Christian musicians are fond of saying things like, “Well, we’re not a Christian band. We’re Christians in a band,” and think they’re being profound.
Front-man Jon Foreman was once asked, “Is Switchfoot a Christian band?” And he answered, “To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it misrepresents a much bigger issue than simply a couple Switchfoot tunes. In true Socratic form, let me” oh good grief, let me find a shorter example.
Christian filmmaker David Leo Schultz has said, “What I’ve learned from smarter men than me is that products can’t be Christian. A movie can’t be baptized, or take communion, or follow Jesus.” So are Schultz and other artists correct? Are we mis-applying the word “Christian?” Well, as with anything we talk about on When We Understand the Text, this all has to do with “context.”
Believe it or not, the word “Christian” appears only 3 times in scripture — twice in the book of Acts, and once by the Apostle Peter. Christians didn’t call each other Christians. They used names like saints, disciples, brothers, or the elect. And Christianity was called the faith or the Way. Christian was a word used first by unbelievers to describe followers of Jesus.
And do you think they knew what being a Christian entailed? They didn’t understand concepts like baptism or being redeemed. It was a word used in the context of describing a person associated with Christ.
Likewise, when we’re using the word “Christian” to describe a song or a t-shirt, no one’s implying it’s born-again and going to heaven. It’s just a word to describe something that’s hopefully giving glory to God through Christ.
If a Christian artist doesn’t want that, they have bigger concerns than having their work labeled Christian. After all, as Peter said, do not be ashamed but let God be glorified in that name (1 Peter 4:16) when we understand the text.