Judas the Christian

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In his treatment of my chapter on whether or not Judas was a Christian, Greenbaggins does a good job catching the distinctions I was seeking to make. He hears my qualifications, and is willing to believe them.

He says that he has no real problem with the chapter, and had just a few quibble/questions. One of them had to do with the passage in Acts 26 where Agrippa says something obscure to Paul (as represented by all the different translations). Was he saying that Paul had almost made him a Christian, or that he was astonished at Paul’s impudence in even thinking about it? I don’t really have a dog in that translation fight (which is a fancy way of saying I don’t know). What matters for my argument is that the word Christian is used by Agrippa, not by Paul.

This issue came up in the comments section of Lane’s post, and it illustrates well the nature of this discussion. Even if my argument in this chapter fails (with regard to the use of the word Christian), we still do not have any distinctive New Testament use of the word Christian with regard to regeneration. For many modern evangelicals, the phrase becoming a Christian (in the effectual call sense) has sacramental status. You cannot mess with that phrase without getting in trouble — and that phrase is not required by any usage in the New Testament. I argued that all the uses in the New Testament were from a pagan perspective, or at least from the vantage of an outsider looking in. Even if that is not the case, there is nothing there that warrants a scriptural insistence that this is is what “becoming a Christian” means. In other words, I think our modern use of it is lawful and reasonable — but it is not exegetically self-evident.

The other question Lane raises is about the distinction of benefits. I have two definitions of Christian in this chapter — someone who is born again by the Spirit of God, and someone who is baptized in the triune name. Suppose we have someone who is a Christian in both senses, and the guy right next to him is a Christian in the latter sense only. Do I believe in a distinction of benefits between the two? Yes, I hold to a radical distinction of benefits. As Lane pointed out, I use the analogy of marriage often. Suppose two married men, one faithful and the other adulterous. Given the fact that marriage (generally) is a blessed estate, is there a distinction of benefits in what the two men receive from their marriages? Yes, there is a radical distinction of benefits. And any “benefit” that the adulterer believes himself to have with this arrangement will be a benefit that comes back later to haunt him in the judgment.

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