Recently, I have noticed a trend here of people fighting to deny self-identifying Christians who deny parts of the Nicene creed the label Christian. I am of course talking about LDS and I guess the part that is denied is consubstantiality(??). Anyway, this question is not about whether or not LDS are Christians, it's just the context of the question.

Christian seems to me like a label that should be applied to those professing to follow Jesus Christ, independent of other doctrinal differences!? I found this question which deals with whether Catholics are Christians according to evangelicals, but I am not completely happy with the answers because they revolve around being born again, which is personal, as opposed to doctrinal points which seem to be the issue when you deny whole groups the label.

Is there any theological significance attached to the label that causes this reluctance to grant the label Christian (according to evangelicals)? Or are there non-theological reasons?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 14:42
  • 5
    Fascinating! I just started reading Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis again just last night, and his entire preface explains that this is exactly the question he is trying to answer through his book: what is a Christian (apart from various denominations and schools of thought). It's a very practical take, and I love his down-to-earth explanations of things. If you haven't read it, I recommend it.
    – wildbagel
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 16:27
  • As Evangelicals are within the group referred to as 'mainstream Christian groups', this Q asked in December 2013 already deals with this matter you raise. christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/24217/…
    – Anne
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 9:08
  • In the link I give, above, the best answer by David Stratton is fairly brilliant in covering the relevant ground. His answer could be imported straight into here and hold good.
    – Anne
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 9:17

6 Answers 6


How Evangelicals use the label "Christian" for self-definition and for certifying others

In the absence of an independent arbitrator that governs who can label themselves "Christian" (like how USDA governs the meaning of 'Organic') we will always come across different groups assigning their own precise definition, although as you say, the label should at the minimum refer to those who follow Jesus Christ, a requirement that every group at present seems to agree despite theological differences.

I think the question is best answered using the concepts of in-group vs. out-group within the discipline of the sociology of religion. For a Christian group that has a strong umbrella institution such as LDS, Roman Catholics, Church of England, etc. the "in-group" label meaning can more easily be discovered and is relatively unambiguous because the meaning is centrally defined from their official literature. But for evangelicals, they will defer to what the Bible teaches who the true followers of Jesus are as their "in-group" definition.

Of course, for the outsiders, this definition is not sufficient and is rather ambiguous, partly because evangelicals today have different stripes based on their theological persuasions:

  • Some are Calvinist, some are Arminian
  • Some are leaning Charismatics, some are leaning Catholics
  • Some are fundamentalist, some are "big umbrella" Anglicans
  • etc.

Can we find a common denominator that almost all those subgroups can agree on? I think when pressed further they would say one or more of the following:

  • a Christian is a follower of Jesus whom Jesus will accept on Judgment day
  • a Christian is one who has the spirit of Christ living in him/her (another way of saying: born again)
  • a Christian is one of the elect (whether the member of the elect is defined by Calvinism or by some other criteria)
  • a Christian is one who adheres to one of the Protestant's statement of faith such as the Westminster Confession of Faith or the Thirty-nine Articles
  • a Christian is one who would agree with C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity book
  • a Christian is one who "believes the gospel as taught in Scripture" defined similarly to Zanarkand's answer
  • a Christian is one who holds that (Protestant) Scripture alone is the authority on doctrine, as well as sola gratia, sola fide, and solus Christus (see wberry's answer)
  • a Christian is one who obeys Jesus's new commandment of loving one another and who remains within the vine (John 15:1-17)
  • etc.

We can easily see that if we press them further to define what it means to be accepted on Judgment day or to have the spirit of Christ living in him/her or to know whether one is a member of the elect, they will resort to their subgroup's theology. So yes, there is a theological significance to the label 'Christian' and they expect the "out-group" member to be "certified" according to their subgroup's criteria.

Other observations:

  • the various definitions are compatible with one another, each focusing on a different aspect of "being a Christian": the intellectual aspect, the subjective spiritual awareness aspect, the ethical (doing) aspect, or the aspects that only God knows (such as "who is the elect")
  • as you already observed, some "Christian" criteria ultimately include elements that only the person can know subjectively (such as being "born again")

What are some practical implications of the above approach to analyze the evangelicals's use of the term "Christian"?

  1. This means that if an "out-group" member (such as an LDS member) wants to fellowship with an evangelical group and is being asked "are you a Christian?" this "out-group" member needs to prove to this evangelical subgroup that he/she meets the particular evangelical's "in-group" criteria to be "certified" Christian. Or to use the USDA analogy, it's like USA will insists that if a Canadian beef producer wants to label the beef they are selling in the USA as "Organic", the producer needs to go through the "USDA Organic" certification process even though it is already certified "Organic" in Canada.

  2. Among the more generous evangelical subgroup, they will allow some out-groups members to call themselves "Christian" if they share the same definition of God and Jesus Christ. Thus Catholics are allowed to be "Christian" while still practicing Catholics if they meet their "in group" criteria, such as exhibiting a life indicating that they have the spirit of Christ living in them.

  3. Another generous evangelical subgroup will allow some LDS members to call themselves "Christian" as long as they are willing to "walk and talk" their faith only within the subset that their "in group" allows. For example: accepting the Trinitarian definition of God, eschewing LDS-specific interpretation of the Bible, willingness to be rebaptized with the Trinitarian formula, etc.

  4. Similarly, if an Arian / modalist shows some willingness / openness to be corrected in their understanding of God, evangelicals will also call them "Christians" if they show seriousness to be discipled in becoming true followers of Jesus according to the "in group" ethics.

The origin of Evangelicals's denying the label "Christian" to some followers of Jesus

The previous section shows how Evangelicals tend to associate the label "Christian" with theologically laden definitions, which then serves as a standard for the "purity of the brand", which they then apply to judge their own churches/members (see wberry's answer) as well as to judge non-Evangelical churches/members.

OP's comment:

What significance has the label Christian that causes a reluctance to grant it? Are all Christians saved? Have Christians no need of being the target of missionary work? Do they not need to be rebaptized if they already are baptized in a different denomination? The answer to all these seems no, or at least "it depends". I have a reasonably good idea what offends evangelicals about LDS doctrine, or catholic doctrine, but why does this lead to "you're not Christian"? What is the gain of denying the label?

I believe looking at the history of the evangelical movement is instructive here, especially the early 20th century wave: the Fundamentalist movement. Fundamentalists started as a reaction against liberal leaning Christian theologians who watered down the supernatural nature of the Bible. To them being a 'Fundamentalist' was a badge of honour (unlike today's perjorative connotation). Evangelicals see themselves as the more enlightened generation of fundamentalists but still share many of the same principles. To distinguish themselves from other Christians they call themselves 'evangelical' or 'born again Christian'. Now, 100 years later, especially after the Catholic church see Protestants as "separated brethren" (rather than "heretics" before VC II), evangelicals became more comfortable to reach out to Catholics and Orthodox to affirm what unite them rather than what divide them, so the label "Christian" started to be used for this larger "in-group" identity.

You asked: "What is the gain of denying non evangelicals the 'Christian' label?" My answer is: like their fundamentalist forbear, evangelicals have the habit to use a label as a moniker for doctrinal purity. Old habits die hard. It's a defensive mechanism that was critical 100 years ago although not so much now. Among some evangelicals the label 'Christian' is now regularly used for anyone affirming the Nicene or at least the Apostles' creed, not restricted any longer to those who hold the sola scriptura position. As long as they still see LDS, JW, Unitarian, and other groups as a threat to their doctrinal purity, I believe evangelicals will continue using the label 'Christian' as an in-group identity rather than to label those who are truly saved in the eyes of God. (Of course there are exceptions since evangelicals are so broad nowadays).

In contrast, the Catholic Church is now one of the most progressive among major Christian denominations to recognize the possibility that an adherent of other religions may access salvation (which is in Christ alone), a position defended in the 2017 Angelicum journal article The Salvation of non-Christians? Reflections on Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes 22, Lumen Gentium 16, Gerald O’Collins, S.J. and St. John Paul II:

... I defend the Church’s teaching that Jesus Christ’s redemptive work is the full and sufficient means of salvation, and hence that the mission of the Church is to call all men to Jesus Christ who is the only mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5). Regarding the fate of the unevangelized, namely, those who through no fault of their own—the invincibly ignorant—have failed to respond to the Gospel, I argue for accessibilism and rejected inclusivism. I also underscore the importance of the distinction between the sufficiency and efficacy of Christ’s atoning work, and in this connection the distinction objective and subjective salvation.


In John Paul II's encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, he underscores the actual impact of the Incarnation has given that the Son of God has united himself, in a certain way, with every human being. What does John Paul mean when he states that all men, without exception, from the very first moment of their existence, in short, from their conception, begin to share and are included in the "mystery of redemption" by virtue of the Word's mode of union for each person in Christ?¹³⁶

... my thesis is -- following Caroline Farey -- that there are "progressive stages of increasing configuration in and to Christ. The union of Christ 'with each man' at the Incarnation, then, is totally for this kind of increasing union, in the Church. From the historic moment of the Incarnation in the womb of Mary Christ begins 'to reconcile to himself all things' [Col 1:20]."¹³⁷

but the author carefully distinguishes his position (called accessibilism) from inclusivism. It is then natural that Roman Catholics, who already have a label for self-identity ("Catholic"), will then more likely (in the future) to use the label 'Christian' for anyone who responds to the inner call of Christ regardless of their present religious affiliation. I think this started with Karl Rahner's Anonymous Christian notion.

Evangelicals are not there yet, maybe never. At present they don't even consider all Catholics who die in the state of grace are necessarily saved even though they have been baptized in the same Trinitarian formula that evangelicals use.


As a group which grew out of the Protestant tradition, Evangelicals tend to label a whole "out group" to be "not Christian" if the out-group's statement of faith is deemed not to be compatible with Protestantism (such as LDS, JW, Arian, Modalists, Unitarian, etc.). Since Catholicism and various Orthodox denominations share the same ecumenical creed(s), Evangelicals tend to label them "Christian" too, although with some reservations (treating them not wholly "in-group" but not wholly "out-group" either). However, Evangelicals do make exceptions for individual members of the out-group if they are willing to be "certified" Christian using the in-group's criteria. The "in-group" criteria itself is stable and theologically well defined enough within the subgroup (despite various ways to define it) for anyone to use for "self-certification".

  • 2
    Note: I have tried to be as faithful as possible to describe what various evangelical groups actually do. Although intellectually I identify with evangelicals, my own criteria is heavy on the ethical aspect, as long as the person genuinely says that Jesus is his/her personal Lord and Savior. What I mean ethical: forgive enemies, obey commandments out of thankfulness for their salvation (rather than duty), show Jesus kind of love to others, humble towards God, etc. I have known LDS members exhibiting these behaviors so I gladly call them "Christian" while persuading them to convert. Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 19:35
  • I love this answer. It covers a lot of historical ground, multiple perspectives of modern thought, and is easy to understand. All the upvotes from me
    – Taejang
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 20:25
  • 1
    Very interesting; thanks for posting that. It makes me think about the difference between different groups having different meanings for the same terms ("Organic" in Canada vs USA) as being a respectable thing to consider, and how to differentiate that from apologists whose use of terms we classify as strawman , "no true Scottsman" fallacy, equvication , etc. When is it meaningful or correct to complain "that's not what that means" vs accept that he's using his own definitions for those words?
    – JDługosz
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 22:47
  • @JDługosz "When is it meaningful or correct to complain 'that's not what that means' vs accept that ...." Excellent question. I'm a big believer in that there is an objective reality behind a word (something like Platonic form). So my answer would be: when the meaning of "Christian" is too far removed from being a true follower of Jesus, who in turn needs to be God-like, alive, and rules as a King. For example: when a "Christian" means a follower of the ethical teaching of Jesus understood as a mere human teacher + miracle worker who died but never resurrected (i.e. historical Jesus). Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 1:02
  • This answer is great. I think it could be simplified by a discussion of how various Christian groups (using the term broadly for all self-identifying Christians) define orthodoxy (little o). One of Christianity's unique characteristics is its deep focus on belief. From earliest times orthodoxy and heterodoxy has been on the basis of belief. Splits in the church (that left us in our current multi-denominational context) were on differences of opinion. Some of those splits defined new lines-in-the-sand if you will. Many lines are shared across denominational splits. Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 14:29

That is a good question. In my experience, the evangelical Christians I know would define a Christian as someone who believes the Gospel as taught in Scripture. As we see in Galatians, the Apostle Paul himself warns against those who would distort the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel would generally include at least the following:

  1. There is a God who created heaven and earth and who will judge the living and the dead, who is Himself uncreated and eternal

  2. This God is a Trinity, and God the Father sent His Son to be the God-man, both fully God and fully man, to redeem humanity.

  3. We are saved by grace through faith and not by any good deeds that we ourselves have done.

  4. Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected bodily from the grave, and will one day return to judge the living and the dead

Galatians 1:6-9, 11-12

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! ...I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

For a fuller explanation of what it means to be a Christian as defined by evangelicals, check out the Levels of Doctrine Article from TGC. I think this is a pretty typical definition of being "in the faith" - we need to accept certain absolutes in order to be called Christians. Obviously there are groups who are either more exclusive than TGC or more inclusive, but I think this is pretty typical.

  1. absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;
  2. convictions, while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;
  3. opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and
  4. questions are currently unsettled issues.

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  • So that would exclude Eastern Orthodox, which is non-Trinitarian, right? What about the Gnostics and anything that pre-dates the Council of Nicea where the doctrine of the trinity was created?
    – JDługosz
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 16:09
  • @JDługosz The Eastern Orthodox Church is trinitarian Wikipedia Eastern Orthodox theology Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 17:11

Is there any theological significance attached to the label that causes this reluctance to grant the label Christian (according to evangelicals)? Or are there non-theological reasons?

I think the simplest answer could be expressed as "brand recognition". I'm also a technology fan, so to use an analogy, let's say we're talking about "IBM-compatible computers". When you see something labeled "IBM compatible", you might reasonably expect certain features, such as a given CPU architecture and compatibility with "standard" peripherals (disk drives and expansion cards).

Now consider a Sun workstation (circa 1990, i.e. before Solaris moved to x86). It uses a different architecture and doesn't accept the same peripherals. If I were to tell you this machine is "IBM compatible", you might have good cause to be annoyed, because it doesn't fulfill the criteria you expect from that "branding". My doing so, in a sense, is harmful to the "brand reputation".

Among religions, those commonly labeled "Christian" have certain features; particularly, beliefs about the nature (and existence) of God and eternity, belief in an entity "Jesus Christ" (who may or may not also be God), beliefs about the mechanisms of Salvation, and so forth.

Mormonism, like the Sun workstation, has "similar" features (both have disk drives, both have a divine entity), but the nature of these features is significantly different. I won't go into details of how LDS differs from Trinitarians and Unitarians, but suffice to say there are significant differences. (Beyond consubstantiation, which also separates Trinitarians and Unitarians, and note that I am considering both as "possibly Christian", despite a fair degree of animosity between even those two groups.)

Thus, to a creedal Christian, allowing an LDS to call themselves "Christian" is not unlike allowing a Muslim or a Buddhist to call themselves "Christian", and possibly worse because the differences are less obvious to an uninformed outsider. In short, it undermines the common theological understanding that is associated with the Christian "brand".

  • 2
    I agree about "brand". I'm old enough to know in technical detail how different the "insides" are between an IBM PC compatible computer with a Sun Workstation (the CPU being CISC vs. RISC, the disk being IDE vs. SCSI, the OS being Windows vs. Unix, etc.). Secondly, I agree with the sociological observation of how when the more "the differences are less obvious to an uninformed outsider" the more intense the branding issue becomes. This is similar to Pharisee vs. Sadducee in-fighting that outsiders could care less. Even the Romans had a hard time distinguishing Christians from Jews. Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 19:18
  • So, if everyone runs Java (on a platform-specific JVM) then all religious wars can go away?
    – JDługosz
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 22:36
  • @JDługosz I still remember when Java came out in mid 1990s, and I had exactly the same thought! 25 years later, platform wars still happening (redefined as ecosystem wars): C# & .NET ecosystem vs. Android ecosystem vs. Apple ecosystem, although we now have Windows embracing Linux in WSL (!) while containers + cloud service API mask ecosystem differences. Who would have predicted the new configuration? Similarly, evangelicalism is now a major ecosystem fed by various strands from church history, with Catholics and Orthodox as the other two major ecosystems while other groups become obscure. Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 17:10

I take "evangelicals" to mean Protestants. Within Protestantism, the term "Christian" is both theologically and socially significant, and has come to refer to the collection of individuals and churches that form the Body of Christ.

But just as Protestant doctrines are not completely uniform, each Protestant denomination and even individual churches within the same denomination could decide differently whether this or that other sect (the Mormons, Christian Science, etc.) has sufficiently correct doctrines to be considered part of the Body of Christ, or the catholic (little 'C') church.

In general, Protestants will tend to look skeptically on a church that deviates from mainstream in the following ways:

  • Additional text considered to be Scripture that is not part of Protestant canon (belief in the authenticity of the deutero-canonical books can be considered acceptable)
  • Refusal to accept as Scripture any text that is part of Protestant canon
  • Heavy, undue emphasis on non-Scriptural texts, even if that teaching is not considered to be Scripture
  • Appearance of having a cult of personality, in which the instruction or teaching of past or present leadership is given similar weight to Scripture itself
  • Zealous preference for a particular translation of Scripture done "in house" and therefore substantially different in content from mainstream translations
  • Any doctrines that plainly contradict the Nicene Creed and/or the Apostles' Creed - especially the humanity of Christ, the divinity of Christ, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the imminent return of Christ
  • Any doctrine that teaches any means by which mankind can be reconciled into fellowship with God, other than the sacrifice of Jesus Christ
  • Any novel practices, rituals, etc. not supported by Scripture or tradition, that are taught as required; or forbidding things that Scripture does not forbid
  • Any attempt to insert people or idols as intermediaries between the individual and God; Jesus is the only mediator between man and God
  • Any sect that concludes, by way of their doctrines, that your denomination is not part of the Body of Christ due to your authentic doctrines or practices is therefore suspicious

I'm reluctant to start listing disputed doctrines, but it should be plain to see why according to the above criteria certain organizations would draw skepticism from many Protestants: LDS, Christian Science, HaShem's Witnesses, Universalism, etc.

However, there are degrees, and even within mainstream denominations, individual congregations can draw skepticism, but usually not accusations of being "non-Christian". Specifically, 'megachurches' with celebrity pastors sometimes start to look like cults, especially when the pastor's books seem to get as much or more attention than the Bible itself. And some groups have mainstream doctrines, but non-mainstream practices (Seventh Day Adventists, Amish, Mennonites) or highly insular cultures (Church of Christ Boston movement) that draw skepticism from others. Also, even though today's Protestant denominations all draw lineage from the Protestant Reformation, today many (but not all) Protestants recognize Roman Catholic believers as being Christians, just with many misguided doctrines.

(You will recognize in the above list a kind of definition of what it means to be Protestant. Scripture alone is the authority on doctrine, not the church or its human leaders. Every believer is a priest, and Jesus Christ is our priest; we need no other priest. God's grace, Jesus' sacrifice, and our faith are all that is required for men's salvation; not sacramental rituals. And so on.)

Directly answering the question now, the term "Christian" is both theologically and socially significant. There is a mainstream Protestant theology, outlined as well as anywhere in the Apostles' Creed; and there is a mainstream Protestant culture which is essentially a modification of Roman Catholic practices to bring them in line with Protestant doctrine. A general Protestant definition of "Christian" must be a 'fuzzy' one, and there will be differences of opinion between denominations and between individuals regarding certain groups.

  • +1 Good description of how the centrality of scriptures manifest in how evangelicals judge the health of their churches (esp. like the mention of mega churches or insular churches on the other hand) as well as non-evangelical churches. Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 14:28

I debated if this should be an Answer, as I go into specifics more than any general answer. But I think it gives insight to your question by pointing out groups that are not considered to be Christians by many or most Evangelicals, and why.

You specifically mention the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or Mormons as a group that Evangelicals do not consider to be Christian. The doctrinal difference there is basically everything in the Book of Mormon and other Mormon-only books. Evangelicals tend to be Sola Scriptura, or Scripture Only, and do not think you can add any books beyond the 37 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New.

There is also the issue of the Founder, Joseph Smith, whose claims of divine inspiration they reject. They tend to believe he was a swindler. They think his ideas about Native Americans being Jewish people were just made up. His methods of receiving the divine intervention were not the types of ways that revelation was shown to happen in the Bible, but more how psychics and spiritualists at the time would do, e.g. putting his head in a hat with stones. He also supposedly translated some texts with divine help, but the translations do not match what scholars say today.

As such, they see Joseph Smith as a false prophet, and thus his entire movement as false.

Other groups I can think of that are generally not held to be Christian would be the Jehovah's Witnesses. In this case, the doctrinal issue is quite clear: they reject that Jesus is God.

Some also would exclude those who reject the Trinity, such as Oneness Pentecostals. And some do indeed reject Catholics because they have their Traditions being added to the Bible, and the veneration of Mary and the prayer to saints. Also, Catholics reject Sola Fide, or salvation by faith alone.

Finally, I would say Evangelicals and many other self-identified Christians reject those who identify as Christians because they follow the teachings of Jesus but argue he was just a man. These groups have various names. My high school friend refers to herself as a "Progressive Christian."

  • "his entire movement as false" - well I sure hope every other church does claim so, otherwise why would they still exist if they accepted a church as true that claims to be literally the church of Jesus Christ. I would in fact expect EVERY church to reject EVERY OTHER church as false, although I know this isn't the case. What I don't understand, and the reason for the question: What significance has the label "Christian" that leads to denying the label to people who follow Jesus Christ "in the wrong way"?
    – kutschkem
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 6:19
  • @kutschkem The assumption is false. Most Christians do not think that most other churches are false. They don't believe those people were charlatans who made up stuff. They may disagree on some finer points. Other than that, your question makes little sense to me, unless you don't know that "Christian" means "someone you think will go to heaven when they die."
    – trlkly
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 17:47
  • No I definitely don't know that "Christian" means "someone you think will go to heaven when they die". If it means that to evangelicals, then that is an answer. Are people so eager to point at a group and say "these go to heaven" / "these don't"? Seems also very personal, akin to "is born again".
    – kutschkem
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 6:22
  • @kutschkem Well, yeah. I would say it means that to most Christians, not just Evangelicals. Those who follow Jesus get to go to heaven, and Christian means "follower of Jesus." Sure, there are some who believe some others will make it, too, or even that all will eventually be saved. But the term Christian is used to mean those who follow Jesus and will get his gift of everlasting life. Self-identification is a criteria only used by sociologists or to be polite. Otherwise you could claim to be a Christian and go around raping and murdering, and you'd still be a Christian.
    – trlkly
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 20:11
  • @kutschkem As for offering an Answer: I decline because, based on what you have upvoted, it doesn't seem you're very interested in the point of view from their perspective, but want an external sociological view, rather than a doctrinal one. From my perspective, the Answer that least Answered the question as asked got the upvotes and the checkmark. It even paints Evangelicals as being more interested in gatekeeping than doctrine.
    – trlkly
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 20:33

independent of other doctrinal differences

That's definitionally impossible. Every group must have a baseline "ring" around the group defining who's in and who's out.

An explicit example would be someone who says, "I'm Jewish just because I claim to be Jewish." It just doesn't work that way.

Of course, the word "Christian" only means "follower of Christ", so is woefully non-specific. That's why each denomination (and -- in reality -- each person in a country like the US) must decide where that ring is.

  • Your point about a person self-identifying as Jewish applies to all who self-identify as Christians. There must be more to it than that! There must be evidence that warrants the claim to be a follower of Christ. That evidence is stated by Jesus himself, in the Bible, and it applies to individuals, not denominations. The big problem with questions like this is jumping to the idea of groups (denominations) when we have to start with individuals who can only become Christians by the grace of God, and are to be found in a huge range of denominations. Jesus decides - listen to him!
    – Anne
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 9:48
  • @Anne "Jesus decides - listen to him!" Never in my 50+ years have I ever heard Yeshua the Rabbi actually speak.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 12:49
  • And never in my 70+ years have I ever heard even the resurrected Jesus Christ actually speak! But I read the writings of those who DID literally hear him speak. They recorded his words, and an angel not only spoke to the apostle John, conveying the Revelation of Jesus Christ, but enabling John to SEE the risen, glorified Christ. Unstopped, spiritual ears hear him.
    – Anne
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 13:40
  • @Anne the problem with "I read the writings of those who DID literally hear him speak" is that the veracity can't be verified. And the claims of miracles makes me -- and many many others -- skeptical of the veracity.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 14:01
  • Be as skeptical as you like, RonJon. I've learned over the decades the breathtaking veracity of the inspired record, its incredible significance, and that God not only inspired the writing, but there is divine preservation of what he wants us to know, despite human attempts to water it down, and to interpret it according to preconceived ideas. And I should know, having been brought up in a man-made religious system, but the Bible later 'spoke' to me, and I found God to be true, though every man be found a liar - Romans 3:4.
    – Anne
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 14:14

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