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DAVID WATERS Traits of a good Christian



Published: Sat, July 30, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



What makes a good Christian?

Is it what you think? What you say? What you do? How you vote?

Ask a thousand Christians and you might get a thousand different answers. Ask a thousand ministers and you might get a thousand different sermons.

Ask an academic researcher, you get 59 choices.

A good Christian:

3. Does not drink.

8. Does not gossip.

46. Does not judge others.

Those are three of the choices available in the Religiosity Scales Project being conducted by researchers at Boston University.

The researchers are hoping to come up with a comprehensive and systematic way to measure religiosity among Christians. Good luck. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, there are more than 20,800 Christian denominations. Most of them were formed over disagreements about the measurements.

A good Christian:

12. Opposes abortion.

19. Opposes the death penalty.

Those who take the survey are asked to rank each of the 59 measures on a scale of one to six, one being "not at all important" and six being "absolutely essential."

St. Augustine once addressed divisions in the church with this dictum: "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, charity." Countless Christian leaders have repeated those words as they came up with their own lists of essentials.

A good Christian:

44. Believes that Jesus is the only savior for all people everywhere.

49. Believes the Bible is the literal word of God.

52. Believes that good deeds are more important than specific beliefs.

Differing opinions

Protestants split from Catholics over the question of what makes a good Christian. Luther, heavily influenced by Augustine, took down the church's "Will Work for Salvation" signs and started singing "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."

Since then, some say what makes a good Christian is what you believe. Others say what also makes a good Christian is how you behave. Still others say there is no distinction and the behavior of a good Christian is the direct result of the beliefs of a good Christian.

A good Christian:

41. Is actively involved in peacemaking.

43. Takes care of those who are sick or needy.

55. Tutors / teaches / assists in (social service) programs in the community or at church.

You can take the survey yourself. Just go to religiosityscalesproject.com. If nothing else, the 59 measurements on the survey show there is a wide range of possibilities for what makes a good Christian. Everyone should be able to find at least one that's "absolutely essential." I found nearly a dozen.

I was struck more by what I didn't find.

Not one single measurement includes the word "love," which Jesus used 66 times, according to one concordance.

Love God with all your heart, mind and soul.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love your enemies.

Love one another.

Maybe they're saving those measurements for the next survey: What makes a better Christian?

XColumnist David Waters may be reached by e-mail at waters@gomemphis.com or by mail at The Commercial Appeal, P.O. Box 334, Memphis, TN 38101.




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