What exactly makes one Christian?

Now this may sound awkward, but let me explain:

I assume most of you will agree that Mormonism is not Christian, and neither are Jehovah’s Witnesses or Oneness Pentecostals. The common description I hear of them is “pseudo-Christian”. Yet, on Wikipedia one reads that all of these groups are “Christian”, and each of them claim this for themselves. I believe many people in the general public would also number some of them among Christianity.

From a Catholic perspective, I gather there are a few things that must be given in order to be counted as Christian. Among these things would be a valid Baptism and belief in the Most Holy Trinity. If any of these two are absent, the Catholic Church would not count them or their beliefs as Christian, I understand.

While I completely agree, how does one argue this to non-Catholics or secularists? I imagine their argument being: “Who are you to say what is Christian and what isn’t? They believe in Christ, don’t they?” At least that’s a possibility. So, is there a way to argue in favour the Catholic position without appealing to Church authority?

I was on another forum before this and it got changed a bit and before I moved on I knew what I was doing by posting ‘what is a Christian’. I sat back and let the row happen. They couldn’t agree which was actually my bigger point that there is no, one answer to what is a Christian apart from that a Christian believes in Jesus Christ. So that would be transferred to your question too in that what exactly makes one Christian? Would you be happy with the simple answer of someone who believes in Jesus Christ?:slight_smile:

Well, you see, what does it mean “to believe in Christ”? My question is not what it means, but how to argue for who defines that. It is not enough to say “I believe in Jesus” because that can mean anything.

True, it can mean anything you want it to me but if you are Christian and I mean Christian as in the whole realm and not just Roman Catholic then it could mean a whole lot more once start to try and break down exactly what it may mean. But for me Christian derives from Christ and one wouldn’t declare themselves as Christian if they couldn’t accept Jesus Christ otherwise they wouldn’t be Christians. I am not going to go into all the theological discussions. I leave that boring stuff to others. It is just a simple matter that Christian is like a noun or verb to Christ and we are of Christ, Jesus christ and for me too that is what makes us a Christian. Theological arguments about it all are meaningless to me because whichever denomination one comes from their be a different view point of defining Christian using the creed and the Holy Trinity etc so I am deliberately keeping it simple by saying that a Christian is made by that they are of Christ and putting ‘ians’ at the end makes it into a prounceable concept that we are Christians. Yeh yeh, I know about the rest and I know that once this thread gets going but for me it really is that simple and oh Christians is being Christlike the title we have is christian from christ and we are christlike… :smiley:

But there you have it. “For me Christian derives from Christ”. That of course is true anyhow, but you’re just proving what I am already saying: “Accept Jesus Christ”. What does that mean? It can mean anything, and everyone makes it to mean something different. Since everyone makes it to mean something different, it follows from that logic that everyone can claim to be a Christian. By that logic Muslims are Christians!

I’ll wait for others to weigh in. :slight_smile:

If I am not mistaken the Catholic Church only recognizes those baptisms where the infant or individual is baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is my understanding that in order for someone to be a Christian they must have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and must believe in the docrine of the Trinity. Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists are not Christian. Unfortunately in our secular progressive society the media and media outlets will classify anyone who accepts Jesus as their savior as a Christian. This is wrong. :gopray:

Strictly defined, one who believes Jesus Christ is God. Or, anything that pertains to that central doctrine. Loosely defined, anything pertaining to Jesus or Christianity. Going to church is a Christian practice, but this does not make the person who goes to church a Christian. Gnosticism was a Christian heresy, but is not strictly Christian in an orthodox way. Etc

This is what I understand as well. That Mormon baptisma are invalid due to the lack of understanding and acceptance of the nature and persons of the trinity.

If the question is “what makes someone a Christian?” then the answer is a little stricter, in my opinion. I’m not sure one can be a Christian who does not put as much effort as possible into following Jesus in faith and doing god’s will. Someone may call themselves a Christian and do drugs recreationally. This person is not a Christian, IMO. But a drug addict may begin to pray to Jesus while still in the throes of addiction, though he can’t control his addiction yet. If this person is trying as hard as he can not to use drugs, even though he struggles with it mightily and believes in Jesus, he may be a Christian. I know this is an amorphous perspective on what makes someone a Christian, but in doing homeless and prison ministry, I have met many people that are like this. Some are trying to believe and get better. Some are hypocrites. Everyone is a hypocrite in some way, none of us are perfect, but some people are trying, some are faking.

I think Seventh Day Adventists believe in the Trinity and do baptism. I think their only weird things are the belief in Saturday-worship and in the doctrine of soul-sleep, in which a person’s soul doesn’t go to heaven or hell after death but simply does nothing and thinks nothing until the Resurrection.

Yes, it must be done with the Trinitarian formula, but the intention must be “doing what the Church does” when she baptises. That’s why Mormon baptism is considered invalid, though they use the formula.

I think SDAs believe in the Trinity, but Mormons only use the word and actually mean Triad, and the JWs reject it all together.

Indeed, just claiming to “believe in Jesus” (whatever that means in the given case) doesn’t make one Christian. I’d like to rephrase my question again at the end of this post.

Correct, they do not baptise with the doctrine of the Trinity (that is the Catholic Trinity, the only true Trinity!) but rather with something like a Triad.

I think that’s correct.

Rephrasing my question: A JW fried of mine often said (when we were on the topic) “We Christians should do/believe this and that”. In that given instance I think: “It’s not ‘we Christians’ but rather ‘I the JW’”, though I don’t tell him I did not consider his religion Christian. But if he were to ask me, whether I did so and why, what should I say?

By what objective standard, other than Church authority (which is God’s objective authority) which he won’t accept, can I substantiate my claim?

And who are they to be the authority in such a matter? They are not the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

When, therefore, either the Greeks or others say that they were not committed to the care of Peter and his successors, they must confess that they are not of Christ’s sheep, even as the Lord says in John, There is one fold and one shepherd. (The Bull of Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, 18 November 1302)

In ordinary circumstances, the meaning of words develops and changes as the language changes over time, and the language changes in response to all the things that influence the society and the culture – which is just about everything, but it takes generations to happen. When you have a set of ideas that are grouped under a general term, like Christian, or Stoic, or Aristotelian, things get very difficult because there are (1) different interpretations of the ideas, and (2) some people pick and choose what they like out of those ideas but still want to call themselves by the name. And here’s the central point: unless you have an authoritative body inherent to the general group which can define what ideas are compatible with itself, the term can mean anything any given person wants.

This is why the Church’s authority is important. I don’t think you’re going to find an objective standard to define who counts as a Christian except the one Christ gave: you have to prove the Church’s authority and prove that it is a central part of Christianity as an institution. Then that Church can define what is compatible and what is incompatible, and who is in partial union and who has completely cut themselves off. Without that authoritative body, the term “Christian” is just like any other term, and can change or be modified by the culture.

I hope that helps. God bless!

Basically, the solution was staring me in the face. It sure did help, thank you! :slight_smile:


In the above article, the 2nd paragraph of the section on the Catholic Church’s “UNBROKEN HISTORY” says that the other christian churches are those that once were part of the Catholic Church, but have broken away at some point in history or were further seperated from demominations that can be traced back to the Catholic Church. I think this serves as a excellent general and current definition for a non-Catholic Christian demononation for Catholics.

A Christian is one who believes in all of the tenants, doctrines, and dogmas of the Catholic Church. Those who do not share this complete faith can still be called Christian, but in a state of separation from the truth. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are so separated that it is doubtful if this same term can be used for them, since they don’t believe in the absolute divinity of Jesus.

hmm, I don’t believe in the doctrines and dogmas of the Catholic Church as many here will tell you as I am Anglican - not Catholic yet I am Christian. :slight_smile: By which I think most people here will agree albeit relunctanly because many are more like you… :wink: Be careful on the definition of Chrisitian unless it is your personal interpretation and then please state that :thumbsup:

Christianity has been around since Jesus ascended into Heaven almost 2,000 years ago. In that time, Christianity was synonymous with the Catholic Church, as well as for the next 1500 years. If someone separated themselves from the Church by belief or by practice, they were separated from Christianity to some degree.

Just because some people split off 500 years ago does not mean that the definition has changed. Of course we love and embrace our non-Catholic brethren, but the original definition of the term “Christian” remains the same.

What’s wrong with having multiple, increasingly broader definitions for a word? We do this with so many other words in our language, why not a religious title? We do this with other faith traditions too. The largest body of Mormons (the LDS Church) objects to anybody being called Mormon besides them, yet most of secular society doesn’t care to get in the middle of a theological match between the LDS, FLDS, Apostolic United Brethren, etc. and so we frequently use “Mormon” to refer to all braches of Brigham Youngite religion, no matter the group. Almost every Jew I’ve met objects to the phrase “Messianic Jew”, except of course actual Messianic Jews. I personally don’t care to get in the middle of their quarrels, so I gladly augment my speech depending on whom I’m speaking to. If I’m speaking with an Orthodox Jew, I refer to “Messianic Jews” as Christians. If I’m speaking to Messianic Jews, I say Messianic Jews.

I have no problem using the word “Christian” in secular (or at least non-Catholic company) to refer to members of the so-called quasi-Christian sects (assuming they themselves do not object to being called Christians), and then when in Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant company referring to them as non-Christians. The key is recognizing your target audience and properly augmenting your word choice to get your message across.

I’ve seen some Catholics argue that the term “Catholic” can only properly be used in regards to things that are explicitly in communion with Rome, and such individuals would lump the SSPX, all Sedevecantists, and other quasi-Catholic groups as Protestant. This may work well in Catholic company, but surely if anyone in your audience is non-Catholic they would likely be confused as to why a group that denies all of the 5 Solas and embraces none of the Reformation theology is lumped together with actual Protestants. The point is the meaning of a word entirely depends on your audience’s usage, and insisting on strict uniformity of language is futile.

If, on the other hand, I found myself in a purely academic argument with another person on the utility of using one definition of the word over another, and I was attempting to persuade them to embrace the Catholic definition, I would first limit the scope to Nicene Christians. A Christian is a person who affirms the Nicene Creed, either explicitly or implicitly. I’d argue that this is a historically tenable position as every Christian community in existence today that can trace its lineage back to the 4th century affirmed the Nicene Creed. By this standard of historicity, it becomes a matter of objectivity to say that 21st century “Christians” who cannot affirm the Nicene Creed are functionally non-Christian. This definition of “Christian” that I’m using will obviously exclude even more than merely the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but so be it. I cannot at the present time think of a more objective standard by which to judge the Christianity of a denomination (lest I run into all the theoretical problems that arise in self identification that the OP presented with regards to Mormons and Muslims).

I only hope you will remain as adement when we meet our maker. I am not enterring into what is Catholic and what is Christian discussion. I am enterring into what makes a Christian discussion. :thumbsup: Christianity covers all those who believe in Jesus Christ fullstop there be a lot of people out in this world who believe in Jesus Christ who don’t go to church. God will know those but we don’t. I am not arguing how we believe in Jesus Christ, but who believes in Jesus Christ in that the believe in Jesus Christ is what makes one a Christian whether they are Catholic or not is totally irrelevent to me in this question and in real life :thumbsup:

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