Christians in Name Only

Christians in Name Only November 27, 2015

This cartoon has been making the rounds. It is a pity that some are treating it as a condemnation of Christians, when it clearly is a condemnation of a group that I think ought to be labeled CINA: “Christians in Name Only.” If you fear others, hate others, judge others, and fail to hold yourself to a high standard of love and self-sacrifice, and fail to be humble and repentant because you fall so far short of that high standard, then you are compromising everything that Jesus taught and stood for. In that case, what meaning does it have to claim that you are a “Christian”? None whatsoever. It is a tribal designation that you identify with, but which has been emptied of all the content that is distinctive to the one who is looked to as its founder and historic focus.



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  • smendler

    That could be “CHINOs,” right?

  • Holly Baer

    I don’t think it’s fair to say those whose beliefs line up with the cartoon aren’t Christians. It’s fine to disagree with them and condemn them, but their practice and interpretation of Christianity is just as valid as any other.

    Saying they are “Christians in name only” also feeds into the idea that bad people can’t really be Christians which is just a “No-true-Scotsman” argument.

    • PorlockJunior

      This is an interesting point of view. I take it, then, that anything whatever is Christian?– or at least if one says it is. Else, what interpretation of Christianity is *not* as valid as any other?

      I include, of course, the interpretation of Christianity in which Mohammad is, as is claimed, the sign and seal of prophecy, and the Koran supercedes and overrides any part of the Bible with which it is in conflict. It’s an unusual interpretation, but not, it seems, invalid. One almost wonders whether the word “Christian” has any use at all.

      The point in the second paragraph, that the CINO concept “feeds into the idea” that bad people can’t be Christians, may well be true; but is it germane? Not, I should think, for the people whose interpretation of Christianity (valid, by the first argument) asserts that *all* are sinners, which would include all Christians, millions of whom go to church and recite the General Confession in which each one claims to have been doing wrong (and not-doing right). Perhaps I need to look up what “bad person” means, as contrasted with “one who continually sins”.

      • arcseconds

        Do any such Koran-followers actually call themselves Christian? As a serious, primary term for their religion and not as a piece of rhetoric? Or is this purely a theoretical worry?

        What would your definition of the word be to avoid being ‘useless’?

        McGrath’s CINO idea certainly leaves out a lot of people who are normally considered by most (including themselves) to be quite unproblematically Christian: people who go to church, read the Bible, take communion, have some kind of historical connection with the original followers of Jesus, etc.

    • David Evans

      I think he lost the plot at “I don’t want to raise taxes”. Nowhere does Jesus suggest that as a legitimate excuse for not doing one’s moral duty.

      • True, but a lot of American Christians *do* use that as an excuse: I’ve heard a lot of people say Jesus wants us to give privately to charity–because it’s a choice–but not to spend tax money on social programs, because then the giving is not voluntary.

        • Eli Odell Jackson

          We are to render unto Caesar what is his, unto God what is His (Mark 12:17, Matt. 22:21)

          All Is God’s, God has appointed the temporal powers that be, and we are to be obedient to them (Rom. 13:1), as far as taxes these things may go beyond the scripture in some ways, I believe they ought to be low, should I envy the rich man and attempt to tear him down? – NO sir, that is wickedness and sin, even my secular boss is a power ordained of God, and I am to obey him as far as he does not disobey God (Acts 5:29.)

          Jesus wants us to pay our taxes without cheating on the returns, this is not very well accepted either by democrats or republicans, we fight such a command for the reason, our flesh, our sinful nature, which we have in common.

          The ‘firstfruits of our increase (10%) is the Lord’s, and are forfeit as the tithe(Prov. 3:9-10, Lev. 27:30-33), to be brought ‘into the storehouse’ (In NT terms – The Church, Mal. 3:10), anything more is to be made an offering of a thankful heart, pleasing to the Lord. (Ps. 54:6-7)
          Anything less than 10% is theft, no matter our circumstances, I believe God will look after me if I am faithful with what He has given me (Rom. 8:28, Jam. 4:10)

          Give to charity, and ask nothing back – This is the Christian way, do not give to a charity that is disobedient to the Lord.

        • Eli Odell Jackson

          Envy, Greed & Pride are the great sins of socialism, in like fashion to the sins of many which they fight against.

          Envy – They are not content with what they (Pride), or others have, and so are jealous of another man’s riches – This is due to an unrequited love for riches that they have (Greed, or Lust).

          Capitalism is the natural way, and hence neither good nor bad – Capitalists who think it is always for the good are in error, without compassion for others and a proper view of the value of money this can be just as bad as socialism, and keeps many souls from Christ.

    • arcseconds

      I would be interested to hear what James has to say about this.

      On the one hand, I can see your point. The history of Christianity has been rife with people declaring other people ‘not proper Christians’, and generally speaking this has been quite harmful. And in fact this is a pretty widespread trait: it’s not hard to find people defining what it means to be female, gay, a geek, etc. in order to draw boundaries and exclude people.

      Plus, deciding what any word means counter to how it is used in the community that speaks that language is certainly taking quite a lot on oneself, to say the least. Who is McGrath to tell us how to use the word ‘Christian’?

      And of course it’s a strong part of people’s identity, and we should be careful about telling people that they aren’t who they think they are.

      But on the other, presumably a Christian has some entitlement to have an idea of what it means to be Christian. Most Christians think there is some sort of normativity involved in the claim ‘I’m a Christian’, and to deny that it can fulfil this function is also to insist on a certain kind of definition.

      And is it really the case we can never judge between ideas of what it means to be a Christian? Surely the very word implies that one is a follower of Jesus Christ in some sense, and surely at some point, if you ignore virtually everything that is attributed to the guy and in fact frequently do the very opposite, saying you’re a follower of Jesus becomes a farce.

      • I apologize for having taken so long to chime in here. In general, I avoid essentializing religions, both because I am an academic who knows the problems with doing so, and because I am a liberal and so have been on the receiving end of some dubious attempts to do that. But it does seem that it can sometimes be appropriate to deny labels to those who claim them as their own exclusive possession, especially when those claiming to be the only true Christians (or whatever) are demonstrably at odds with core teachings of the religion’s founder. But when I do that, I do so mainly as a way of trying to get through to such individuals, and not because I really think that the label could be legitimately denied to them any more than it can to me.

  • Eli Odell Jackson

    How ignorant.

    Is there no other christian to you than a backslidden political evangelical or a social gospel liberal?
    You file this under ‘fundamentalism’ and yet that defines none from my church, or any other examples I have, other than one feller I can think of who’s unsaved and only attends maybe 3 times a month.

    Is it self-sacrifice that you recognize God’s called you to preach His gospel?
    That you leave your job and your study in order to go through poverty at a bible college studying the word of God and discipline?
    That we go out daily seeking to win souls to Christ, to do good and comfort others (whether they be poor and beggars or not), to love one another seeking always to help, to stand firm on the convictions which we honestly believe our Lord and Savior taught, watching with prayer and much self-denial, fighting our flesh and our urges for compromise.
    If I am not wishy washy, or downright treasonous to Christ then according to some I am a foolish and evil-minded hypocrite, why is that so?

    I never seen a tear shed for a man’s soul by a liberal or a modernist.
    Never have I seen great sacrifice wrought by such – are we fundamentalists perfect? No sir, I am merely a vessel which the Lord has cleansed for His purpose, a sinner yet, and an unworthy servant, yet I am His and by the grace of God, He is mine, I will serve Him.
    I will not compromise, I will not meddle with the message He has entrusted to me, I will not, I will preach His word faithfully, and if the world rejects it then there’s nothing more I can do but to preach it diligently and show the likeness of Christ by own walk and my personal holiness, it being nothing but a reflection of the Master’s care.

    Doubt is the greatest sin, humility, which I believe liberals lack above all else will be the balm for the doubt which ails them, God is true, He knew what He was doing when He inspired the bible, Let God be true and every man a liar, In Him is my trust, not in my own righteousness, not in my mind and education, God forbid.
    Humility, liberals on this website, you are all wicked and rebellious sinners, as am I, does that wound your pride? It’s the truth, do you want your sins forgiven? No? Then they won’t be, yes? Christ is willing and able to cleanse you within and without today if you’ll but trust in Him.
    Set aside your doubts and prideful theories and trust in the Living God, He will set you free from the slavery which besets you.

    And never forget, the one sin which God cannot forgive is doubt, if you doubt in His power to save you cannot be saved, if you doubt in your need for forgiveness you’ll never be forgiven.

    Isaiah 55:6-7
    Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

    Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

    • Before preaching at liberal Christians, perhaps you’d like to become acquainted with some of us, since it is not at all fair to suggest that someone like Martin Luther King Jr. never shed a tear for another human being’s soul.