Who is a Christian?

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Doctrinal (belief change): People who believe the correct Christian key doctrines are Christians.
         SC: With so many conflicting doctrines, who decides.
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
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70 Comments

Filed under Philosophy & Religion

70 responses to “Who is a Christian?

  1. Nick

    I would say the anthropological definition is pretty much it. If someone ties up their identity with Christianity, then they are a Christian. The only problem here is that people mean different things by Christianity, so the problem isn’t really solved with this definition, but just delayed. And one can’t just define all the types of religion that qualify as Christianity, for religion really only exists in the minds of people. Theologically, the category of dogma was created to address this issue. In one theological scheme, beliefs range from heresy-opinion-doctrine-dogma in terms of relationship to the religion. The lowest category, heresy, is incompatible with the (historic and communal) faith. Opinion is personal beliefs that are compatible with the faith. Doctrines are those beliefs which were affirmed by some church wide agreement. The key is that doctrines are not necessary to the faith. Things like immaculate conception, but not things like the existence of Christ. Dogma is that category of nonnegotiable items which determines whether a body is in or out. The analogy is that one may play basketball with or without NBA rules and it could still be basketball. But on some level, once you take away the basket and remove dribbling, it’s not basketball anymore, no matter what you call it. The scheme doesn’t solve the issue, as there is no consensus on dogma. The best I could do as a working model, is collect the commonalities of dogma among the groups who call themselves Christian into one list (thus drawing the definition from those who are defining it) and then do somewhat of te syndrome approach you applied to religion. Must have these dogmas. May have 3 of these dogmas.

    But in all honesty, I think it would be a largely fruitless task. I think it’s more important as a member of Christianity, or any other religion, to try to improve people’s lives rather than get them to define their lives differently. It makes me cringe everytime I hear Protestants say that Catholics aren’t Christians. Of course, I am uncomfortable with Mormons adding another book to the canon, but I don’t go around denouncing them as unchristian. What does it matter what we label things? I mean I do think that the church should unify, and that in order to do so it has to come up with some kind of definition of faith. But condemning other groups does nothing to help unity.

    The original question which plagued the early church is who does salvation extend to? Is it just Jews, or are Gentiles a part of the fellowship now? Given the extremely xenophobic nature of Judaism at the time, it is no wonder there was such a controversy. And one of my favorite passages of scripture is when Paul boldly states that in this new community there is neither slave nor free, male nor female, Greek nor Jew, but that all are one in Christ.
    No matter your religion (or irreligion), there is a lot to learn from in that.

  2. Casper

    I’ve made a brief comment on this post here: http://bit.ly/vajtF5

  3. @ Nick
    First, Nick, do you have a blog? You write well, so I figure you might. Hey, and thanx for the comment.

    Second, I agree with many of your points. Nicely said. Here are my comments:

    (a)Heresy
    You said:

    The lowest category, heresy, is incompatible with the (historic and communal) faith.

    Protestants were heretics in their day, because they rejected the historical and communal aspects of the dominant Christianity. I think “heresy” is equally a slippery term.
    related post: “Slidding into Heresy
    I think you insistence on undeniable doctrines put you into the prescriptionist camp — which is fine of course. But that is why I make the “Anthropological” category which you acknowledge has value. I don’t think Christians could wear two hats: “OK, we are all Christians (hat one), but I disagree with many of your doctrines (hat two).”
    I think we basically agree. It is a hard balance. My point is that I think it is valuable for people to note when they are being prescriptive vs. anthropological. I think it would help dialogue.

    (b)Improving Lives
    You said:

    I think it’s more important as a member of Christianity, or any other religion, to try to improve people’s lives rather than get them to define their lives differently.

    Well said, couldn’t agree more.

  4. @ Casper
    Hey Casper,
    Thanx for the mention. I read your post twice and am having a hard time understanding your answer(s). I guess I see you saying:

    (a) Anthropological is only good for demographic surveys

    (b) I prefer the Praxeological approach because Jesus said to give away our riches (?)

    (c) Doctrinal would be my last preference except that it ironically tells us that actions are more important than doctrine.

    (d) I most prefer “Christian = Christian” but realize that has tons of problems.

    Is that accurate?

    PS — let’s keep the conversation here, and not on your blog.

  5. Personally I prefer the Anthropological too, at least in general conversation. However it is vague and to really understand what an individual group or person believes we would have to look deeper into their actions and thoughts.

    What I find interesting is that so many of the convervative Christians and quite a few of the mainstream churched Christians use a Doctinal definition (my father who is mainstream does). However they often use the Antropological approach in their arguments for the founding fathers being Christian.

    For example: John Adams did not believe in the Trinity. He also believed, as did many of our founders, that any person who behaved morally would attain heaven regardless of whether they accepted Jesus as their savior.

    By the definition for being Christian that these groups use, John Adams would not be considered Christian. Yet they continue to call our founders Christian because our founders did call themselves Christian.

  6. With regard to your Praxeological definition, would this include people who live in accordance with Jesus of Nazareth’s teachings, but do not label themselves Christian?

  7. Casper

    I have no problem with the anthropological approach in general use – it is also, i think, necessary given the history of nation states being labelled Christian. It is the approah i would use with any other religion so i see no reason why the same approach should not be applied to christianity.

    The point I was making is that whilst I may use such a term in general usage within a specific faith context I assign a different meaning to the term (I guess I am a prescriptionist – though don’t necessarily agree with the spin you put on that in your earlier post). For example, what Europeans have commonly called christendom bears very little relation to Christianity for me (theologically speaking, it is sub or evan anti-christian) even though it would have been called (anthropologically speaking) a Christian nation.

  8. Casper

    Ahab,

    Re your question (which i know wasn’t directed to me) – I wouldn’t since it seems perverse to when there has been no conscious decision to do so. Of course, whether God would consider such a person one of his people is a different matter.

  9. @ Ahah

    Great question. I think some would say “No”, some (like Casper) may say “Well maybe in God’s eye but it is peverse since there is not census on it” and some who would say “Yes”.

    This is a thing for Christians to wrestle with. You are revealing a bit of the silliness of a pure “believism” religion. I think this whole definition thing exposes some important issues which your question clearly illustrate.

    Likewise, there is a NT passage that says even the demons believe but they tremble in fear — so showing that “belief” is not enough.

    Ah, if only we could measure people by their actions or lack of action and not by their banners. We separate ourselves unnecessarily, I fear.

  10. This is the disadvantage of labels. Who decides which label is correct? But with such the explosion of information in this age, it seems a necessary tool to differentiate all the different terms and variations, so that we are not misunderstood. Or is that just what we think?

    But coming back to the question. Would be consider a Christian = a good person? If that is a basic criteria, then, we should define what a good person is.
    I’d define that as someone who acts for the welfare of himself and others alike.

    Something to think about. Then would all the people sincerely labeling themselves Christian also just as sincerely label themselves a good person? Hmm.)

  11. Casper

    “if only we could measure people by their actions or lack of action and not by their banners. We separate ourselves unnecessarily, I fear”.

    On that I most definitely agree.

  12. You can analyze this as much as you want, but someone who denies Christ, and we can talk about what this means, is certainly not “Christian”. And the divide between those who adhere to somewhat different “confessions” of Christian faith is not nearly as large as some people like to make it out to be. Because Christians believe that truth and historicity matters and Christ has to be kept at the center of things, they will go through great lengths to discuss doctrines which even in seemingly little things diverge.

    This is nothing like the divergences in other religions. Muslims curse and kill each other over who is the true successor of Mohammed; even today Sunnis and Shiites are sworn enemies. Buddhist practices diverge as to have nearly nothing in common with each other.

    In the link below, C.S. Lewis makes some great comments in relation to “mere Christianity” in this introduction to Athanasius’ work on the incarnation. http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/history/ath-inc.htm

  13. Casper

    “This is nothing like the divergences in other religions. Muslims curse and kill each other over who is the true successor of Mohammed; even today Sunnis and Shiites are sworn enemies.”

    Because, of course, a christian has never sought to kill another christian for what they believe about salvation, Jesus, the trinity, the supremacy of the Pope etc., have they?

  14. @befuddled2 :
    Indeed. People will often jump between different definitions as it fits their purpose. This is why it is important to understand the phenomena and limit it so as to maximize real communication.

    @Soe Min Than :
    Good Person = Praxeological definition

    @Brigitte :
    (1) Analysis Warning
    Thanx for stopping in but I have a warning: my site is about “analyzing” — so if you don’t like analyzing, you might not enjoy visiting.

    (2)? Affirming Christ?
    You told us a person is not a “Christian” if they “deny Christ”. So I imagine that means a person is a “Christian” if they affirm Christ. So, if you wish to stick with the post, we need to know what “affirm Christ” means. If it is just “saying something” or “acting someway”, then your definition is behavioral (Praxeological). If it is believing something then it is (Doctrinal). So lets us know what you mean. I wager that your definition fits into my categories easily. Also, you must tell us what “Christ” means to you.

    (3) Objections
    I agree with Casper’s objections and they are fairly obvious.
    You want to tell us that voodoo-practicing Catholic Christians in South America, rich conservative Episcopals in North America, liberal Quakers in Pennsylvania, Shakers, Snake Handling Pentecostals in West Virginia, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons and all those varieties of Christians are really just like each other because they “affirm Christ”? Really?

  15. It has occured to me that there is a severe problem in trying to define what a Christian is praxeologically – by their actions. What actions are we talking about?

    If you mean a good, moral behavior doesn’t that slight and impugn other religous belief systems. It seems to imply that only Christians are good and moral and that Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, and such are not; that when people of such beliefs behave morally they are behaving as Christians and not as Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Athiests.

    i remember one time one of my wife’s co-workers, after my wife had helped her during a particularly rough time, told her that she was just such a “good Christian woman”. My wife took this in the spirit it was given and did not tell the woman that she was an atheist. But it is just this sort of myopia in regards to moral behavior and religious belief among Christians that has resulted in so many of them labelling atheists are bad people.

    So, if you wish to define Christians by their actions, I think it needs to be very carefully done. In fact, outside of distinctly religious behaviors -such as communion and baptism and such – I cannot think of any behaviors that are distinct to Christians.

  16. Nick

    @ Sabio
    Unfortunately, no website, but thank you for the compliments!
    Indeed, heresy is an interesting concept. Leo Tolstoy once did a great bit trying to prove that heresy doesn’t really exist, mostly for the reasons set out here. But I would say that one can entertain any belief they like and still be a Christian. I have personally entertained all sorts of irreligious beliefs, and have even betrayed Christianity in moments of weakness. What makes me a Christian is that despite these, I continue to engage the community and identify myself with it.
    My working definition of heresy is not only beliefs that are widely at odds with the historic community, but actions that separate one from the community. Acting on those beliefs.
    But given the divided nature of the church, that means we are all heretics in some sense, and I think that is something that is healthy to recognize.

    As for my multiple hats, I will allow myself to be a prescriptionist. I do think Christians should be a certain way. They should be true to themselves, whole, living the abundant life of sacrificial love and radical generativity. But I think everyone should live that way. The truth is that I personally don’t care much for labels, and if I read you right, that’s where you come out.
    So I do think it’s possible to chart out what is Christian and what’s not. But I don’t think it’s really worth it. I don’t want to say that everything is relative and that dogma does not matter, because I see the goal of Christianity is not to get people into heaven, but to unify people (and I know that sounds prescriptionist). If community is fundamental to Christianity, then dogma is a tool to help Christians work together. But as you said, it’s a fine line. Dogmatics can also hurt unity by ostracizing people and being exclusivist.

    I am a prescriptionist eschatologically. That is, I hope that one day we will all be unified (and diversified) and living fully. But for the present age, I cannot demand anything of other. Christ talked about removing the log from one eye before addressing the splinter in another’s. So at the present I can only prescribe my personal Christianity, and invite others to join me. The way I see it, the Christian model of power is not top down. It is bottom up. So trying to make a Christian mold to fit people into is antithetical to the Christian message. In the first century, Jerusalemite Jews did not think Samaritan Jews were real Jews. So Jesus told great stories like The Good Samaritan to mess everybody up. If I may be prescriptionist for a moment, a real christian is a person who lives up to Christ, so no one is a Christian (hehe).
    Labels exist only in the minds of people, and I think we should only use those labels only when they are meaningful to the person.

  17. @Brigitte You are correct in saying that “Buddhist practices diverge as to have nearly nothing in common with each other.” There is a phenomenon of marrying Buddhist beliefs with local cultural traditions by the adopting peoples so that largely explains the many ritual traditions.

    However, mainstream Buddhist leaders from the major traditions would agree to call someone a Buddhist if he or she takes refuge in the three jewels; the Buddha(teacher), the Dhamma(teachings) and the Sangha(fellowship of monks). However that doesn’t stop anyone from calling themselves Buddhist even if they have little knowledge of the historical Buddha or his teachings and/or pray to him as a god/diety. Some may even believe that the core aspects of Buddhism are the very rituals that differ from the other branches although of course they are uninformed of these other branches.

    This may be due to the dissemination of Buddhist teachings not as insisted truths but as a friendlier “try this” approach to overcome life’s problems. But there isn’t a big problem of other “Buddhists” labeling another as unbuddhist.

    Coming back to the topic, in the monotheistic beliefs, the value of a pure/true believer/practitioner seems to be a great deal yet most believers would agree that the job of judging and the ability to do so would be would lie with God alone.

    Rumi sums up nicely for me with
    “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
    there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

  18. Casper

    I should point out that when I use praxis I have in mind the use of the concept in Marxism thought, an act informed by theory (hence the reason I conflated it into the doctrinal). The book of James says something similar: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (Js 2:17).

    Sorry if i’m hijacking this thread. I’ll shut up now.

  19. @ befuddled2 :
    Except for “Anthropologically”, I think all definitions of Christian are highly problematic. Defining by behavior such as: Goes to Church, Says Prayer, Takes Communion are valuable, as you say. However, many Christians would say it has to be part of the heart too. And you are spot on about moral behavior — research shows that those confessing to be Christian have no special monopoly on good behavior.

    @ Nick :
    Yes, you read me right. We both don’t care for labels. Labels may serve useful functions but they can quickly prove their deceptive, dangerous side too.

    Would you say that the goal of Buddhism, Shintoism and Islam “is not to get people to heaven, but to unify people”? Or is that just unique to Christianity?

    Soteriologically are you an exclusivist, a pluralist or a universalist Christian?

    You said,

    So at the present I can only prescribe my personal Christianity, and invite others to join me.

    Yet every religious person is essentially saying this. Heck, which one of your guys are we suppose to follow? What are us poor sheep to do?
    Perhaps I am misunderstanding you on this point.

    @ Soe Min Than:
    It looks like “Brigitte” may have just been a drive-through evangelist — a hit-and-run hell-and-brimstone preacher. She is a resident prescriptivist on the fantastic site “The Naked Pastor” and that is how she found this site.

    Loved your comment. Thanx.

    @ Casper :
    Indeed all our actions have ‘beliefs’ attached (often retroactively) and beliefs can help form behaviors (praxis). This is why the book of James is such a problem throughout the history of Christianity. It is humorous to me to watch theologians to mental gymnastics to make all that stuff fit together.

  20. The problem is that just about every non-trivial word in English doesn’t have a binary, true-or-false, denotation. We shouldn’t expect “Christian” and “Christianity” to be any different.

    My working definition of Christianity is vague, but it’s essentially a prototype category. There are some religious traditions that are undeniably Christian (e.g. Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, Lutheranism), and any religious tradition which are sufficiently like them are also Christian. There’s a subjective element, but this is unavoidable. Even simple words like “green” or “cup” are, as Zadeh pointed out, also subjective to some extent.

  21. @ Pseudonym
    I essentially agree. Don’t you think that such a fuzzy definition probably overlaps with the Anthropological definition.

  22. Sao Min Than, I like your saying: Rumi sums up nicely for me with
    “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
    There is something which really matters, which is beyond even morals. To me this is “grace”. Only, it’s tough to get there by yourself.

    Sabio, thanks, I will consider myself “warned” and labeled. I do want to ask you: do you want to have someone defending the traditional view around, or would you rather they just go away?

  23. @ Brigitte:
    You are indeed welcome but here are some other suggestions:

    (1) I welcome people to defend any flavor of Christianity. Calling your version of Christianity “traditional” is rhetoric that will also be challenged for many reasons so I would suggest your call it “reform” theology or “catholic” theology or some less divisive term on this site. Many readers have very different theologies than you and yet many of those consider themselves very true to Jesus original teachings — whether those made it into the many self-declared present-day orthodoxies or not. I suggest discussing here as you would in a secular university and not like you would to someone who just walked up to your alter at church.

    (2) Also it is important to realize that we use and value reason, empiricism and evidence in our discussions. Just claiming something based on subjective decisions will only be weighed accordingly.

    (3) Many of the readers here are ex-Christians and could very easily “defend” your version of Christianity just as you are. So realize we probably know many of your arguments, so I would tread lightly as you start witnessing, giving testimony or quoting scripture.

    (4) Finally, don’t feel compelled to stand up for Christianity dropping something on the thread unless you specifically address the post. For instance You still did not answer my question for this post yet. I rephrased it in: my comment at 12/28/2011 at 8:07 pm. So let’s start there: please go back and address those points.

    Great to have you. I hope we can play nicely with each other. I will likewise try to call back any attack dogs which may jump in the comments also.

  24. Sabio, thank you for the welcome. I do realize that I am here in a culture which is unfamiliar to me though I have hung around Naked Pastor for some time, and, therefore, appreciate the information, to an extent.

    To the extent that I don’t, as much, I need to say:

    1. Calling something “traditional” to be seen as “rhetoric” seems to me right of the bat, hyper-sensitive. But I can avoid the word. To be specific, to the best of my ability, I prescribe to and defend the doctrine as summarized in the Book of Concord of 1580, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Concord. To me this summary is all of these: catholic, orthodox, evangelical, biblical and “taditional” or “historical”. (otherwise described as a simple label as Lutheran).

    2. I am not into subjectivity, but life experience does matter at times, as things that are living don’t live only by “reason”.

    3. I am not interested in giving a “testimony”, but quoting scripture or other sources cannot be out of bounds when discussing religion or non-religion.

    4. Your questions are these:

    We need to know what “affirm Christ” means. If it is just “saying something” or “acting someway”, then your definition is behavioral (Praxeological). If it is believing something then it is (Doctrinal). So lets us know what you mean. I wager that your definition fits into my categories easily. Also, you must tell us what “Christ” means to you.

    OK, let’s at that.

    The opposite of “deny” Christ is not so much “affirm” him because that is a kind of decision theology, against which I revolt also. It is about our being “affirmed” in Christ. If we reject this affirmation, we have the problem. This is the denial. It is like a love affair. You don’t go out looking for it, or choosing someone. There is something about it, which just happens. So when the sparks start flying, there is only giving in or rejecting.

    “Affirming” then is this engagement of love and grace.

    Christ being confessed as the “word” made “flesh”, incorporates both a “right teaching” (law and gospel) and at least a trying, in the light of grace, of acting rightly. However, as gets pointed out, and what I liked about Sao Min Than’s saying, this goes beyond morals and certainly compulsion. As the Bible lays out a moral code in the ten commandments, it also tells us that this law is also written on our hearts. So people of all stripes know what is the right thing to do. The problem is that we don’t actually do it, however, much we talk about it, try it and preach it and try to “affirm” ourselves with that. We only become more self-righteous. So a “Christian”, traditional or not, orthodox or not, anyone at all, atheists included, cannot puff themselves up with their “praxeological” aspect of life. If I were to try to tell myself, that I am a Christian because I behave like one, this does not work. I have tried it. I could then never say that I was a Christian. I do say now that I am a Christian, because I put my hope in Christ and his work. And this is not even about my “putting my hope”, but it is about his work.

    Extra nos. Not looking at me.

    So a Christian is really someone who looks to Christ and not himself. Is that one of your options or is it beyond them? I think it is different.

  25. Casper

    @Brigitte

    You said “So a Christian is really someone who looks to Christ and not himself. Is that one of your options or is it beyond them? I think it is different”.

    I like that. Of course, that approach has some presuppositions to it as well “Christ” is already a theologically loaded term in the way that “Jesus” is not. I assume you’re not using them interchangeably?

    I have no problem with your use of “traditional” as you used it in your last comment. From experience though talking to some evangelical folk my impression is that it is used as a shorthand for the biblical literalist and, therefore, a view that is decidedly nontraditional in church history.

    I hope you don’t think I’m too ‘untraditional’. I have my moments but I can still in good conscience mostly recite the Apostles Creed.

    In any case, I promise I’ll try to play nice.

  26. @ Brigitte

    Good, we may actually play nice then.

    (1) Great, you are a Book of Concord Lutheran (AKA: “Confessional Lutheran”). Yes, you share creeds with many different churches. But Soe Min Than emphasize that many Buddhists consider anyone a Buddhist who takes the three refuges, but different sects interpret these differently. Likewise, perhaps as Casper has illustrated, people may ‘confess’ a creed yet mean something significantly different than someone else. Not little things, but (as he further aludes) Christological, Soteriological or Bibliologoical issues which can widely vary and result in very different approaches to life. So, telling us you are a Confessional Lutheran is a good starting place.

    (2) Quoting scripture will act as no authority here but will only amount to you telling us: “here is what I believe” . But since many readers don’t think any god influences those scripture, I asked that you don’t quote them expecting us to respond differently than if you quoted the Qur’an or the Bhagavadgita.

    (3) So, now to the issue of the post:

    (a) It would help if you used “Jesus” instead of “Christ” when you can unless you consider them different (as some Christologies do).
    And in this case, when you say “affirmed in Jesus”, I have no idea what that means. It is in-house jargon which is very important to avoid as much as possible on this blog.
    I am usually looking for operational definitions.
    You believe Jesus is a living person and I have no idea no one would know what it means to mean to say “affirmed in Sabio”. See, it doesn’t make sense. So we need that explained.

    Then you say you must have a “love affair with Jesus”. But we know what that means with a real person, but what does it mean with a supposedly invisible person you can’t hear, taste or smell. I get being in love in Elvis (well, I mean, I get those kind of fantasies), so if you mean “in love with an idea, or how you imagine Jesus to be, I get it.”

    So far, both of your attempts here to define what a Christian is sound “ontological” — you are familiar with the term, right? But it sounds like you want confessional too which is doctrinal. And I see you don’t like praxeological definitions — lots of (what I call) believism-Christians don’t.

    Then your final definition is

    So a Christian is really someone who looks to Christ and not himself.

    But that is jargon too. What does it mean to “Look to Jesus” — for guidance (behavioral), for salvation (ontological and/or doctrinal), for hope of inner change by his Holy Spirit (ontological — but how do we know this happens). You see, it is still fuzzy.

    So that is the exercise. Hope that helped.

  27. Thanks for organized comments, Sabio and Casper. Actually, I quite like properly analytical and point form. I won’t get anything else written today because of house full of dinner guests.

  28. @ Brigitte
    Glad they help. And btw, I am often criticizing common concepts about reason so you may find my position on that not as you’d imagine. But I to must fly to a get together tonight. So later….

  29. I don’t think anyone else can decide if another person is a Christian. It’s not like looking up in the sky and saying, “Hey, there’s a woodpecker!”. I think it is up to an individual person to be able to self-identify based on their own beliefs that they are a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, etc. In the long run, what matters to me, is that I know who and what I am based on my actions, beliefs, and journey… Not whether someone else can tell me who or what I am.

  30. Well said, Jessica! If only that is how the world worked.

  31. I’ll try and deal with a few things that have arisen without being too long winded, but I have accumulated below in the comment box a few quotes from further up, so this could become a bit of a mess. Also, I don’t recall now, who made all these different comments. Bear with me.

    Likewise, there is a NT passage that says even the demons believe but they tremble in fear — so showing that “belief” is not enough.

    I think that was Sabio. This is an important point about faith. If it were simply head knowledge or parroting of doctrine, is would be lifeless. Belief or faith, is a staking your life on it, over and over, every day. Living, knowing, rejoicing in its truth. When we say, God’s grace in Christ is for you, then faith is saying: “Yes, it is also for me. Praise God!” This is faith.

    Ah, if only we could measure people by their actions or lack of action and not by their banners. We separate ourselves unnecessarily, I fear.

    How Christianity is different from all other “religion” is that the world is not devided into “good” and “bad”, those who have action and those who don’t, always comparing, always accusing, is that concept of grace. No Christian, no atheist, no anti-theist, no Buddhist, etc. is good enough, peaceful enough, caring enough, strong enough, flexible enough, hopefull enough, shining example enough–it is all refuse, as St. Paul says. We need to come to this place and stay in it.

    I think it’s more important as a member of Christianity, or any other religion, to try to improve people’s lives rather than get them to define their lives differently.

    Similar to the above. The only difference is that we want to define our lives by grace and forgiveness. Grace in our relationships does transform them entirely from the inside out.

    With regard to your Praxeological definition, would this include people who live in accordance with Jesus of Nazareth’s teachings, but do not label themselves Christian?

    None or us live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

    This is why the book of James is such a problem throughout the history of Christianity. It is humorous to me to watch theologians to mental gymnastics to make all that stuff fit together.

    When you have understood grace as the core of it all, of relating to each other and to God, it is actually very easy to fit everything together.

    “Christ” is already a theologically loaded term in the way that “Jesus” is not. I assume you’re not using them interchangeably?

    As has been discussed, I subscribe to a historically confessed Christianity, and Jesus and Christ, I certainly use “inter-changeably”, as in: my dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When I say any of it, I mean all of it.

    And in this case, when you say “affirmed in Jesus”, I have no idea what that means. It is in-house jargon which is very important to avoid as much as possible on this blog.
    I am usually looking for operational definitions.
    You believe Jesus is a living person and I have no idea no one would know what it means to mean to say “affirmed in Sabio”. See, it doesn’t make sense. So we need that explained.

    Affirmed as in “Yes, you are ok. I love you just the way you are.” Jesus loves me just the way I am, with lots of grace on his part.

    Sabio affirms me, as a living person, by saying: you can play here. We’ll try our best even though we will have inevitable strife.

    Then you say you must have a “love affair with Jesus”.

    No, I did not mean it like that. When we “insist” on a love affair, we are back to demanding things, measuring the temperature of our own fervor, looking for feelings, which by nature are always up or down…

    I was trying to use an analogy of what denying or affirming is. I cannot by my own bootstraps bring myself to faith. I can only reject the offered love and grace.

    But that is jargon too. What does it mean to “Look to Jesus” — for guidance (behavioral), for salvation (ontological and/or doctrinal), for hope of inner change by his Holy Spirit (ontological — but how do we know this happens). You see, it is still fuzzy.

    All of it is a daily battle, with myself, my flesh, desires,”sin, death and the devil… ” Daily, we receive the needed grace to face all these battles–behavioral, ontological, doctrinal, from Jesus, who loves us. As Lutherans we confess that we receive this grace through means of the Spirit, which is the word of promise and the sacraments which actually impart what they promise.

    This is all I should be writing today.

  32. Reading Jessica’s comment “I think it is up to an individual person to be able to self-identify based on their own beliefs that they are a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, etc. In the long run, what matters to me, is that I know who and what I am based on my actions, beliefs, and journey… Not whether someone else can tell me who or what I am.” made me think about the times i see the many selves I identify with; Christian/Muslim, the parent/child/sibling, the terrorist/peacemaker and the cruel/kind.

    @Brigitte, I have a feeling you might also like Rumi’s “the Guest house”. The quote I used earlier “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing..” to me alludes to a place of universal love and compassion and I find his poems are about that.

    1) My first question is regarding your use of the term grace or God’s grace. Do feel free to reply when you can though.

    in the freeonline dictionary there are several definitions for grace;

    1. Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion.
    2. A characteristic or quality pleasing for its charm or refinement.
    3. A sense of fitness or propriety.
    4.
    a. A disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill.
    b. Mercy; clemency.
    5. A favor rendered by one who need not do so; indulgence.
    6. A temporary immunity or exemption; a reprieve.
    7. Graces Greek & Roman Mythology Three sister goddesses, known in Greek mythology as Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia, who dispense charm and beauty.
    8.
    a. Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people.
    b. The state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God.
    c. An excellence or power granted by God.

    I’ve narrowed it down to definitions 4a/b, 5, 8a/b.

    2) In your earlier 12/29/2011 12.11pm post,
    “it also tells us that this law is also written on our hearts. So people of all stripes know what is the right thing to do.”

    I don’t think many here would agree that we have been genetically or otherwise embedded with a moral code as there is no evidence as yet to give it much weight. Personally, I would like to do some study on that topic too. I think it is tempting even for some Buddhists as there are those that believe in a so called natural enlightened original self or some might prefer “non-self”.)

    3) I can imagine some Buddhists might draw similarities to your description of working through the grace of god with being a bodhisattva (pre-buddha or buddha-in-training).

    Good night for now.

  33. Earnest

    As someone who practices a lame form of Catholicism based largely on lip service to canons, I find what Brigitte says largely rings true.

    Is it fair to say that you are describing a anthropologic ontologic hybrid? Whereby one has a personal knowledge of a piece of “Christ within us” which cannot be externally verified?

    I can say with some certainty that if being a “true” Christian means believing that one must believe that non-believers shall roast in unquenchable fire forever than I will have to concientiously object. I will no longer be a Christian from that point onward, and receive such punishments as I deserve for disavowing my faith.

  34. Nick

    @Sabio

    That is a very good question. At the present, I have only studied Christianity in detail, do I am unqualified to answer for other faiths. I feel that most religious people try to unify the world- under their religious banner of course. I know the Dalai Lama has done great things for world peace, and that there are great peace movements in Islam as well. Certainly the Boddhisatva concept is very keen at centering religions on something far more communal than personal salvation. Again, I know next to nothing of Buddhist and Islamic eschatology, and even less of other religions, but it seems to me that the general movement in the east is to escape reincarnation and rest in the heavenly sphere, while the general abrahamic movement is to escape earth and rest to heaven, and Christianity often falls into this individualistic and dualistic view of salvation. But my point here is that the demythologized, biblical, and traditional Christian view hadn’t really been about heaven. As I understand it, after you die, you go into some intermediate state (limbo, purgatory, soul sleep, toll house, nonexistence) and are kept by God until the Resurrection. At the resurrection, all will be raised and a new age will be ushered in on Earth (on Earth is the key here) that will last for eternity. In this scheme, the disembodied afterlife is only a temporary state which precedes the reembodied after-afterlife. What’s critical here is that everyone will be resurrected on the last day, no matter who you are or what you believe. The Kingdom then follows the resurrection and is essentially a perfected society of love and peace.

    The only reason I am explaining my eschatology is to emphasize the way in which Christianity leads to peace and unity more than heaven or disembodied state you believe in (or at least from my perspective). I know this all sounds fanciful, utopian, mythological, and extremely unlikely, and I frankly agree. Regardless, I may have misunderstood the eschatologies of other faiths, but I do know that for at least Christianity, there exists a strain of thought which places unity higher than heaven.

    As for my soteriology, I am at least an inclusivist

  35. Nick

    But I am optimistic enough to hope for universalism or apokatastasis. I would seriously be dismayed if all creation were not redeemed, however the universalist label is often divisive (ironically). So to me it is an open question, and I am fine with that. Pressed, however, I resort back to “Man sends man to hell, God sends man to heaven,” with a little bit of intuition about who might have the final say.
    Again, I think heaven and hell are mythologized concepts which point to deeper realities.

    As to your confusion, let me say this. I am very sympathetic to and influenced by Christian anarchists (and therefore anarchisticly do not want to assume their label). I don’t want you to follow me or any other Christian. I follow Christ, and will seek to walk with you, but it is a side by side walk, not a leading-following walk. Of course I have the example and leadership of Christ, and love to see others (and unapologetically encourage others) to follow him as well. Of course that is not satisfying to anyone, and would never work (unless Christianity really is true!), but I’m ok with that.

  36. My definition of Christian is both brief and cynical: A Christian is an individual who openly expresses hatred for non-Christians (defined by the Christian individual) or non-Christian behavior (also defined by the Christian individual) while hiding gleefully behind the purportedly inspired (and flagrantly cherry picked) word of god.
    There are, of course, some few rare and exceptional Christians who rise above their peers and are true followers of Christ.

  37. Christians are those who profess Christ as their Savior.

    How well they handle their humanity doesn’t have much to do with it.

    Christ alone knows who belongs to Himself. He will sort out the sheep from the goats at the right time. It’s not for us to do. We give the benefit of the doubt to professing Christians.

  38. @ Steve Martin
    OK, must someone profess verbally? I am assuming belief proceeds profession?
    Also, heads up on this site: Many of us were former Christians, so you might want to watch the preaching attitude and stick to discussion.

  39. @ fester
    I personally don’t know one Christian who “hates” non-Christians, though I imagine there may be a minuscule amount.

  40. @ Nick
    I am actually very familiar with the new-body, new-earth model. But this post is about Defining “Who is a Christian” and deciding if your definition falls into one of the categories I list.
    Could you answer that briefly?

  41. @ Brigitte
    (1) I don’t see any of my Christian friends “staking their life on it, over and over, every day!”
    You really need to be careful with hyperbole here.

    (2) I won’t ask you any more questions as I am afraid you will answer them again with all that preachy stuff. Please remember, I am an ex-Christian and know your stuff. I was also raised Lutheran.

    (3) Instead, I will keep it simple and go back to the simple point of this post.
    Using my categories, it sounds like your definition falls into a combination of doctrinal and ontological. Correct?
    Please keep your answer short — we already had your long confessional story.

  42. One can profess Christ verbally, or any other way in which people communicate.

  43. @Sabio asked asked under the Praxeological definition, “Many Christians feel faith is far more important than actions. Does someone slip out of being a Christian when they do something bad?”

    Do these arise from the “believer versus the good non-believer” question? Where we may have four individuals,
    1. believer that is also a good person
    2. believer that is also a bad person
    3. non-believer that is a good person
    4. non-believer that is a bad person

    Many would not like to hear being told they are being a bad Christian or Buddhist or Muslim. But if you were genuinely honest, you could accept that failing and resolve to avoid such “mistakes” in future. That would require a sort of faith to have the confidence to change. To me faith cannot be an end in itself. Demystified, I see faith as a first step to act on any intention. The first wind in the sails of intention if you may. It doesn’t mean this faith is used in the spiritual/religious context only as faith can take the sails of any idea, good or bad.

    Some Christian friends have used the term “faith in God/Christ” but warn me that this kind of faith is no ordinary faith. But I cannot buy that, to me its sounds like they are saying this faith is special because it is invested in a power that is also special. But faith is faith and God maybe special, so we shouldn’t mix it up right?

    If we want to use faith as a purely divinely infused term specifically for for certain monotheistic beliefs then it will need to be renamed suitably to differentiate it from its basic identity, a non-monopolised universal condition that should be available freely to all human beings possessing full faculties.

  44. @Nick “it seems to me that the general movement in the east is to escape reincarnation and rest in the heavenly sphere,”
    For the Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist beliefs, there are some similarities to your ideas with differences in details.

    Hindus or at least all of my friends that are Hindu tell me they believe the soul reincarnates 7 times before going to the final re-unification.

    Taoists generally believe they will have to accumulate enough merit to be reborn in the heavenly realm with the other deities. Popular media like television depicts this as deities in charge of selecting saintly humans for such heavenly status. But I suspect there is little encouragement for normal folk to strive for this as most of them only focus on rituals and doing good deeds from time to time.

    For Buddhists though, scholars, in commentaries from the accepted texts have described the cycle of rebirths as never ending, some even speculating the existence of sentient life itself going through cycles of wax and wane, flourishing and destruction. So enlightened individuals (Buddhas) are said to appear from time to time, discovering the escape from this eternal game and encouraging others to strive and follow suit. Keeping with the cyclic theme of course, there are also said to be periods where these teachings will be lost.

    There is a lot of fantastical ideas and mythologies if you try to read up on it all but the most compassionate of eastern teachers seem to ignore all that fluff and provide you with something you can work on right here and now. And the idea that working for the spiritual freedom of one is no different from that of others and vice versa.

  45. @ Steve Martin
    So you didn’t answer both of my questions, so I will just assume:
    By my categories in this post, your is a combo for defining a Christian is:
    (1) Anthropological (self-declaration): must profess.
    (2) Doctrinal (Belief): must believe certain things

    So that would mean that you allow Mormons, Marcionites, Jehovah Witnesses and others unless you tell us that doctrine is central too.

    @Soe Min Than
    My point in delineating the definition categories is to show that each as its problems. And in conversation (and thought), believers will run between the categories gluing together a fuzzy definition which is laden with all sorts of problems which they imagine aren’t there.

    Almost ALL religions struggle with this. They sell themselves as making believers into better people but have to address when that proves false, they need to know who is inside-vs-outside the group, thus they need doctrine and confession of it, and the subjective side where the believers own internal experience (ontological) which changes her/him without belief nor behavioral measures is the ultimate resort and there is no test for that, we are just suppose to believe the believer.

    Your get to see all sorts of religions living these out on the streets of Singapore. Your points are well made. Are there many nontheists in Singapore?

  46. PS, Steve Martin, I messed up my comment to you and edited it above. Thanx.

  47. Christ may indeed save some Mormons, as He may save some professing Christians.

    Mormon doctrine is faulty. It leads people to trust in their own work. That’s not Christian. Many Christian denominations do the same thing. But Christ is able to save in spite of bad theology.

    Will He? (for any one individual)

    We cannot say. Only Christ knows that answer.

  48. @Sabio I think we have more of those who use the term “free-thinker” who prefer not to be tied down by a religion, either because they have no use for their birth religion and/or have not decided on the different ones they have come across. But a large number of these here are Chinese as they also make up the majority of the resident local population. However, from about 15 years back, the charismatic Mega-Churches here have been quick to attract free-tinker, most of whom are students or young adults. A friend who is active in the Taoist community also said that quite a fraction of Taoist followers have been converted by these charismatic churches. Similarly with borderline Buddhist youth or those that find the “traditional” rituals meaningless. Recently, in the past few years the large influx of foreign non-skilled and semi-skilled workers have also provided the more orthodox churches with an opportunity to start congregations in these foreign languages.

    I’ve not personally had many non-theist friends. I mean the non-Buddhist ones. But there are local Atheism/Christian/Buddhist forums which I used to visit some years back that have lively debates.

  49. @ Soe Min Than
    Fascinating ! I use to live in Asia amidst similar varieties of religion. Many American atheists live almost soley in reaction to Christianity instead of understanding the variety of ways the religious mind can present itself.
    Thanks for sharing.

  50. @ Steve Martin
    So, you sound like a soteriological inclusivist.
    So, someone can have their dogma all wrong about who Jesus is, right? (eg, Mormons) and confess to being a Christian and maybe (just maybe) be saved by Jesus. Do you think a Buddhist (who also has their dogma all wrong) who doesn’t confess could be saved by Jesus?
    How about an Atheist who denies god, doesn’t confess, could Jesus still decide to save them?
    I’m just curious where your imagination/theology goes on that one.

  51. Jesus is the One who will decide. It seems as though He is the One who gives people faith in Himself.

    I don’t know of many Buddists that profess Christ.

    Actually…I don’t know any that do. Although they may be out there…somewhere.

  52. Nick

    @Sabio

    My apologies for getting off track. I only mentioned new creation theology in an attempt to answer your question of whether world peace was more distinctively a Christian focus than it is in other religions, and I was attempting to say that eschatologically, it appears to be that world peace is more fundamental for Christianity than other religions. If I misunderstood your question, I apologize, but hopefully I somewhat answered it. I also felt the need to mention my theology in order to answer your question about my soteriology. I think a deep resurrection theology really challenges other mythological Christian notions. But again if I misunderstood or misanswered your question, I apologize.

    As for who is a Christian, I will repeat the recommendation I first made, that your syndrome approach would be a good model if tweaked for Christianity. The teachings of Christ occurred independent of any sort of Christianity, so defining the Christisn religion is really more of a question for sociologists than it is for disciples of Christ (or at least it should be that way). As for what the syndrome approach might contain, I would say it should mostly contain anthropological qualifications, since religions are defined by the practitioners. A certain level of doctrine should be present in the syndrome, but nothing needs to be too specific, a centrality of the Jesus figure should be necessary (thus ruling out Bahai/Islam/Rastafarianism). And some sort of relationship to the historic Christian faith/conmunity is necessary (ruling out Gandhism and other modern philosophies which revere Christ’s teachings). The anthropological definition should be slightly tweaked to include infants who are baptized and this considered Christians, so maybe they either profess to be Christians, or are included by professing Christians.

  53. Nick

    @Soe Min Than

    Thank you or the clarifications!
    I am looking forward to studying comparative religion more in depth, and I suspect there will be much similarity across lines.

  54. @ Steve Martin
    So:
    (1) Are you a soteriological inclusivist?
    (2) Yes, yes, we get it “Jesus decides!” But my question is, do you think it is even possible that a non-confessing, non-believer could deny but then Jesus still decides to ‘save’ them?

  55. @ Nick
    So let me offer a “Syndrome Model”:
    A person is a “Christian” if they do at least two or more of the following:
    (1) Calls themselves a Christian
    (2) Does Christian rituals
    (3) Tries to be forgiving, loving and humble.
    (4) Talks to Jesus in his head
    (5) Believes one of the 5 creeds mentioned in the Book of Concord.
    (6) Has the Holy Spirit living inside them

  56. Sabio, yes, my fuzzy definition overlaps substantially with the anthropological definition in practice. But there’s no reason why it should in theory.

  57. Earnest

    Love the Syndrome model, I feel it has a lot of validity here despite its disease connotations. I wonder if you are the first to come up with that system of analysis.

  58. With God, anything is possible.

    Is it likely? From what the Bible says Jesus said about it, maybe not all that likely for too many non-believers (in Jesus).

    Lots of talk of ‘remnants’, etc.

    I guess we can speculate, but I prefer to just leave it up to Him. (as if I have a choice)

  59. Earnest

    How about a Quantum Theory of Christianity? You have the “set of Christian attributes”. Any person may, at some point or another, randomly wander into the definition, be they professed Christians, Buddhists, Animists, or what have you. While they are in the “state of Christian” they are, indeed, Christians, and considered to be of the Saved. However, without any volitional energy to pursue a goal of persisting in that state, they may just as randomly wander out of the definition.

    So in this model, a priest/pastor is seen as a particle accelerator which gives the Flock additional energy to have a more persistent, but unstable, Christian configuration.

  60. Oh Ernest that is brilliant! A little more detail and we only need to present it to quantum physicists.

  61. There is something to that!

    Faith is dynamic…not static. Faith (in Christ) can be lost.

    The preacher/pastor helps to keep the person of faith, in faith, by the proclamation of the Word and the administering of the Sacraments.

  62. @ Earnest
    Your model has several problems:

    (1) You have “states” that qualify someone to be Christian. But you have not defined those. I wager they are: behavioral, doctrinal, ontological or anthropological.
    So, you have not solved anything with “states”

    (2) Your “wander into and out of salvation” proposal is just a theological (doctrinal) statement which is close to Arminianism. Thus Steve Martin told us he was not a Calvinist.
    I am not sure if you could hear the coded theology talk below love of a ‘scientific’ cloak.
    So this soteriological issue is doctrinal.

    Summary: You have suggested a doctrinal model with added “states” which need to be defined but which will be nothing more than the categories I have already mentioned.

  63. Earnest

    @ Sabio:
    Agree that I have probably added less than others have stated. But the model adds a degree of variability that seems to resonate with some who read this.

    If we impose the quantum model, the doctrinal definition seems to not work very well, nor frankly does the anthropological. One does not generally wander in and out of a self-description, just as my definition as Earnest does not fade and reemerge over time. I am either Earnest or I am not.

    The praexological, however, works very well and I admit was what the model was designed around. It may work with the ontological definition but I see no way to measure to what degree one is ontologically congruent with being Christian at any given time. I think we can agree however that in the more ecstatic Christian sects there are claims that one is “filled with the spirit”, whatever that may mean, and suggestions that there are times when one is less consumed with this. Now whether this ontologic variability makes one more or less of a Christian is something that I cannot answer.

  64. @ Earnest
    First, I think it ‘resonated’ with Steve Martin because it allowed him to declare:
    (1) Salvation can be lost and resisted (Arminiansism)
    (2) Priests help us to keep our salvation

    Nothing more — I don’t think the quantum thing didn’t do anything for him.

    And as for Soe, the only other person to cheer you on, I think he was being playful. But we will have to wait for his comment.

    Second, you are agreeing with me. You are now telling us that the “states” you want to qualify people as “Christian” are praexological (behavioral). I wasn’t proposing what the states were, but I was saying they would fall into exactly the categories I mention in the post.

    So, my categories still hold, what you added is that you want to name characteristics in each categories (with all those concomitant pitfalls) but say that a person could drift in and out — simple Arminianism.

    I have repeated myself to try and hopefully make my first reply to you more clear. I understand what you are saying.

  65. Earnest

    @ Sabio:
    I resist your assertion that the quantum theory is doctrinal. I do not insist that others cling to this model for salvation. Rather, I toss the model out as a possible explanation of what Christians that I know seem to experience. Also Arminianism is pretty regimented and maybe I’m being thick today but I’m not seeing the similarity you say is there. In fact the quantum model can describe how one could be more or less Arminianist over time.

  66. @ Earnest
    OK, I will try again. Perhaps I am still not being clear.

    My post asks people to see if their definition of “Christian” falls into one or more of my categories. I proposed that my 4 categories were exhaustive but was inviting readers to imagine other categories. People sidetracked in the comments talking about their favorite salvation schemes and such but everyone’s definitions fell into my 4 categories. I feel your “Quantum definition of ‘What is a Christian?'” falls into the categories also — as follows:

    (1) Anthropological: You don’t want this in your definition, and I think that is fine — it is your definition, after all, but ironically, you illustrate that people can drift in and out of calling themselves “Christian” as you have confessed to such chameleon states yourself.

    (2) Doctrinal: “a person can drift in and out of being a Christian”. This is a doctrinal stance. Many Christians (Calvinists) think you are very wrong. Thus your position itself is doctrinal.

    (3) Praxeological: there are certain behaviors a person can do to qualify them as being Christian — again they can drift in and out. You didn’t tell us which ones, but you told us that your primary imagined, qualifying “states” were probably behavioral.

    (4) Ontological: you wonder if there are various fluxes in filling of a holy spirit. Too little and you are not Christian, just enough and bingo, you are a Christian.

    So, I hope this illustrates that I understand your definition. And I also hope it illustrates that everything you want in your definition fits into one or more of my 4 categories. That is my point. You can keep your definition (which has Arminian qualities) but I am saying it falls into the categories.

  67. Earnest

    @ Sabio: sorry, missed your reply before my last comment went out.

    Let me try a different angle here. You suggest that I am talking salvation, and I suggest that I am talking intensity of consistency at any given time with a self-concept of whatever one personally feels is what a Christian ought to be. So I think we need to nail that down before we can make more progress on this.

    Also, I think that predestination to heaven or hell or wherever is specifically precluded by the quantum model, as one simply does not know what the state will be of the person at the instant of death when supposedly one has the last chance to be selected for one destination or another.

    Additionally, apostasy, contrary to Arminianism, may or may not do anything permanent. Apostasy is simply a vector, among many, driving the person to one state or another.

    We could apply the quantum concept to Buddhism, of whatever stripe, Shintoism, Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Islam, whatever belief system one might choose to discuss. Perhaps there are moments in the day when I am so consistent in my thoughts and acts that I am for all practical purposes a Shaivite. I may or may not know this at the time, but nonetheless it may be true in someone’s frame of reference.

  68. @Earnest
    Funny, I think we are commenting faster than our replies appear to each other.

    Yes, as my “Many Selves” posts say, I think we drift in exactly the way you mention. We agree on that. I am saying that even with the drifting, the qualifying states (what ever you choose them to be), would fall into one of the four categories. Calling such things “quantum” seems a move to ride on the coat-tails of science in your metaphor, which is a common move and not one of my favorites, but it is your metaphor. (see my post on: Using Science to Market Buddhism)

  69. Earnest

    Damn Sabio you type fast! I can’t keep up!

    Yes Sabio I think we are getting toward an agreement. I agree that what I am talking about may simply be a subjective feature of one or more of the 4 major types that you describe.

    If you insist that my idea is somehow “doctrine”, then fine. However, I would suggest that it is a rule of analysis rather than a rule of behavior which would push one toward some concept of salvation. Unless you want to make random chance a religious dogma, which I think is a stretch.

  70. Earnest

    Sorry Sabio I know well your aversion to throwing around scientific terms in terrain as fabricated and full of illusion as religious dialogue. Perhaps “many selves” is a more topic-appropriate term than quantum states as it does not lead the reader to presume degrees of certainty that this realm does not truly deserve.

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