This post is a continuation of the series “Are Mormons Christian“.
In the comments on the post “Are Mormons Christian? Do doctrinal difference define us“, the Pondering Pastor and I began a most crucial discussion that strikes at the very heart of this matter.
The post was about the importance of having a commonality of definitions of terms for accurate communication. How differences in belief do not disqualify someone from the definition of Christianity, since in truth, we all differ to some varying degree.
If our doctrine differs by degrees, is it therefore possible to be 50% Christian, or 80%, depending on how greatly your doctrine departs from what is orthodox? And is orthodoxy truly the best measure? Wasn’t Christ himself unorthodox in his day? How about Luther?
So to say to one “you’re not a Christian”, simply because their beliefs diverge from your own, is a definition that does us no good.
But then what is a good definition? If the exact alignment of the details of our doctrine cannot qualify us as Christian, what can? What is fair? What is the righteous way to judge?
Fortunately, that answer has already been given. Surely the Lord knew that so many varying beliefs would sprout up, and as such, gave us the mechanism with which we may judge.
“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:20)
That is how you know a Christian. Not by what they say they believe, but by what they demonstrate of their beliefs through their actions.
For as Matthew continues “…not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
In that chapter the Lord clearly teaches that men do not gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles. If you’re finding grapes, you’re not in a thorn bush, but a vineyard. “…neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit”, but a “good tree bringeth forth good fruit”. Hence, by their fruits ye shall know them.
Much can be discussed about doctrine. What you believe, how you interpret scripture, what manner of baptism you subscribe to, etc. But those don’t define a Christian. Being Christ-like is what makes a Christian.
For actions are the evidence of faith. Remember, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20)
And as we read in John “though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. (John 10:38)”
That is the one true, fair, and righteous way to define a Christian. By their works, not their talk. “I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:18).