Just what is a Christian? Or, what set of behaviors is implied by the term? Famed logician and skeptic Bertrand Russell addressed this in his essay Why I Am Not A Christian:
Perhaps it would be as well, first of all, to try to make out what one means by the word Christian. It is used these days in a very loose sense by a great many people. Some people mean no more by it than a person who attempts to live a good life…"
As in Russell's time, the meaning of the word is vague today. It seems possible to be a Christian by one person’s definition yet equally possible to not be a Christian by another’s. If the definition of the word Christian is assumed to be somebody who believes in God and goes to church, then by that definition there are a great many Christians around. However, if a Christian is defined as somebody who accepts and adheres to the teachings of Christ, then there are hardly any Christians around. Besides, what type of Christian are you referring to? Protestant? Catholic? Liberal? Scientist? The point of all this is not to play the game of semantics; rather, such examples are included to highlight the importance of clarifying our terms to prevent the furthering of ignorance, dissension and misunderstanding.
At its root the word Christian translates to Christ-like. Theologically, Russell seems to have a firm grasp on what the word means, continuing,
I do not mean by a Christian any person who tries to live decently according to his lights. I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian. The word does not have quite such a full-blooded meaning now as it had in the times of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. In those days, if a man said that he was a Christian it was known what he meant…there are two different items which are quite essential to anybody calling himself a Christian. The first is one of a dogmatic nature, namely, that you must believe in God and immortality. If you do not believe in those two things, I do not think that you can properly call yourself a Christian. Then, further than that, as the name implies, you must have some kind of belief about Christ.
In my opinion, the biblical definition of a Christian would include all of that, with the additions of repentance and baptism.
A Fundamentalist is someone who holds to the five fundamental doctrines of Christianity, being 1) The inerrancy of scripture; 2) The virgin birth and deity of Jesus; 3) Redemption through grace; 4) The physical resurrection of Jesus; and 5) The authenticity of Christ's miracles. Points 2-5 are undoubtedly supported biblically; however, depending on how one interprets the pertinent terms, Point 1 can cause an awful lot of confusion.
A dilemma: in a downtown American suburb, a homeless and dejected man sits on the streets begging. When a well-dressed and conservative looking family passes the man, their children react with natural human empathy and the little girl goes so far as to give the man her leftover lunch. The father rebukes the girl because she "shouldn’t talk to strangers" and "those people are dangerous." The man’s silent cries for help fall on deaf ears as the family piles into a brand new SUV with a Christian bumper sticker. A block or two down the street, some guy innocently into heavy metal who's never really committed himself to Satan walks out of the record store in a Marilyn Manson T-shirt with the new Christian Death album, totally faded off the chronic joint he just smoked over at his cronies’ pad. Upon seeing the homeless man, this youth is genuinely troubled, so much so that he sits down for a second to observe the situation and ponder the enigma of the homeless. He decides that overall, the problem is far greater and more complex than he can help right now, but out of the compassion of his heart he smiles at the man, gives him a cigarette and chats momentarily in an attempt to uplift him, then goes on his way, and in an informal state of prayer, wishes sincerely towards God that things would swing around for the guy.
Who was the Christian?