Olson on what “Christian” Means

Roger Olson has been writing recently about claims from different groups and people to be “Christian,”, in an attempt to clarify a basic set of beliefs/convictions that one can use to measure the claim.  He recently posted an overview of the criteria he proposes.

How do we determine if someone (group or individual) is Christian?  Should we even make such determinations, or should we just coexist and leave it to God?  We live in an age that hates the idea of “gatekeepers,” but isn’t this a gate worth watching? 

If we are embarrassed by–even horrified by–things that are done in Jesus’ name, which we by association are implicated in, then isn’t gatekeeping necessary?

If an entertainer’s (or politician’s) claim to “dig Jesus” (“I’m a Jesus fan, see my t-shirt?”) is enough to make them a Christian, then the term is basically meaningless.

And what to do with Mormons, whose doctrines are changing and who do not present a monolithic set of beliefs?

Here are the criteria Olson proposes.  I agree with them, and think they are important.

1) A true, authentic Christian necessarily believes in and worships the personal God of the Bible, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and necessarily believes in and worships Jesus Christ as God the Son and only Savior of the world.

2) A true, authentic Christian necessarily believes he or she is a sinner who needs salvation, reconciliation with God and spiritual renewal, through Jesus Christ and seeks such salvation through repentance and faith in him as lord and savior.

3) A true, authentic Christian necessarily believes that every human being ever born (some will say who has reached the age of accountability) with the one exception of Jesus Christ, was and is a sinner saved only by grace and that the ground, basis, of such salvation is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

4) A true, authentic Christian necessarily believes that the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, Genesis through Revelation, is/are the only Word of God written and God’s revelation of his will to humanity and humbly submits himself or herself to its authority.

5) A true, authentic Christian embraces a supernatural worldview in which a spiritual “world” exists that is not merely physical or natural and that it has appeared at least once in world history in the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

6) A true, authentic Christian recognizes himself or herself as a person in need of forgiveness by God and passionately seeks such through prayer including prayers of repentance and trust in God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

7) A true, authentic Christian seeks to avoid sin and live a holy life separated from sin and evil in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

8) A true, authentic Christian earnestly desires and tries to show love, mercy, and compassion to all even as his or her lord and master Jesus Christ did.

9) A true, authentic Christian seeks to have fellowship with God’s people in worship and service.

10) A true, authentic Christian shuns idolatry which means loyalty to, worship of, any lord and master alongside or over God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Anyway, this is a helpful and stimulating article.  Check out the whole thing.


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