I sometimes write posts about atheists and say that they will have difficulty grounding the minimal requirements of morality if the universe is an accident and they are just lumps of matter. To show how this works out, I like to cite famous atheists who also managed to get political power, and then point out how they treated other people. I then say that doing bad things is not really wrong on atheism, since morality is really based on doing whatever you feel like that makes you feel good and that your peers will approve of. And if you want to do something they won’t approve of, you can still do it, as long as no one ever finds out.
Atheist readers sometimes object that Christians can behave just as badly as atheists.
But consider this post from Retha’s English-language blog. (She’s from South Africa)
However you choose to define Christian, the definition most certainly is not “anyone who calls himself a Christian, is a Christian.” We don’t use that definition for anything else. We don’t believe that everyone who calls themselves “honest” are. We don’t believe that everyone who calls themselves “not overweight” are not. You cannot be a king, or a genius, or a dog, or a tall person, by calling yourself that. (If it worked that way, it would have been a very strong temptation to call myself drop-dead gorgeous.)
Simple word etymology is more useful: Christian has the root word Christ and the suffix –ian. A Christian is a Christ-following/ Christ-imitating person. Who is meant when we speak of Christ? He is the Jesus described in the New Testament, as described there.To be a Christ-ian, you need to follow/ imitate Jesus as he is painted in the Bible. That is where He is painted as the Christ.
There’s a lot of wisdom in those two paragraphs.
I think it’s possible for someone to call himself a Christian and yet to do bad things. Christians aren’t perfect. Even when they know what they ought to do, they struggle to do it. The dividing line here is that a real Christian is never going to call sin anything other than sin. They aren’t going to try to defend it. (Although I always try to explain what leads me to sin if anyone asks – which is not the same as rationalizing, it’s just explaining). Someone who claims to be a Christian and yet does things that Bible forbids without any shame or regret is not a Christian. If that person responds to being judged by denying that what they are doing is wrong, or by attacking the Bible’s authority on moral issues, then that person is not a Christian.
If the person is saying “don’t judge me”, or “the Bible doesn’t say that”, or “the Bible was written by men“, or “the Bible was written a long time ago”, or “I believe in a God of love”, or “you’re intolerant”, or “I was born as a pickpocket”, or “I have the bank-robbing gene”, or “that’s your truth”, or “that’s just your interpretation”, or “if God loved me, he would give me a Mercedez Benz”, then you are probably not dealing with a Christian, whatever they claim to be. Lots of people claim to be Christians but don’t follow Christ. An we shouldn’t believe that someone who tries to argue that abortion is consistent with the Bible is an authentic Christian, for example. The Bible forbids pre-marital sex and murder.
I sometimes struggle with going to church, because I can’t stand being around happy, singing people (unless they know apologetics, in which case I can). But you would never hear me say that going to church was wrong, or that I was morally justified in avoiding church. Instead, I would say I was wrong not to go to church regularly, but that I hadn’t found a church that made me feel comfortable yet.