Monday, 11 June 2007

The Meaning of Christian

Most of you who know me know that occasionally I randomly depart from the topic of conversation and say "I wonder where the phrase ______ came from." Or "I wonder what the etymology of _______ is." It's one of my more obvious quirks.

Today the word in question is Christian, because it means something different to basically everyone.

One site I found makes some interesting claims. Apparently, Christian is derived from the same word as cretin, and the word Christian was used before Jesus by Pagan religions. At any rate, if the site has any truth in it, the word Christian never really held any special meaning, which is kind of nice to know, because I hate to see good words go down the drain.

Whatever it entailed originally, "Christian" now means either everything or nothing. Some usages I've heard recently:
1. Canadian.
2. White, or in particular Anglo-Saxon.
3. Moral, nice person (whatever "moral" now means...)
4. Narrow-minded fundamentalist bigot.
5. Someone who holds some sort of belief about Jesus.
5. Creationist.
6. Someone who believes Jesus saves, but other things do, too.
7. Someone who believe God is all love and no justice.
8. Someone who believes God is all justice and no love.
9. Nazi.
10. Ku Klux Klan member.
11. And the list goes on...

Pretty much, as far as I can tell, "Christian" means anything you want it to except, most of the time, "Satanist" (which I'm sure also has several meanings, some of which might be reconcilable to one or more meanings of Christian). Some people might argue that atheists can't be labelled Christian, but with the whole "moral, nice person" thing going, I don't see why not.

Hmm. So much for being a Christian. What a useless term. It's no wonder why so many Jesus followers in other countries and even people of my own generation are distancing themselves from the word. I, myself, am hesitant to call myself a Christian.

I think it's time we came up with a new word. Any ideas?

You've doubtless heard this quote before:
"We're Christians by faith, not by genre." Tim Foreman

4 comments:

Emily said...

You could use the word, "Christ-follower." I've actually heard that used by some churches before.

I personally think that site may just be another humanistic stab at Christianity. I don't know what to think, lol. These things frusterate me.

Bri said...

If people say they are a Christian it means nothing to me until or unless they live it our with their lifestyle. I don't usually refer to myself as a Christian but at the same time if people say I am a Christian I don't have a problem with it. I usually just call myself a Believer or something like that.

Carla said...

Yay! Comments!

Emily, I don't think that particular site was humanistic. I think they were mostly trying to take everything back to Jewish roots, but I could be wrong. VTI uses "Jesus-follower" as their term, which is pretty close to "Christ-follower". They're both good, I think.

Bri, being a "Believer" is good, but lots of people believe without living it out, like you said. Maybe we should call ourselves "Livers" instead :D

Art said...

Here is a verse that I am not sure how it ties in with your website.

Acts 11:26b The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

From this it would seem, that the term "Christian" was not used before Antioch, at least in a Jesus-disciple kind of way. Also, considering the term refers to Christ, I doubt it was widely used in a non-religious way.

Labels are difficult. If you come up with a new word, it too will be morphed until it becomes meaningless.

Your concept of "living out your faith" is part of the ambiguity in what it means to be a Christian. I have a book in my office from Dr. Charles Ryrie. This guy is/was a big-wig at Dallas Theological Seminary and has served as a president for at least one Bible College. He has written a study Bible as well. Dallas Theological Seminary is considered a leader in Christian theology and I would suspect is held in high-esteem by most members in our church (that is, those that are into theology and have heard of the place).

Anyway, this guy says, "..faith alone is the requirement for eternal life". ".. dedication of life..is not one of the conditions for salvation." Basically, intellectual acknowledgment is the only requirement for salvation. So, with major evangelical Christians theologians even watering down the term "Christian", what does the term mean?