I hope it’s obvious to all of us looking back at history that Adolf Hitler was most certainly not a follower of Christ. He did, however, pass himself off as one because it suited his purposes at the time. And many German Christians foolishly believed him.
If we can judge Hitler’s faith by the evidence of his evil deeds and ideology which were so contrary to those of Jesus, then we should be able to reasonably judge the faith of others based on the observable evidence as well. Because being a Christian is not effected by being born into a Christian family, being baptized or raised in a church, or even praying a “sinner’s prayer.” And like with any other claim, simply asserting it does not make it so.
But we’re not supposed to judge, right?
Wrong. We are to judge whether something, or someone, is true…whether a profession of faith is supported by a lifestyle in congruence with that profession. We are not to judge hypocritically, but we are to judge hypothetically. As a hypothesis is, “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation,” a hypothetical judgment is a reasoned supposition of an invisible reality based on visible evidence.
Okay. So what?
So our reticence or failure to judge the veracity of another’s claim to the name of Christ is not without consequence. In 1930s Germany a united opposition from the church to Hitler’s antiSemitic ideology might have averted the Holocaust. And in 21st century America Christians “in quotes,” from those in positions of highest authority and influence to your next-door neighbor or boss, are deceiving and manipulating and bringing reproach on the name to which they have no right. They claim to be of the household of God but demonstrate by what they do and what they endorse that they’re merely squatters.
So is Christianity an exclusive club for only certain kinds of people…in a way akin to Naziism?
Oh, I see what I did there…turned my argument against itself. How clever of me. Here’s the thing about Christianity…it is exclusive, but it’s inclusive in its exclusivity. Everyone is invited to come to God the one and only way. The only ones excluded from God’s family are those who exclude themselves because they refuse to submit their will to his. If you apply for citizenship in any country you must agree to submit to its laws. So too a citizen of God’s kingdom is one who has agreed to submit to the King.
And when that decision has been made, citizenship is conferred and more so, a new nature is given, so that what was dead is now alive. God gives us his Spirit and in a very real sense we become new creations. So if God lives in us then we are not only of his household but we are his house and he is its head. One whose life reflects little to nothing of Christ’s character and teaching makes the reality of his presence there doubtful.
No Christian succeeds in perfectly following Christ with nary the slightest diversion. But if you are one in more than assumed name only, you will keep him before you and care about staying close. You will watch and listen to him and seek to emulate him. You will be a disciple.
Earthly citizenship comes with some kind of documentation which can be verified. Proof of Heavenly citizenship is slightly more nebulous and all the more reason why we should not hesitate to discover and make known its requirements so that everyone, including the posers, can join the club.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17
The only reason Hitler being a devout and practicing Christian is ever raised is because apologists continually try to say he was an atheist.
The thrust of you post, though, is spot on. America’s most successful Christian, Joel Osteen, is not behaving as Christianity would have it, is he? None of your TV evangelicals are behaving correctly.
You’re just making my point, John. Hitler could have called himself a Christian till the day he killed himself. But his ideology and actions showed otherwise.
My guess is that Osteen is one in name only as well.
Praise the Lord! 🙂
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Velles is indeed wonderful 🙂