When someone tells you what a “Christian” is, their definition will fall into one of the four major categories below. After each category I offer its short-comings (SC:). The first definition category, “Anthropological”, is my preferred definition. The next three are all favorites of religious prescriptionists (see my post). The beauty of definition #1 is that we can apply a variant of it to terms like ‘Buddhist’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Jew’, ‘Patriot’ and other such terms. The Anthropological definition is the most flexible. I could have also offered a 5th definition, of course, which is just some ‘intuitive’ combo of 2-4 but I wanted to keep it simple.
- Anthropological (self-declaration): People who call themselves “Christians” are Christians. This is the only definition with intersubjective verifiability.
SC: For prescriptionist this definition is too broad.
- Doctrinal (belief change): People who believe the correct Christian key doctrines are Christians.
SC: With so many conflicting doctrines, who decides.
- Praxeological (outer-behavior change): People who act Christian are Christian.
SC: Many Christians feel faith is far more important than actions. Does someone slip out of being a Christian when they do something bad?
- Ontological (inner-being change): Someone in whom the Spirit of Christ lives. [Do we know this by their self-report (#1), their stated beliefs (#2), their behavior (#3)?] This does not solve the problem. Or someone who has asked Jesus to be lord of their lives — Once saved, always saved.
SC: Christians mutually accuse each others of being fake charlatans, self-deceived, or tricked by Satan and not having the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Christ” (depending on their theology). Thus, their is no objective measure.
Questions to readers:
- How do you define “Christian”? Does your definition fit under one of my categories?
- Can you think of improvements or corrections of my definitions?