What Makes Faith “Christian?”

If you ask the average man or woman on the street if he or she believes in God, you’re likely to get a “Yes.” In fact, most Americans say they believe in God despite the general secularism of American society.

❯ Yes, but…

But, probe a little behind that “yes,” and you’ll hear a lot of “Yes, but…”

  • “…but not like organized religion talks about Him.”
  • “…but not like the Bible portrays Him.”
  • “…but I’m not religious.” (i.e. “I’m not associated with a church”)

The fact is that modern Americans are largely “Yes, but…” believers. This allows them to keep the faith and spirituality they want, while divorcing faith from the religious trappings they don’t want: the Bible and the Church.

❯ The American Faith

How did American faith get this way? I blame American churches (of all kinds). On any given Sunday morning you could find a grab bag of boutique doctrines, moralism, false mysticism, superstitions, legalism, emotional drama, psychological manipulation, theological liberalism, or outright heresy that confuses, ignores, and/or denies the central messages of the Bible. In such a confusing theological potpourri, it’s no wonder individuals decide to make up whatever faith pleases them most. And the faith that seems to please Americans most is what Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith has called, Moralistic, therapeutic deism, that is, God/religion is here to help you get through the tough times of life and teach you how to be a good person so you can go to heaven when you die.

End of story.

Don’t sweat the details.

What’s missing?

Have you noticed what’s missing in the “Yes, but…” faith I described above? Or, should I say, “Who’s missing?

Jesus.

In the “Yes, but…” faith, there is no need for Jesus. We can relate to God on our terms and achieve everlasting life the same way.

God’s Son? The cross? The resurrection?

Relics!

…the faith recorded in the Bible, the faith entrusted to the Church, is the faith about Jesus.

But, I believe that the faith recorded in the Bible, the faith entrusted to the Church, is the faith about Jesus. There’s no such thing as a “Christ-less” Christian faith. What makes faith “Christian” is what we believe about Jesus Christ: Who He is; what He accomplished; and why it was necessary. The extent to which we understand who Jesus is, trust what He has done for us, and understand why we needed it, is the extent to which our faith is truly Christian faith.

Shame on our churches for not making this clear to us.

Shame on us Christians for not making this clear to our “Yes, but…” neighbors.


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8 thoughts on “What Makes Faith “Christian?”

  1. Dito should say it all.

    Good post. Without things hoped for and a strong belief in what we cannot see we cannot have a faith that holds on to much less builds a relationship with the Son of God (Hebrews 11:1,6).

  2. Yes, JESUS is amazing. He has provided everything for our victory over sin. He continues to save us from ourselves and the things that try to trap us. Whenever accusation and condemnation tries to point its ugly finger, we stand up and say, “I am covered in the robe of righteousness that Jesus has given to me!” Then, we dance and shout because Jesus has already given us the victory. Hallelujah! Thank you, Lon, for posting this Good News!!!

  3. Good question @Jagged Veil. I think the most important contribution we can make to the conversation is to point out that we’re talking about a real, historical person (Jesus), who made certain claims which multiple, independent eyewitnesses recorded and verified with their own testimony of his life, death and resurrection. Therefore, we must reckon with His claims, and we are simply making up our own religion if we leave Him out of our “spiritual” lives.

  4. I agree absolutely. As you are aware, this is exactly what Paul is talking about throughout much of Galatians. “6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ (ESV. Gal 1:6-7). A distortion of the gospel, a variation of the gospel, whether it be a detraction, an addition, or a subversion, is no gospel. It is a shame that so many Christians twist their faith into a pretzel in order to accommodate their comfortable existence in Egypt while they seek deliverance from their slavery to sin. Just sayin….

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