Historic or Cultural Christians

Eleven different ways of experiencing Christianity—Part 1

There are many ways of seeing yourself as a Christian. You can add another as your faith grows, you can have more than one at a time and you can move through them over some time.

I am going to look at this through Advent this year. None of them is wrong when taken in context with the others; all of them are wrong on their own. The list is not exhaustive.

The Christian Culturaj Centre building in Brooklyn, New York.
Free image by Matt Green on Flickr

A legacy you are born into.

What I am not discussing here is historic Christianity, the period of church history between the birth of Jesus Christ and the council of Nicea in AD 325. What I am looking at are the factors that make people consider themselves Christian in the twenty-first century.

Of all the different ways of experiencing Christianity, this is the big one. Have a look at the numbers:

There was an estimated 2.38 billion Christians in the world in 2020[1]
3,890,000 people considered themselves Christians in the UK in 2020[1]

In the UK between 1939 to 2010 Church attendance fell from about 30% to 11.2%
2013 fallen to 5.4 million 10.3% of the population and by 2025 is expected to be 8.4% in the UK and 2.43 million, 4.3% in England.[2]

English atheist Richard Dawkins has described himself in several interviews as a “cultural Christian” and a “cultural Anglican”. In his book The God Delusion, he calls Jesus Christ praiseworthy for his ethics.

But I am not talking about the cultural Christianity of Dawkins who is prominant in speaking out against religion, but rather those who class themselves as Christians because of the culture they are brought up in.

Cultural Christianity obviously has a wide variety of meanings, there are many sites which contrast cultural Christianity with Biblical Christianity because cultural Christianity is social but Biblical Christianity is spiritual sich as this one on Crosswalk.

I disagree, but I have linked it so that you can make up your own minds. When I read the Bible I see a lot of social stuff, loving your neighbour as you love yourself, fairly distributing alms, and how to stop mildew spreading from house to house (a bit dramatic, that one). I used to hold spirituality and society as different things, but more and more as I read the Bible again and again I am seeing that social concern is a part of spirituality and part of our duty to God. Social concern is Biblical.

I am not saying that social concern for other people should be prioritised over our duty to God. I am saying the two go hand in hand.

The legal system here in the UK is based on the laws of the Bible. The trade unions were originally set up by Christians (The Methodist Church). Schools and hospitals for the most part were set up by Christians. There is much in our culture to be praised because Christians set them up based on their Biblical beliefs. Cultural Christianity on its own may have issues but it is part of the mix that makes up the faith of many Christians. I cannot write off Cultural Christianity that easily.

It’s all about Jesus

Christianity is all about Jesus Christ, that’s where the name comes from. The problem with Cultural Christianity on its own is that it takes the moral teachings of Jesus as being good but not what he said about being the Son of God. If what he said about himself is wrong, then his morals are not very moral. I do not know of many Christians who do not take the moral teaching so Jesus seriously as part of their faith, but Jesus said that all who come to him he will never cast away. If you come to Jesus through culture, family history, or national history that’s great, but there’s more to it than that.


[1]Both https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/religion-by-country

[2]https://faithsurvey.co.uk/uk-christianity.html

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