Christianity,  News

Anders Behring Breivik is not a Christian, but we already knew that.

Contrary to early reports, Anders Behring Breivik is not a Christian. In fact in his 1,518 page manifesto, the perpetrator of the atrocities in Norway has specifically disavowed any real commitment to Christ. In his own words:

A majority of so called agnostics and atheists in Europe are cultural conservative Christians without even knowing it. So what is the difference between cultural Christians and religious Christians?

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian (p. 1307).

I had not yet read this when I wrote my previous post about how the Bible defines the word Christian. It turns out, however, that he does in fact epitomize what I warned against in my previous post. He has a commitment to a cultural artifact but not to Christ. At most, he is Christian in name only. By his own admission, he hasn’t tasted the reality of it.


  • Dan Russell

    “At most, he is Christian in name only. By his own admission, he hasn’t tasted the reality of it.”

    The scandal of the gospel is that you can quite reasonably add “yet” to that sentence and still be entirely true to the message of Jesus. That God’s grace is still freely available to a cold blooded mass murderer is part of what makes the Christian message so radical.

  • BPRJam

    I dunno -I feel the proper Christian response should be more…sorrowful? Penitent? Searching? Words fail me.

    To pretend that this guy did not self-identify as Christian is dishonest. He is a Christian in name, and therefore brings some measure of guilt upon all Christians. Whether or not this is a correct association of guilt is virtually irrelevant to those bringing the charge.

    I’m partially reminded of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy in this post. Since “real” Christians have not been proper about proactively elucidating what true Christians are and do, it seems to the rest of the world what we are simply defining Christianity to exclude Breivik after the fact. Thus, no true Christian would commit these acts.

    Instead of washing our hands of those like Breivik, we should think and pray deeply about how we can be different enough so that no one can condemn us because of our good deeds. As it is, the leap to Christian terrorist seems to be easy for most of the world. I’m not convinced our defensiveness makes anything better.

  • Steve in AZ

    “To pretend that this guy did not self-identify as Christian is dishonest. He is a Christian in name, and therefore brings some measure of guilt upon all Christians.”

    Karl Marx was a cultural Jew who had NO faith in the God of Abraham. His maefesto enabled the murder of millions. Should we blame jews (real ones) for that? Of course not! After the London bombings, 10% of Muslims who were surveyed sympathized with the bombers. I blame those 10%, NOT the 90% of Muslims who condemn that terrorist attack. People need no special motivation to murder, if they are so inclided to commit murder. Religion cannot be blamed, unless we also blame atheists for the people murdered under communism.

  • vladdy

    “… brings some measure of guilt upon all Christians.”

    No. It does not.

    If you want to set up some type of “scoreboard,” then you will need to list everyone starting with Paul and the other early Christians and count them all on one side or the other.

    You do not pick out an isolated tragedy committed by someone and mark all Christians with the mark of evil.

    If our book urged murder upon us, and our savior presented a life of abhorent vloence, and there were daily “Oslo’s,” you might be correct.

    That is why there IS an evil in the world that is islamic terrorism (
    We must not deny that because we are “defensive” (loaded word that does not describe Christians I know) about keeping those in ignorance from falsely accusing us and our beliefs.

    That is EXACTLY what Lucifer, or Evil, or whatever you choose to call it, wants. And will not get.

    • Harald Korneliussen

      That website you link to was one of the murderer’s big inspirations, according to himself.

      I agree that the murderer was no Christian (and I wouldn’t have called Osama Bin Laden a Muslim either if he had written something like this: “If you affirm that God is one and Muhammad is is prophet, then you are a religious Muslim. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily affirm that God is one and Muhammad is is prophet. We do however believe in Islam as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform.”)

      So, you bear no responsibility for being a Christian. However, if you believe everything you read on that site, promote its ideas, and identify with the people behind it – then I say you bear some moral responsibility.

  • Sol Vista

    So how do we distinguish and distance ourselves from cultural Christians/Christians in name only? How should we identify ourselves?

    Here is my suggestion as a start:
    Bible Believing Christ Followers

  • Charlton Connett


    Why should the “proper Christian response” be more penitent? Denny notes that he has already written on what a real Christian looks like, before Breivik’s words were known. Second to that, Breivik’s own words say that he does not claim a personal relationship with Christ, which is what Evangelicals, at least, have been saying for years is necessary for any real Christian. In addition, among Southern Baptists, we have one of the largest relief response organizations in the world. Red Cross and Salvation Army were both started to be explicitly Christian.

    While you may say that Christians have not been proper about elucidating what true Christians are and do, I’m wondering what Christians you are looking at. In nearly every church I see tracts describing what it means to really be a Christian (to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior) and in every church I’ve ever been in I’ve heard pastors teaching moral behavior from the pulpits.

    Are there moral failing in the church? Yes. Do Christians fail to live up to the teachings that have been set forth since the time of Christ? Yes. Do churches fail to exercise proper discipline and allow members to openly engage in morally dubious, even morally illicit activities? Yes.

    But, despite all that the church has failed to do, the simple fact is that Christians have been very vocal about who and what a Christian is. This is why every church I know teaches that Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and other “sects” are not Christians. I don’t know how anyone can say that Christians haven’t been very vocal in saying who is and who isn’t a Christian. More often I think the opposite is true, that the world looks and sees us dividing over what they consider small things and excluding one another over points of doctrine that most simply do not understand.

    We sometimes say at our church that we, Christians, are more often known for what we are against than what we are for. But, the only reason anyone in the world would have an easy time jumping to “Christian terrorist” is because they have imbibed false teachings put forth by a world that is hostile to Christianity. Christians have been doing good consistently ever since Pentecost. This whole discussion reminds me of an early part of the Gulag Archipelago, where a Christian woman stands up on a table and begins to question the communists around her, asking why they would be seeking to persecute Christians when Christians are the ones who follow the law, teach obedience to the government, and keep the moral standards of the community. The world knows the good Christians do, or if those who disseminate information would actually work to put forth the truth, then the world would know the good we do. It is therefore regrettably necessary for posts like Denny’s post, where we distance ourselves from murderers, liars, predators, and those who commit all kinds of evil, because the world chooses to link us to evil, not because we are somehow failing to do good works.

    I agree with you, that Christians ought to be stirred up to do even more good works, and that there are many who do not practice what they preach (or hear preached) but in no way is that a valid reason for a universal complaint against Christians as a whole.

  • Grant Me Freedom

    Doesn’t it say, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”? Didn’t Jesus tell Peter to put away his sword in Gethsemane? And didn’t Jesus say we must be born again? So then Breivik was a “notional Christian” but not a child of God–by his own admission. For a long time now, people have been doing things in the name of Christianity but counter to the faith. Thus we must constantly show the world what our Christianity is really about. Our actions speak louder than all the talk.
    And so being a notional Christian, an affilitated Christian who says that atheists are conservative Christians (???), with an agenda of revolution and hatred of non-Aryans, who does Breivik remind me of? Yeah, that Austrian guy with the funny mustache.
    So why can’t the New York Times uncover this hoax in his manifesto?

  • sanchez

    Yeah, he was not religious at all, and too, he also wrote the following. Talk about questionable circumstances!

    “An alliance with the Jihadists might prove beneficial to both parties,” Breivik wrote. “We both share one common goal.”

    Breivik dreamed of obtaining WMDs from jihadi terrorist groups for use against European targets. And emphasized that, “Knights Templar do not intend to persecute devout Muslims or enslave them under puppet leaders in their own Islamic countries like today’s EU/US leaders are doing.” End.

    The above is what the media should have zeroed in on: Breivik’s overwhelming desire for an alliance with Muslim terrorist groups and using WMDs against European targets. A terrible threat to Europe if monster Breivik has people working with him.

    But the elites chose to ignore all this. Ruthless media and elites IMMEDIATELY and eagerly exploited the murders of innocent children for political propaganda by attacking hero Robert Spencer and other heroes who write and speak to warn of the great dangers of Islam. It is incredibly evil.

    The elites seek to silence all those who warn – they seek to put to sleep an unsuspecting public. The elites brought in massive numbers of Muslim immigrants into Europe, UK and other countries. Exactly why would they do that when the Koran teaches that jihad is an obligation for every Muslim?

  • Brian

    I don’t think the proper response is to dismiss the notion of “cultural Christianity” as merely being “cultural artifact”. When people speak of the United States being a Christian nation; its only true in that particular, cultural sense. The Enlightenment, while not religious, was founded in a Christian worldview and Christian sense of ethics. The ideas that government needed to be constrained by moral laws and that kings had no more rights than peasants, both came from Christian philosophers. Its not untrue, or trivial, that Christianity has shaped Western culture, either. People of that era spoke of ‘Christian’ culture versus the culture of antiquity.

    The more important thing to point is that Brevik didn’t even think or act in a way consistent with him believing Christianity was a “moral platform”, as he put it. Brevik’s writings show no commitment to humility, for instance, as one of the important ideas in Christian ethics. Brevik describes religion as a type of crutch for people who don’t have confidence; but Christianity would hold that people who are confident have the danger of becoming arrogant through pride, so are the ones who need religion the most. If that doesn’t mean observing Christ in the theist sense, it at least would mean not to give yourself the hubris to act in the way that Brevik did. If I didn’t know any better, I would think he was more influenced by Nietzsche than Christianity; believing if he’s confident enough he can define his own morals.

    Secondly, discrediting either Christianity or conservativism with Brevik’s actions is equivalent to discrediting progressivism with the actions of eco-terrorists, the Animal Liberation Front, 19th century anarchists, Weathermen like Bill Ayers, or rioters who through bricks during anti-WTO rallies. Progressives wouldn’t like to be held to that standard, so why should it be applied to conservatives? People on the left are getting away with creating a narrative where the only violent political activity that happens in the West is abortion clinic bombings. There have been no more bombings of abortion clinics than there have been bombings of animal testing labs.

  • BPRJam


    I’m not 100% sure “penitent” is the correct word (as I noted in my post), but something in the vicinity of it seems to make sense to me.

    Why? This may take some time, so I’ll try to be brief.

    Because on most of the Christan blogs I have read, the reaction to Breivik is something akin to “see, he’s not really a Christian, therefore the charge of him being a Christian terrorist is false,” and then cue derogatory remarks against sections of the media.

    I’m labeling this sort of behavior as defensive because it is trying to defend the Christian cause against the accusation that Christianity fuels extremism, that it ignores the “tracts” (as you put it) outlining what Christianity is and does, and it overall is bad press for Christianity. It’s almost like we’re looking for a way to breathe a sigh of relief that “he’s not one of us”. Don’t get me wrong, Christians do need to denounce Breivik’s actions, clearly and loudly, but the sense in which these denouncements take place matters.

    Instead of the “he wasn’t REALLY a Christian” argument, it seems to me that the better approach would be to acknowledge Breivik’s claim to being a Christian (which my reading of the evidence indicates he did indeed claim), and then acknowledge the specific ways in which the true Christian community failed in discipling him, the specific ways in which Breivik violated the most crucial tenants of our faith, and denounce his actions as the work of something other than those of Jesus Christ. But I digress.

    The reason something akin to penance is needed has to do with two things: the way in which Christians failed Breivik, and the ease with which the rest of the world easily identifies the actions of Breivik with a dangerous Christianity.

    First, the way in which Christians aught to be saddened and troubled by the way in which Christian discipleship failed Breivik should need little unpacking. I read somewhere (NYT? BBC? I can’t find it now, but I seem to recall it was fairly reputable.) that Breivik chose believer’s baptism at the age of 15. He self-identifies as Christian on Facebook. In his younger years he was no stranger to church attendance, which changed as he aged to complete lack of attendance. Suffice it to say his discipleship failed. I refuse to acknowledge that the failure of our brothers and sisters in Christ to disciple this man or to cast him out has no reflection upon us. We are all of one body. Hence, something akin to soul-searching in our own Christian communities needs to occur to help us avoid churning out a Breivik of our own – whether a terrorist or not.

    Second, the world increasingly sees conservative Christianity as dangerous. I mean, really, physically, shoot guns at politicians and bomb abortion clinics dangerous. Of course, you and I know that this is repugnant and incredibly UN-Christian, but many do not. In the mind of non-christian onlookers, the good name built for Christianity by the work of Christian organizations is too easily undone by the acts of the deluded and lunatics. We need to seriously consider why this is, and work to correct the problem. Granted, the world will always see Christ as dangerous, and the cross as a scandal, but that sort of fear is different from the fear of retribution or violence many fear from Christians. Something went horribly wrong somewhere, and I am deeply troubled by it. Speaking as a Southern Baptist, I have noticed that the Mennonites and the Salvation Army have overcome some of this stigma by tireless work and an intense Christian ethic. I can honestly say that Southern Baptists are more likely to be lumped in with fundamentalist extremists than with, say, the Mennonites. I believe that this mis-identification should grieve us, and we should find penitent(?) ways in which to redeem the label of Christian.

    I’ve written too much, and I apologize for the wordiness. As much as I’d like to continue in charitable conversation, other things demand my attention and I will have to bow out.

  • From the Middle East


    I’m not sure where you picked up that quote, but it is an awful representation of what he said. Here is the full quote:

    An alliance with the Jihadists might prove beneficial to both parties but will simply be too dangerous (and might prove to be ideologically counter-productive).

    We both share one common goal. They want control over their own countries in the Middle East and we want control of our own countries in Western Europe. A future cultural conservative European regime will deport all Muslims from Europe and isolate the Muslim world. As a result, the Islamists will gain the necessary momentum to retake power in several countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Oman, Algeria, Morocco and a few others.

    The Jihadists know this very well. An Islamic Caliphate is a useful enemy to all Europeans as it will ensure European unity under Christian cultural conservative leadership.

    He then goes on to describe how this could play out including the option to double-cross the Jihadists. Basically he wants Europe to be united AGAINST an Islamic state in the Middle East.

    Peace to you,
    From the Middle East

  • Christianes

    I have questions about the effects of American media on the terrorist.
    I understand that two commentators who appear regularly on American television are mentioned by the terrorist, and have influenced his thinking. (of course, these commentators cannot be accused of complicity in the murders themselves)

    Would it be valuable to examine the thinking of these commentators to discover more about the nature of what they were preaching ?

    And then, would it be valuable for Christian people to decide whether or not to disown that teaching and make a public statement about it?

    This is important, because a lot of the world has noticed the strong connection between some American conservative Christians and the media outlet that invites these particular commentators to speak on a regular basis.

    Any thoughts ?

    • Harald Korneliussen

      I am a Norwegian, and I can comment on this.

      I have long despaired that some people live online, in the English-language net world, to the degree that they become totally alienated from their own culture. It’s a paradox that the murderer claimed to hate outside cultural influences, when he was so totally enamored of one (anglophone internet right-wing culture).

      Some examples of this: Norwegian atheists who have spent time on the net, tend to assume all Christians in Norway are right-wingers opposed to contraception and sex education. This despite the fact that Norway’s Christian Democratic party is centrist – as unwilling to work with the right-wing Progress party as they would be working with communists. And despite that it advocates free contraception to all women below 25 as a (proven) means to reduce abortion numbers!

      These Norwegian net atheists are also far more likely to agree with Dawkins that they don’t have any metaphysical beliefs, than with the Norwegian Humanist association which has explicity rejected that idea for 50 years (they realize humanism implies believing in moral principles that can’t be argued for from experience alone).

      So yes, you can be sure that American right-wing pundits affected the terrorist. In fact he lists a lot of them in his “manifesto”. His ideology isn’t exclusively American by any means, but it was born there after 9/11 (with good help from many Europeans such as Oriana Fallaci).

      • Christianes

        “So yes, you can be sure that American right-wing pundits affected the terrorist. In fact he lists a lot of them in his “manifesto”. ”

        Yes, you are right. I have seen their names. But when I have mentioned the presence of their names on Breivik’s manifesto, my comments are ‘deleted’ from conservative right-wing blogs.

        I guess they don’t want people to realize that this influence was a part of Breivik’s ‘world-view’;
        but the truth always comes out eventually,
        and those who have hidden the truth must then question themselves about their own integrity.

  • Peter Johnsen

    Yes, we knew that.

    But to look at the reflections of scholar and skeptic Egil Asprem gives even more insight in this.

    “It also sheds some light on the question of religion in Breivik’s motivations, (…) the “Christian Fundamentalist” label which was tossed around quite a lot does obviously not fit at all. Instead, the strong Judeo-Christian element of Breivik’s ideological discourse is itself motivated by identity politics.”

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