Christianity,  Culture

I am a Christian, but I don’t follow Christ

By now many of you have no doubt seen the viral video “I’m a Christian, but…” (click the image above to view it). Not only has the video been making the rounds, but the hashtag #IAmAChristianBut is ubiquitous on social media right now.

After you watch the video, it’s obvious that this is a propaganda piece for a version of Christianity that is Christian in name only–a progressivist vision of the faith that has more to do with maintaining street-cred with Christianity’s cultured despisers than with the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). It is what the apostle Paul called a “form of godliness” while “denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). It is gutless–literally, a hollowing out of everything essential to the faith.

Far from being Christocentric, this display is Christo-absent. Not one of these “Christians” even mentions Jesus. Their definition of the faith displays no connection even implicitly to the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Even disinterested observers can tell that this is more than a glaring oversight. It is an attempt to label love for worldliness as love for Christ. It undermines any credible claim that these testimonials can be in any sense authentically Christian.

And indeed, the substance of their testimony is this. “We are Christian, but are not like those other Christians who actually follow Christ’s teachings.” Nevermind the fact that Jesus taught that sex outside marriage is sin (Mark 7:21). Nevermind that Jesus defined marriage as fundamentally heterosexual in nature—the permanent union of one man and one woman until death parts them (Matthew 19:4-6). Nevermind that Jesus defines discipleship as being willing to follow Jesus even if it costs you your life (Matthew 16:24). These “Christians” have a version of Christianity that dispenses with all of that rubbish that Jesus taught.

The apostle John once warned against those who call themselves Christian but who don’t actually follow Jesus:

“The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” -1 John 2:4-6

In other words, the mark of authentic Christianity in a person’s life is the willingness to follow everything that Jesus calls us to. This obedience isn’t the cause of our salvation; it is the fruit of our salvation. It is the proof that our hearts truly have been renewed by the Holy Spirit when we love what Jesus loves—including his commands which are countercultural. Jesus himself said it this way:

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” -John 14:21-24

The testimonials in this video are not demonstrating this kind of love. They demonstrate a love for the world and its values not a love for Christ and his Kingdom (1 John 2:15-17). And that is the problem.

Contrary to what this video indicates, Christianity is not a choose-your-own-adventure story in which you get to define the terms of your relationship to God. God has defined the terms of our redemption, and they are irreducibly Christocentric. God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf in order that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus taught us that we receive this salvation by repenting of our sin and trusting in Christ to save us (Mark 1:15). That conversion issues forth in a life devoted to God and His purposes. To miss these truths is to miss Christianity altogether. And that omission is what is on display in this video.

I would say to every person in this video and to all who are sympathetic to what they are teaching. You really can be a Christian. You can know Christ and the power of his resurrection life. You can be saved and be made a part of his family. But you will have to come on his terms—by repentance and faith. And you will have to take up your cross and follow him. If you try to save your life—including your sexual freedom—you will lose your life for eternity. But if you are willing to lose your life—and all that entails—you will save it for eternity (Matthew 16:25-26).

That is real Christianity, and I hope you will join us.


  • Ike Lentz

    Two of the kids in the video identify as gay, but other than that, what is it specifically that they’re saying that you find un-christian?

    I watched the video expecting heterodox city, but found 95% of what they were saying to be uncontroversial statements that most orthodox christians would agree with (“I go to church” “I listen to christian music” “i believe in monogamy”). Sure, they don’t mention Jesus by name, but the video seems to be more concerned with setting the record straight about what young christians don’t want to be identified with, rather than an explanation of the gospel.

    • Ian Shaw

      But even if they don’t want to be “identified” as or with something, as a Christian, your identity is in Christ and that’s the starting point from which your character is developed from. If you tell me you’re a Christian and start naming off things you don’t like or don’t believe in that are pretty contrary to what Christ taught and what the Gospel message is about, it’s going to call into question what exactly you believe and why.

      • Ike Lentz

        I’m just looking for specifically what they are saying in the video that makes them non-christian? I’m starting to think it’s just a generational thing. If the same video had been made 30 years ago, it would’ve been like, “I’m a christian but i think women can wear pants”, or “i’m a christian but I think organ music is boring”, etc, while the Dennys of my grandparents generation condemned them to hell.

        • Byron Henderson

          Not so much generational as societal; They are focused on everything that society focuses on. Some of the statements are simply false (as you pointed out the gay identity) and others have a false foundation (such as “at its core it’s really about love and acceptance and being a good neighbor”–which is not true. At it’s core, Christianity is about following Christ; it is not a moral progression).

          Here’s another link that puts a bit more focus on what is wrong. One of the best observations concerning the video: “In fact, you could easily switch out all references to “Christian” with any other religion or belief system and it would have the same amount of meaning.”

          • Ike Lentz

            “at its core it’s really about love and acceptance and being a good neighbor”

            I agree that if that one soundbite is meant to encompass the entirety of the gospel message, it’s woefully short of explaining what Christianity is about, but I don’t think that’s the intent of the video. Like I said, this is obviously a video about correcting misconceptions.

            • Ian Shaw

              I would say it’s completely false, versus woefully incorrect…..

              But there is no misconception about why we need the Gospel message and why we need faith in Christ.

          • Michael Brown

            At its core, it is all about love. It is about the love the God had, which he loved us enough, to send His only begotten Son to die for us, who didn’t deserve it. I would 100% agree, that at its core it is about love. But be careful, because I am talking about a Godly love. Even Jesus said that the most 100% important commandment is to first, love God, and then love your fellow man. Now I don’t care how darn good you follow the 10 commandments, you may be the epitome of holier-than-thou Christianity – but if you don’t really love people in your heart. You are nothing. Pretty much what Paul said, and I agree.

            It isn’t about moral progression, I agree (but after being saved, we should be getting better with our morals – with His help). But it does have a whole ton to do with love. Unless you think love is unimportant in this? Which is the message I got from reading your post which.

    • Enoch Anti

      But the two who identify as gay are enough to render the video un-Christian. In the video 1 person says they are Christian but they don’t judge or are not judgemental. That one person will surely not be able to tell the two who identify as gay to repent. Another person sees nothing wrong with sex outside of a marriage. I think there is enough “unchristianess” in the video. We don’t need to look beyond what is obvious. Two identifying as gay is enough to render the video unchristian.

    • Jessie Banks

      The video screams “Define terms biblically!” It takes me back to the question of whether or not Scripture is sufficient, even in the face of moral regression and cultural animus, for showing us the faith, strengthening our faith, and securing our faith. It is sad to see these young folks who represent a significant chunk of my generation taking a very unfaithful, uneducated, unsustainable form of Christianity as the way forward.

  • Ian Shaw

    There are entire churches and denominations that claim to be Christian but do not follow Christ. My pastor recently had a conversation with another pastor at a church in town due to some fallout in the media regarding a praise and worship flash mob. My pastor asked him what do they believe the Gospel to be. His response, “you mean Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?” My pastor continued, “no, what do you believe the Gospel to be? What is the saving message?” And then proceeded to explain what the Gospel message is. The other pastor of this church responded with, “well, we don’t teach that, we’re about social justice and we believe that if people are good and love everyone, they will go to heaven.”

    You know what that gets? People will remember you were a “good person” when they go to hell.

    As Denny elegantly put it, this isn’t a choose your own adventure story. This isn’t a cafeteria line where you get your tray and say yes or no to each worker with a spoonful of something for your plate. This isn’t “I’ll take a hearty serving of peace and love, I’ll pass on Lordship over me, I’ll take justice, but not his righteousness.

    People want to believe or in instance like this video, they are taught that they can “be” something or “claim” something, without having to change anything about them. People have no idea how serious a problem sin is and how we can’t merit our way out of it.

    • Pamela Foley

      Well said Ian. When you stated “You know what that gets? People will remember you were a “good person” when they go to hell.” it gave me chills. Salvation is literal, it is the difference between life and death.

  • Alexander M. Jordan

    Wow. The video is misguided at best; smug, insulting, stupid and deceiving at worst. A Christian follows Christ, who commands His followers to obey all His commands. Surely all Christians are imperfect as they walk the road of obedience, but one had at least better be walking that road, or forfeit the right to call oneself Christian.

    The video would be accurately subtitled, “I am a person who calls myself Christian but too ashamed and embarrassed to actually live by the truth Jesus commands me to live by– therefore I redefine being Christian to simply being cool in the eyes of the world.”

    • Ike Lentz

      This video is basically a rorschach test for how people feel about the conservative brand of American Christianity that came before these kids. If you think the previous generation’s interpretation of Christianity was basically fine, you’ll find this video smug and insulting (and maybe even condemn these poor kids to outer darkness), but if you feel like most young people, and are at least slightly uncomfortable with some aspects of the older generation’s version of American Christianity, you’ll probably find yourself nodding in agreement with most of it. It’s as simple as that.

      • Ian Shaw

        I think the broader issue with millenials that are Christian is that they don’t buy into the whole marriage between America and Christianity. They are not one in the same. Previous generations may have thought so, but younger generations don’t buy it and for good reason.

        The Gospel was not given to us so we could align America (the nation) with the Church.~Russell Moore

      • Christiane Smith

        Hi IKE LENTZ,
        I agree with you about the ‘Rorschach’ effect here. Comments reveal a lot more about the commenters than about the ‘poor kids’ on this video. The video allows for interpretation and the interpretation reflects on the person doing it, more than on the ‘kids’. Good observation, IKE.

        Maybe its also a lesson in what is going on in the larger world:
        People proclaiming Christ react to external provocation and what ensues is anger, and frustration, and condemnation:
        Cursing the darkness is not the same thing as proclaiming the light of Christ. We need to remember that.

        • Ike Lentz

          Thanks. As an American millennial, blog posts like these frustrate me because they assume that the generation before ours somehow got everything “right” and different opinions are automatically heretical. Every time Denny or Albert Mohler uses Jude 3 (“…the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints”) to make their personal interpretations sound like they were handed down from on high, I want to tear my hair out. If these guys time traveled back even 150 years ago, THEY would be considered radical and liberal by their own baptist forefathers for their “progressive” views on slavery, women, etc. Each generation gets tons of things wrong, and some things right. Even if you believe the Bible is infallible, people aren’t. It’s just common sense.

          • Gus Nelson

            Ike: I agree with you that the older generation doesn’t necessarily get everything right. Nonetheless,you are claiming Mohler and Burk are wrong and almost appear to be suggesting they are wrong because they are from an older generation (although Denny is a young man in my way of thinking). In any event, do you see the irony here?

            • Ike Lentz

              I don’t think Mohler and Burk are wrong because they’re older than me. I think they tend to describe their version of a conservative, southern baptist worldview as if it’s the monolithic view of the entire Christian church from it’s very beginning. They use it as a tool to shrug off people who disagree with them.

              • Gus Nelson

                And when you claim they “tend to describe their version of a conservative southern baptist worldview as if it’s the monolithic view of the entire Christian church from its very beginning” you aren’t using that kind of rhetoric as a tool to shrug off people who disagree with you? Do you get why I am asking you about irony?

      • Esther O'Reilly

        As an American millennial, I find this video smug and insulting. I always find it smug and insulting when people presume to speak for me. How ironic: They claim to be breaking out of a mold, when they’re creating one of their own. The implication is that if you’re a millennial and you’re NOT trendy, anti-conservative, gay-friendly, etc., then seriously, what is wrong with you? Get with the program.

  • buddyglass

    For what it’s worth I know more than a few folks who affirm the things you mentioned, i.e. sinfulness of sex outside marriage, illegitimacy of same-sex marriages and the possibility of discipleship requiring physical suffering, but who are nevertheless a little uncomfortable with “conservative evangelical” culture and would could probably add a few things to the “I’m a Christian But…” meme.

    Some I would add:

    “I’m a Christian but…I think its fine to send your kids to public school.”

    “I’m a Christian but…I’m not a fan of the death penalty.”

    “I’m a Christian but…I don’t object government safety nets per se.”

    “I’m a Christian but…I think the guys at AFA and FRC are a bunch of jerks.”

    “I’m a Christian but…I’m reluctant to use the legal system to impose biblical moral requirements on my fellow citizen unless not doing so would result in direct harm to innocents, e.g. abortion.”

    “I’m a Christian but…I really liked the Harry Potter books.”

    “I’m a Christian but…I’m not also a complementarian.”

    “I’m a Christian but…I’m also largely opposed to the ‘War on Drugs’.”

    “I’m a Christian but…I don’t think U.S. foreign policy should be beholden to the Israeli state.”

    • Ian Shaw

      Excellent points, I would say that 1,3,4,6,8,9 are issues completely non-related to salvation. The others are not, per se, but I would not go so far as to claim them in the same category without giving them some critical thought and reading.

  • Ozioma Whittaker

    Great article

    minor detail
    In the second paragraph where it says “It is what the apostle Paul called a “form of godliness” while “denying its power” (1 Timothy 3:6).”

    the scripture is 2 Timothy 3:5 not 1 Timothy 3:6.

  • Bridget Platt

    “Two of the kids in the video identify as gay, but other than that, what is it specifically that they’re saying that you find un-christian?”

    Ike, with these two kids stating this in the video, isn’t that enough to shatter the mystery of what the agenda of this video is? It’s not like someone just randomly interviewed people off the street who said they were christians. This video has an agenda and that is to make stuffy, old-fashioned Christians who adhere to those archaic thoughts about homosexuality look outdated and unloving. Nevermind that this new, progressive mindset just happened like 3 days ago..only loving, caring christians think this way now.

  • Derek Taylor

    That is a really arrogant group of folks. Really, at the end of the day, they should author their own Bible or sacred text, or have the courage to do what Thomas Jefferson did and admit that you are going to carve up the Scripture and edit it down to the passages you like. Then they should assemble their own followers and just be more honest and admit that they really prefer a religion that goes by a different name (instead of hijacking one) and just admit that they have no business calling themselves Christian.

    • Christiane Smith

      worried about the ‘Christianity’ of young folks?
      have they upset you by wandering outside of your comfortable definition of ‘what a real Christian is’ ?

      I wouldn’t worry. There is healthy diversity expressed among the young of our faith, and if you don’t believe me, gather some of them together in your own faith community and let them talk for a while . . . don’t interrupt . . . just listen . . .

      the more restrictive our individual comfort-zone definition of ‘a real Christian’ is; the stronger likelihood that some of your own young have wandered outside of it from time to time,
      but if you truly worried, please remember that they are on the journey of a lifetime and on into eternity. Their faith sojourn must be their own as they discover their gifts and their place within the Church and on into the world. There is some truth in Tolkien’s words:

  • Christiane Smith

    In wanting to celebrate our claim to Christianity, we must understand that, sadly, there is no need for a ‘video like this’ to portray the flaws of either the young people in it or the ones these young people are perceived to ‘target’ with their ‘agenda’ . . .

    the honest truth is we are ALL sinners upon whom the Lord has looked . . . and for all who acknowledge Christ the Risen Lord, there is this undoubted Christian message revealed in the great event Resurrection:
    ‘love has here broken through death, transforming fundamentally the situation of us all’

    This was the great message at the beginning of Christianity . . . it still is the great message

  • Bridget Platt

    Christiane, there IS, however, the matter of this resurrection applying only to true, repentant sinners who follow the resurrected Jesus of the Bible and not the resurrected Jesus of their imaginations.

  • Christiane Smith

    Hi Bridget,
    I’m Catholic, so we believe in the resurrection of all the dead. I thought it was the belief also of bible-believing evangelicals.
    Yes, I do actually imagine the resurrection of the dead as similar to a scene out of the glorious shape-note hymn ‘Idumea’, this:
    “Waked by the trumpet sound, I from my grave shall rise;
    And see the Judge with glory crowned, And see the flaming skies!”

    My husband is to be buried at sea, but this from sacred Scripture that gives me peace about his choice: “And the sea gave up the dead that were in it . . . ” (from Rev. 20:13)

    I do see ‘resurrection of the dead’ as an inclusive event, yes, because of the Incarnation where Our Lord took to Himself an assumed humanity.
    Perhaps you are meaning ‘salvation’ instead of ‘resurrection’ in your comment ? I think that may be the case, but I cannot know that unless you were to confirm it. (?)

  • Alistair Robertson

    Oh, I get it. I still consider monogamy to refer to marriage or sex, so to say “monogamy before sex” seems odd. I couldn’t figure out how someone could be monogamous without actually having sex. It sounded to me like: “I believe in sex with only one person before sex” which is just odd.

  • elizabeth Evans

    Elizabeth Stephens: A lot of garble-de-goop! Not one of them knows the meaning of “Christian”, but they know the meaning of ‘sex’ and ‘gay’. We need more preachers in the world who are willing to step on toes to really preach the Bible and the meaning of Christianity
    You JUST can’t call yourself a Christian if you don’t FOLLOW CHRIST!!!


  • Gus Nelson

    How about: I am a Christian and . . .
    Jesus died on a cross for my sins;
    Jesus is God incarnate;
    Jesus was born of a virgin;
    Jesus performed miracles;
    Jesus taught that we should “repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15)
    Jesus was bodily resurrected on the third day;
    Jesus is on his throne mediating my sins with the Father.

  • Daniel Beaudoin

    I think much of this video comes from the unpaid bills of the church. This is what we get when churches focus on either life enhancement and behavior modification, rather than who Christ is and what He did. I’ve talked to hundreds of kids like these, who grew up in the church, but seldom to never heard the gospel preached, much less explained, and simply don’t know what Christianity is. If we get back to basics, with our congregations in general, and especially with our kids, we’ll be in a much better spot. Some will still leave the churches, but at least the faith won’t be as consistently misrepresented.

    • Christiane Smith

      Hi DANIEL,
      I have thought this: when from an infant, a child is brought into the Church and held during a service where the Word is read aloud (from the Holy Gospels, the Epistles, the Old Testament, etch), and at every service the Good News is ‘proclaimed’ and affirmed by the congregation, then even if that child grows up and leaves ‘the Church’, the Word is still a part of that child forever . . . Christian formation does not end when someone walks away from a building . . . once planted, God will bring to fruition His Word in that child in ways we cannot know. So there is hope for those raised in a Church where Christian formation begins even as the mother of the child comes to services prior to its birth, and faithfully after, carries the little one in to the sanctuary . . . the things of Christ are not so easily abandoned, no. Not when they become a part of who you are in Christian formation.

      • Derek Taylor

        Christiane, that’s a very Catholic way of understanding salvation. Once baptized as an infant, you become part of the Church, or so the Roman Catholic teaches, anyway. Jesus and the apostles actually confronted this type of thinking with Jews, except they assumed that you were definitely going to heaven if you were part of the Jewish family and were circumcised (for males, obviously). Paul wrote about this in multiple places, including Romans 2, where he said “Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised?”. Later in Romans, Paul says to Jews who claim salvation and righteousness by birthright, “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel… it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” These passages and many others in Scripture make it clear that it is actually wrong and dangerous to assume that you are united with Christ upon the basis of a sacramental process, apart from grace by means of saving faith in Christ and Christ alone.

        • Christiane Smith

          Hi DEREK,
          I was thinking about this when I wrote the comment:
          “so shall My Word be that goes out from My Mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

          Even the first Christian people had a ‘Service of the Word’ for the first half of their gathering . . . so if a child is raised listening to the reading of sacred Scripture, as it is faithfully read in the sanctuary, over time, the child will hear almost the complete Bible being orally read aloud (three year cycles, in my Church) . . . I don’t think a child’s hearing the Word goes without effect, DEREK. I’m am almost certain that many non-Catholic Christians experience the power of sacred Scripture in their own lives. And if the sacred Scriptures are read in their services, and their children are brought into those services with their parents, over time, the Word becomes nourishment for those children, certain strength for the journey, and a source of comfort and guidance for them to return to in time of need. Sacred? Sacramental? Holy? Choose what adjective is meaningful regarding the Scriptures, but please understand Catholics recognize that listening to the Word being read aloud is a way to ‘stir up our fallow ground’. Sacred Scripture has that power for all who hear it, Derek, Catholic or not.

  • James Harold Thomas

    Denny, the last two comments I’ve tried to post to your blog never posted. Do you know why? The one I tried to post here was basically a transcript of a conversation I had in college with some of the “I’m a Christian but” folks of the early 2000’s.

  • Jackie Catt

    It is clear, that you can CALL yourself anything you choose, regardless of the truth. Rachael Dolezal and Shaun King call themselves “black.” Olympia Snowe and Lincoln Chafee call themselves “Republicans.” Bruce Jenner calls himself “a woman.” A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ, and Jesus himself said, that it is a narrow road and there are few who travel it. You CAN call yourself a Christian, without actually being one.

  • Dawn Harris

    If you don’t follow Christ, doing what He says to do and not doing what He says not to do, then you are NOT a Christian. Contrary to what these deceived delusional people believe, Jesus is NOT politically correct, He’s morally correct and the One Who made the rules.

  • Scott Kevin Dehart

    The meaning of Christian is a follower of Christ and if you are not following Christ and his teachings, YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN!!!!! If you have not believe in Jesus Christ and received him as Lord and Savior and repent, YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN!!!! If you are ashamed of bring up Jesus to anyone Luke 9:26 says For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. If you are ashamed, you are not a Christian!!!!!

    • Christiane Smith

      Hi SCOTT and DAWN,
      Rather than pointing at others with ‘You are not a Christian!’ , it might do them more good to witness you praying
      ‘Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.’

      Pride has no power to help others come to Christ. But humility in a person can and does draw many to Him. There are no Christian people who cannot benefit from the biblical ‘sinner’s prayer’ of the publican. The role of the Pharisee in the temple brought him no favor from God, it only revealed his pride in himself as ‘superior’ to another. God’s grace is given to the humble, and this grace is needed in order to present Christ to others.

      God Bless.

  • Brad Henderson

    After viewing the video it came across as humanism in sheeps clothing. It has nothing to do with the Gospel of truth, but with a formless version of Christianity that has no basis in God’s word. They are attempting to re-define the Christian experience that is void of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Nothing more, nothing less.

    “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16 (ESV)

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.