Sunday, April 16, 2006

Where Emergent Goes Bad (2) - What Defines a "Christian?"

Naming Christ Makes Someone a True Christian

A related fallacy to this is assuming any action or person that happens to mention “Jesus” is an example of true Christianity. McLaren’s slipshod treatment of the Spanish Roman Catholic explorer Pizarro is an easy example of this. Pizarro betrayed the Incan King and killed him and thousands of his men in the name of Christ.[1] McLaren goes to great pains to repent of this action and express regret for it... as a fellow Christian with Pizarro. Of course, he anticipates that some would distance themselves from Pizarro, but having already suggested that he himself is “catholic” he sees no issue in owning this sin – even going so far as to instruct the reader to put down the book and “breathe a prayer.”[2] But there is much that is questionable in this.

First off, was Pizarro a genuine believer? There is little evidence to suggest so. Just because someone claims to be doing something in Jesus’ name does not mean they really are, nor does it mean they really have a clue who He is! The man who spray paints ethnic slurs across a storefront because, “Jesus told him to do it” is not giving good evidence of having been born again. In events like this, we are to examine the words of a person against their actions. This is obvious, but McLaren lumps us all in with Pizarro without any historical evidence to suggest he was a true Christ-follower.

Secondly, what are we to do with all the atrocities of all the Christians over the ages? Are we to repent for Peter’s denials of Christ? Saul’s murderous threats against Christians? What purpose does this serve?

More to the point, however, notice how misleading this kind of talk can be. There is no question that there was much wrong in the Crusades, in the politicizing of Christianity that began under Constantine and even in the Reformation. Sins were committed; some of them grotesque. But to simply hold up these examples and suggest that they are representative of the true Christian faith over the centuries is preposterous. Each event must be examined in its own light, with careful study into the culture and ethos of the day. Not only that, one must remember that much accomplished “in the name of Christ” had nothing to do with true Christians and the true Jesus. Just accepting all these things and repenting of them is overly simplistic and I propose accomplishes no actual good. Holding them up as proof that we Christians continually get things wrong and need to be always re-inventing, or emerging is plainly misleading.

[1] Orthodoxy, 271f.

[2] Orthodoxy, 273.