A CHRISTIAN, INTRA-RELIGIOUS
Who is a Christian?
Perhaps the most confusing religious word is "Christian"
||Some individuals, faith groups, public opinion pollsters, government
census offices, etc. define a Christian as anyone who believes that
they are following the teachings of Jesus Christ. This definition
would include about 76% of adults in the U.S. and a similar number in
Canada. It would embrace members of Fundamentalist and other
Evangelical Protestant churches, Roman Catholicism,
churches, Anglican churches, mainline and liberal Protestant
Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and many persons who are not members of a specific
||But within Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Protestant faith
groups, the term "Christian" is generally restricted to those persons
who are born-again or "saved."
i.e. an individual who has repented their sins and trusted Jesus as
Lord and Savior. They might total about 35% of adults in the U.S., and
8% in Canada.
||More details on "who is a Christian."
This difference causes massive confusion. Two examples are:
||An Evangelical who visits a Mormon web site might well be surprised
to find that Mormons consider themselves to be Christians. He or she
might have been taught that Mormons are sub-Christians,
quasi-Christians, or non-Christians. He might be further confused to
find that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regards their
denomination as the "true" Christian church.
They view other Christian denominations as having strayed from the
teachings of Jesus and of the Bible.
||A liberal or mainline Christian might be confused if they visit a
counter-cult web site, and find their own denomination listed as a
non-Christian cult, simply because it does not teach
that God inspired the authors of the Bible
to write books that are inerrant -- free of
Since there are so many different definitions of the word "Christian,"
we recommend that the term rarely be use in isolation. If it is qualified by an
adjective, such as "born-again" or "conservative"
or "Evangelical" or "mainline" or "liberal,"
then confusion and even hurt feelings will be minimized. In a recent
episode of "Unshackled," a Fundamentalist Christian radio
drama from Chicago, IL, an actor said that she had been raised in a Roman Catholic
neighborhood, but that many of her childhood friends had become
Christians. A Roman Catholic would probably be deeply offended by such a
statement; a mainline or liberal Christian might well be confused; only a
conservative Protestant would probably understand what she meant: that
some of her friends had been raised as Roman Catholics, which she
considered to be Pagan and not Christian. Some of the friends had been
"born again" later in life, and converted to Evangelical
Christianity. If the actress had said that her friends had "become
born again" or "become Evangelical Christians"
then the hurt and confusion would be eliminated, and everyone would
understand exactly what she meant.
Other religious terms:
As listed elsewhere in this section, Evangelical Christians frequently assign special
definitions to certain terms -- particularly in the area of homosexuality,
abortion, and religion. This makes it difficult for
individuals and groups from opposite wings of Christianity to discuss
topics with each other. It is similarly difficult for Evangelical Christians
to discuss beliefs with pro-choice groups, medical researchers, etc. In order to enter into effective debate or dialog,
these groups need to
spend considerable preparation time trying to thrash out common meanings to
words and phrases, so that their statements can be understood each other. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that different groups hold
quite different definitions of common words; the result is chaos, a
breakdown in communication, and a
complete inability to engage in meaningful dialog.
We felt that there is a need for an inter-faith and intra-faith translating dictionary, just as
there are Spanish-English and French-English dictionaries.
This different use of terminology can be maintained indefinitely if most Evangelicals avoid
close contact with the groups with which they disagree - for example, contact
their separate religious schools, magazines, bookstores, radio stations, TV channels,
men's and women's organizations, local clergy associations, etc., it is not
difficult for them to maintain this isolation.
The information in this section are necessarily imprecise:
||Some Evangelical Christians do not follow the Evangelical
||Some non-Evangelicals use the Evangelical definitions.
||Because of the limited space, definitions are necessarily very
Copyright © 2000 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-OCT-2-
Latest update: 2005-JUL-06
Author: B.A. Robinson