There is an atheist blog with quite a discussion going on right now. I can’t remember the name of the blog but people are all abuzz over whether Hitler was a Christian or not. Anyone who says, “No, of course Hitler wasn’t a Christian. Look at his actions,” is accused by atheists of using the No True Scotsman defense.
So what is a Christian? Can you or should you be able to identify someone who believes in Jesus as Lord and Saviour based upon h/his behaviours, ie. what s/he typically does or typically doesn’t think, do or say?
Jesus said, “You will know My followers by their fruit.”
This is later defined in Galatians 5:22. “The Fruit of the Spirit, (the outcome of an intimate healed and forgiven relationship with Jesus), is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Yikes! I think it’s important to remember the following principle. Based on Jesus’ quote and the description that followed, anyone who met me today, and who got to know me really well over the next month or two might say, “That man is no Christian. Why, I’ve seen him fail in every category of the Fruit of the Spirit.” On the other hand, if you had known me prior to my becoming a Christian, and compared that person to who Jesus has made me today, most people, not atheists, but most people would say, “I don’t know what produced that change in character, but whatever it was and whatever it costs, I want some.” Hopefully, comparing the today me with who I’ve become in the next ten years will elicit the same type of response. Anyway >
“You will know My followers by their fruit” means that the pattern of a person’s actions and character traits do indeed give you a clue as to whether s/he is a follower of Jesus or just an imposter. Remember, we’re talking about Hitler here. Was he a Christian or not?
Jesus also said, “Not everyone who calls Me their Lord will get into heaven. On Judgement Day, I will say to many [of those who claim to be my followers], “Get away from Me. I never knew you.””
So we have two teachings of Jesus that tell us something important.
(1) If someone is making a habit (not a slip but a habit) of behaviours that go against the teachings of Jesus, there is a good chance that s/he isn’t a Christian.
(2) Just because someone calls h/himself a Christian doesn’t necessarily mean a thing as to whether that person is or is not a Christian. Words are easy. Behaviours are something else.
Personally, I would describe a Christian as someone who believes to the point of acting upon what Jesus Christ taught about Himself, about life, death, sin, forgiveness and the resurrection (His and ours). Jesus taught that a follower of His is a person who depends upon Jesus alone for salvation. He taught that a Christian is someone who depends upon what Jesus calls His Word (The Bible), and upon His Spirit for guidance and strength in daily living.
Does that mean that true Christians never sin, that they never do things contrary to the teaching’s of Jesus?
. Obviously not because our sin loving nature is the very reason that Jesus came to “seek and to save” the lost.
. Obviously not because Christians are told to confess their sins and to ask for forgiveness.
. Obviously not because, ‘doing what we shouldn’t do, and not doing what we should do’ is an ongoing moral struggle that is addressed in the Bible.
In his letter to the Colossian Christians, Paul says - “. . . you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
In addressing the No True Scotsman argument, the Bible, in many places emphasizes that while true Christians will disobey God on occasion, they will no longer make a practice of a particular sin(s). One exception to this rule would be if the person is not aware of any given sinful behaviour. As humans we are astonishingly blind to the nature of our own character. Nevertheless, upon being made aware of this un Christlike behaviour, one could expect the true Christian to begin bringing this behaviour under the Lordship of Jesus. Another exception would be where a person was at, when s/he became a Christian. “To whom much is given, much is required. To whom little is given, little is required.” Regardless of one’s starting position in life, a Christian is “being renewed in knowledge in the image of h/her Creator.”
Now, can the same thing be said of an atheist? Can an atheist play the same game?
. If an atheist totalitarian dictator orders the destruction of millions of people, could we say, “That’s no atheist. Not if s/he just makes up the rules of what’s right and wrong as s/he goes along.”
. If a male atheist leaves his wife for another man, can other atheists, in the defence of atheism say, “No way! If he did that he sure as heck isn’t an atheist.”
. If an atheist says, “We should mock and belittle, disparage and openly laugh at Christians until they are so humiliated that they don’t dare show their faces in public,” could other atheists say, “Well, it was sure out of character for an atheist to do that.”?
. If a chronically angry, bitter, alcoholic atheist writes derisive books about religion, and a Christian says, “Isn’t that just like an atheist,” can others of the atheist faith buoy each other up with comments like, “That disgusting drunken toad sure doesn’t speak for us.”?
. If an atheist says that handicapped people, and people of African decent are a drain on society and should be euthanised, can others of h/his belief system rightfully say, “A true atheist would never, ever make such a statement.”
Are these behaviours so foreign to the atheist character that we could witness them and automatically say, “No way. If he’s doing that then he’s no atheist.”