Does It Really Require Much Discernment to Separate the Authentic from the Counterfeit?

Posted on September 3, 2011


Even a casual watcher of American Idol Season 10 understands that there is a qualitative difference between a gifted professional singer and a hack.  My definition of a hack being someone who seeks to convince others, along with themselves perhaps, that they are gifted at something which they are not.  This lack of talent in that arena does not stop them from exercising it and even feeling good about their effort.

For the sake of making a point, let’s compare two Groups of Singers.

Ask yourself, if you were aspiring to become a professional singer, from which group would you prefer to receive coaching from?  Why is that?  Both groups sincerely believe and would label themselves as professional quality singers.  The majority of even mildly discerning people would overwhelmingly choose Group B.  If you studied with Group A, what are the chances that you would become a professional singer?  The answer is that it would be incredibly unlikely.  Let’s try to ascertain why not.

There are quality and attributes which we expect to find in someone whom we consider a professional quality singer.  There are technical, measurable things like: pitch, vocal range, harmony, control, training, etc., but there are also less definable attributes like confidence, the ability draw us into a song and get lost a bit in it, ability to read their audience, etc.

If someone called themselves a professional singer and did not possess most of these traits, would you still call them a professional quality singer?  Answer: Probably not.  This is how we discern whether or not someone is a professional quality singer, based on the traits that they exhibit – even if it conflicts with what they are telling us they are.

We call people who say that they are one thing, when in fact they are not:  hypocrites, fakes, hacks, etc.

If someone calls themselves a Christian – meaning little Christ; follower of Christ, how would you discern whether or not they are an authentic Christian or if they are lying, fakes or even if they are self-deceived; meaning that, like the singers in Group A, they sincerely believe themselves to be something that they are not?

I would challenge you to consider the same process we used above with discerning singers.  What traits, attributes, actions and beliefs would you expect that person to believe and exhibit, that align with an authentic Christian.  Don’t settle for overly simplistic, outdated and misguided definitions used historically by people with a bone to pick with Christianity, get to the crux of the matter.

We might expect that person to exhibit, to a lesser degree, the traits models by Jesus.  A short list might be that we would expect them to:

  • Treat people respectfully
  • Exhibiting qualities like mercy, grace, love and forgiveness
  • Meet people at their point of need
  • Lift up the humble, but to humble the proud
  • Etc.

Keep in mind that there are many false perceptions about what a Christian is or should be or believe in, just to be considered a Christian.  I have listed just a few of these misguided legal requirements made by some Christians below.

* Believe in a literal 6 days of Creation

* Cannot be an evolutionist

* Believe in a young earth

* Live a perfect life

* Not work on Sundays

* Speak in Tongues

* Disregard Evidences of Dinosaurs

* Hate people who believe differently than themselves

* Attend an established Christian church

* Maintain weekly attendance at church

* Hate TV, movies and video games

* Not be a drinker of alcoholic beverages

* Only enjoy gospel music

* Have no tolerance for drums or electric guitars in church

* Believe all must be fully immersed in baptism

* Tithe 10 percentage

* Embrace all Televangelists as true messengers.

* Etc., etc., etc. It seems like people continue to add to this list each day

It’s worth taking the time to correct these misconceptions.   It’s important for us to be able to identify authentic Christianity from its many imitations because so many people believe that they are Christians when they are not; just as many people in Group A sincerely believe that they are good singers.  Sincerity is nice, but it has nothing to do with reality and what’s true.

There are essentials which all Christians should believe and there are non-essentials, which Christians can differ on and still be classified as Christians.   A great rule of thumb was established by Augustine who said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Writing off all of Christianity just because some self-labeled Christian does or says something incredibly stupid, is as foolish as believing that there are no great professional quality singers on American Idol Season 10 (E.g. Scott McCreery, James Durbin, Lauren Alaina, Pia Toscano, Haley Reinhart, Casey Abrams, etc. ) just because you heard a few hacks from Group A.  If you do that, the only one that you will be hurting is yourself, as you are going to miss out on some amazing talent and wonderful experiences.  Discernment is easy, when you are familiar with the real, authentic article.  Don’t let the hacks keep you from finding the truth.