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A Christian (pronounced /ˈkrɪs.tʃən/ ( listen), /ˈkrɪs.ti.ən/) is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who Christians believe is the Messiah (the Christ in Greek-derived terminology) prophesied in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, and the Son of God.
The term "Christian" is also used adjectivally to describe anything associated with Christianity, or in a proverbial sense "all that is noble, and good, and Christ-like," as in the Christian thing to do.
The word comes from Greek Χριστιανός (christianos) which being translated means "follower of Christ." It comes from Χριστός (christos) meaning "the anointed one", with an adjectival ending borrowed from Latin to denote adhering to, or even belonging to, as in slave ownership. In the (Greek) Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible, christos was used to translate the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Mašíaḥ, messiah), meaning "[one who is] anointed."
As the identification of the Messiah with Jesus is not accepted within Judaism, the Talmudic term for Christians in Hebrew is Notzrim ("Nazarenes"), originally derived from the fact that Jesus came from the city of Nazareth in Israel. However, Messianic Jews are referred to in modern Hebrew as יהודים משיחיים (Yehudim Meshihi'im).
In Arabic-speaking cultures, two words are commonly used for Christians: Nasrani (نصراني) is generally understood to be derived from Nazareth through the Syriac (Aramaic); Masihi (مسيحي) means followers of the Messiah.
Where there is a distinction, Nasrani refers to people from a Christian culture and Masihi means those with a religious faith in Jesus. In some countries Nasrani tends to be used generically for non-Muslim white people. Another Arabic word sometimes used for Christians, particularly in a political context, is Salibi; this refers to Crusaders and has negative connotations.
In other European languages the words for Christian are likewise derived from Greek, such as ‘’Chrétien’’ in French and ‘’Cristiano’’ in Spanish. The Chinese word is 基督徒 (pinyin: jīdū tú), literally "Christ follower."
The first recorded use of the term "Christian" is found in the New Testament, in , which states "...in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians." The second mention of the term follows in , where Herod Agrippa II replies to Paul the Apostle, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?" The third and final New Testament reference to the term is in , which exhorts believers, "...if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name". Mattison suggests that "[t]he New Testament's use of this term indicates that it was a term of derision, a term placed upon Christ's followers by their critics."
The earliest occurrences of the term in non-Christian literature include Josephus, referring to "the tribe of Christians, so named from him;" Pliny the Younger in correspondence with Trajan; and Tacitus in the Annals, which identifies Christians as Nero's scapegoats for the Great Fire of Rome.
A wide range of beliefs and practices is found across the world among those who call themselves Christian. Philosopher Michael Martin, in his book The Case Against Christianity, evaluated three historical Christian creeds to establish a set of basic assumptions which include belief in theism, the historicity of Jesus, the Incarnation, salvation through faith in Jesus, and Jesus as an ethical role model. Included in his analysis were the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.
In the United States and Canada
The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance say that “Who is a Christian?” is “a simple question with many answers and no consensus." They found a near consensus within individual faith groups.
Religious Tolerance claims that:
- Most liberal Christian denominations, secularists, and public opinion pollsters define "Christian" very broadly as any person or group who sincerely believes themselves to be Christian. Using this definition, Christians total about 75% of the North American adult population.
- Many Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Protestants define "Christian" more narrowly to include only those persons who have been "born again" or have made a personal commitment to follow Jesus irrespective of their denomination. About 35% of the North American adult population identify themselves in this way.
- Some Protestant Christian denominations, para-church groups, and individuals have assembled their own lists of cardinal Christian doctrines. Many would regard anyone who denies even one of their cardinal doctrines to be a non-Christian. Unfortunately, there is a wide diversity of opinion as to which historical Christian beliefs are cardinal doctrines.
- Other denominations and sects regard their own members to be the only true Christians in the world. Some are quite small, numbering only a few thousand followers.
In North America there are over a thousand faith groups including the Roman Catholic church; the Eastern Orthodox churches, other conservative, mainline, liberal and progressive Christian faith groups; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons); Jehovah's Witnesses, the Unification Church, Christian Science, progressive Christians, and other religious organizations. They all identify themselves as Christian. In fact, many regard their group as the only "true" Christian church. Yet they, and their followers, have very different beliefs about the life, events, teachings, actions, sinlessness and expectations of Yeshua.Also included as Christians are those who regard themselves as being followers of Jesus even though they do not affiliate themselves with any particular religious group. They appear to be growing in numbers.
Anderson Cooper has reported that in the United States, "more than 85 percent is Christian and two-thirds of [Americans], a number that's climbing, consider America a Christian nation. But from there, the lines start to blur."
Two recent empirical studies reveal differences in beliefs and religious practices among Christians in the U.S.:
Baylor University study
The Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion conducted a survey covering various aspects of American religious life. Analysis of the data is ongoing, but some preliminary results show that Americans may be expressing their faith somewhat differently according to their particular beliefs.
- A third of Americans (33.6 percent), roughly 100 million people, are Evangelical Protestants by affiliation.
- The majority (62.9 percent) of Americans not affiliated with a religious tradition believe in God or some higher power.
Baylor researchers found that the type of god people believe in can predict their political and moral attitudes more so than just looking at their religious tradition. They identified four major concepts of God among Christians, though none of the four dominated belief:
- 31 Percent believe in an Authoritarian God who is very judgmental and engaged.
- 25 Percent believe in a Benevolent God who is not judgmental but is engaged.
- 23 Percent believe in a Distant God who is completely removed.
- 16 Percent believe in a Critical God who is judgmental but not engaged.
Christianity Today study
Another study, conducted by Christianity Today with Leadership magazine, attempted to understand the range and differences among American Christians. A national attitudinal and behavioral survey found that their beliefs and practices clustered into five distinct segments. Spiritual growth for two large segments of Christians may be occurring in non-traditional ways. Instead of attending church on Sunday mornings, many opt for personal, individual ways to stretch themselves spiritual.
- 19 Percent of American Christians are described by the researchers as Active Christians. They believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ, attend church regularly, are Bible readers, invest in personal faith development through their church, believe they are obligated to share their faith with others, and accept leadership positions in their church.
- 20 Percent are referred to as Professing Christians. They also are committed to "accepting Christ as Savior and Lord" as the key to being a Christian, but focus more on personal relationships with God and Jesus than on church, Bible reading or evangelizing.
- 16 Percent fall into a category named Liturgical Christians. They are predominantly Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, or Orthodox. They are regular church goers, have a high level of spiritual activity and recognize the authority of the church.
- 24 Percent are considered Private Christians. They own a Bible but don't tend to read it. Only about one-third attend church at all. They believe in God and in doing good things, but not necessarily within a church context. This was the largest and youngest segment. Almost none are church leaders.
- 21 Percent in the research are called Cultural Christians. These do not view Jesus as essential to salvation. They exhibit little outward religious behavior or attitudes. They favor a universality theology that sees many ways to God. Yet, they clearly consider themselves to be Christians.
In other countries
Christians in other countries may not show the same variety, particularly where there is active persecution of Christians.
Although the term "Christian" has been defined as "all that is noble, and good, and Christ-like," there is not general agreement as to what constitutes Christian behavior. What is Christian behavior and what is "un-Christian"?
In 1848, the Supreme Court of South Carolina optimistically articulated what they saw as the standard that characterized America for its first 185 years:
What constitutes the standard of good morals? Is it not Christianity? There certainly is none other. Say that cannot be appealed to and...what would be good morals? The day of moral virtue in which we live would, in an instant, if that standard were abolished, lapse into the dark and murky night of pagan immorality.
– City Council of Charleston v. Benjamin (1848), 2 Strob. L. 508 (S. C. 1848).emp. added).
Illustrative of the considerable contemporary variance in what constitutes Christian behavior is a recent controversy over an NBC television program that featured a virtual litany of issues about which there is sensitivity and debate among Christians. Opposition of the program was characterized by the show's creator, Jack Kenny, as “censorship, pure and simple—and that is both un-Christian and un-American.” "The Book of Daniel," written by a homosexual, was promoted (by the network) as the only show on television in which Jesus appeared as a recurring character and the only network prime-time drama series with a regular male "gay" character, a 23-year-old Republican son. The main character, Daniel Webster, has been described as "a troubled, pill-popping Episcopal priest." Further issues were brought up by other program characters: the priest's wife relied on midday martinis, their 16-year-old daughter was a drug dealer, their 16-year-old adopted son was sexually active with the bishop’s daughter, and the priest’s lesbian secretary was sleeping with his sister-in-law. NBC canceled the show after the fourth episode.
- ^ "Definition of Christian". Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Cambridge University Press. http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?key=13408&dict=CALD&topic=followers-of-religious-groups. Retrieved 2010-18-01.
- ^ "BBC — Religion & Ethics — Christianity at a glance", BBC
- ^ a b Schaff, Philip. "V. St. Paul and the Conversion of the Gentiles (Note 496)". History of the Christian Church. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc1.txt.
- ^ Christ at Etymology Online
- ^ Bickerman, Elias J. (April, 1949). "The Name of Christians". The Harvard Theological Review 42 (2): 109-124. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1507955. "Generally, the formations derive from a proper name or title and denote the followers, supporters, adherents, or partisans of a person, as in Brutianus, Augustianus, Caesarianus, and so on.".
- ^ Messiah at Etymology Online
- ^ Nazarene at Etymology Online
- ^ a b Khaled Ahmed, Pakistan Daily Times.
- ^ a b Society for Internet Research, The Hamas Charter, note 62 (erroneously, "salidi").
- ^ a b Jeffrey Tayler, Trekking through the Moroccan Sahara.
- ^ Akbar S. Ahmed, Islam, Globalization, and Postmodernity, p 110.
- ^ Mattison, Mark M. "What is a Christian?". True Grace Ministries. http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/openhse/christian.html.
- ^ Josephus. "Antiquities of the Jews - XVIII, 3:3". http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/ant-18.htm.
- ^ Bruce, Frederick Fyvie (1988). The Book of the Acts. Eerdmans. p. 228. ISBN 0802825052.
- ^ Martin, Michael (1993). The Case Against Christianity. Temple University Press. p. 12. ISBN 1566390818.
- ^ a b c "Who is a Christian? A simple question with many answers and no consensus." Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Oct. 9, 2009
- ^ Cooper, Anderson (December 14, 2006). "What is a Christian?; New Moral Values; Evangelicals and Israel; End of Days; Capitalist Christian; The Seekers". Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees. CNN.com. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0612/14/acd.02.html.
- ^ "Losing My Religion? No, Says Baylor Religion Survey". Baylor University. September 11, 2006. http://www.baylor.edu/pr/news.php?action=story&story=41678.
- ^ "5 Kinds of Christians — Understanding the disparity of those who call themselves Christian in America. Leadership Journal, Fall 2007.
- ^ a b Brown, Jody and Fred Jackson (2006), “NBC Closes the Book on Daniel,” AgapePress, 24 Jan 2006. Web: 9 Jan 2010 
- ^ “NBC Pulls the Plug on ‘Book of Daniel’”, World Net Daily, 23 January 2006. Web: