“Are you a Christian?”

Below, one of my readers has suggested it is somehow insulting to compile a Catholic/Evangelical phrasebook. But I am in earnest. There are lots of things which Evangelicals and Catholics say which the other party either does not understand or, worse, *thinks* he understands. To pick a random example, a Catholic I spoke to recently was hurt when, upon being asked which church she attended and answering, “St. John’s Catholic Church”, she was asked if she was a Christian by her Evangelical schoolmate. To a Catholic, it is painful to be asked “Are you a Christian?” by Evangelicals. The Catholic wants to shout ” Of *course* I’m a Christian!”

But the Evangelical does not mean that (usually) as a swipe against Catholics. Indeed, an Evangelical can and frequently does ask the same of any large “mainline” Church. He might even ask it of other Evangelicals. For he means (in translation) “Have you had a living encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you a disciple or just going through religious motions?” He means what a Catholic would mean by asking “Are you docile to the Holy Spirit? Are you serious about the teaching of Christ?” Heaven knows, readers on a blog like mine, who spend so much time discussing the difference between serious Catholic faith and AmChurch, know that one can be a Sim Christian. St. Ignatius of Loyola realized the same thing (about himself). So did Teresa of Avila. An Evangelical who asks “Are you a Christian?” is often as solicitous for your spiritual well-being as those great saints. But because the jargon is different, Catholics can take offense rather than hear the real question.

So yes. Jargon differences do matter. They don’t account for all disagreements. But they do matter.


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