[#] "so-called"

Steve ended his comments with a very interesting point:
If you want to use Santa in your celebration (and we actually do have symbols of Santa Claus, read the poem, etc.) of Christmas, then you absolutely can do that. But if that involves actual deception to your children, leading them to believe that all the modern myths of Santa are real (the North Pole, etc.), then I think that's another topic all in itself.

At any rate, calling others jerks or questioning their Christianity, even if tongue-in-cheek, hardly seems appropriate if your arguments can stand on their own.
I am excited that he ended with this point, since it deserves its own post. I have already covered the matter of "jerks" in the comments of another post, but I'm going to here expand on what I meant when I called those jerks "so-called Christians".

One of the themes of my blog over time is orthodoxy – that is, what's it take to be a Christian, an honest-to-God disciple of Jesus Christ. Some people will tell you that it's an easy thing to become and a relatively-easy thing to keep up. I would not be one of those.

Before I tell you "what" and "why", let's define a term here for the limited scope of this post. The term is "Christian". This term causes more problems in apologetic discussions than any other term -- including "Christ" and "Baptism" -- that gets tossed around because it has a very broad range of meaning. For example, it can mean, "a member of a sociological group organized around teachings of Jesus Christ". It can also mean, "a member of the body of men and women classed by the Bible as 'elect' by God to salvation." It can also mean, "a member of a church." It can also mean, "a practioner of a certain western ethical standard".

For the sake of this post, let me tell you that when I use this word, I am using it this way:
    Acts 11:19Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.{Emph added}
This is an interesting passage because it tells us who were originally called Christians. Those who have poor reading skills will say, "duh, do you mean only believers in Antioch can be called Christians?"

No, I mean to say this: the disciples in Antioch were preaching the Lord Jesus, turning a great number to the Lord through that preaching, were faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, and were full of the Holy Spirit. Those are the ones called "Christian".

For these people, being a Christian was not something they manned passively. They weren't just placeholders until Christ returned. These people were out there, in spite of adversity, using even persecution as an opportunity to preach Jesus Christ. And they had a bigger problem than we do.

See: our problem is that we live in a post-Christian society. That is not to say that Christianity is dead or that it is not the majority view: that is to say that Christianity is on the decline in our society, and that those ideologies that would supplant Christianity are subverting the Christian underpinnings of our society for their own use. In that, we ought to be charged with defending our own bulwarks from the enemy's weapons – and the best defense is, of course, a good offense.

That's not much of a problem, really: what it says is that we are playing on our own home field and should have the home field advantage. The first generation of Christians were not on their own home field. They had, on the obvious one side, the pagan cultures of Roman and Greece and whatever else was out there. But on the other, they had to work to wrest the Jewish culture from its problematic view of the signs and practices of the Temple and the Law to the fulfillment of those signs in Jesus Christ.

Many Christians miss this critical point: Christianity is not a steady state of things, and it wasn't the steady state that Christ came into. What He left behind was a handful of men and women who knew the truth and were charged with preaching that truth in word and deed. Part of that, as we can see in Galatians, and Romans, and especially Hebrews, is taking the message of the Jewish scriptures and practices and seeing them in light of God's fulfilled promises.

That is a radical paradigm shift. Jesus Himself impugned the Pharisees by telling them that they thought the Scripture was the thing, but the Scriptures were there to tell them about Himself. The Messiah is the thing. The Scripture is critical because it is God's own words which God lifts up above even His own name, but the Scriptures are there to testify to the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior.

In that, the work of the Earthly church is one of teaching the truth of those symbols and through those symbols. Yes: certainly – No one can come to Jesus unless the Father who sent Christ draws him. But the outworking there is the recovery of the testimony of God from its misuse and misunderstanding to its proper place in God's revelation.

That is way more complicated and difficult and culture-shaking than affirming or admitting that Santa is a Christian (read: used to preach Christ with steadfast purpose) icon. Yet when all one has to do is say, "Hey: Santa's one of our boys. Go find your own heroes," we see many people who would put fish on their car or go to (safe) church on Sunday running away from the culture issue.

Santa is a culture issue, and as Christians we are called to renovate the culture. In that, when we are running away from renovating the culture, we are neglecting the most essential public testimony of our faith.

You want to call yourself a Christian? You might mean almost anything by that -- just don't pretend it's a t-shirt you wear once a week. If all you do is lean back on your church membership and carry a book around but you cut and run when the culture tries to take away your message by taking away your symbols, you're not the kind of person that got called "Christian" in Antioch. You're something else.

And yes: that is a far worse accusation than either "jerk" or "liar". At least you noticed.