Thursday, May 21, 2009

True Christians

True Christians. It's a phrase I'm sure you've all heard before. Do I even need to provide examples of how it is used?

"I agree, most people behave badly, but then, most of those people aren't true Christians."

"Hitler wasn't a true Christian (he was Catholic!)."

You get the idea.

This is a really silly piece of rhetoric to use on an atheist. What do I care which Christians are "true" and which are "fake"? I don't have any reason to think that "true Christians" are any better than just regular old Christians. Just because it has the word "true" in it doesn't really mean they are any more truthful. I could define the "perfect numbers" to be the set {6, 28, 496, ...}, but that doesn't actually mean that my life would be made more perfect if I worked six days a week instead of five.

Even if I do take the word "true" seriously, the phrase "true Christian" only seems to mean someone who is true to Christianity. I believe Christianity is a mistake, therefore, I believe true Christians are true to a mistake, more so than the fake Christians. Is this supposed to impress me?

And even if I did think Christianity were essentially good, this piece of rhetoric would still fail at its basic goal. The basic goal is to say, "I am different from those other people. I am on God's side." What is wrong with all those other people? They only claim to be Christian. They're not actually Christian, in essence.

But if you claim to be a "true Christian", you're still in the same boat as all those other people. You only claim to be Christian. How do I know that you are actually, truly Christian? You think I'll take your word for it? In fact, how do you know? How would you know you are truly Christian, if you think the vast majority of Christians do not know? In a misguided attempt at arrogance, you've ended up disparaging a group which, as far as anyone knows, includes yourself.

And if you define true Christians to be those Christians which do good works, then how do I know that the set of all true Christians has any relation to the set of people who claim to be true Christians? How do I know that it has any relation to any particular set of Christian doctrines? I rather doubt that it does, considering how many doctrines there are which have no relevance to anything outside of religion.

24 comments:

DeralterChemiker said...

I disagree with you strongly on this issue. "True Christians" try to adhere to the teachings of Christ as recorded in the New Testament portion of the Bible. People who claim to be Christians but who obviously do not follow the teachings of Christ are not true Christians. I will give you an example.

Matthew Chapter 5, verses 38-48,states the following (King James version): "38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

I don't claim to be a Christian. However, I can judge George W. Bush on the basis of the above teachings of Christ, since he has stated repeatedly how much he is a Christian. I know that he is not a true Christian, because he invaded Iraq without provocation under false pretenses. This was deliberate, with false reasons given as a justification. I feel that I have excellent reasons to believe that he is a hypocrite and not a "true Christian," based on how poorly he has followed the teachings of Christ that I quoted above.

The biblical passage quoted above is not a single, isolated passage. I feel I have every right to judge Bush on the basis of what he claims to believe. There are very few people who claim to be Christians---dare I say none?---who are true Christians and actually follow the demanding teachings of Christ. Most Christians claim the right to fight a just war. Personally, I can't find the biblical basis for making that claim. But at least there is no reason to fight a "preemptive war" under false pretenses. One person's "preemptive war" is another person's "aggression."

I find it disgusting to see in the newspapers how much the "religious right" forms the basis of the Republican Party and the people that George Bush represents. I feel that they are the "religious wrong" and that they can indeed be judged and condemned by the Christian standards that they claim to believe. It is especially maddening when the same people use other obscure 'beliefs' to try to deprive the rest of us of our rights.

Of course I have a right to judge whether so-called Christians are "true Christians" or not! They are the ones that are putting forth the standard by which Christians should be judged!

miller said...

Ah, but the Bible is more than just a few passages. There's too much in the Bible for everyone to extract a single unified message from it. Furthermore, Christianity is more than the Bible. There is a great deal of tradition involved, whether Christians would admit it or not. An absence of an explicit Biblical basis is a terrible argument, whether it is used secularly or religiously.

You said of George W. Bush:

"...he is a hypocrite and not a 'true Christian,'..."

If you desire a way to judge people (and this is a perfectly reasonable thing to desire), then I would suggest simply "hypocrite". Why add on "not a true Christian"? Do only non-Christians have hypocrisy? Can only hypocrites be non-Christians? I don't think you meant to imply either of these.

Another suggestion: "good Christians". When we talk about "true Christianity", the very title suggests that there is one and only one kind. However, if we instead said "good Christians", it becomes more clear that we are talking about a quality which can come in gradations, and which is defined differently by different people.

Anonymous said...

Are you a "true" skeptic? You're just nitpicking grammar/slang and using that with subverted logic as a weak construct to attack Christianity and laymen. Get bent! As you suggest, by "true", most people do mean a qualitative evaluation. "True" mostly meaning more likely to follow the Biblical doctrines than others. It's a rhetoric of "in name only".

You don't seem to understand the Bible or God very well. There are unified messages in the Bible. You and other people should just blame your own lack of intelligence for not knowing it. Some people use John 3:16. There is a passage in the bible that states the "greatest commandment" which is to love the Lord and the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.

People are fallible. Interpretations can be debated. But scripture's root text always remains constant.

What does this grammar Nazism have to do with puzzles or skepticism?

miller said...

Nope, I don't claim to be a "true" skeptic. I identify as a skeptic, and that's that. Any claims to be "true" are superfluous.

Who is attacking Christianity here? The "true Christian" rhetoric is primarily used as a tactic against other Christians. It is used by people who reject or deny the diversity of their own religion. I refuse to oversimplify so much.

As an ex-Catholic, I tend to put far less emphasis on the Bible. Does that mean I was never truly Christian? Well, I don't care either way anymore. And yet, it all seems so silly to me. The idea of the "true" Christian either presupposes that "true" is better, or it presupposes that we can know who is "true" and who is not.

Now, a step back. Yes, I am being pedantic. I exaggerate my disagreements to provoke more thought. You are, of course, free to use whatever words you like. You may even use them when commenting on my blog, and I am unlikely to complain!

"What does this grammar Nazism have to do with puzzles or skepticism?" This post is consistent with the set of topics I laid out for myself from the beginning. Whether it is consistent with the blog's title is besides the point, since I'm not going to change the title any time soon.

Anonymous said...

This just sounds like intellectual snobbery at it's worst. Evaluation of "truthfulness" may be used against other "Christians" and apparently a tactic you've considered too albeit very sloppily. Your original post is full of going along that notion, "even if" arguments and even states the desire to be impressed. How's that for arrogance.

I don't care if you're an ex-Catholic either. It doesn't matter. But at least get the beliefs straight. You must've been a very absent follower. If you're going to critically analyze something, know what you're analyzing before making such hateful conclusions. How can you question the accuracy of Christian beliefs and doctrines when you don't even know what they are? Do you even know what makes a Christian a Christian? It's not about doing good works.

Why do most skeptics have to resort to exaggerated sensationalist BS arguments in order to get attention? That's cheap! Nobody cares what you've posted years ago, I have a life you know. This grammatical peeve of yours just comes across as obsessive, weak, lazy, and sloppy skepticism. I can understand if your standards are low however.

miller said...

I am quite aware of the idea of faith vs good works. Broadly generalizing, most Christians agree that if you truly have faith, then you will also perform good works. By their fruits you shall know them. Thus, if you agreed with the above, "performing good works" is a reasonable measure of fidelity to Christianity.

If you think my tone is hateful, I'm afraid you've misread me. I can be critical of religion without hating it, just as I can be critical of the Republican party without hating them.

In this particular post, I am not so much critical of Christianity itself as I am critical of a particular argument which is frequently advanced by some Christians. I am critical of it because I think it is ineffective, particularly against someone who does not already agree with Christianity in the first place, someone like me. The ineffectiveness of a single argument does not invalidate Christianity.

If you would care to explicitly say why you think the "true Christian" argument is effective, go ahead. Or you could continue insulting me in lieu of argument. Or you could read no more and continue to enjoy your own life. Do whatever makes you happy.

Anonymous said...

I've barely even begun to be insulting. It's not like i've been patriotically saying stuff like FUCK YOU ASSHOLE!!!! (you did say I am free to use any words I wish, not that i'd directing that at you) That would be insulting. Everything I've stated has been mostly objective.

If you are aware of the connection between faith and good works, your broad generalization is sloppy. Good works can be accomplished without faith. In terms of good works vs faith, most Christians would appraise faith as more important. So you either lack that understanding or misjudged it or were sloppy.

Are you displeased with religion or are you accepting of it? Anybody critical enough about religion or the republican party in great obsession HAS to have some underlying motivation to see it fail. I'm not reading your tone, I'm reading your words. You're frustrated that a movement you do not agree with even exists. You've got some snobbish arrogance yourself otherwise you wouldn't state the desire to be impressed. Do you know what this is called? Intolerance. Bigotry. Who are you trying to fool?

Your beef with the "true" Christian argument starts as merely grammatical. It only fails in your interpretation because you get the wrong idea and overthink it.

You know the point of this is there are gradations of Christianity. In your original post you just keep denying that by saying all Christians are "in the same boat". That's like saying a sirloin steak is the same as a fillet Mignon. But you know some cuts taste better than others. That may be subjective but qualities such as fattiness may be measured. Now sometimes people may try to pass a tofu burger off as beef but it's not. That's a valid argument.

You also fail to take into account people are fallible and different. But the doctrines are constant. Different Christians follow different beliefs but they state that. That's why they're divided into different denominations. Every church should have a statement of beliefs. However among Christians there is a general consensus to what Christianity is. Learn what it is and ask if you're nitpicky. So the trouble isn't the argument, it's your misunderstanding of it.

miller said...

I am one of those creatures they call a "blogger". Obsession is simply part of the package. I fail to see the significance of this.

I also fail to see the significance of wanting to be impressed (which I never said, fwiw). I presume that you want your arguments to be impressive to me, no? Or would you rather that your arguments fail?

I apologize if I am sloppy about the precise amounts of emphasis which Christians place on different Christian values. The idea of defining "true Christianity" as being those who produce good fruits was suggested to me by an evangelical I met. You're not obliged to agree with it. I was just trying to head off possible replies.

"That's like saying a sirloin steak is the same as a fillet Mignon. But you know some cuts taste better than others. That may be subjective but qualities such as fattiness may be measured. Now sometimes people may try to pass a tofu burger off as beef but it's not. That's a valid argument."That's a very nice analogy. Thank you for thinking it up. Saying that you have the best-tasting cut is not necessarily wrong. But it is unpersuasive, since everyone thinks their own cut tastes best. If they didn't think it tasted best, they would get a different kind of cut. And yes, there are some objective qualities like fattiness, and you can justifiably claim that your cut is the fattest. But this is not persuasive to someone who thinks it tastes best when there is slightly less fat.

Anonymous said...

So you're basically saying your taste is inhibiting you from recognizing different cuts of beef. And blinding you from the consensus that fattier cuts are more valued and tastier than others.

Your bias is preventing you from accepting that there are gradations in Christianity. And ignoring that certain qualities of Christianity are more valued and adopted than others.

Taste and interpretation can be subjective, but the analogy for the person who likes less fat is a person who likes to misinterpret things. Text and beliefs are interpretive but there is such a thing as a wrong interpretation. Even taste can be scientific if you dig deep enough.

Of course you're not feeling persuaded, you're already close minded.

The greater lesson of this argument which seems to be going over your head is people are fallible. Don't fault doctrine for the people of lesser integrity. A poor writer does not make all of literature bad. Once you get into the argument of what makes good or bad literature, you're already missing the point.

miller said...

Well, the consensus is not always the best way to make decisions, is it? In any case, the last time I heard the "true Christians" argument, it was said that true Christians are a tiny minority, while the Christians in name only constitute the vast majority. Clearly, this idea is not based on consensus (though perhaps you are using it differently).

Yes, I agree that people are fallible. The thing is, talking about other people's fallibility does not exempt oneself from one's own fallibility. Saying that everyone else is Christian in name only does not automatically convince everyone that you are a true Christian, nor does it automatically convince everyone that true Christianity is a desirable thing. You should not expect it to.

In fact, I think you should be happy about this. I don't presume to know your denomination, if any, but chances are that I've met Christians who think you are one of those Christians in name only. I am not persuaded by those people.

Anonymous said...

My point on the obsession bit is GET A LIFE! You're obsessing over criticizing a sensitive topic in a biased and insensitive way. It's like you're asking for trouble.

You're nitpicking on the consensus idea. My original intent is to remark that there is a consensus to a unified message from the Bible. That's because these messages actually lend itself to objectivity. Some passages in the Bible are interpretive but not all. The unified messages I referred to are quite clear.

People aren't exempt from their own mistakes, but a person's own inner fallibility is irrelevant to acknowledging man's general fallibility. You agree men are fallible, since you're saying that, does that mean you also believe you are perfect? I don't think anyone who acknowledges people's fallibility believes they are perfect either.

I don't know why you still refuse to see gradations. There are people of higher integrity and lesser integrity. People who follow the words of God and people who do not. You can't convince yourself to place value in either one because you're biased and stuck up on thinking like a computer. Regular people place value in higher integrity.

It's like you're the type of person who, after eating at fuckin' taco bell and a real Mexican restaurant, refuses to say which is more authentic even though more Mexicans say the Mexican restaurant is more true to Mexico. An then you would call into question whether or not these Mexicans are really Mexican. And why should you desire true Mexican food or good cooks over bad cooks at all. Is that how you feel food too? This is arrogant and rather mindless.

Me? I'm not a Christian. I"m an agnostic free masonist. So I'm kind of secretive about my "true" beliefs and even if I weren't, I couldn't really commit to telling you either way.

miller said...

I don't think either of us is denying the existence of gradations. However, the only kind of gradations you seem to accept is people being more or less true to Christianity. I think there are also gradations in what people consider to be true Christianity in the first place.

I do not feel it is any of my business as an outsider to judge the fine details of what is and isn't authentic. I can certainly judge who is more or less moral. I can judge who has greater and lesser integrity. I can judge who is truer to some particular message in the Bible. But I do not decide what should be called "authentically Christian", because that is something which is decided collectively by the Christians themselves (and not just by some small fringe group of Christians who claim to be the true ones). And personally, it does not matter to me who is more authentic anyways.

It's been nice speaking with you. However, I make a point not to participate in overly extended discussions online, on account of I have work to do. You may have the last word, if you wish.

Joe Creason said...

Agnostic free mason guy,

Lets talk about the original post, all these food analogies are making me hungry and rest of your gripes seem irrelevant.

Your definition of a true Christian is what?

Luckily I barely write in my blog so you can't ignore the question and just label me as close minded or arrogant. Please try to stay on topic.

I look forward to your definition of a true Christian.

Anonymous said...

I focus on pointing out more or less gradations because that's what's important to this discussion. You're bent out on defining "true" Christianity stating neither extreme has much difference.

You do not feel it is your business to judge as an outsider and yet you feel comfortable judging in areas outside your knowledge. You had problems accepting the general consensus' decisions yet you'd rather accept that definition of authenticity. What kind of double talk is this?

Don't you thing measures of morality, integrity, truthfulness have anything to do with "authenticity" in a Christian? I'd say a little but I suppose it would come down to faith, which is indicative yet unmeasurable.

If it doesn't matter, why did you rant and complain about it? Your argument of ineffective persuasiveness is also very subjective. Are all skeptics so subjective and unreceptive? A true skeptic should say "I am skeptical but open to possibilities".

By continuing to focus on the terminology, details, and definitions, you still miss the point of this entire argument. I just think you're being unnecessarily nitpicky, biased. You're unwilling to accept, research, or understand the other side when your own personal knowledge of them fails you.

I apologize that you thought it was nice talking to me. Perhaps, in the future, I will try to make it more uncomfortable next time.

Anonymous said...

To Joe Creaton: please read my first post.

Joe Creason said...

Agnostic free mason guy,

So there are gradations to being a true Christian? Is that correct?

Why did you waste your time talking about stuff that has nothing to do with this topic?

Where in his post did he right something incorrect about Christianity? Or incorrect with respect the biblical literature?

Stop being a douche too, sweet Jesus what is wrong with you? I mean you come in pissing and moaning about stuff that has nothing to do with this post and then start insulting the guy.

Is this how a true agnostic free mason acts when he reads something half-assed?

A challenge, answer my questions in such a way that you work in another Blue Bubblesfood analogy, it would be the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae.

I look forward to your response.

Anonymous said...

So you didn't read my first post?
Joe, YOU'RE SUCH A FUCKIN' RETARD!!!

I would say there is a definite definition on how one becomes a Christian. There are definite definitions on how a Christian should live their life. However, there are gradations on how one follows up on their beliefs.

Do you have a point to make or are you just going to whine more?

Reading seems to be difficult for you, but if you bothered to read this discussion, you would at least read that miller admitted to being sloppy "on the precise amounts of emphasis which Christians place on different Christian values." as well as someone who "exaggerate(s) [his] disagreements to provoke more thought" to conveniently explain his poorly thought out original post. Sloppy and exaggerated arguments may be the acceptable norm for miller and fuckards like yourself, but not for me.

Damn right us agnostic free masons act this way when we read your half assed shit. Though afterward however, I would get you to suck my dick!.

Joe Creason said...

Agnostic free mason guy,


you didn't make a food analogy.

I'm disappointed. I mean, imagine going to Chili's and asking for baby back ribs because you love that commercial they used to have and they tell you that they ran out of ribs.

I'll give you another chance. I like forward to your food analogy.

Anonymous said...

Since you're hungry, I'd force you to suck my DICK, but your throat ain't deep enough for my meat! My dong is so strong it would annihilate King Kong!

You can't touch us masons foo, we got connections at UCLA too.
You don't want to mess with us, ya nerdy wuss. Who's got your back and your little puss?

I didn't make the analogy because you don't deserve it, boy. I could care less in trying to please a motherfucker like yourself. I'm not here to play games, BITCH! You're obviously someone who doesn't know how to read and I'm not going to stick around and talk about shit that has nothing to do with the topic. Later.

Joe Creason said...

Free mason guy,

So many things translate poorly over the internet. My ridiculing you for using the dumbest food analogies seemed to have flown over your head. I'll make it clear, you shouldn't use analogies anymore. You suck at them. Stop.

Another thing that doesn't translate well over the internet is intimidation. You need to stop being an internet tough guy. Honestly it just makes you look pathetic.

If only I could be a fly on the wall in your conversation with your free mason buddies.
"yo UCLA free masons, I want yous guys to beat up this awesome guy from the internets that made fun of my analogies and is gay."
"Why don't you go and beat him up yourself?"
"because I can only act tough on the internet. Also, I told him to suck my dong, cause it was long, and went all the way to Hong Gong where the Chinese villagers pay tribute to it by singing a song and not singing it wrong."
"you mean he didn't kill himself after reading that? He's DEAD!"

If you got a problem with me, you come yourself. And seriously, who threatens a guy over the internet and calls them a wuss all while saying that he would get his _friends_ to come and beat me up? What is wrong with you?

I'll give you one last chance to look like less of a douche. Just answer this question: I was under the impression that you must believe in some sort of higher power to be a free mason. Do they now let agnostics in? Just wondering.

Ok I'm definitely making this way too long but I just have to add this clip. Your rhyming insult penis piece reminded me of this scene:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sojhjp5y8ZM

I look forward to your response.

Hiram said...

To answer Joe's question to the anonymous moron, since I am a Freemason...no, no agnostic can be a Freemason and his first post should make it obvious that he is definitely not a Freemason considering the greatest minds in history, those of the Royal Society that included the most renowned scientists, were all Freemasons. The next clue is that there is no space between "Free" and "Mason"... The organization consists of those who think for themselves and requires a brain. Also, the food analogies should be the next clue and finally the stupid insults...
http://www.masonicinfo.com

Joe Creason said...

To Hiram.

I swear to god that that is the best answer I have ever received in the history of all time. Thanks for the info!

Also, Miller and I always wonder how people come across his blog. Do you mind telling us how you stumbled across this post?

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you as well. True Christians don't watch Saturday night's football tournament or go to a bar to gorge down beer or attend parties "just for fun." Many people say they are Christians, but they are the same as someone saying they are intelligent, gifted, or an Olympic athlete. Anyone can SAY something, but it does not make it true. So, you are right, in a way. There is no such thing as a "true" Christian. But, there is such a thing as a Christian and only two percent of the world's population would be classified as such.

When I walk around seeing young people wearing short shorts and tank tops and walking like a group of Greek gods andgoddesses, I think, what have they been taught? Why do they even go to Church? They are fake.

miller said...

Please refer to a more recent post.