Conversion

What Is a Christian?

There is no one definitive answer to the question, “What is a Christian”? That’s because there are many biblical texts that provide various answers, all of them true. While most believers tend to think in terms of one, simple, standardized definition of a Christian, God evidently wants us to think in a more comprehensive manner. It’s good for us to consider the many facets of the beautiful diamond of salvation, and one of the most thought-provoking answers may be found in the High Priestly prayer of Jesus in John chapter seventeen.

Here, Christ prays first for Himself (vs. 1-5), secondly for His Apostles (vs. 6-10), and finally for all Christians to the end of time (vs. 20-26). The prayer of Christ for His Disciples beginning in John 17:6 is the focus of my thoughts. Although these words were spoken specifically in relation to the Apostles, careful reflection reveals that they apply equally to all born-again believers. So, in these words of Christ, what is a Christian?

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Connected Truth: Abiding with Eternal Fact

tunnelRead Part 1 and Part 2.

In The Great Divorce a repentant liberal tells a stuffy and impenitent bishop that if he will rethink his pretensions about religion, he will take him to meet “Eternal Fact, the Father of all other facts.” The cleric disdainfully turns down the offer, preferring to remain under the delusion that “God” and “fact” do not dwell on the same plane of objectivity. It is a strange deception indeed which constructs a grand array of “facts” and suspends them over a bottomless chasm, but that is what sinners do with facts. They encounter them; they label and categorize them; but they attempt to ground them in the ether of a wholly impracticable worldview.

That is how I was before I met “Eternal Fact.” My dealings with Truth were occasional and, from my point of view, impersonal. And it was this impersonal view of Truth which gnawed away at me; for impersonal conceptions of Truth eventually depersonalize everything—even the viewer. They may seem impressive to our eyes for a while, but just as an attempt at landscape painting may please us until we set it alongside a Constable or a Monet, so truth without “the Spirit of Truth” gradually begins to look like a paltry thing. Truth (capital “T”); the kind that “shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32), springs forth from the “I AM” (Jn. 8:58).

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Connected Truth: The Claims of Truth

tunnelRead Part 1.

The Lord Jesus Christ not only brought with Him grace and truth (Jn. 1:14), but He was that Truth. His presence on our planet brought light to shine upon the darkness all around. Coming to Jesus is always a coming out of darkness into light. The light is His light just as the Truth is His Truth. By this I mean to say that there is no distinction between Him and what He brings. Since Jesus is the Truth just as much as He is the Word (Jn. 1:1-2) He must bring Truth.

It is not enough to say that He personifies truth. We must insist that truth cannot exist on its own independently of Jesus, His Father and the Spirit of Truth. Truth exists because God exists, If God did not exist truth would not exist, The idea of truth “out there”—truth to be agreed with as an impersonal standard, is impossible. Although it is seen that way within non-biblical worldviews, truth does not and cannot be attained without contact with the personal God—who is Truth.

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Connected Truth: Story of a Search

Before I became a Christian at the age of 25 I had a yearning for truth. I tried to find it, of all places, at the local pub, “The Bull.” Not the deep truth of philosophers; just the everyday truth of belonging. Real ale and parties and pub banter provided the backdrop for this belonging. The trouble is, it wasn’t very “real.” The conversation was aimless and repetitive: we knew it all and knew absolutely nothing.

When I reached twenty I discovered a book about Michelangelo among my mother’s books. The amazing brilliance of this artist: painter, sculptor, architect, poet, as well as his brooding persona, and his dedication to the “Christian” humanist ideal, captivated me. I began to read about art history, beginning with Vasari’s Lives and broadening out into all periods. I found the expressions of truth in Caravaggio’s mixing of serenity and menace, Brueghel’s depictions of death in the midst of pastoral beauty, the dignity of the mundane in de Hooch Claude’s use of light, Constable’s clouds, Cezanne’s geometrical preoccupations. Men like these helped me to see that truth lay within the world around me. But for the most part, truth remained aloof.

The work of Vasari is punctuated by the presence of a man whose influence profoundly affected many of the artists Vasari wrote about. That man was a Domenican priest by the name of Girolamo Savonarola (d.1498). Roman Catholic though he was, from the accounts of his life which I have read, it appears that Savonarola was a converted man. But putting that question aside, what impressed me about him was how his preaching in the great cathedral at Florence brought about a real reformation in morals and a true fear of God in that Renaissance city.

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A Personal Testimony

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CHAPTER VII. A PERSONAL TESTIMONY.

BY HOWARD A. KELLY, M. D.

(To those who have believed that faith in the Bible and the God of the Bible does not harmonize with the modern scientific spirit the following testimony from a distinguished physician and surgeon should be of great value.

The Editor of Appleton’s Magazine says of Dr. Kelly:

“Dr. Howard Kelly, of Baltimore, holds a position almost unique in his profession. With academic, professional, and honorary degrees from the Universities of Pennsylvania, Washington and Lee, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh, his rank as a scholar is clearly recognized. For some twenty years Professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Johns Hopkins University, his place as a worker and teacher in the applied science of his profession has been beyond question the highest in America and Europe. At least a dozen learned societies in England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Austria, France and the United States have welcomed him to membership as a master in his specialty in surgery. Finally, his published works have caused him to be reckoned the most eminent of all authorities in his own field.”)

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