My Easter/Christmas Scripture Conundrum

Column by Rev. Dr. Mark Sandlin on 9 November 2023 0 Comments

In the majority of Christian churches every Easter and frequently around Christmas, we hear scripture reading proclaiming, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them, light has shined,” and I have to say, it really bothers me.

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When Christians use language like “Believers” (i.e., Are you a believer? She’s a believer. etc.), they’re meaning they believe that Jesus Christ was born from a virgin, performed miracles, and rose from the dead, right? How can I be a “believer” if I don’t believe in that? I do believe in other things that Jesus stood for and did, so I guess I could argue that point, but that term (much like the word Christianity) seems to have gotten polluted, and I feel like using that term puts me in a camp that I don’t belong in.


Dear Susan,

I agree that the language of “believer” can cause many of us to cringe. It reduces Christian faith down to a set of theological propositions that we mentally assent to rather than a rhythm of life and spiritual practice that we embody. While faith (“believing”) is undeniably a part of Christian faith, it’s not the whole of it.

As you surely know, there are no creeds in Scripture or really even in the early church- a confession of a desire to follow Jesus was all that it took to be a “Christian”, and that was exemplified by people changing the way that they lived to be more service-oriented, loving, and resistant to the oppressive ways of the Empire that Christianity was birthed within. This is why Jesus never called his followers “believers” but “disciples”- the difference is that a believer merely has faith in someone, a disciple actually seeks to emulate and follow someone.

So I don’t think you need to use to phrase “believer”- I certainly don’t- but rather “follower” or “disciple”, both of which are far more Biblical and get at the heart of the kind of faith that you describe that you have. I hope this is helpful!

~ Rev. Brandan Robertson




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