[#] Final: WE AGREE!

There's a real irony in what you're about to read: I would actually agree in the broadest terms with the ever self-inflicted iMonk that if someone doesn't want to be called a Christian we should just not call him a Christian. This discussion is triggering a flashback to Jesuit all-boys High School where I had a Jesuit for senior elective theology and he was chastising the hypothetical Christian who did not what to self-identify. It made sense, he reasoned, that a devil would want to be reckoned as an angel -- because if you knew someone was a devil, you'd have to be crazy to follow him anywhere, right? And it made sense that if one was on the side of the angels one ought to want the credibility that goes along with being on Heaven's team. But what did you gain, exactly, by being an angel and posing as a devil? How does that deception advance the cause of truth?

This from a fellow who frequently smoke and drank around the seniors when the opportunity arose, and who swore like a sailor. Father, as they say, absolve thyself.

Anyway, iMonk has stopped by to defend or otherwise excuse his buddy leif who doesn't want to self-identify as "Christian" anymore, and he begins his apology thus:
For starters, leif has the Bible on his side. The term Christian is
never commanded to be used in any way by scripture itself. The term
occurs three times:

/Acts 11:26 And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians./

/Acts 26:28 And Agrippa said to Paul‚"In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?"/

/1 Peter 4:16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. /

None of these occurrences bears any particular imperative of compulsory weight. The name Christian is, in fact, a derogatory term, given to the disciples of Jesus by their detractors. It is as Christians that some may suffer, because Christians are fit subjects for persecution. Agrippa is amazed that Paul would attempt to persuade him to join such as despised sect.
It always astounds me what people will say when they want to sound reasonable. For example, in Acts 11, on what basis can we say that the word "Christian" was applied to the disciples of Christ as a "derogatory" term? It seems to me that the word "Christians" in this verse is in the context not of the disdain of the unbelievers in Antioch but in the context of Barnabas' somewhat-wild success preaching the Gospel there, having been sent because of the in-roads Cypress and Cyrene had with the Greeks. That is, because there were so many of them, they gained a name for themselves.

Further, when we read Agrippa's response to Paul in Acts 26, how does one leap from Paul's strong exhortation of Agrippa to the deduction that Agrippa is using an insult in saying Paul would have him convert? Especially, consider that Agrippa and Bernice say to Festus 3 verses later, "This man doth nothing worthy of death or of bonds". If they are insulting Paul in v.28, upon what do they base their insults -- they say he has done nothing wrong.

But most incredibly, it is Peter who uses the term "Christian" in 1Pet 4 to denote a true disciple -- one who suffers for the sake of the faith! How, exactly, can this be interpolated to mean "a derogatory term" -- or even a term of indeterminate value?

The argument being foisted out here is that because the Bible doesn't say, "listen: this club you're forming? You must call yourselves Christians or else you're going to hell," the term is itself, at best, a convention which we should strip off if it doesn't suit us anymore. And that, my dear readers, is complete malarkey. It's an argument as-bad as the JW argument which says that the word "Trinity" is not in the Bible, so the doctrine of the Trinity must be false.

Moreover, given Peter's use of the word in 1Pet 4, iMonk's very interesting claim that it is a "historical accident" that the followers of Christ are called "Christians" starts to look like something even he doesn't really believe. What we can see if we turn a few pages in scripture is that there is a people for his name's sake. For example, this turn of phrase is used in Mt 10:22 and Mt 24:9 by Christ Himself to describe his follower as the very reason they will be hated and persecuted. This is repeated in Mk 13 and Lk 21. In Acts 15, Peter sees for himself that there are Gentiles called by Christ's name.

"My dear fellow," comes the tempered and reasonable reply, "you cahn't mean that you think Christ meant we would be called 'Christians', do you? The reasoning is at least as sketchy as you claim to find the reasoning of dear old Michael."

In fact, I do mean that when Christ said "for my name's sake" he meant, in part, "because my name will represent you." It is another way of saying we are in Christ. In that way, it is completely credible to expect that when Paul says he is a "bondservant of Christ", he is placing himself inside the body of Christ in the same way that Peter does when he says that suffer as a Christian is not shameful but glorifying to God.

After that, iMonk dispenses this pearl:

I'm convinced that rigney's interest in southern literature is a contributing factor to this experiment. Most of us who live in the south are aware that the name Christian has suffered the indignity of being equated with so many different aspects of southern culture that a person really has no idea if a Christian is a racist or a martyr against racism. Finding a path through this confusion may necessitate something like an abandonment of the abused and obscured term, in order to refocus the meaning of "Christ" in any meaningful way.
And it is because of racism in the last 200 years or so that we ought to abandon the term -- not because of the history of other kinds of evil perpetrated allegedly by Christians. As I said elsewhere, apparent rigney was fine with being a Christian like Torequemada, and a Christian like Chrisostem (who was an anti-semite), and a Christian like Innocent III, but Boar's Head forbid that one is a Christian as portrayed by a liberal media which cannot gets its fact straight about the abolition of slavery and the rise of civil rights in the West -- which is to say, a tobacco-chaw'n hog-cawler in half-buttoned overalls who don' wan' no nigres 'round a'ter dark.

Spencer's incantation involving George Barna has frankly been debunked here and here. Barna's latest book is latter-rain screed, and his interview with TSK was completely superficial and without any real reflection of Barna's methodology or goals. Using that book and that interview to substantiate anything is simply mishandling sources and ignoring refutations of the errors they promulgate.

Lastly, so as not to open discussions which closed iMonk's blog a year ago, the droll musing that abandoning the label "Christian" has an "apologetic" end and can "open conversations" sounds something like being a stripper missionary. You know: there are a lot of men who are either abandoning their call or are simply lost inside strip joints. If a woman has a mind to, she could be a stripper and therefore a missionary to the patrons of strip clubs.

Before someone calls that hyperbole, what the stripper-missionary would be doing is eschewing that label "modest" for the sake of the lost -- and never mind that the call to modesty is part of the Christian walk. What someone who eschews the label "Christian" does is sack all appearances of Christian fellowship (whether he does, in fact, forsake fellow being completely not in question) in order to present a lopsided (and false) view of the Christian life to the lost.

Let's think about something as I close up for the weekend here: while the Bible may never demand that we adopt the letters C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N for the name of our little group, it does in fact demand that we identify ourselves as a group -- and that, as James said, we turn our brothers away from sin. How are we doing that if we are disavowing that we belong to the visible church? And how is confusing the issue of what the followers of Christ call themselves in any way enlightening to those in spiritual darkness?

My opinion of this "experiment" is that it is self-important and frankly silly. It's hyper-separationistic -- it literally draws a circle so small that only one person can stand inside. So I'll be glad to honor his wish not to be called a Christian as long as he doesn't try to glom the things those who actually are Christians represent.

Have a nice weekend; spend it in the Lord's house with the Lord's people and do not be ashamed of His name.