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A cultural Christian is a secular or nonreligious individual, or one who is religious but who does not identify with Christian Theology, who still significantly identifies with Christian culture due to family background, personal experiences, or the social and cultural environment in which they grew up.[1] Christian deists of the 18th and early 19th centuries, such as Napoleon and various Founding Fathers of the United States, similarly considered themselves part of Christian culture, despite their doubts about the divinity of Jesus.[2][3][4][5][6] Unlike regenerated Christians, cultural Christians are the products of Christianization, a branch of Cultural assimilation.

Contrasting terms are "biblical Christian",[7] "committed Christian",[8] "converted Christian", or "believing Christian".[9]


It has not been uncommon throughout human history for people living in societies with officially or culturally established religions, whether state religions or socially hegemonic religions, to refrain from publicly dissenting from that religious tradition despite not personally adhering to all of its beliefs. This has simply been a practical way of participating fully in a society where being an outsider to, or openly disavowing, the established religion disqualifies one from various segments of the society's social class system. Even in states with official freedom of religion, it can be easier to advance socially or politically if one blends into the dominant religious tradition.

Nominal Christian[edit]

A related concept is that of a "nominal" Christian, whom the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) defines as "a person who has not responded in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour and Lord." The LCWE notes that such a one "may be a practising or non-practising church member. He may give intellectual assent to basic Christian doctrines and claim to be a Christian. He may be faithful in attending liturgical rites and worship services, and be an active member involved in church affairs."[10] The LCWE also suggests that nominal Christianity "is to be found wherever the church is more than one generation old."[11]

Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk suggest that "nominalism" is a major issue. They assert that "many traditionally Christian populations know nothing of a personal faith, true repentance, and a trust in the finished work of Christ for their salvation", and estimate that 1.2 billion people are "nominal and non-practising 'Christians'."[12]

American Reformed theologian Douglas Wilson disagrees with the category of "nominal Christian" and argues that all who are baptized enter into a covenant with God, and are obliged to serve him; there is, therefore, "no such thing as a merely nominal Christian any more than we can find a man who is a nominal husband".[13] There are, however, "wicked and faithless Christians."[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James D. Mallory, Stanley C. Baldwin, The kink and I: a psychiatrist's guide to untwisted living, 1973, p. 64
  2. ^ Jayne, Allen (2000), Jefferson's Declaration of Independence: Origins, Philosophy and Theology  traces TJ's sources and emphasizes his incorporation of Deist theology into the Declaration.
  3. ^ Franklin, Benjamin (1958) [1771]. Autobiography and other writings. Cambridge: Riverside. p. 52. 
  4. ^ Olson, Roger (19 October 2009). The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity. InterVarsity Press. "Other Deists and natural religionists who considered themselves Christians in some sense of the word included Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin." 
  5. ^ Boller, Paul F (1996), Not so!: popular myths about America from Columbus to Clinton, p. 31 
  6. ^ Boller, Paul F (1963), George Washington & religion, p. 16, retrieved 5 March 2011, "...the father of his country... died as he had lived, in dignity and peace; but he left behind him not one word to warrant the belief that he was other than a sincere deist" 
  7. ^ Patrick Morley, The Man in the Mirror: Solving the 24 Problems Men Face (1997), Biblical Christian or Cultural Christian?
  8. ^ Richard W. Rousseau, Christianity and Judaism: the deepening dialogue (1983), p. 112
  9. ^ Postmodern theology: Christian faith in a pluralist world, Harper & Row, 1989 [1]. Joseph C. Aldrich, Life-style evangelism: crossing traditional boundaries to reach the unbelieving world , 1983 [2]
  10. ^ Christian Witness to Nominal Christians Among Roman Catholics, Lausanne Occasional Paper 10.
  11. ^ Witness to Nominal Christians Among Protestants, Lausanne Occasional Paper 23.
  12. ^ Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, Operation World: 21st Century Edition (Paternoster, 2001), 13–14.
  13. ^ Douglas Wilson, Reformed is Not Enough: Recovering the Objectivity of the Covenant (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 2000), 96.
  14. ^ Douglas Wilson, Reformed is Not Enough, 97.

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