Nominal Christians – Are They Christians?

Just because someone tells you they are a Christian does not mean they are a Christian. Because you identify yourself as a Christian doesn’t mean you are a Christian. Hundreds of thousands of people tell researchers during phone surveys they identify with the ‘Christian faith.’ When they are asked: Are you a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, atheist or other?” they answer: ‘Christian’. Perhaps that’s how you would answer; but are you really a Christian?

Many are not Christians

American researchers estimate there are millions of people in the USA who say they are Christians but when pressed for more details about their core spiritual beliefs their responses veer away from the core teachings of the Bible.  There are a growing number of people who identify themselves as Christians but really, if you probe a fraction of a centimeter below their surface, what they believe goes like this:

  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about one’s self.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die. (1)

These people go to churches where sermons are preached from a Bible and where hymns about God and Christ are sung. They identify with a ‘Christian’ church – not a mosque or a synagogue or a temple. Because of association, they call themselves Christians. But are they? Are you?

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Researchers have classified the five set of beliefs above as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” – not Christianity. Deism – they believe in a higher power beyond the human being. “Therapeutic” – the therapy in life they value is what makes them feel good about themselves. “Moralistic” – be a decent person with good morals such as integrity, honesty and fairness.

Thousands of teenagers in America who say they were raised in Christian homes, attend Christian churches and who identify themselves as ‘Christian’ – are marked by those five core beliefs. When asked about fundamental Bible doctrines regarding sin, eternal life, eternal judgment, God’s holiness, Christ as the exclusive way to Heaven, the forgiveness of sins via Jesus Christ alone, etc. they shrug their shoulders and say: “whatever.”

Biblical Perspective

Look at the above five points from the Biblical perspective:

1.  The Bible doesn’t talk about a god who is the Creator and Sustainer; it talks about the One and Only True God – the Creator, Owner and Sustainer – the One Sovereign of the Universe.  “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

2.  Yes, the Bible promotes decency, goodness, kindness and fairness but it also teaches human beings are absolutely incapable of meeting God’s perfect standard in these categories because of the condition of the human heart due to sin.  “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; … no one does good, not even one…. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  (Romans 3:10-23)

3.  According to the Bible, the central goal in life is not about ‘self’- it’s about God and glorifying Him. Pleasing Him – not ourselves.  “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”  (Ecclesiastes 12:13)  “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. “ (1 Corinthians 10:31)

4.  It is true, the God of the Bible often responds to 911 calls from individuals, but He’s not just a 911 God. The God of the Bible desires to be intimately involved in your life and to lead your life. He’s a God of closeness – not aloofness. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

5.  Good people go to heaven when they die? Not according to the Bible. The Bible repeatedly makes the point that there is no innately good person on the planet. Every human heart has been contaminated by sin, disqualifying all people for heaven based on their own personal merits. The Bible teaches that no one goes to Heaven without first having their sins forgiven by accepting Jesus Christ as their Saviour and their Lord. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…”  (1 Peter 3:18)

The Umbrella

There is another segment of the so-called Christian population you should think about. These people attend churches where the symbolic cross is often displayed. Worship songs are sung, Bible sermons are preached and Christian rituals such as baptism are performed.  Freewill offerings of money are given, good works are encouraged, commitments and dedications to Christ are the norm and many things are taught from the Bible. But does all that make them a Christian? No.

There are people in a rainstorm who may stand under a Honda advertising umbrella but they do not own or drive a Honda product nor are they Honda employees. Spiritually, many stand under the Christian umbrella – but they are not genuine, authentic, real Christians.

When you see statistics about how many Christians there are in the world or in a certain country – understand this: the number is grossly inflated or else the statisticians have hi-jacked the term ‘Christian’ and have given it a definition that conflicts with the Bible.

The only authoritative source on what makes a Christian a Christian is the Bible – the only written Word of God.

A Christian is a person who has a past. They were once lost in their sins, estranged from God and were in spiritual darkness. Every true Christian has a past. Someone who says they were always a Christian is not a Bible Christian. Every true Christian has a conscious moment of personal faith in Jesus Christ as their Saviour or Rescuer. It is not something that happened to them when they were an infant during a religious ritual.

Do you have a personal and precious moment when you were rescued from your sins — when you appreciated that Christ died for your sins in order for you to be saved and forgiven?

 (1) Moralistic Therapeutic Deism–the New American Religion, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Christian Post, June 30, 2010