Why are Christians not called people of the way today?

Posted on November 10 2009. Comments: 12

I've been reading acts for new testament class, and have wondered at the benefits of changing the name of the religion we follow to 'the way', rather than 'Christianity'. (see Acts 24:14 as one example.)


I suppose thousands of years of church history that has been a blend of great tradition, but also people using the name 'christian' to perform great evils, leaves a quandry. To keep the term identifies us with those who have persevered under the banner of 'christian' for the sake of christ, and fought for much (just ask Rhys!), but to lose it distances us from crusaders, hitler and others.

If we were to move to calling ourselves 'the people of the way' or some such, perhaps our evangelical brothers and sisters around the world would misinterpret and think we have gone soft on parts of the gospel, unless we were able to brand the concept so well (perhaps ask Mark Driscoll to drop it in a few of his telecast sermons!) that it was super clear.

I would appreciate another line in goverment forms. No aussie who has been to church 10 times in their life would sign up as one of 'the way', yet they have no problems signing up as 'christian'. This could allow for a much more accurate public assessment of the faith of Australia.

Perhaps the best solution is to keep working at helping people re-define 'Christian' in their minds, such that what they understand it to mean is somewhat closer to what following Jesus looks like.

Why do you think it matters if we are called 'Christians' or not?


Luke Prentice says:

thought provoking.

but i think a redefinition of the current terminology is worth a lot in the long run.

one benefit of a "counter definition" (eg, the crusaders do not represent authentic christianity) is that it more clearly shows what we are.

Arthur Davis says:

I like 'the Way'! smile It points to the person we follow. 'Christianity' sounds more like a system. I've recently been struck by the way in which some Aussies see Christianity as a framework at the expense of its dynamic, relational focus on the Christ. I guess that for many, 'Christian' is like 'Christmas' -- both with a silent 'Christ'.

I'm interested to see the ways in which people describe their 'religious views' on Facebook. The 'involved' Christians often don't use 'Christian' or a denominational reference, but some other tag line, such as 'Jesus is Lord'.

I was irritated by the last census, in which the checkboxes for 'religion' only included denominations. I can't remember if I eventually ticked 'Anglican' or if I went with 'other' and wrote 'Christian' -- but I remember thinking that my faith wasn't clearly represented there...

Andrew Bowles says:

You mention Acts 24:14, but even then Paul had to defend the Way against being a cult. If someone were to set up a religious group nowadays and called themselves 'The Way', I know I'd be thinking 'cult!'. I think that might not be the positive branding change we're looking for. smile

Tamie says:

I'm with Andrew on this one. I reckon that the meaning of words is defined at least in part by their usage and 'The Way' sounds just a bit too zen to me!

I go with 'Christian' on Facebook and am pretty happy with that in general. I take it that my life and conversations with others are the most effective way of redefining the term.

Luke Isham says:

For better or for worse I describe myself as a "common-garden evangelical."

Arthur Davis says:

A great recent article on this, arguing for 'Christian':

Andrew Bowles says:

Perhaps a 'common garden-evangelical', Luke? A vulgar person who is enthusiastic about horticulture?

Luke Isham says:

Yes, it does seem I misplaced the hyphen! (I do also like gardens and put my profession once on a official form as a ditch digger.)

Daniel Reid says:

I would not give up the name 'Christian' for all the world - even to a name such as 'the way' which is biblical. Why?
Because it was the first name we really had.
Because in that name stands so many who died, far more than in 'the way'.
Because, like it or not, no matter the name those who claim to follow Christ stand under under there would still be some who we would rather not have with us - the crusaders, the witch hunters, the JWs, the Mormons, etc. - all those who call themselves Christians are ultimately a crowd comprised entirely of sinful people
Because it isn't branding that should be selling Christianity to the world ... it should be Christ and it should be God.

philip starks says:

Fits too many other religions. All of them can say they are The Way. We've been call Christian's since Paul's day. If there's too much baggage attached to the label in the secular world, then we need to redouble our efforts to show differently.

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