No True Christians

Posted by on January 7, 2012 in Featured, Thoughts | 43 comments

I saw a post on FaceBook today which grabbed my attention. It went like this:

“I just had a Christian tell me, that the Pope is not a Christian after I told her he covered up child molesters and rapists.”

and was followed up with:

“She also told me Hitler wasn’t a Christian and every christian that commits crimes is not a true christian.”

Those who are familiar with this argument may have seen it many times in many different forms, but it may surprise you to know that this fallacy actually has a name; The No True Scotsman Fallacy. It was first coined by the atheist philosopher Antony Flew in his book Thinking About Thinking. (It’s true that Flew in his later life converted to deism, but many claim this was because of his increasing mental infirmity, however this information is unimportant for the sakes of this article.) He wrote:

“Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again.” Hamish is shocked and declares that ‘No Scotsman would do such a thing.’ The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, ‘No true Scotsman would do such a thing.’”

The obvious question here is, when a member of a group such as a religion does something that is counter to the tenets or dogma of said group, does that make them any less a member of that group? If a person professes to be a Christian, and yet does not follow the Ten Commandments from the bible to the letter, does this make them any less of a Christian? Of course the answer is “no”. People come in all colours and flavours in all walks of life, and if a person professes to be a Christian, and yet is a mass murderer, they are still Christians if they believe themselves to be so.

To deny that someone is Christian because of the decisions they make on a personal or professional level only serves as a way for the claimant to distance themselves from the person making the bad decisions. Saying, for instance, that the Pope is not a true Christian is an ad-hoc statement, because it is obvious to all that the Pope IS in fact a Christian, being a follower of one of the many Christian sub-orders.

To say that Hitler was not a true Christian may be a fallacy, because himself on many occasions invoked Christianity as a reason for doing the things he did. (It seems that in later life Hitler may have become more of a Deist than a Christian, but he never left the Roman Catholic church he was raised under.) The question is, how much of a Christian does one need to be in order to be called a “true Christian”? I would argue, any amount is enough, for doing anything in the name of Christ and his church makes your actions motivated by a Christian edict. So was Hitler a Christian? I’d say yes, and in fact he may be the most damaging Christian to the Christian cause in history. Regardless of whether he was a “true Christian” or not, I think we can all agree he was a very bad person, and that his religion (or lack thereof) was only part of his madness.

As for someone who claims that anyone who commits a crime is not a “true Christian”? Well that one is easy. Nowhere in the bible does it say that it is a sin to commit a crime. In fact, it outlines some crimes, but not all crimes one could be convicted for today. Most of the crimes outlined in the bible have to do with what, whom, when and how to worship, and only mentions in passing things like killing and coveting. What of crimes like cyber-hacking? What about dealing drugs? These are crimes too, but the bible never mentions them. This is because crimes are decided by society, not a god, and the many and varied crimes one could be found guilty of are a result of the society we live in. In any case, the Hail Mary asks for forgiveness from God, and 1 John 1:9 reads:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Given this, it doesn’t really matter what we do if we are Christians, because a sin will be forgiven as long as the person is faithful.

So what is a true Christian then? No popes, no warlords or criminals? What about priests who commit atrocities against children? What about people who eat shellfish? People who work on Sunday? Are none of them true Christians? I’m sure each person who professes to be Christian would be a bit annoyed at that judgement.

What it all boils down to is this. Either there are no “true Christians” because they break the commandments in the bible, or commit crimes (speeding is a crime too, as is jaywalking), OR everyone who claims to be a Christian is a “true Christian”. Of course the latter has to be correct for the bible says in Romans 3:23-24 (among other places):

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

So there you have it, in a nutshell. There is no way to distinguish between a “Christian” and a “true Christian”, and in the end, it makes no difference either way, because with faith, all is forgiven anyhow.

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