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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

When “Christian” isn’t

Author and seminary professor Michael Horton, on his radio program called The White Horse Inn (named for an important place during the Reformation), lamented the overuse and abuse of the term “Christian”. He wished for a one-month moratorium on the use of “Christian” as an adjective. He may be on to something.

The word “Christian” is used only three times in the Bible – twice in Acts and once in 1 Peter. The end of Acts 11:26 says “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch”. The Greek word, Christianus, according to what I’ve read, does not mean “little Christ” as is so commonly thought. “ianus” (shortened to "ian" in English) merely defines a group with an allegiance, and was commonly used to associate people in a group following a leader.

So the original use of the word “Christian”, including its usage in the New Testament, referred to a person or a group of people who followed the Lord Jesus Christ.

Using “Christian” as an adjective isn’t a wrong thing to do, but as Horton opined, it certainly is overused. We routinely hear about a Christian country, Christian schools, Christian bookstores, Christian music, Christian radio stations, and so on, ad infinitum.

Now don’t misunderstand me – having a true and biblical Christian influence is a good thing, as is having an institution that is devoted to Christ. However, much that is called “Christian” really isn’t devoted to a right understanding of Christ and His teaching. For example, people have called the United States a Christian nation, or a post-Christian nation, when in reality it was never a Christian nation at all. (I would argue there is no such thing.) The United States was founded on some Christian principles, with some of the founders being Christians, yes, but also founded by men some of whom cared not for Christ at all, and founded on some principles which are blatantly man-centered. The phrase “Christian nation” is, at best, misleading.

A “Christian bookstore” may sell religious books, but most so-called Christian bookstores sell more junk (books with significant error) than they do helpful books. It is not uncommon to walk into such a store and see a large pile of books with a smiling false teacher prominently displayed, to the hurt or demise of thousands. A Christian radio or TV station may have some good programming, but most of them also have all sorts of useless (or worse) programming with inaccurate teaching, false teaching, and the mingling of a heavy dose of man’s foolishness with a bit of God’s wisdom. Those same stations may play Christian music, some of which may be good or excellent, but some of which is weak at best, or worldly, sensual, and lyrically trite or downright unbiblical at worst. (Lord willing, we’ll have more on “Christian music” in a month or two.)

Just today, Texas "Christian" University accounced they are setting aside some on-campus apartments for a gay/lesbian/bi/etc group. That almost speaks for itself, but to summarize, it is obvious that university is no longer "Christian", and probably hasn't been for some time.

Just because something (or someone) is labeled with the term “Christian”, doesn’t mean that it is an accurate label. Make sure your discernment hat doesn’t come off just because something is so labeled – and always compare that which is heard or seen or read with what you find in God’s inerrant Word. Over and over again, the Lord Jesus warned His disciples about false teachers and false doctrine. He pulled no punches when denouncing false religion, and He often gave scathing rebukes to those who led people on the road to hell. Don’t let the label “Christian” make you drop your spiritual armor – for not everything that carries the label “Christian” is truly Christian.


1 comment:

  1. You are dead-on Dave. "Christian" is used as a selling point, not unlike "bonded and insured".