Being a full-fledged Christian requires bonding with Jesus in addition to accepting “the lofty ideas” of Christian doctrines and and “the ethical choice” to practice Christian moral teaching.
This post corrects Encounter With Christ as Truth Conditions for Christian Doctrine. In that post, I presented Benedict XVI’s claim that being a Christian is more than merely accepting lofty ideas and making ethical choices as making a philosophical point about the truth conditions for Christian beliefs. I proposed that the additional factor of encountering the person of Christ was that historically some people physically encountered Jesus. Our current faith rests on the testimony of those historical witnesses, eg., the Apostles. What I wrote was correct about truth conditions for Christianity. Christianity requires eye witness testimony of people who actually encountered Christ before and after His resurrection. However, what I wrote is not a correct interpretation of Benedict XVI’s intention.
St. Paul (RM 10:9-10) wrote:
If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
Benedict wrote about the believing in the heart which makes someone the right kind of person, a justified person, for salvation. Believing in the heart is an affective condition. It is the affective condition of Bonding which is necessary for Love. Professing with the lips is a cognitive condition. One professes with the lips the “lofty ideas” and “ethical choices” of Christianity. The bonding condition is more important than the cognitive condition; it is love for God in the person of Jesus Christ. As St. Paul wrote in another place (1 Cor. 13:13) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
In what follows, I am treating bonding with Jesus as encountering Christ.
I am afraid that Benedict XVI is correct. In a Christian religion without people who both profess the “lofty ideas” and “ethical choices” of Christian teaching and also personally bond to Jesus, such a religion’s Christianity becomes a belief system, an ideology. For that so-called Christian religion, we should not say that “God is dead for them.” But we can say that “Jesus is dead for them.” For if no one bonds with Jesus, no one believes that Jesus is alive. If no one believes that Jesus is alive, no one believes that Jesus rose from the dead; and, in that case, as Paul reminds us, their faith is in vain.
So, if there is not a “critical mass” of adherents of religion who have a devotion to Jesus, eg. pray to him, that religion is only nominally Christian. Similarly, if too many adherents of that religion believe that relating to Jesus, viz., bonding with Jesus, is illusory, that religion is only nominally Christian.
Why did I write that I am afraid that Benedict XVI was correct about Christianity needing an encounter with Christ? I am afraid that in the West, viz., Western Europe and North America we are losing the critical mass of those for whom Jesus is real person with whom they are bonded in some type of love forming bond. Fortunately, with a Trinitarian concept of God, we can maintain hope for being full-pfleged Christians because the Holy Spirit can bless enough people to have a personal relation to Jesus. For as Paul teaches in 1Co 12:3 ” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.”