Christian is a person who adheres to who is jesus, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians believe Jesus is the Messiah (the Christ in Greek-derived terminology) prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, and the Son of God.Most Christians believe in the doctrine of the Trinity (“tri-unity”), a description of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This includes Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, and the vast majority of Protestantism. A minority are Nontrinitarians.
The term “Christian” is also used adjectivally to describe anything associated with Christianity, or in a proverbial sense “all that is noble, and good, and Christ-like.
The Greek word meaning “follower of Christ”-comes from (christos)-meaning “anointed one”-with an adjectival ending borrowed from Latin to denote adhering to, or even belonging to, as in slave ownership. In the Greek Septuagint, christos was used to translate the Hebrew (Masía?, messiah), meaning “[one who is] anointed.” In other European languages, equivalent words to ‘Christian’ are likewise derived from the Greek, such as ‘Chretien’ in French and ‘Cristiano’ in Spanish.
The first recorded use of the term (or its cognates in other languages) is in the New Testament, in Acts 11:26, which states “…in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” The second mention of the term follows in Acts 26:28, where Herod Agrippa II replies to Paul the Apostle, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” The third and final New Testament reference to the term is in 1 Peter 4:16, which exhorts believers, “…if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name”. Mattison suggests that “The New Testament’s use of this term indicates that it was a term of derision, a term placed upon Christ’s followers by their critics.”
The earliest occurrences of the term in non-Christian literature include Josephus, referring to “the tribe of Christians, so named from him;” Pliny the Younger in correspondence with Trajan; and Tacitus, writing near the end of the 1st century. In the Annals he relates that “by vulgar appellation [they were] commonly called Christians” and identifies Christians as Nero’s scapegoats for the Great Fire of Rome.
A wide range of beliefs and practices is found across the world among those who call themselves Christian. There is usually a consensus within a denomination about what defines a Christian, but often little agreement among members of different denominations on a common definition of “Christianity.” Philosopher Michael Martin, in his book The Case Against Christianity, evaluated three historical Christian creeds to establish a set of basic assumptions which include belief in theism, the historicity of Jesus, the Incarnation, salvation through faith in Jesus, and Jesus as an ethical role model. Included in his analysis were the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.
The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance claim there are significant differences in the various ways people define “Christian.” They suggest it is probably impossible to have any large group of adults reach a consensus on precisely who is a “Christian,” and who is not. They identify these seven as common ways a Christian is popularly defined as being someone who has: