on What Qualifies one as a Christian
***Hello everyone. In light of the recent debates on this issue, Pastor Robert Cornwall has sent me the following material. Dr. Cornwall (who's blog can be found here) originally posted this on his personal blog, but was kind enough to send me the link for use here at American Creation. Enjoy!***
It seems that we are all eager to put up our fences, marking who is in and who is out. With a new President about to take office, there are those who wish to challenge his own confession of faith. From their vantage point, Barack Obama isn't a Christian because he has made statements that don't accord with their definition of a Christian. For some, the defining code of belief is the Nicene Creed, for others its the Westminster Confession, or the confession printed on their church bulletin. For many, this definition can get rather narrow. Their list of essentials growing longer by the day.
Over at American Creation, a blog that debates questions of the religious nature of American origins, this conversation is ongoing, and many definitions have been offered.
For my part I'd like to throw in this definition that was written nearly two centuries ago -- published on September 7, 1809. The author of this statement was Thomas Campbell, father of Alexander, and one of the co-founders of the Movement that spawned my denomination. Reflecting the ethos of the day, along with his own studies of John Locke and the Scottish Common Sense philosophical tradition, Campbell issued his Declaration and Address. This document was designed to lay out a play for Christian unity on the American Frontier, which at the time was the Pennsylvania/Ohio border.
I offer up this definition, the first of thirteen propositions that defined a path toward Christian unity.
PROP. 1. That the Church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one; consisting of all those in every place that profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all things according to the Scriptures, and that manifest the same by their tempers and conduct, and of none else; as none else can be truly and properly called Christians.
Note the foundation -- faith in Christ and obedience to him in light of the Scriptures. It is a combination of confession and behaviors. The creed is brief and could be seen as relatively open. Note to that this confession is set in the context of the church, which Campbell believed was one not only in "invisible" sense, but in a very tangible sense.
So, who is a Christian? How should we make the judgment? Who is empowered to make such a decision?