Yesterday crossed this article which has a strong stand against something called "nominal Christianity".

From reading the article, I couldn't understand some points I'd like clarification in

  • what "nominal Christianity" really is

  • the problems with it

  • which terminology a Christian ought to use/follow instead

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    Many people self identify as being Christians in name only, for example they may refer to themselves as 'lapsed' indicating only a loyalty of upbringing (from which they have departed) and thus identify only a denomination with which they would unite with, if ever they felt like being united.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 16, 2021 at 14:25
  • Thank you brother @NigelJ. Right, how many "Christians" living an apparently respectable facade... «Circumcise yourselves to the Lord And remove the foreskins of your hearts, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Or else My wrath will spread like fire And burn with no one to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds.”», Jeremiah 4:4 (NASB) Jan 16, 2021 at 15:41
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    Try British Prime Minister Clement Attlee as an example. Wikipedia says Although one of his brothers became a clergyman and one of his sisters a missionary, Attlee himself is usually regarded as an agnostic. In an interview he described himself as "incapable of religious feeling", saying that he believed in "the ethics of Christianity" but not "the mumbo-jumbo". When asked whether he was an agnostic, Attlee replied "I don't know".
    – Henry
    Jan 16, 2021 at 18:09

3 Answers 3


"Nominal Christian" means being a Christian in name only. It's not really in dispute that there are nominal Christians. There are many people around the world who would mark "Christian" (or Catholic, Anglican, etc) on the census who never attend any church event, participate in any other Christian ministry, or really think about God at all. Many Western countries are now largely post-Christian; they've inherited a Christian background to their culture and morals, etc., but God and the Christian religion play a small part in most people's lives.

There's a spectrum of spirituality: people who attend Christmas and Easter services but nothing else; people who attend more regularly because they're expected to, but who ignore all the Christian content; people who participate broadly but whose personal and private spiritual lives is empty; people who pray publicly in church because they've learnt what to say, but never privately and never with any actual meaning or true intention. The term "nominal" might be applied to any of these groups at times, and it would arguably be fair to do so.

But saying that a specific individual is a nominal Christian is pretty judgemental. Yes we're to judge people by their spiritual fruits, but we can never truly know anyone else's heart. Saying it directly to someone is also not likely to provoke them to pursue a deeper faith. Instead we'd want to evangelise them like we would someone who makes no claim to be a Christian, by communicating properly with them, asking them about their lives, and explaining and witnessing to how Jesus can reconcile them to God, filling the spiritual void in their lives carved out by their sin.

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    +1 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 Jan 16, 2021 at 13:57
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    You may have omitted those in the UK (and probably other countries) who interact with the church as a kind of divine insurance policy for christenings, weddings, and funerals (a.k.a "hatch, match, and despatch"), but have no other involvement with it.
    – alephzero
    Jan 16, 2021 at 23:21
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    There's also people who are Christian in the sense that they have been baptized (typically as a small child) but do not even identify themselves as such.
    – Aetol
    Jan 17, 2021 at 21:49
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    @Aetol Indeed, many people probably mark their religion/denomination on the census based on their childhood baptism even if they have nothing to do with the church at present.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 17, 2021 at 23:17

"What "nominal Christianity" really is?

What are the problems with it?

Often we understand things or have even witnessed them firsthand, but may not recognize an official term that is used by pastors or professionals to describe it.

Three common terms for this are

  • cultural Christianity/ catholicism and
  • MEC Christians [mother's day, Easter and Christmas - meaning they only go to church on 3 or 4 holidays a year] and
  • believing but not practicing.

There are multiple passages that address this and show that it not only is against Christianity, but scripture says these people will be punished.

First let's examine some of the key passages.

  • 2 Greatest commandments
  • parable of the 4 soils. [3 were nominal Christians, 1 was devoted. Matt 13, Mark 4 & Luke 8.
  • Pharisees [religious leaders] who look good on the outside but Christ condemned them as a pack of vipers and dead mens' bones
  • people who claimed to know God but have no fruit- [ branch cut off and burned & fig tree cursed.]
  • **lukewarm [nominal Christian church in Laodocea which Christ said he would vomit them out of his mouth. Original Greek word here means vomit.

This passage in Revelation 3 is one of the most important because Christ says clearly that it would be better if they were cold- non- believer. Because they were neither hot or cold- Christ said he would spew them out of his mouth

"Lukewarm Christians are those people who sit in churches and believe the message of the gospel … but are not really sold out to Jesus and not meaningfully engaged in his mission. It is these kinds of “Christians” that Jesus is describing in the three parables in Matthew 25. The maidens [bridesmaids] (Matthew 25:1-13) consider themselves friends of the bridegroom, but they don’t live in a way that anticipates his return."

Lukewarm, or cultural Christianity or nominal Christianity does great damage to the Church and the reputation of those who are really committed to living their faith 7 days a week. We have all heard the excuse that people don't believe in God or the Church because of hypocrites.


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    Would it be better for the Church if those people would become confessing agnostics or atheists? Jan 16, 2021 at 20:27
  • Tennman7 nice with the lukewarm = nominal, +1 Jan 16, 2021 at 22:27
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    Yes, @Paulo, better for Christianity and for them because 1. then they are not being hypocrites and 2. They are not deluding themselves thinking that going to church 4x a year or donating to the missions offering is an insurance policy.
    – Tennman7
    Jan 17, 2021 at 7:36
  • I'm afraid in some countries, people atending mass three times a year would be seen as practising christians. Nominal Christians would be those who just go to the church for christenings, weddings and funerals.
    – Pere
    Jan 17, 2021 at 15:29

I'm not sure I understand the intent of your question. The article you reference is an explanation of nominal Christianity. Perhaps you assume there is something more to nominal Christianity than what the article explains, and the article is only commentary, or only taking a stance on it?

In any case, I'll reiterate that the article you cite is not simply taking a stand against nominal Christianity; it is defining the concept.

In fact, while a reader can infer from the article that nominal Christianity is a negative, the article is written in a somewhat objective style. It say things like "Nominalism is a concern to many pastors ..." taking a third person stance like a reporter, rather than saying "I condemn this pernicious trend of nominalism!"

I think that for obvious reasons, nominal Christianity is one of those ideas that you really can't condemn directly in a first person way, because doing so always sounds like you're claiming to be a better Christian than someone else. You have to take a third person stance. Only Christ could condemn it in first person, but we can't.

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