So where does that leave us? Separated churches in themselves create a mindset, a separative one at its root, but in fact a similar one all across the board. And that is perhaps the thing we must confront. The question today is no longer, “What is a Christian?” This was the old question of the Reformation and its aftermath, and it focused precisely on doctrinal questions. Is a Christian one who believes this or that? Is a Christian one who follows this or that practice? Is a Christian one who is bound to this or that order or authority?
“What is a Christian?” was the old question. And it has left us with the shrivelled and unappealing answer: “A Christian is someone who separates from other Christians.” But the new question, the question of today, is not, “What is a Christian?” but, “Who is a Christian?” This question must be answered in a new way, and with new tools theologically. It is a single question that, if answered rightly, offers a single counter-charge to the separative mindset that we all still share.
The question, “Who is a Christian?” emerges from a range of factors. Let me note two. First, there is the obvious point that, as people have shed their doctrinal clothing, in the course of the various developments I have already noted, one is left with, as it were, a “naked” religious figure – the one we call “Christian.” But what is this naked Christian? “I am not really a Catholic or a Baptist or Lutheran or an Anglican or Presbyterian,” someone might tell the Pew Forum survey. “So, what are you?” one might ask in response. Are you a Christian? What in the world is that?