We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Monday, May 26, 2014

What Is Christian?

Over the past 6.5 years that I’ve had this blog, various Christian commenters have accused me of deciding who is or is not a Christian, or what denomination is or is not Christian, all based on my “particular interpretation of the Bible.”  (This is a common attack on every apologist and apologetics ministry I’ve encountered.)  A virulent atheist who has had discussions with me on other blogs (and who really hate’s fundamental Christians) has stated, “You live in this fantasy bubble where Glenn E. Chatfield is the sole arbiter of what the Bible says and means.”

Well, I maintain that my “interpretation” of the Bible agrees with what has been taught by Christians for 2000 years.  I don’t have any particular interpretation - I practice good hermeneutical principles of exegesis.  And I have NEVER maintained or even intimated that I am the “sole arbiter” of anything.

This same atheist asked, “Tell us Glenn. Which denomination is the True Church?”  This is a common question by atheists who have no real understanding of Christianity; the “True Church” is all believing Christians.  It is not a particular organization or denomination - it is the believers!

When I declare a particular denomination as apostate or heretical, I do so based on comparing what the denomination teaches versus what the Bible says.  And I DO NOT declare members of those denominations themselves to be apostate or heretical because I can’t possibly know their personal beliefs unless they’ve been stated openly.

Also, those sects which are considered as un-Christian cults, are considered so by all Biblical scholars and apologists; so it isn’t just MY opinion that they are cults, rather I agree with the scholars!  Cults do not adhere to the non-negotiable doctrines of the historic, orthodox Christian faith.  Let me give some examples:

1.  The historic faith says that Christ is one member of the triune God.  If a sect says that he was created, they are worshiping a Jesus not identified in the Bible.  If they say he is one of three gods, was not born of a virgin, was only a good man, etc, then they are worshiping a Jesus not in the Bible; or, as Paul said in 1 Cor. 11:4, “ a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached.”  The Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists (although SDA has enough truth that many have found it and became saved), Unitarians, Christian Scientists, et al, worship “another Jesus.”

2.  Historic, orthodox Christianity says that God is uncreated and eternal, and that He created everything else.  The Mormons say that God was once a sinful man who earned his way to godhood.  They are worshipping a false god.

Members of apostate or heretical Christian denominations - i.e., denominations which have always been accepted as Christian until they fell into apostasy or heresy - may or may not be Christians.  Many believers find the truth in these denominations and are indeed saved, all the while remaining deceived in some way so that they are burdened with beliefs that make them ineffective in working for the Lord.

If a person is a member of a cult, where there is no truth of the gospel to be found, then that member is not a Christian.  But if a person is a member of a denomination which has gone apostate or heretical, that person may or may not be a Christian based on their PERSONAL beliefs.  After all, no one is required to have all their doctrinal ducks in a row, or have full understanding of all Christian doctrine in order to be saved.  What is the requirement for salvation?  Try Romans 10:9:  “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  No works needed, no clear understanding of all doctrines needed, just the simple understanding that you are a sinner in need of a savior, and that Jesus is that Savior who you confess to be Lord of your life, and that you believe that he died for your sins and rose again from the dead.

So a question was put to me, “Are Catholics Christians?”  Too many people say that they are not, including a Christian commenter I encountered on a friend’s blog.  I say that the Roman Catholic Church apostatized from the true faith of Christianity when they added heretical traditions of men.  As noted in my commentaries on the RCC, these traditions include the veneration of Mary, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the veneration of icons and saints, purgatory, indulgences, the Mass with its idolatrous transubstantiation, the papacy, etc.  The Roman Catholic organization, directed by its popes, have committed horrendous crimes against humanity throughout its history, including the murder of Christians who had the audacity to disagree with the leadership!  However, when it comes to the individual Catholic, many have become Christians in spite of the teachings of the RCC.  The true gospel can be found with the RCC if one is seeking.  The true believer will many times leave the RCC once they are saved, while other times they will stay because they like the liturgy, or they have family connections, or they still feel some of the legalistic practices are necessary.  I get this testimony from many Catholics and ex-Catholics I have known over the decades, as well as from many testimonies I have read by ex-Catholics.

What about examples of apostasy, which lead to the label of “apostate” for some denominations?  If you look under the various labels for churches in the column on the right side of this blog, and read what I say about them, you will find your answer.  However, some examples of apostate beliefs are:

Placing women in pastoral/elder positions.
Supporting homosexuality and same-sex fake marriage.
Supporting abortion.
Teaching evolution instead of creation.
Low view of Scripture, including mythologizing Genesis.
Teaching the social gospel.
Emergent teachings.
Mysticism, including contemplative prayer, labyrinth, visualization.

I think you get the idea.  Of course heretical churches are those that deny any of the non-negotiable doctrines of the faith, such as the United Pentecostals who deny the Trinity.

I am not the arbiter of what is or is not true Christianity; this was established during the first century and was the teachings during the first couple hundred years before corruption entered the church and man-made traditions became doctrines.

Whether or not an individual is a Christian must be determined by his or her professed beliefs or observed actions.  No one can judge the heart but God.  Every Christian has the duty to judge whether or not someone is a believer based on comparing their beliefs with what the Bible actually says.


Neil said...

Excellent summary and distinctions. I completely agree with your assessment of the Catholic religion and its members.

Joe said...

"A virulent atheist who has had discussions with me on other blogs..."

I am just mystified as to whom you might be referring...not.

Well stated!

MyBulletinBoard said...

Very useful post. Thank you!

I have a problem with Christians who carry on about ecumenism and think they are enlightened because they engage in "deep" conversations with people of various denominations for the sake of comparing beliefs. They say they learn so much from each other. The only result of that is going to be the watering down of their faith. All discussions about faith should begin in the Bible and stay there.

The older I get the less I like denominations. I really think the Bible teaches that we should form local congregations where pastor and people see each other face to face and really know each other, explore the Bible together, and mature in the faith. That's where it gets real.

Dave Miller said...

Glenn, very reserved in your tone...

Even though I do not agree with you, you wrote without calling anyone pinheads, idiots and any other condescending or insulting names.

Why do you adopt one persona here, and another when you are interacting with others elsewhere?

Let me ask you a question, as you have stated you use good hermeneutical methods.

How do you determine when what the bible is saying is a statement for a particular time and culture, as opposed to a timeless command or expectation?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


I call them as I see them. If anyone behaves in a particular way, I call them by their behavior.

Read enough of my comments on this blog and you will see where I call people "pharisees," "false prophets," "false teachers," and even "liars."

Context is what determines particular time and culture vs timeless command and expectation. Context isn't all that difficult to understand if you aren't bringing an agenda to the table.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! Thank you, Laura

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn,

"This is a common question by atheists who have no real understanding of Christianity; the “True Church” is all believing Christians. It is not a particular organization or denomination - it is the believers!"

Bingo. The True Church is comprised solely of those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit, John 3:3.

The gate is narrow, and sadly few find eternal life.


Anonymous said...

Right behind you, Glenn, 100%.