… conceived in contempt. Christian is what disbelievers called the followers of Christ—a distasteful name to believers who knew themselves as Jews, following the latest in the line of Jewish prophets. And yet, that very label is now worn with pride, despite the fact that, “It is not the usual designation of the NT, which more commonly uses such terms as brethren (Acts 1.16), believers (Acts 2.44), saints (Acts 9.32), and disciples (Acts 11.26).”
Furthermore, with regard to the term Christian, “It appears to have been more widely used by pagans, and according to Tacitus, it was in common use by the time of the Neronian persecution
In other words, the term Christian was a derogatory label imposed upon believers by their enemies. And yet, the term stuck and with typical Christian humility, was eventually accepted.
The second difficulty with the word Christian is that of definition. If we apply the term to those who affirm the prophethood of Jesus Christ, then Muslims demand inclusion, for the Islamic religion requires belief in Jesus Christ as an article of faith.
Granted, the Islamic understanding of Jesus differs from that of the Trinitarian majority of those who would identify themselves as Christian. However, many Islamic beliefs are remarkably consistent with those of classic Unitarian Christianity.
If we apply the label, “Christian” to those who follow the teachings of Jesus, we face a similar difficulty, for Muslims claim to follow the teachings of Jesus more faithfully than Christians. That claim hurls a hefty gauntlet in the face of Christianity, but is made with sincerity and commitment, and deserves examination.
Should we associate the label of Christianity with the doctrines of original sin, the Deity of Jesus, the Trinity, crucifixion, and atonement? Makes sense, but here’s the problem: Although these doctrines define creedal differences between Trinitarian
Christianity and Islam, they also define creedal differences between various sects of Christianity.
Not all Christians accept the Trinity, and many deny Jesus’ alleged divinity.
Not even the doctrines of original sin, the crucifixion, and atonement achieve universal acceptance within the fractured world of Christianity.
Subgroups of Christianity have
canonized widely variant creeds, but no single definition has ever gained unanimous acceptance.
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