What’s wrong with Christians? 14

I learned an important lesson from Noble’s recent sex sermon: never miss an opportunity to knock Christians. (This came seconds after he personally gave nonbelievers an exemption from following God’s rules for sexual propriety. It’s good to know who’s looking out for you, I suppose.)

At the end of the day I just want those of us who know Jesus to live like we know Jesus, because our testimony about Jesus matters to a world that don’t know him.

Listen, I am so sick and tired of the term “Christian.” And some of you are like, “It’s in the Bible.”

Three times. Three times.

People that were closely associated with Jesus were known as disciples or followers of Jesus.

The term Christian in America today has become so neutered and watered down, it’s not even funny. I want for us to be known as people who really do love and follow Jesus.

Some questions.

  1. Why follow Jesus if it means I have to obey God’s law? God’s law applies to everyone, saved and unsaved. Perry’s “generosity” in exempting the unsaved from God’s law turns the relationship between grace and law on its head. If we don’t know, or if it doesn’t matter, that we’re breaking God’s law, what’s the benefit of grace? Using Noble’s formulation, what’s the point of grace if it means that only once it has been given to me do I suffer the consequences of breaking God’s law? Wouldn’t I be better off and happier without either God’s law or God’s grace? As far as evangelistic strategies go, this one’s an epic failure.
  2. Shouldn’t our Christian walk be prompted by what God thinks about us, not what non-believers think about us? Note that Noble asserts that the reason we follow Jesus is so that we’ll impress nonbelievers, not that we’ll please our Savior.
  3. How many times does God need to identify us as Christians before Perry Noble accepts it? If the Bible had said it four times, would that make the word OK? Five? Twenty-seven? Perhaps this is just another of those antiquated Bible words, like shepherd, that we need to scrub from Scripture. The Commandments are only presented twice. Can we ignore those too? I mean, how important can they be?
  4. Should Perry’s emotional state be more determinative than Scripture? God, through Luke and Peter, thought it a fit word to describe his people, but it makes this particular 21st century pastor sick and tired, so we need to drop it.
  5. What does it matter what the world thinks of us? The world will always hate God, so it can be expected to hate his children. It’s ironic that the word is sometimes discounted by appealing to extrabiblical texts that suggest it was used as a term of derision against the early believers. If that’s the case, and if we want to model the early church, wouldn’t the contemporary worldly derision generated by the term encourage us to embrace it all the more?
  6. Why should other Christians affect my willingness to be known by God’s name? Piper put it this way a few days ago:

    Being ashamed of the Bible because there are looney Christians is like being ashamed of Milton because of Hallmark cards.

  7. If Christians make you sick, what’s your disease?

As I’ve argued before, this repeated hostility towards Christianity is profoundly worrying. Perry Noble says he’s not a Christian, and we keep trying really hard to disagree with him. At what point do we give in?

14 thoughts on “What’s wrong with Christians?

  1. Ron Sep 28, 2009 6:57 am

    As an imperfect analogy regarding the Christ follower vs. Christian thing….I may follow the president and may have worked hard for his agenda. Without regard to my work, he will never know me by name. However, the president’s children will be called by his name. Only his children will be heir to his fortune. Christian’s are adopted children. To be a Christian infers a state of being. To be a follower infers a state of doing. Christ had many ‘followers’ that fell away.

  2. Tommy F Sep 28, 2009 7:57 am

    I’ve been thinking that the word “parent” should be deleted, too. Have you seen how some parents behave? Why would I want to be included in that crowd? Just the other day I saw a parent berating their child at dinner. And another who was cursing at a teacher. I’m going to now be called a “children raiser.” I do not want people thinking I am associated with parents.

    And while I’m editing my vocabulary, I think I’ll go ahead and delete “husband” for me and “wife” for my mate. I’ve noticed a precipitous decline in people who keep their vows as husband and wife. I don’t want some thinking I might divorce my mate just in case times get tough, so I think I need to make a clear distinction between labels – which are misleading – and reality. From now on my mate will be called: “Tommy’s mate for life, ’til death do us part.” And I’ll go by “I am Tommy F. I am not going to be like 50% of husbands who divorce their wives.” I really want the world to understand who I am, and these labels aren’t helping.

  3. James Duncan Sep 28, 2009 8:05 am

    Ron,

    It’s a useful analogy. I think that constant activity and agitation is a particular distinctive of Perry Noble’s theology. Consider Brad Cooper’s blog post yesterday where he argues that the purpose of studying theology is to do stuff for other people, but that studying theology simply for the sake of knowing God is idolatry. EVERYTHING gets turned into a pitch to have people invite strangers to church. If you don’t, you’re not a “Christ follower.”

    Tommy,

    Those are good ideas, but why get married in the first place?

    See, if you’re not married, you don’t have to be faithful and it’s impossible to get divorced. BRILLIANT!

    (Dear readers, if you need to, see question #1 to understand my sarcasm here.)

  4. TB Sep 28, 2009 9:09 am

    BCoop’s post actually says “If our pursuit of Theology doesnt TERMINATE ON US LOVING GOD MORE AND US LOVING OTHERS BETTER…. Then its a Theology of Idolatry.” Obviously this is different than “the purpose of studying theology is to do stuff for other people, but that studying theology simply for the sake of knowing God is idolatry.”

  5. James Duncan Sep 28, 2009 9:24 am

    Of course it’s different, TB. I offered a paraphrase to highlight the point that BC was trying to make. It’s also why I linked to his post so you can see it for yourself.

    His whole point is that it is idolatrous to know God just for the sake of knowing God. Cooper has an interesting conception of idolatry if worshiping God can become sinful. He’s the one God we can worship without it being idolatry.

    Knowing God and serving people are simultaneous and equal pursuits in Cooper’s mind. In Cooper’s formulation, we have faith in order to have works. I would say that we have faith, therefore we have works.

    There’s an important difference.

    • James Duncan Sep 28, 2009 10:04 am

      If the owner of this blog will allow me the liberty of quoting myself, here’s part of what I wrote back in April:

      [Christ follower] rejects God’s family. God refers to the church in familial terms. We are all adopted. We are Christ’s bride. We are brothers and sisters. You might not like it, but when Christ saved you, you joined the family. When my wife married me, she married into my parents and siblings as well. Just because she’s embarrassed by my brother (I jest, bro, because I care) was not enough of a reason for her to suggest that we change our last name to McSnickenmeister so no-one could connect the dots between her and the rest of my family. When Jesus chooses you, his family comes with him. It’s a package deal. It’s a good deal.

      [Christ follower] rejects grace. Christian denotes a state of being and belief; we are part of Christ’s church. Christ follower denotes a state of action and effort. Being a Christ follower is always a secondary state compared to our status as Christians. I am a Christian because of what Christ did, not anything I did. To be a Christ follower I must do something. In terms of how both terms explain the essential quality of God’s grace in our salvation, Christ follower couldn’t really be more wrong. The consequence of being a Christian is that one follows Christ, but one can never follow Christ before, or without, being a Christian.

  6. Josh Sep 28, 2009 11:37 am

    Judas Iscariot was a “Christ-follower,” for what it’s worth.

    I hate the term “Christ-follower,” even though it’s really THE popular term now, even among my friends who are actual Christians. I can appreciate the point that the term Christian is massively overused now and is used to describe people who are not believers in Jesus Christ at all. I get the point that it’s confusing and inaccurate much of the time. But I cringe every time I hear the term “Christ-follower” used.

    Once and for all: no one is saved by being a “Christ-follower.” We are saved by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing else. When people ignore the simplicity of the gospel, they have a hard time explaining what the gospel is and are constantly groping to define what is necessary to be saved. Lots of people who accuse me of being a proponent of “easy-believism” (guilty, btw) absolutely refuse to state plainly what they believe to be the plan of salvation. But it always, ALWAYS comes down to some work that must be done by man to be saved. Usually this is couched as “repenting of sin,” a phrase not found in any literal bible translation, which means some ill-defined standard of “turning from sin,” (which means you can still sin, you just hate it now, but you’d better stop doing the big ones or you didn’t really repent of your sins.) In real terms, it means you have to stop doing (or maybe be willing to stop doing) the sins that the person sharing the “gospel” has already stopped.

    The updated version of this is the “Christ-follower” requirement for salvation. I’ve been in church services where people have prayed to “become a Christ follower.” I’ve heard pastors I respect tell people that being a Christian means you start “following Christ in the best way you know how.” This type of phrasing about the gospel has become the norm in a lot of church plant sermons I listen to online.

    So if we become a Christian by being a “Christ-follower,” what happens if we stop “following Christ.” What does it mean to “follow Christ,” anyway? Is it necessary to believe in the resurrection? Do we have to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? People who think they’re saved by being a “Christ-follower” have almost certainly not placed their faith in Jesus Christ; they are trusting in their own ability and will to be a Christ-follower. This vague (at best) presentation of the gospel is essentially an invitation to trust in a false works “gospel,” which is no gospel at all.

    Did I mention I don’t like the term “Christ-follower?” 🙂

  7. Paul Sep 28, 2009 12:55 pm

    if the term “Christian” is so offensive, why don’t we start hating and stop using terms that are even more offensive to the world…like the cross, God’s wrath, blood, crucified, sin, etc. Seriously, if Perry is going to reject one aspect of Scripture, why not others? where does it end?

  8. Josh Sep 28, 2009 1:28 pm

    I don’t think he’s saying don’t use the term “Christian” because it’s offensive, I think he’s saying don’t use it because it’s no longer descriptive. In other words, only a small percentage of people who claim to be Christians actually are. Also, the use of the word as an adjective–Christian music; Christian art; Christian bookstore; Christian clothing — has cheapened the meaning of what a true Christian is.

    Personally, I think that’s a legitimate point. I just think the word “Christ-follower” sounds contrived and it not really descriptive of born again believers, either. Personally, I prefer to refer to believers as believers.

  9. James Downing Sep 28, 2009 1:38 pm

    It’s a silly point. No matter what you refer to Christians as, it only works as long as noone comes along and messes up your definition of the word. Like, if a ton of non-beleivers started calling themselves believers, then that word would no longer be useful. Let’s just stick with the scripture, which would say Christian, believer, follower of Christ, are all valid.

  10. Josh Sep 28, 2009 1:49 pm

    That’s true to a point, but our culture has as broadly accepted definition of the word “Christian” which is vastly different than the biblical definition of a Christian. Mormons, JW’s, and some deists are “Christians,” even though they clearly don’t believe the gospel. It is useful, IMO, to use a term that more accurately defines, in current usage, a born-again believer/follower of Christ/Christian/follower of The Way/disciple. That’s why I prefer the term “believer,” because it’s: 1. used in the bible; 2. accurately describes how someone is born again; and, 3. Doesn’t sound as desperate to be “relevant” as “Christ-follower.”

    It’s just a preference, though. I’m not offended when someone calls me a Christian, and I am a “Christ-follower,” as well. I still think it’s helpful in some contexts to differentiate believing Christians from social/in-name-only/nominal “Christians” who don’t believe the gospel.

  11. TB Sep 28, 2009 2:12 pm

    Duncan,
    The point I was trying to make is that you left out the part of BCoop’s point that theology should make you fall in love with God, as well as his people. I interpreted your post as to say that he didn’t mention falling in love with God at all. You do acknowledge that he did say that in his post, correct? I would be careful when paraphrasing if I have to leave out certain parts of the message to get my point across. From my perspective it seems like that’s what you did. If not, my mistake. I do think that the meaning of your point would have been lost had you included it.

  12. Ben Sep 29, 2009 8:42 am

    TB, you must be new to this site. Let me explain how it works so you will know for next time.

    When we want to quote someone but we can’t figure out a way to be critical of the quote, we “paraphrase” so that we can make the quote fit our argument.

    When we can’t find anything wrong with a sermon we like to take a small video clip so that we can take what is said out of context.

    And when we are really grasping at straws we just take everything literally. Those are the easiest to attack.

    • James Duncan Sep 29, 2009 8:47 am

      OK Ben, what is out of context? What was its proper context?

      What have we taken literally that was supposed to be figurative?

      Use your decoder ring and tell us what was really said.

Comments are closed.