Am I an “Authentic Christian?” (I Doubt It)
Some people get very upset when I question the authenticity of their “Christianity.” I understand that, but I also don’t. It confuses me because I am not sure that I am authentically Christian. Let me explain.
I’ll begin by referring to two very old Christian (church) songs from my childhood. One was “I’m Saved (and I Know that I Am)” and the other was “Lord I Want to Be a Christian in My Heart.” The first one well expressed my confidence that I am saved. I don’t worry about that and I strictly avoid questioning others’ salvation. My salvation is secure in God’s hands; I am in the grip of his grace. The authenticity of my Christianity, on the other hand, is partly up to me. And because I question, wrestle with, the authenticity of my Christianity (which means “Christ follower”) I also sometimes question the authenticity of others’ Christianity. We should all be questioning the authenticity of our own Christianity and sometimes the authenticity of others’.
So there you have it. I know that’s not how most American evangelical and Baptist Christians think about these words. They think “If I’m saved, I am already a fulfilled, authentic Christian.” I don’t look at or use these words that way.
Why am I confident of my salvation? Because I know that I have repented of my sinfulness and thrown myself with faith upon the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ, trusting only in him and his atoning death and saving resurrection for my reconciliation with him. I renew that relationship daily through repentance and faith and trust continually in God’s promise of salvation for those, including me, who trust in him alone and not in themselves.Why do I struggle with the authenticity of my Christianity? Because “Christianity” means “faithful Christ follower”—a lifestyle and pattern of being like Christ in every thought, word and deed by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. It also means being conformed to the “mind of Christ.” So, for me, being authentically Christian is an aspiration, a hope, a task based on a gift. It is both gift and task. I am never certain that I have achieved it fully or authentically. I see other people who I’m not sure have achieved it fully or authentically either but are far ahead of me in conforming themselves to the (possibly) impossible ideal of following Christ in every thought, word and deed.
My prayer daily is expressed in another song: “May the mind of Christ my Savior dwell in me from day to day….” I never think I have fully arrived at that place where Christ my Savior already dwells in me completely or perfectly. It is always a hope and aspiration. And if someone says to me “I am already an authentic Christian” I inwardly doubt it. I think it is always a hope and aspiration and not something anyone can already boast of.
Even the Apostle Paul did not claim to have “already arrived.” For him, as for me—and I suspect all of God’s people—being fully, authentically Christian is always at best a “becoming.” “Lord I Want to Be a Christian in My Heart.”