In an article in World Magazine, Tony Woodlief admits slipping into practical atheism everyday and argues for the abandonment of the Christian label rather than make it meaningless. His argument includes the facts that American’s are becoming more atheistic, conservative religion has turned people away, sexual abuse in the Catholic organization, and a cultural shift that has made atheism more acceptable. Regardless of any of these things, the problem does not lie in the fact that a label like Christianity is in danger of becoming meaningless, it is a failure to recognize that a label like Christianity has always been meaningless to non-Christians. This should not be any surprise to anyone. We cannot blame a blind man for walking into a wall, nor should we blame men and women who walk in darkness and deception for their “abandonment” of so called Christianity. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God , for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:14, ESV) The problem that Mr. Woodlief might not see is that primarily the New Testament refers to the followers of Christ as disciples. The primary idea conveyed in this word is learner, pupil, follower, or adherent. Disciples follow after and learn all that they can of their “master or Lord.” The qualifications for discipleship are extremely difficult and demanding. Take a look at them in depth some time: “…does not hate mother and father, and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes and his own life, he cannot be my disciples.” “…does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” “…any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Now, we know from careful exegesis and exposition that simply or merely hating our family or ourselves, or drudging up some uncomfortable tortuous situation as a cross to bear, or even accepting a life of poverty or asceticism is going to make us a disciple. The point is that discipleship or becoming a follower of Christ, like a “Christian” is costly and it does mean something. It was in Antioch that the disciples who were such avid followers of Christ that they were first called Christians. The Greek word simply means a follower of Christ. By the end of Peter’s life when he wrote his first letter to the churches in Asia the term had gained such recognition that he could say, “…if any man suffers as a Christian…”
The answer is not abandoning a label but properly defining the label. Secondly, the answer is not being surprised when those who are not disciples or Christians don’t get it. No, Mr. Woodlief, though your article was interesting and caused me to say hmm, I don’t think we need to abandon the label of Christian. For I see that would be the first step in abandoning other significant and pertinent things relating to our faith. Let’s just maintain the true definition of Christian and continue to preach the gospel to every creature, thus making others disciples, Christians, or followers of Christ.