Thursday, February 24, 2011 | By: Zachary Bartels

Is Bob a Christian?

Bob comes up to you at work while you’re enjoying your turkey sandwich and swiss cake roll. He asks for a moment of your time. Bob knows you’re involved at your church and he’s seen you carrying that big Bible around, so he wants your opinion on something: is he a Christian? He knows that only God can distinguish wheat from chaff and that only God knows the heart and all that stuff; he just wants your best guess.

Without pausing to take a breath, he gives you this information:

  • Bob believes in a triune God and that Jesus Christ is God and man.

  • Bob believes that Jesus died on a cross and rose again from the dead.

  • Bob believes that, as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection, he (Bob) will be able to stand before the Father on the last day.

  • Bob tries to live a godly life according to the Scriptures, but knows that he continues to sin, which grieves him.

So here’s the question:
do you need any more information before you give Bob your assessment?

22 reader comments:

Chris said...

Would want 1 clarifier on bullet 4. By whose power does he think he can live a godly life? IF he responds "Holy Spirit" or gets there after some back and forth, then I'd respond that I believe he's a Christian. If he responds that it's up to him, then I'd have a lot more questoins

All Saints Episcopal Church said...

I think according to the long and ancient traditions of the Church that Bob could consider himself a Christian (Chalcedon compliant). Whether he is, however, is really between him and Jesus. Only God can say for sure.

Erin said...

Hmmm...I kind of get the feeling that if he has to ask if he is, then he isn't. But his statements of what he believes seem to indicate to me that he is. It seems that he belives in his heart and has just confessed with his lips, so he is saved.

Intrguing question, though. I'm intersted to see what others say.

Αναστασία said...

I notice that there is no mention of Bob being baptized.
That may trip up some folks.

chamblee54 said...

While we are busy classifying people, let me throw one out at you. A couple of days ago, your good buddy Frank Turk said that I was a hater. His justification was that I clicked on a star above his post, which indicates a "hated it" rating. On a cause and effect on a star that says "hated it"...then that might indicate that I am, indeed, a hater.
In the course of that comment thread, ( which I did not participate in) 14 comments were removed by the blog administrator, and several people were banned from commenting at Pyroboi's. Is it possible that other people were haters? Is it possible that putting labels on G-d's children, like "hater" or "Christian", might not be a very good idea?

ZSB said...

Or is it possible that the people banned were obvious trolls, making comments that obviously broke the terms of service on Team Pyro? Anyway, read more carefully: Bob *asked* his religious co-worker to classify him. Does Bob not have that right? If not, who took it away from him?

And Frank Turk may be very direct and not mince words, but he's more patient with trolls, flamers, and snarksmiths than 95% of bloggers out there...even with real notorious trolls who have already been banned by Challies, Justin Taylor, and all sorts of mild-mannered reformed bloggers.

Now, let's get this comment thread back on track. I mean, I love talking about Frank Turk, but here we are supposed to be talking about what the essential elements of a Christian are...

Kris said...

I believe that one who is seeking out to others for definition of if they are a Christian or not may have a problem of there own. People surrounding them may believe that all acts they have performed were done with a belief in God and Jesus, but the individual may need further proof to prove to themselves that they are Christian or not. It could be that Bob is doubting his Christianity because he feels that he has gotten no answer to his good deeds. Some people have a hard time believing they are Christian even though they live there lives believing in Christianity. Many times these individuals are very Christian and just too hard on themselves because they are not perfect and do not consciously devote every action to God and Jesus Christ. I believe that no other human being can decide if you are Christian or not. That decision it up to the individual. If the individual believes that they are Christian is God really going to punish them because they were absolutely perfect and follow the words of the bible to the tee?

Frank Turk said...

Clearly Bob is not a Christian until Chamblee says he is.

Frank Turk said...

I mean: if a tree falls in the woods, but it doesn't fall on Chamblee, how could it have been a tree at all? I've never heard of any trees that do not immediately fall on Chamblee when he walks by. It is in fact a mark of honor among trees that they fall on Chamblee -- they train their whole lives for it, and then cannot help themselves because this is why they were tree'd up in the first place.

Ruth said...

Bob believes and has confessed that Jesus is the Son of God. We are saved through faith by God's grace. Isn't it that simple?

Moreover, Bob wants to live a godly life. He's making the choice to turn away from sin. He falls short at times, like we all do, and that troubles him.

Since he is asking, maybe he is doubting and needs assurance that there's not more to the "process"

I'll admit, there's a part of me that wants to ask Bob more about his life - and that might be appropriate in an effort to disciple him further in his faith. However not necessary answer his question.

He has faith.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8

chamblee54 said...

Oh my.
Frank, you might want to pass on the Jesus Juice before you make comments.

Brad "The E List "YRR" Superstar" said...

I guess it's time for my shot at this.

I can comfortably say that Bob shows signs that he has been regenerated via the spirit. Here are my reasons

1. He shows that he affirms basic core statements of the gospel. Triune God, hypostatic union, grace via faith; all of those are core doctrine that cannot be tossed aside. Granted, you haven't indicated if he affirms the virgin birth or not, but I'm going to guess that he does. Why would you affirm the resurrection but deny the virgin birth?

2. Bob desires to know God. He searches the scriptures on a daily basis. He desires to live a holy life. Those are two huge marks that he has been regenerated.

3. Bob is repentant. This is huge. The fact that he sees his sin and is grieved at it while desiring to live a holy life definitely shows that he wants to honor God through Jesus.

4. Bob is testing his election. believe it or not, I'm honestly convinced that it's a fruit of the spirit to see someone tests to see if they are in the faith. It shows they have an honest concern about where they are going, how they are to honor God, and that he requires a holiness that they do not have.

Those are my answers. I could make them more in-depth but I really don't feel like writing a dissertation on this. Hope that stimulates conversation.

Otternam said...

I'm with Brad on this one, unless we are being played with a strange technicality.

Tom Chantry said...

Bob is a very hopeful fellow, but I have to wonder why he's asking a guy at work whether he's saved or not. It makes me suspect that he hasn't appreciated the necessity of joining himself together with the people of God.

Now don't get me wrong; I don't mean that church membership saves per se, but John did write that anyone who says he loves God but hates his brother is a liar - strong words indeed.

Since Bob's question is ultimately about assurance, I would certainly encourage him to examine the question through the lens of I John rather than give a quick and easy answer that shouldn't really help him much - given that evidently he and I didn't know each other that well. Maybe I would offer to study through I John with him during lunches.

Along the way we would see some of what he said in his quick testimony. He believes the truth about Jesus. That belief is producing obedience. But ultimately it should also lead to loving, sacrificial unity within the church - and seeing nothing of that in this summary I would hesitate to give a quick answer.

Which is my long-winded manner of answering your specific question with a "yes."

Mike said...

Demons believe and tremble. I bet they grieve, too (I'm sure I would if I was eternally condemned). What's inherently Christian about doing good and feeling guilty when you fail? The alternative is feeling good when you fail? Sounds semi-sociopathic. Christ became sin so we could be within 2 standard deviations of normal? The rich young ruler led what was subjectively a scripturally godly life, but was dejected when challenged to turn his back on his worldliness. I don't recall seeing where he repented, but hopefully he did.

I would ask Bob what he means by being "able to stand before the Father", and if his response is related to Final Judgment, then I'd like to know how he could justify his legal standing at that event.

His answer the last would answer why he thought his four statements of "faith" were important.

MST said...

I do not see repentance mentioned. Statement say he grieves of his sin. I know atheist that feel bad when they lie and cheat someone. I see nothing about fruit. If I worked with him would I see any fruit.

Some would ask him if he said the prayer of salvation and if he was sincere. Did he write down in his Bible? ;)

I need more info. And would run him through 1 John.

Brad "The E List "YRR" Superstar" said...

*Sigh* Sometimes I think we reformed types have a tendency to overthink things and miss the heart of the question. P.S. Erin and Ruth, I agree with you two *High five*. By the way, Otternam, you get double high fives for agreeing with me.

Would it be unfair to demand that we go "regulative" on Zach's example? We don't know if he goes to church, we don't know if he affirms the virgin birth, we don't know if he affirms that Christ is the only name under heaven by which we may be saved (Acts 4:12). We don’t know how many good works he does a day, we don’t know why he feels like he needs to be asking about his salvation and we don’t know if he affirms that it is by the spirit we are sanctified. There is a lot we don’t know and that this example isn’t supposed to give us. What we know is this: He affirms sound doctrine, he wants to know the Lord, he strives to read his bible, he seeks to live a holy life and he is still grieved by the sin that he does (which, if you put points 3 and 4 together, seeking to live a godly life via the word and grieving sin, means he is repentant).

I agree that faith without works is dead and that even demons affirm that Jesus’ death on the cross saves people, but what demon affirms that “as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection, he will be able to stand before the Father on the last day” and because of it “tries to live a godly life according to the Scriptures, but knows that he continues to sin, which grieves him”? I know of none. Last time I checked, Satan isn’t “trying to live a godly life according to the scriptures”. Simply put, knowing what Zach gives me, I would say I see fruit of the spirit regenerating him and working in his life. Also, I would encourage him to persevere till the end. To reiterate one more time, I would say Bob, from what I see and hear, is a Christian.

Now, if Bob comes to denounce any of those core points of doctrine I listed above or starts to think “sin abounds so more grace abounds”, I would be much more hesitant to say that.

Furthermore, I would want to know why he feels like he needs to ask. That is something that definitely peaks my interest. My guess and inference would be he is struggling with a sin issue (but that’s an inference, nothing more). I, like Tom, would want to make sure he is under the authority of the local church and grows in it. All of those things are very important points. However, they don’t address the heart of the question, “Is Bob, by our best guess (as Zach makes clear in his second paragraph), a Christian?”

Rachael Starke said...

Thoughts to myself (of the scenario and concluding question): There are at least one or two tricks in here. Consider the source(s) ;)

Thoughts to myself (were I to be the recipient of Bob's questions):

"Wow! And here I thought the good works God had prepared for me to today just involved wrestling with PowerPoint! What an invitation!"

"Hmmm, he knows some right things, and affirms some right things, but does he have faith that those things are all true for him, personally? Specifically, what does Bob think "standing before the Father" means? (Did he just memorize that at Awana?) What specifically about his sin bothers him? And what does he do about that? To what, or Whom, does he turn? Come to think of it - how does his relationship with Jesus bear upon these things he knows and affirms? Is his knowledge of Jesus an abstraction, or does he know Him like a sheep knows His voice? And how much of that must/should I figure out in one 45-minute lunch??"

What I'd likely say to Bob:

Wow. As excited as I am to talk with you, what's most important for you to know is not what I think, but what Jesus thinks. It's His name you're identifying with. And He's the one who definitively makes that call. Jesus actually has a lot of things to say about who His real followers are, and how they know for sure they belong to Him. Interestingly, all of them center in some way on responding to Him because of faith in who He is and what He's done for you. Let's look at what He says in John, for example....."

Thanks for the timely exercise. I've recently had a series of conversations with my hairdresser somewhat along these lines (she "randomly" asked my opinions about Bible translations, because she was planning on going across the street to Barnes and Noble at lunch and buying one). Long story short - I very gladly offered to tackle that errand for her, and now she's the happy owner of an ESV. She's been baptized in an AoG church, wants to be a good person, knows she needs to "know more". But she's also very contentedly shacking up with her boyfriend....

Daniel said...

The title question (is Bob a Christian) is not the same question asked at the close of the post (do you need any more information before you give Bob your assessment?).  In answer to the closing question I would say I do need more information, since a man is not reconciled to God by assent to the truthfulness of the fact, but by a turning aside from rebellion and accepting anew the yoke of servitude which was ours in Eden as part of the original created order (ie. by a God given repentance) and trusting God to apply/fulfill His promise of salvation if we relieve that the finished work of the cross is applied to us.

It may be that Bob is saved, but as it I personally would never make that assumption from only this much info.  Tares believe that the truths are true, and that they are saved - not because they have repented of their rebellion and are trusting God to save them, but because they have been fortified in (and by) an incomplete (and therefore false) gospel.  

I should mention also that I do not regard Bob's doubt as pertinent to the question.  Genuine believers continue to sin even after they are saved, and doubt is no different than other sins given this consideration.

So title question's answer: I don't know
Final question's answer: No, not enough info.

Tracker said...

I agree with MST and Daniel I didn't see where Bob mentioned repentance.(turning from sin to Christ)He also did not mention anything about his life being changed. I would need to ask a few more questions.

TBE said...

I guess i'd tell rob (is it okay if I call him rob?) that i'd need a bit more clarification on what no. 4 looks like for him...

MST said...

I thought of this after I had a visit from some JW's. What denomination he is would be one question.