Being a Christian¶
Being a Christian means to me that I chose the Bible as a tool for cultivating my faith, for working on it. I want to learn from the experiences of many generations of humans that are stored in the Bible because I trust that they are helpful also today for finding my way.
Being a Christian means to me that I invest some of my time into activities like praying and reading the Bible. I love to meet with other people who share that faith and practice these activities. I consider these activities as “faith training”. Being a Christian is my favourite sport.
Being a Christian means to me that I imagine God a bit more precisely than e.g. an atheist or a follower of any religion. I imagine God as a “father” who created everything and loves his creation, especially us humans; as a “son” who lived as a real human and became a divine friend of every human, especially the poor; as a “holy spirit” who lives in our hearts and speaks to us through our emotions. Christianity gives -theoretically- an answer to a big challenge of every religion, which I call the “temptation of the Pharisee”.
Being a Christian means to me that I do my duty to God as a scout.
Of course Christianity is just one model of reality. Christian teachings are a collection of vocabulary and definitions. We use them because they help us to cultivate a model of the world (world view), and I perceive that model as realistic. Yes, there are oddities in our vocabulary. Every language has its oddities. See also About names and languages. There are other models that use different vocabulary and definitions. But life is too short to learn them all. Christian faith is a great model, a great game. Feel free to stay out of our game, but I love it and it helps me, and I won’t get tired inviting others to join us.
My summary of Christianity¶
Here is how I summarize the Christian religion.
Let us imagine God as a father in heaven who loves all humans. Every single human can pray to God like a child.
Let us imagine that every human has a “soul”, something eternal, something that will get born into a new world when we die. Our life in the visible world is a preparation for our life in that eternal world.
God wants the whole visible world to exist and to lead it to a good end. He has a plan with this world. History is not chaotic.
God wants humanity to act as the manager of planet Earth. Each of us has their particular individual role in God’s plan. My life is not meaningless, even when I fail to see or understand its meaning.
We don’t always act in harmony with God’s plan. We don’t do our job very well all the time. We experience mistakes, weaknesses, errors and failures. We experience them in ourselves and in others, at individual, local and global level. We are not perfect.
Now here is the good news: God does not “make you pay your debts”, he does not “punish your sins”. He forgives your mistakes, weaknesses, errors and failures. He loves you unconditionally and will never let you down. See What’s so good about the Good News?.
This Good News calls me to “love God, and to love my neighbour as myself” (Mt 22:37-39). See About love.
This Good News influences our values, priorities and choices. See About Christian values.
Me and other Christians¶
Not everybody who calls themselves a Christian agrees with My summary of Christianity. Here are some critical questions asked by (mostly biblicist) friends about my summary:
You don’t explain why Jesus had to die on the cross. See About the cross.
Is Jesus the only Saviour? What about Buddha, Mohammed and Baha’ullah? (“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7)
Short answer: Note that Jesus says “I am the way…” and not “the Scripture is the way…”. The Good News is far more complex than what a document in human language can formulate (See Word of God). At another occasion Jesus says about another religious leader who doesn’t join his disciples that “the one who is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:49-50).
If God wants this world to end well, it is going to end well anyway, so why should we care? (2 Peter 3:10-13)
Short answer: If we don’t care for every part of the visible world, we are at risk of excluding ourselves from the Kingdom of God and not becoming a part of it.
If God forgives our sins anyway, why should we bother to live in abstinence? (“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:11-13)
Short answer: God’s unconditional forgiveness does not mean that we may live in sin (i.e. do nasty things to ourselves or to other humans). When you live in sin, it decreases your quality of life and/or that of other humans. The Gospel makes clear that this (and not a need to fear God’s revenge) is the reason to avoid sins.
But even those controversial discussions are normal. No human can fully understand God or give a perfect summary of the Good News. On the other hand, every human is called to find and realize the part of it that applies to them. More about this in A beginner’s guide to Christianity.
Me and other faith cultures¶
As a Christian I see no problem when somebody uses other names than Father, Son and Holy Spirit when they pray. To hallow God’s name, in such a situations, means to resist our temptation of believing that we know God’s name better than them.
I have more problems when somebody ignores why faith culture is important. Then I feel a “missionary” desire of explaining them What’s so good about the Good News?.
I can get sad, angry or frustrated when I see somebody who has a hateful image of us and seems to misunderstand Christianity. But in most of these cases I blame ourselves, because, it is our job to explain the Gospel. If somebody misunderstands it, then we are to blame, not they. I believe that Bible idolatry and Church idolatry are the main reasons why some people have a hateful image of the Church and her work.