Friday, November 08, 2013

What Defines Christian????

Some of you may have heard of Gretta Vosper. She is a United Church of Canada minister and author of a couple of books. She also appears to many to be an atheist (and sort of claims that for herself). She is also a bit of a pole around whom controversy swirls, because some (many?) of us are not sure that she has moved beyond Christianity and if she has we wonder if she is a good fit for a member of the Order of Ministry in a Christian denomination.

Anyway, as a result of a number of recent discussions about Gretta (as she has not entered into them) on various FB pages I made the following post in the United Church of Canada FB group:
Key to all the discussions sparked by Gretta Vosper's musings has been a simple, yet very complex, question. And it is one that I think we need to lay open for discussion so we can then talk about where the boundaries of the community are...

What does it mean to be Christian????

THe United Church of Canada is a Christian denomination. Therefore to belong to the UCCan is to be a Christian (with the only membership boundaries being those laid out in the New Testament, not signing on to any other creedal statement). THere are a wide range of opinions on the details of what it the term "Christian" means but I believe that there is a common kernel.

What is that common kernel? What is the least you can believe/say to be a member of the Christian community?

As the one who posted the question(s) I think it is incumbent on me to try and provide my own answer....

To be a Christian is, at a base starting point, using the example of the New Testament community, to be one who proclaims "Jesus is Lord" (the earliest creedal statement).

Again using the witness of the New Testament as the base, to be a Christian is to be one who proclaims a crucified and resurrected Jesus/Christ.

To be a Christian is to be one who affirms the reality of God and that God is (somehow) active in the world.

To be a Christian is to be a follower of The Way, one who strives to live out love of God, neighbour, and self.

To be a Christian is to affirm that the life of faith needs to be lived out in community.

To be a Christian is to affirm a future hope, that which we call eschatology, for a world where the life of the Kingdom/Reign of God is made fully real in our presence.

To be a Christian is to affirm that in the writings and experiences of those who have gone before, especially the books we call Scripture, we can learn about God, about God's hope/plan for the world, and about how others have struggled with questions similar to ours, therefore we continue to read Scripture and ask where/how it intersects with our lives today.

I think that to go beyond that is to go beyond the base ground, the common denominator.

Edit to Add:   While cleaning the bathrooms (because insights hit us at the oddest moments) I realized I had forgotten two statements:
To be a Christian is to proclaim that somehow in the "Christ event" (the life death and resurrection) God was doing something to bring God's creation to a state of "at-one-ness" with God in a way that had not happened before.

To be a Christian is to announce that God was revealed in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth, who with the eyes of faith we also call the Christ, the Anointed One of God.

1 comment:

  1. This question is a divisively Pharasiacal one, Gordon.

    To follow Jesus, to allow oneself to be companioned by Jesus through whatever vagaries befall is, to me, the necessary essence of Christianity. That would require one to resist labels that interrupt or stall the journey.

    I find it hard to imagine a static "Christianity"… Jesus was a journeyer, so a companion is compelled to also forever move on. To "move on" is to allow the enrichment and strengthening of faith by ever-deepening relationships with, and compassion for, others. It is to resist attachment to ego, to state, to possessions, to ideas and even to identity… it is to be led where Jesus led, which was a deepening relationship with "god", and that cannot happen without "letting go" and moving on each morning from each night's warm or uncomfortable bed.

    In all of the narratives we have, we see Jesus interacting in unique ways with each person he encounters, he asks his followers about the labels others are attaching to him and upsets the expectations as they start to take hold… he was never ensnared as so many institutional "Christians" have been snared. As the Gospels tell it, it seems that what really annoyed people against him was his defiance of their expectations… to the very end.

    "Proclaiming" Jesus' this-ness or that-ness is what one might call "anti-Christian"… it's the laying down of footsteps day by day that witnesses Jesus.