title and ascribe to the doctrinal basis that best corresponds to a particular branding. So long as the banner of Christianity is trailing it to impart some semblance of legitimacy, any number of variations of the identity “Christian” take flight. It’s consumerism to the max. It’s like shopping for cereal at the supermarket. There’s a brand suited for everyone’s taste freighted with its own theological content.
Take your pick with the corresponding adjective that modifies “Christian” according to how you theistically self-title: charismatic Christian, prosperity-Christian, messianic-Christian, Word/Faith Movement Christian, liberal-Christian, conservative-Christian, Gay-Christian, emerging-Christian, traditional-Christian, apostolic-Christian, spiritual-Christian, “authentic”-Christian and the list goes on. Welcome to the world of hyphenated Christianity.
How do you sort all this out? Well, Scripture will have none of this hyphenation to accommodate individual proclivities or preferences. The New Testament teaches simply that a person is solely and distinctly Christian—a follower of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10-13) with no qualifiers. There isn’t the slightest hint of the possibility of some kind of hybrid Christian that creates divisional confusion. In fact the New Testament speaks against any such tendency. We see that in Paul’s recriminations toward ethnic Jewish Christians in the early church who sought to persuade professing believers to follow Jewish religious customs and thus add to Christ’s gospel of grace alone for salvation. (Gal. 2:14; 3:1-3). In similar fashion, Paul emphasizes Christ’s will for unity and harmony in His church when addressing the divisions he encountered within the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 1:10:12). He asks the rhetorical question that any follower of Christ should consider, “Is Christ divided” (1 Cor. 1:13).
This isn’t to say that there’s a biblical restraint against cultural relevancy that allows for diversity in Christ’s Church worldwide. Let’s face it, God is not boring. In fact, Paul relates the validity of this biblical principle when it is wedded to the doctrinal purity of Christ’s Gospel (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Yet, I think of people who wouldn’t hesitate to lambast or even sue a hairdresser, who boasts that title, for burning their hair to crisp or a professional landscaper who turned their lawn into a mini-Sahara. Yet, they will readily tolerate someone whose theology is just plain incongruent with biblical Christianity. Strange isn’t it?
Nevertheless, there is an increasingly and alarming trend toward “designer” Christianity; tailored to individual theology and in blatant opposition to what Scripture teaches concerning any number of things. Things such as God’s clear moral teachings, what it means to worship Him, and to have Him as your center. And to live and honor Him in doing so. Furthermore, there are patterns of Christian fellowship and missional distinctives. These things are fairly clear, while some take a bit more work to understand. Yet, you hear professing Christians proposing things like “God, for me, is not like that”, “that’s not supported by my reading of the bible”, “our historical/cultural context isn’t the same as that of the biblical narrative”, or “people up until the 18th century were unsophisticated” in their approach to the “supernatural.”
What this means is that rather than Christianity being a community in which we’re united together in clear scriptural teaching and principles, there’s an increasing trend toward a “designer” kind of Christian religion. At its core its redefining Christianity despite the fact that God is a Person who cannot be redefined by anyone since His Personhood is immutable. So, while we may want to be known as this or that, He can only be known as He has revealed Himself to be. We find Him—the Great I Am, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit— in the pages of Scripture; which is infallible (see 52 Words Every Christian Should Know blog, Word 9). Despite efforts at redefinition, the theological and ethical boundaries of Christianity based upon God’s character—attributes He has chosen to reveal about Himself—cannot be pushed beyond biblically acceptable limits. Biblical limits do allow for diversity while preserving doctrinal purity that aligns with His holiness (see 52 Words….blog, Word 2).
I’d be interested to know what you think defines someone “known as” a Christian. I ask this because of trending that’s gaining more and more ground in the church; apparently some kind of acceptance for any behavior, attitude or opinion as long as it has the word “christian” attached to it.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let that person be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:6-8, TNIV)
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.