Jump to content

Definition of the Term Christian when Referring to a Person


Recommended Posts

Greetings all. I am interested in reading your various definitions of the word Christian when applied to an individual, for example 'He is a Christian." I ask because it seems that like other terms, this word may mean different things to different of us. I am not as interested in what a dictionary says as what you all, the members of this forum mean when you use the term to refer to individuals. Or perhaps the word has the same meaning for you whether using it about a community, a faith, or a church in an adjectival or descriptive sense? Someone offered a definition earlier this week that he indicated was a "generic" definition. I am wide open to any or all input that you care to offer. Thanks so much.

Edited by Navidad
Link to comment
10 minutes ago, Navidad said:

Greetings all. I am interested in reading your various definitions of the word Christian when applied to an individual, for example 'He is a Christian."

Back in 2020 you wrote

Quote

I believe this tendency to use and abuse these very important terms is common in all Christian groups, including Mennonites and the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am and have for years been fascinated by this. There has to be a book in here somewhere!

I responded:

Quote

Daniel Peterson and Stephen Ricks wrote a very good book about a related topic: Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-Day Saints

I also noted this in a discussion back in May:

Quote

 

My thinking on this issue has been heavily influenced by Daniel Peterson's and Stephen Robinson's Offenders for a Word, which delves deeply into it:

  • Introduction (Link)
  • Is Mormonism Christian? An Investigation of Definitions, part 1 (Link)
  • Is Mormonism Christian? An Investigation of Definitions, part 2 (Link)
  • Is Mormonism Christian? An Investigation of Definitions, part 3 (Link)
  • Mormonism as "Cult": The Limits of Lexical Polemics (Link)
  • Bibliography (Link)

From part 3:

Quote

There is, after all, something rather peculiar about the assertion that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not Christian. This is not a self-evident truth, and would even seem to contradict obvious fact. (This is presumably why it is so frequently announced with an air of breathless discovery.) Mormons declare themselves Christian, and are astonished to be told they are not. They belong to a Church in which every prayer is uttered, every sermon is given, and every ordinance is performed literally in the name of Jesus Christ. Their hymns—the devotional heart of their Sunday worship—sing of Christ and his atonement. At Christmas and Easter, they join with hundreds of millions of Christians around the world in a celebration of his life. In baptism and in the weekly communion they know as “the sacrament,” they testify that they are willing to take upon themselves his name (D&C 20:37, 77). Their 􀃗rst Article of Faith announces their belief in “God the Eternal Father, and in His son, Jesus Christ.” The Book of Mormon closes with an exhortation to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32). One of the high points of the Doctrine and Covenants is a stirring testimony of Jesus (D&C 76:22 —24). Their story begins with the claim of a young boy to have seen the Father and the Son. That young boy later claimed to be a prophet, de􀃗ning “the spirit of prophecy” as “the testimony of Jesus.”615 His successors, likewise regarded as prophets, are assisted by a presiding quorum of “Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world” (D&C 107:23).

Is it plausible to describe such people as “non-Christian”? It would hardly seem so, unless one is prepared to follow the idiosyncratic usage of the term that permits statements like, “I have been an active and committed Lutheran since my earliest youth; I became a Christian last July.” But language is a social construct, and meaning must be shared to be intelligible. To use terms in extraordinary ways, almost solipsistically, without alerting an audience, is confusing at best, as it is in the dialogue—if it can be called that!—between Humpty Dumpty and Alice. As illustrated by the case of certain Islamic zealots—who, when they accuse a woman of being a prostitute, really mean that she goes out in public without a veil—it can be distinctly dangerous. Yet most (if not all) of the arguments that claim to demonstrate that Mormonism is not Christian have, as we have seen, relied on private understandings of common words. Indeed, the denial that Mormons are Christians is, in and of itself, a massive instance of the elementary fallacy of equivocation, using—as it does—a very common word in a very peculiar sense.

(Emphasis added.)

The authors go on to state: "Needless to say, if the current flood of anti-Mormon radio and television programs, films, pamphlets, casettes, and books were merely an inexhaustible source of quaint specimens for a class in practical reasoning, there would be no cause for concern."

Offenders for a Word was published in 1992, which explains why the foregoing recitation ("anti-Mormon radio and television programs, films, pamphlets, casettes, and books") is outdated.  There is no reference to websites, YouTube videos. message boards, podcasts, etc.  But I think the underlying point - that there are folks going around using "the elementary fallacy of equivocation" to declare that Latter-day Saints are not "Christian" - continues today.

 

Yep.

10 minutes ago, Navidad said:

I ask because it seems that like other terms, this word may mean different things to different of us.  I am not as interested in what a dictionary says as what you all, the members of this forum mean when you use the term to refer to individuals.  Or perhaps the word has the same meaning for you whether using it about a community, a faith, or a church in an adjectival or descriptive sense? I am wide open to any or all input that you care to offer. Thanks so much.

I think we approach "Christian" as more of a broad taxonomic descriptor, and not as a definitive delineator between "saved" and "unsaved."  

Our usage does not have the same sort of idiosyncratic, equivocating bent that Peterson/Ricks addressed in Offenders.

Thanks,

-Smac

Link to comment
2 hours ago, smac97 said:

I think we approach "Christian" as more of a broad taxonomic descriptor, and not as a definitive delineator between "saved" and "unsaved."  

Hi my friend. "A broad taxonomic descriptor" seems itself more like a descriptor than a definition. I really would be interested in your own personal definition of the word. I will go online and get a cheap (hopefully) copy of the book you mention. I think what you are writing is that the word may be used as more of a distancing mechanism than a unifying mechanism. But I don't want to put words in your keyboard! Thanks and best wishes.

Link to comment

I think the hardest part of this question for me is that I don't think I have one single definition of "Christian."

Some of the time, Christian is kind of synonymous with Protestant (mainline and evangelical and non-denominational). I accept that Catholics and myself and others can rightly be considered Christian, but I often refer to those by their more specific denomination name. In this usage, it's about denomination and not about the deeper question of who is or is not "saved" or has correct beliefs and behaviors and such.

Other times I use it as a broader inclusive term for anyone or group who traces his belief back to the New Testament. In this usage, I'm not trying to decide if the person's interpretation is correct or agrees with mine. Kind of like @Eschatoni said, this usage broadens the stakes of the tent to include anyone who self identifies as Christian. When it comes to the divisive side of the question, I believe God is merciful and Christ's atonement is infinite enough to handle all of our human errors to allow these people, no matter how wrong I think they are, to be in relationship with Him.

Sometimes I think of Christian in the divisive sense and contemplate how wrong someone can be in belief or behavior to be outside of what it means to be Christian. I find these exercises interesting, but I don't ever think that my ruminations are any kind of final.

 

Link to comment
31 minutes ago, Navidad said:
Quote

I think we approach "Christian" as more of a broad taxonomic descriptor, and not as a definitive delineator between "saved" and "unsaved."  

Hi my friend. "A broad taxonomic descriptor" seems itself more like a descriptor than a definition.  I really would be interested in your own personal definition of the word.

I don't have one that materially deviates from the normative dictionary definition.

31 minutes ago, Navidad said:

I will go online and get a cheap (hopefully) copy of the book you mention.

Here you go: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/mi/57/

31 minutes ago, Navidad said:

I think what you are writing is that the word may be used as more of a distancing mechanism than a unifying mechanism.

Or as a value-neutral descriptor.  

31 minutes ago, Navidad said:

But I don't want to put words in your keyboard! Thanks and best wishes.

Thanks,

-Smac

Link to comment
2 hours ago, Navidad said:

Greetings all. I am interested in reading your various definitions of the word Christian when applied to an individual, for example 'He is a Christian." I ask because it seems that like other terms, this word may mean different things to different of us. I am not as interested in what a dictionary says as what you all, the members of this forum mean when you use the term to refer to individuals. Or perhaps the word has the same meaning for you whether using it about a community, a faith, or a church in an adjectival or descriptive sense? Someone offered a definition earlier this week that he indicated was a "generic" definition. I am wide open to any or all input that you care to offer. Thanks so much.

When I use it, it refers to those who profess to be Christian, no matter what they mean by that.

Link to comment
4 hours ago, Navidad said:

I am interested in reading your various definitions of the word Christian when applied to an individual, for example 'He is a Christian."

I would say that whenever I think of The Dark Knight, Mr. Robot, etc. I think to myself, "Yup, that guy is a Christian." ;) 

As for wanting a definition without a definition, I would say that what makes someone a Christian is a commitment to Jesus Christ. 

 

Link to comment
11 hours ago, Navidad said:

Greetings all. I am interested in reading your various definitions of the word Christian when applied to an individual, for example 'He is a Christian."

I have two - a narrow one and an inclusive one.

Widely speaking a Christian is someone who recognizes Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, that he died for their sins and accepts that atonement.

My narrow definition of Christian is that of a true disciple, an actual follower who pursues Christ's teachings and commandments, seeks to follow them and makes living that way the goal of life.

I mean to be a Christian would have to mean someone who at least either accepts or follows Christ wouldn't it?

Link to comment
16 hours ago, pogi said:

"Christian" is to Mormons as "gender" is to progressives.  

Gender" is to Mormons as "Christian" is to Fundamentalists. 

There is a lot to think about in that.   

Link to comment
18 hours ago, Navidad said:

I am not as interested in what a dictionary says as what you all, the members of this forum mean when you use the term to refer to individuals.

We Mormons have viewed "Christians" as apostates for hundreds of years. At the time Joseph Smith restored the gospel, there was not a single Christian Church on Earth that adhered to Christ's teachings; rather, all of them had fallen under the devil's control beyond repair. Therefore, while I was growing up, we viewed Christians as being narrow-minded and deceived by the devil.

Mormons often claim that when it comes to worshiping Christ, Christians and Mormons are equal, yet in our hearts, we don't actually believe that. Do any other denominations share our priesthood authority? No. Do non-mormon baptisms matter in Christ eyes? No. In terms of bringing someone back to christ, they are meaningless. Are a Christian pastor and a Mormon Bishop same in Christ eyes? No. One is in charge, while the other has no priesthood authority at all. If that still doesn't convince you, consider the fact that a Christian who leads a meaningful Christ-like life will still go to prison when they pass away, but a Mormon who does the same will enter Paradise. 

The best part of it is right here, though! Despite the fact that there are more than 100 different branches of Mormonism and that it is common in our religion to declare that we are Christians and are similar to all other christians, we persist in our conceit and insist that we are the only Mormons on the planet. There is no negative PR from removing lesser Mormon branches from "real" mormonism, we still view other Mormon branches as apostates and deceived by the devil. 

 

Edited by Jerry Atric
Link to comment
2 hours ago, Jerry Atric said:

We Mormons have viewed "Christians" as apostates for hundreds of years. At the time Joseph Smith restored the gospel, there was not a single Christian Church on Earth that adhered to Christ's teachings; rather, all of them had fallen under the devil's control beyond repair. Therefore, while I was growing up, we viewed Christians as being narrow-minded and deceived by the devil.

Mormons often claim that when it comes to worshiping Christ, Christians and Mormons are equal, yet in our hearts, we don't actually believe that. Do any other denominations share our priesthood authority? No. Do non-mormon baptisms matter in Christ eyes? No. In terms of bringing someone back to christ, they are meaningless. Are a Christian pastor and a Mormon Bishop same in Christ eyes? No. One is in charge, while the other has no priesthood authority at all. If that still doesn't convince you, consider the fact that a Christian who leads a meaningful Christ-like life will still go to prison when they pass away, but a Mormon who does the same will enter Paradise. 

The best part of it is right here, though! Despite the fact that there are more than 100 different branches of Mormonism and that it is common in our religion to declare that we are Christians and are similar to all other christians, we persist in our conceit and insist that we are the only Mormons on the planet. There is no negative PR from removing lesser Mormon branches from "real" mormonism, we still view other Mormon branches as apostates and deceived by the devil. 

 

We teach that there are only 2 churches, the Church of the Firstborn (non-denominational and includes non-Mormons and Mormons alike) and the church of the devil (which also includes non Mormons and Mormons alike). 

The righteous all belong to the same church, which membership is more valuable than being Mormon only.  I esteem other Christian worship more highly than many Mormons.  

The authority of the lds church is of no value without membership in the church of the firstborn (the more valuable of the two).

Edited by pogi
Link to comment

Someone who believes in Jesus and follows his teachings to whatever extent.

I used to feel it was someone who also felt He was our Savior, but then met someone who didn't believe that, but follows his teachings more like people do with Buddha. 

So generally if someone tells me they are christian I assume they feel he is our savior, but I find out they don't believe that I don't change my mind that they are not christian.

Link to comment
7 hours ago, Jerry Atric said:

We Mormons have viewed "Christians" as apostates for hundreds of years. At the time Joseph Smith restored the gospel, there was not a single Christian Church on Earth that adhered to Christ's teachings; rather, all of them had fallen under the devil's control beyond repair. Therefore, while I was growing up, we viewed Christians as being narrow-minded and deceived by the devil.

I don't know of any other way to say this except to say that it sounds like you had very bigoted parents.

My experience has been like that of Calm's (as stated in her post above).  

Link to comment
2 hours ago, InCognitus said:

I don't know of any other way to say this except to say that it sounds like you had very bigoted parents.

My experience has been like that of Calm's (as stated in her post above).  

I apologize for being dumb, but I can't figure out whether he (Jerry Atric) was writing sincerely or sarcastically? You are responding to him as if it were the former and not the latter. I thought it was a "spoof" post, but from your and Calm's reaction to it I guess not!

Link to comment
12 minutes ago, Navidad said:

I apologize for being dumb, but I can't figure out whether he (Jerry Atric) was writing sincerely or sarcastically? You are responding to him as if it were the former and not the latter. I thought it was a "spoof" post, but from your and Calm's reaction to it I guess not!

You have a point there, I was taking the post at face value.  I don't know the person, and sometimes it's hard to detect sarcasm in print.

Link to comment
4 hours ago, InCognitus said:

I don't know of any other way to say this except to say that it sounds like you had very bigoted parents.

My experience has been like that of Calm's (as stated in her post above).  

Or given his other posts and sock puppets, he is a troll.

Link to comment
4 hours ago, Navidad said:

I apologize for being dumb, but I can't figure out whether he (Jerry Atric) was writing sincerely or sarcastically? You are responding to him as if it were the former and not the latter. I thought it was a "spoof" post, but from your and Calm's reaction to it I guess not!

I believe he is a troll intending to play a ‘traditional’ Saint, using some of the worst stereotypes.

Link to comment
15 hours ago, pogi said:

 the Church of the Firstborn (non-denominational and includes non-Mormons and Mormons alike) 

Not sure I agree with this at all.  I think the Church of the Firstborn may also have multiple definitions if this is true.

Link to comment
15 hours ago, Navidad said:

I thought it was a "spoof"

After reading what Jerry Atric written, I was not at all of the opinion that it was a "spoof."  He may be attempting to provide context for the origin of mormonis.  He expressed a lot of things that I agree with. Navidad, let me illustrate what I mean.

 

Brigham Young

" when the light came to me I saw that all the so-called Christian world was gravelling in darkness." JoD v. 5, p.73

" with regard to true theology, a more ignorant people never lived than the present so-called Christian world." JoD v.8, p.199

" the time cam when paganism was engrafted into Christianity, and at last Christianity was converted into paganism rather than converting the pagans. And subsequently the priesthood was taken from among men, this authority was re-called into the heavens, and the world was left without the priesthood, without the power of God, without the church and kingdom of god." JoD, v.22, p.44

 

Apostle Heber C. Kimball

" Christian's those poor miserable priest brother Brigham was speaking about-some of them are the biggest whoremasters there are on earth, and at the same time preaching righteousness to the Children of Men. The poor Devil's, they could not get up here and preach and oral discourse to save themselves from Hell. They are preaching their fathers sermons,  preaching sermons that were written 100 years before they were born. You may get a Methodist priests to pour water on you, or sprinkle it on you, and baptize you face foremost, or lay you down the other way, and whatever mode you please, and you will be damned with your priest." JoD, v.5, p.89

 

Prophet John Taylor 

" Christianity... is a perfect pack of nonsense... the devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work than the Christianity of the nineteenth century." JoD, v.6, p.167

" Where shall we look for the true order or authority of God? It can not be found in any nation of Christendom." JoD, v.10, p.127

"What! Are Christians ignorant? Yes, as ignorant of things of God as the brute beast." JoD, v.13, p.225

" what does the Christian world know about God? Nothing... why so far as the things of God are concerned, they are the veriest of fools; they know neither God nor the things of God." JoD, v.13, p.225

 

Apostle Orson Pratt

" both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the 'whore of Babylon' whom the Lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness. Any person who shall be so corrupt as to receive a holy ordinance of the gospel from the Ministers of any of these apostate churches will be sent down to hell with them, unless they repent. " The Seer, p.255

" But as there has been no Christian church on the earth for a great many centuries past, until the present century, the people have lost sight of these pattern that God has given according to which the Christian church should be established, and they have denominated a great variety of Christian churches... But there has been a long apostasy, during which the nations have been cursed with apostate churches in greater abundance." JoD, v.18, p.172

 

  As you can see, the men who assisted Joseph Smith in bringing the genuine gospel back to the earth perceive Christianity as a collection of apostate churches. That remains the same. We have a missionary program for this reason. We send missionaries out to knock doors because there's no way for a non-mormon to fully repent without talking to a priesthood leader, a Mormon Bishop. 

What do you think about the quotes I provided,  Navidad?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...