The horrifying headlines hit the media worldwide this week. The USA Today report was typical: 'Islamophobia has reached a mass murder level in Norway as the confessed killer claims he sought to combat encroachment by Muslims into his country and Europe." One ABC news story filed on Sunday mentioned three times that Breivik as a 'Christian' and the media feels free to mention the faith of the killer again and again. But a true Christian does not live out his faith by shooting dozens of young people on a island.
Alex Crain, editor of Christianity.com, has posted this article "Is the Norwegian Terrorist a Christian? 4Tests" to address this issue. See below...
Another heartbreaking tragedy has hit. We've watched the reports from Norway with hands over our mouths, grieving at the awful destruction of life that occurred on Friday, July 22, 2011. Then, as if matters could be made worse, a baffling report has arisen from some in the press who say that Anders Behring Breivik's killing spree was motivated by his Christian beliefs. This was due to information allegedly seen on the terrorist's (now blocked) Facebook profile. Anders Breivik, who killed over 90 people including 80+ children allegedly self-identified as a Christian. So, is the Norwegian terrorist a Christian? How would we know? Did Breivik mean "Christian" in the nominal sense, as in "not Muslim?"
Apparently, Breivik's claim on Facebook serves as evidence enough in the minds of some to affirm that Christianity did motivate his bombing of a government center in Oslo as well as his ruthless gunning down of defenseless children at a youth camp. While such an appalling lack of discernment among the press is not excusable, it is somewhat understandable as reporters may have been breathing the "judge not" atmosphere of today's Christianity. Is a personal profession of Christian faith all that one needs to be considered a Christian? And is such blanket acceptance good practice? Is it the biblical or historical way to know who's in and who's out of the Christian community? Increasingly, over the past few decades, it has become standard fare in the broader Christian world to take a person's profession of faith at face value. Only rude, mean, or "legalistic" Christians question the personal faith of others. Notwithstanding this fad to twist Jesus's judge not statement beyond its intended meaning, Christianity.com has regularly posted articles stressing the need to be biblically discerning about what it truly means to be a Christian. The following are four biblical means that the Christian community has historically used to confirm the validity of professions of faith in Christ. Is the Norwegian terrorist a Christian? How would we know? Let us "examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith" (2 Cor. 13:5). Four Biblical and Historic Tests to Examine the Validity of One's Claim to Christian Faith:
[The following four points are merely a summary. Please see the article links for detail.]
1) Do I believe the gospel message? (Do I trust Christ alone for salvation? Also see article by D.A. Carson)
2) Am I a member of a doctrinally sound local church where this gospel is preached and members
strive to confirm only professions of faith that are credible? (Please see article by Mark Dever)
3) Do I submit to church discipline, lovingly, graciously, and faithfully administered?
(Please see article by Jonathan Leeman)
4) Am I making continual progress toward inward godliness, fueled by the indwelling Holy Spirit, not legalism? (Please see article by Mark Driscoll)
Let us help, pray for, and grieve with the Norway attack victims and their families. At the same time, may we respond with gracious discernment to those who are quick to accept spurious claims to Christian faith.
Church planting and growth has been a focus for most of my ministry. I frequently lecture and speak on church planting and have been actively involved in many church plants. Under God's hand and direction, my wife, Kaye, and I planted the