Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Can a person be a Christian and yet still do bad things?

I sometimes write posts about atheists and say that they will have difficulty grounding the minimal requirements of morality if the universe is an accident and they are just lumps of matter. To show how this works out, I like to cite famous atheists who also managed to get political power, and then point out how they treated other people. I then say that doing bad things is not really wrong on atheism, since morality is really based on doing whatever you feel like that makes you feel good and that your peers will approve of. And if you want to do something they won’t approve of, you can still do it, as long as no one ever finds out.

Atheist readers sometimes object that Christians can behave just as badly as atheists.

But consider this post from Retha’s English-language blog. (She’s from South Africa)

Excerpt:

However you choose to define Christian, the definition most certainly is not “anyone who calls himself a Christian, is a Christian.” We don’t use that definition for anything else. We don’t believe that everyone who calls themselves “honest” are. We don’t believe that everyone who calls themselves “not overweight” are not. You cannot be a king, or a genius, or a dog, or a tall person, by calling yourself that. (If it worked that way, it would have been a very strong temptation to call myself drop-dead gorgeous.)

Simple word etymology is more useful: Christian has the root word Christ and the suffix -ian. A Christian is a Christ-following/ Christ-imitating person. Who is meant when we speak of Christ? He is the Jesus described in the New Testament, as described there.To be a Christ-ian, you need to follow/ imitate Jesus as he is painted in the Bible. That is where He is painted as the Christ.

There’s a lot of wisdom in those two paragraphs.

I think it’s possible for someone to call himself a Christian and yet to do bad things. Christians aren’t perfect. Even when they know what they ought to do, they struggle to do it. The dividing line here is that a real Christian is never going to call sin anything other than sin. They aren’t going to try to defend it. (Although I always try to explain what leads me to sin if anyone asks – which is not the same as rationalizing, it’s just explaining). Someone who claims to be a Christian and yet does things that Bible forbids without any shame or regret is not a Christian. If that person responds to being judged by denying that what they are doing is wrong, or by attacking the Bible’s authority on moral issues, then that person is not a Christian.

If the person is saying “don’t judge me”, or “the Bible doesn’t say that”, or “the Bible was written by men“, or “the Bible was written a long time ago”, or “I believe in a God of love”, or “you’re intolerant”, or “I was born as a pickpocket”, or “I have the bank-robbing gene”, or “that’s your truth”, or “that’s just your interpretation”, or “if God loved me, he would give me a Mercedez Benz”, then you are probably not dealing with a Christian, whatever they claim to be. Lots of people claim to be Christians but don’t follow Christ. An we shouldn’t believe that someone who tries to argue that abortion is consistent with the Bible is an authentic Christian, for example. The Bible forbids pre-marital sex and murder.

I sometimes struggle with going to church, because I can’t stand being around happy, singing people (unless they know apologetics, in which case I can). But you would never hear me say that going to church was wrong, or that I was morally justified in avoiding church. Instead, I would say I was wrong not to go to church regularly, but that I hadn’t found a church that made me feel comfortable yet.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , ,

11 Responses

  1. If you struggle to go to church, the depth and reality of Ephesians hasn’t totally reached your understanding yet.

    Our pastor preached Ephesians slowly and carefully, it took him over two years to complete it, taking some Sunday’s off for other sermons or guest speakers, but for the most part, he preached Ephesians over two years.

  2. I know someone very close to me who routinely claims to be a Christian, though not a flagrant sinner (I hope you know what I mean, they dont have the pick-pocket gene), refuses to read the bible, refuses to go to church, profoundly pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, pro-same-sex marriage. It is very disheartening.

  3. Annie says:

    I am a Christian. And your views make me sad.

  4. Annie, which views make you sad, and why?

  5. Annie says:

    These in particular. I think it assuming alot… I believe that there is a truth and not everyone can have his own version, but I’m not sure wintery knight should be so incredibly sure that he knows it all. In particular, him saying that believing in a God of Love means you can’t possibly be a real Christian by his standard.

    “If the person is saying “don’t judge me”, or “the Bible doesn’t say that”, or “the Bible was written by men“, or “the Bible was written a long time ago”, or “I believe in a God of love”, or “you’re intolerant”, or “I was born as a pickpocket”, or “I have the bank-robbing gene”, or “that’s your truth”, or “that’s just your interpretation”, or “if God loved me, he would give me a Mercedez Benz”, then you are probably not dealing with a Christian, whatever they claim to be.”

    • Mary says:

      Hi Annie. WK isn’t saying that the Christian God isn’t a
      God of love. But when people use that expression to justify bad behaviour, then they are misapplying that truth. So if I use that to justify my selfishness, then I don’t get what it means for God to love me. Love doesn’t mean that He ignores my sin, but that He loves me in spite of it. And the way He demonstrates His love is by dying for me, taking my punishment on Himself, and giving me a new nature which wants to obey Him and fight my sinful, selfish tendencies. Sure, being Christian doesn’t imply that we become sinless. But if we keep on sinning with no attempt to fight it, then we demonstrate that we are unregenerate.

      • Yes, that’s exactly what i meant! Thanks for clarifying. Sometimes I’m not very good at explaining.

        I am worried about someone who thinks that their relationship with God is all one-way, and they don’t have to care about what God wants from them, especially on moral issues. God is a holy God, and we need to respect that in the way we treat him. We need to be responsible for our choices, and not abuse his forgiveness by sinning irresponsibly. It’s a two-way relationship.

        • Annie says:

          Thank you for that clarification. That makes more sense to me than the way you had phrased it before.

  6. I think you may not understand what it means for something to be true for real then. If something is true, then it is true and everything opposite is false. For example I work for the USPS, for anyone to say I am employed otherwise is false, yo ucannot have your own opinion of where I work. It is the same with religion and the Bible. Unless you think religion and God are not truly real, That they are fairy tales, then beliefs about God are either true or false, in the same way beliefs about you are true or false.

    What WK is saying with that list of quotations is that there are people who profess to be Christians who wil hold beliefs and partake in behaviors and actions which are in direct violation of the Bible’s command on the issue. He used the example of pre-marital sex. The Bible is clear sexual relations is strictly only permissable within the context of a marriage, anything else is fornication and adultry. However there are some who profess to be Christians who will engage in pre-marital sex then when the biblical teaching is shown to them they will respond with “don’t judge me”, or “the Bible doesn’t say that”, or “the Bible was written by men“, or “the Bible was written a long time ago”, or “I believe in a God of love”, or “you’re intolerant”, or “that’s your truth”, or “that’s just your interpretation” in order to justify their behavior.

    BTW, why would we not be able to know what is true and what is not?

  7. The obligatory atheist says:

    The argument that you can only be moral if you are a ‘believer’ is absurd (and I take offence to cherry picking atheist politicians as indicative of atheists – that type of argument is called confirmation bias). It’s suggesting we are only motivated to do good things when we have someone looking over our shoulder (i.e. God) and visa-versa: e.g. Christians are not killing people because it says so in the Bible.

    I also disagree with you about the atheist view that everything in the universe was an ‘accident’, quite the contrary. Darwin pointed out that humans are here through incremental evolution over millions of years. Nothing accidental about it. There are completely rational scientific arguments that present moral characteristics such as altruism as an evolutionary pressure.

    I am an atheist and I donate a percentage of my salary to charity. I feel bad when I see suffering. I want to help people who are down. Does that make me a good or moral person? Not necessarily, but please open your mind to the possibility that humans can have morals without being theists.

    Thank you for reading.

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