Again the Distinction between “Christian” and “Saved”
Please let me remind you again that this blog is FOR evangelical Christians—broadly defined. Others are welcome to ask questions and listen in, but know that this blog is FOR evangelical Christians. It is a safe place for us to discuss theological issues.
When I say here or anywhere that someone is “not a Christian” I am NOT judging him or her as “unsaved.” Whether a person is “saved” in the sense of standing in a right relationship with God is not my business to judge. Only God really knows and he alone has the right to decide that. I may have a “sneaking suspicion” that a professed Christian is not saved, but I am not going to say that or even judge that person as to his or her eternal destiny. This is what I believe Jesus meant by “judge not.”
However, sometimes I am asked or otherwise have to decide whether I think a person’s or group’s “Christianity” is authentic. I try to be irenic about that, but sometimes I have to say it is not. I am NOT judging his or her or their salvation. I am judging the authenticity of his or her or their status as Christian.
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
For example (and here I know I tread on thin ice!), I think I know Mormons, Latter Day Saints, who are not Christians because of some of their radically heretical beliefs but who I suspect are probably saved. I hope they are. Their testimony of faith in Jesus Christ rings true, sounds and feels authentic. Still and nevertheless, I cannot consider them Christians insofar as they hold to the doctrines or common teachings of their church (and they do).
For example (treading on thinner ice), I think I know Christians who hold to all the right beliefs about God, Jesus Christ, salvation, etc., but whose faith is inauthentic. They are, then, professing Christians, nominal Christians, categorically Christians, but possibly not saved. Ultimately, of course, only God knows and only God decides.
Still, at least intellectually, theologically, a distinction must be made between “Christian” and “saved” IN SOME CASES. Ideally, the two categories would be identical—as to their members. However, that is not my experience.
Revealed here is that I am an essentialist with regard to at least some categories. Not an essentialist in a classical Platonic sense, but an essentialist with regard to history. If “Christian” is compatible with anything and everything, it is meaningless. If a real atheist can also be a true Christian, then “Christian” is meaningless. Or its meaning is thereby changed into something unrecognizable in terms of history. No true Christian is a true atheist and no true atheist is a true Christian. But might an atheist nevertheless be saved? I don’t know. That is up to God.
Think, of course, of C. S. Lewis’s story of Emeth and Tash in The Last Battle. This is how I am thinking about this. I do not pretend to know exactly HOW a non-Christian might be saved, but I do think it is possible. With God all things are possible.
*Note to commenters: This blog is not a discussion board; please respond with a question or comment only to me. If you do not share my evangelical Christian perspective (very broadly defined), feel free to ask a question for clarification, but know that this is not a space for debating incommensurate perspectives/worldviews. In any case, know that there is no guarantee that your question or comment will be posted by the moderator or answered by the writer. If you hope for your question or comment to appear here and be answered or responded to, make sure it is civil, respectful, and “on topic.” Do not comment if you have not read the entire post and do not misrepresent what it says. Keep any comment (including questions) to minimal length; do not post essays, sermons or testimonies here. Do not post links to internet sites here. This is a space for expressions of the blogger’s (or guest writers’) opinions and constructive dialogue among evangelical Christians (very broadly defined).