Today I made a new friend in Panera Bread and over his lunch break we had an extended conversation on the nature of God, theology, and religion. Nicknamed RC, and from Western Europe, he had some pretty interesting beliefs.
An engineer by trade, but apparently a philosopher at heart, RC is a pantheist. That is to say, he believes that all material things are in fact part of God. As he aptly stated, “You are God. I am God”. He went on to say that because we are simply matter–he was also a materialist–that we are kinda part of each other, in some way. Life is on a one way track towards death, decay, and then reincarnation (I told you his beliefs were interesting). When I asked what Hitler’s current state is, he replied that he is probably reincarnated as a pig somewhere. I asked if he was serious. He said yes. (One wonders what all the other pigs were doing in previous lives?)
He kindly remarked how he ‘loved’ the Bible. He commented that it had great wisdom, lots of virtuous principles, and how it was a very helpful book. Praise God, all those things are true–though very reductionistic.
I’m glad I got to meet and talk with RC. He was very genuine, and quite a provocative conversation partner. The reason I share, however, was his most startling and alarming statement in the entire conversation: “Of course, I am a Christian”.
Its hardly worth showing how his beliefs fall outside orthodoxy (I trust you can discern that), but it is worth noting that he wanted to retain the label of Christian. As he put it, he “grew up Christian”.
I hope this is a clear example that not everyone who retains the label of ‘Christian’ is faithful to its meaning. In a world where you can arbitrarily define your identity, redefine one’s past, simply ‘name and claim’ your present reality, where one’s future is limited only by your negative thoughts, and even create your own sexual identity, there seems to be no qualms with creating one’s own ‘Christianity’.
But the Bible’s viewpoint is different. Instead, to be a Christian is to have certain statements that define you–statements and realities provided by God, not the individual, it should be noted. So how can one find “God’s” Christians?
Believe it or not, they should act a certain way. “Let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil” (1 John 3:7-8).
And they should believe & say certain things. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and he in God” (1 John 4:15).
And Christians should love certain things and certain persons. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments” (1 John 5:1-2).
Therefore, how should we professing Christians respond? “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:20-21).