Can Angels Be Christian?


Can angels be Christian?

I’m not asking if they can be saved, redeemed, washed in the blood, baptized, regenerated, or pray a prayer to receive Jesus into their hearts.

But if books …

… businesses …

… buildings …

… magazines …

… movies …

… associations …

… and dating services …

…can be Christian, why not angels?

And if athletes …

… celebrities …

… politicians …

… economists …

… radio hosts …

… authors …

… and artists …

… can be Christian, why not angels?

Okay, I know the Are-angels-Christian question is silly. I’ve purposefully overstated the case because, though the question is facetious, the idea behind it isn’t. I’m curious as to why we attach the word Christian to anyone or anything.

I know from Scripture, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26b NIV), but I’m under the impression that’s what nonbelievers in the first century A.D. called those who followed the Lord Jesus Christ.

Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent, addressed a related topic recently on her blog. She raised an interesting question about books. Should we label them “Christian” so people know what they’re getting? If you follow the link to her blog, I’d recommend reading the comments as well as the initial article.

What I especially found intriguing were some of the responses. Several people said something like this. “I’m a Christian but I don’t want to read Christian stuff because it’s so bad.”

My personal opinion is you don’t need a warning label, whether Christian or otherwise, because enough people will let you know how good or bad a story is. They’ll include the offensive parts, if any exist, to discourage people from reading the book (which, as we all know, often has the don’t-touch-that-button opposite effect).

Is that story Christian?

Is that guy a Christian?

Is that enchilada Christian?

Again the last question is ridiculous, but I want to make a serious point with it. When someone asks, “Is [blank] Christian?” the answer, whether yes or no, doesn’t offer much insight.

Let me illustrate.

Is the book you’re reading Christian?

Yes.

Great. I like Christian books. What’s the title?

Or…

Ah, that’s too bad. I think Christian books suck.

Not much meat in that exchange is there?

Is the guy you’re dating Christian?

Yes.

Great. You won’t be unequally yoked.

Or …

Ah, that’s too bad. You love to dance.

Not much meat in that exchange either.

I’m not against the word Christian, but I believe using it to describe a person or a thing often prevents us from investigating any further. Personally I want to know more than if a book or a guy or an enchilada is Christian.

What’s the plot? What themes emerge? Is it well written? Does the book have anything that might offer insight or encouragement? Would you recommend it?

Is he trustworthy? Is he generous? How does he treat his parents … his sister … his dog?

Paul wrote to Timothy, a young pastor, about leadership in the church. “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect” (I Timothy 3:2-4 NIV).

I want to note that Paul doesn’t even address the is-he-a-Christian question in his list.

Well, of course not. It’s assumed.

Sure, but Paul shares a more helpful list that we would be wise to build upon. Listen to these questions based on Paul’s words.

What’s his reputation in the community?

How does he treat those in his family?

How does he handle money?

Does he get drunk?

Is he quarrelsome?

Does he demonstrate wisdom and is he able to give wise counsel to others?

A person needs to give me more than “he’s a Christian” before I can get excited. Again, I’m not knocking the term. I just want more descriptive words that draw a clearer, sharper picture.

When a person says, “I’m not going to any church where Jackson Stoner’s a member,” my first question isn’t, “Is Jackson Stoner a Christian?” (My apologies to any readers named Jackson Stoner out there—pure stab at an obscure name on my part. Feel free to name your next child or pet Jackson Stoner.)

I had a conversation with a friend who made a similar statement. His words tabbed another man as perhaps one who confessed Jesus as his Savior but who also had a mean streak in him.

So here’s what I suggest.

Recognize the limited understanding of the word Christian. The term, at best, takes a shortcut to making a positive impression. At worst, it short-circuits a conversation by putting a negative barrier in a hearer’s mind.

Be more creative, precise, and intentional. How could you describe the same thing in a different way? When I review a book, I recount meaningful passages, general structure, emerging themes, etc. But I don’t say, “This is a Christian book by a Christian author.”

I wrote this in my review of Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. “If I gathered folks together for a book club conversation, I’d choose this [book].”

In January, I changed my blog’s name from The Journey to A Curious Band of Others. Why? Because The Journey was too generic and got lost among so many other people’s journeys.

And that’s what happens, in my mind, when a person, a book, or whatever is deemed Christian. Her/his/its distinctive significance gets lost.

Questions: If you scratched Christian from your vocabulary, how would you describe yourself, your work, or someone else who follows Jesus Christ? Do you think saying someone or something is Christian should suffice?

Other posts you might find of interest:

Rachelle Gardner’s “Should We Label Christian Fiction?”

Donald Miller’s “Why Scripture Includes So Much Poetry”

& “The Three Dominant Biblical Metaphors Describing Our Relationship With God”

My Top Posts in January:

“Why Am I A Businessman?”

“Do I Look Good in White?”

“What Does the Bible Say About Wearing Red Shirts?”

“6 Top Posts in 2011 and 3 Things You Can Expect to Change”

“Close Encounters of the Moose Kind”

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About tnealtarver

I've traveled and spoken around the world but always love to come home. There I eat exceptional meals, drink coffee to my heart's content, and get loved like nowhere else on earth. I believe a community centered in Christ should be all that and so much more.
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12 Responses to Can Angels Be Christian?

  1. Good thoughts, though if we get too hung up on that term we might just have to stop labelling people man, woman, atheist, democrat, liberal. None of those terms truly sums up a person but we do our best to describe things through our filter. People are constantly labelling things. I don’t believe our job is to fight to become politically or impoliticly correct. I think it’s the wrong fight.

    • tnealtarver says:

      I recognize the importance of the word Christian. After posting this article, I responded to a comment on another blog that involved my answer of “80 different Christian organizations.” To drop Christian from that response would have been an overreaction on my part. Despite this post, I’m not against the use of Christian. My main concern is when the term is used but little context is provided for further understanding.

  2. I guess I would say that I am simply trying to live a life that is obedient to Him. Not sure if there would be a one-word description, which is why I think the word Christian is used. It at least gives us a starting point. I mean, expectations are different depending on if someone professes to be a Christian or not. I realize that people can say they are and not live as if they are, but we’ve got to start somewhere. Really no different than saying someone is a college graduate or didn’t finish high school (or whatever general word descriptor you might use). We need to be careful of assumptions, but at least we have a starting point.

  3. tnealtarver says:

    I agree that it’s a starting point, that initial line of demarcation, similar to my discovering the guy behind the counter is also from Texas. At least, we have a point of common connection that can lead to deeper discoveries.

  4. I love this post. Touching on what you and Daren were talking about, I think the problem lies in this culture’s disconnect from words in general. We have disassociated words from their meanings, and the broad words like “Christian” or “conservative” or “liberal” have become so vague they are nearly meaningless. I think the key on a practical level lies in living authentically. Don’t use language that is too strong, or doesn’t accurately convey what you mean, and make any label you ascribe to deep and meaningful when you use it. Adam had the authority to name things. The authority he lost has been regained by Christ, and we are now empowered to take ideas, meanings, and substance, and create language for them. An experience stays with one person until language is given to it so that it can be shared. Christians have been given the sacred duty of re-branding all of creation.

    • tnealtarver says:

      Having read your recent post, I recognize how much we aligned in our two postings this past week. Re-branding is an interesting thought considering how that term is used for marketing purposes with writers, musicians, etc. Along those lines, I recognize that Christ re-branded me (smacks of cowboys and cattle, an idea worth further consideration) from sinner to saint.

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