What are Christian Principles? Do they really exist?

Over and over again in conversations with friends I have heard the term Christian Principles. It occurs most often when discussing history. “This country was founded on Christian principles” I believe this to be a myth.

My position is that there is no such thing as Christian principles. There are principles that Christianity has in common with other religions and with people who worship no diety. There are not principles that are uniquely Christian. There are doctrinal beliefs that are uniquely Christian and these vary quite a bit from denomination to denomination but no principles that can be owned soley by Christianity.

Do you agree or disagree and why?

Why must principles be uniquely Christian in order to be considered Christian?

Of what use is the term then? If kindness is a principle that is embraced by Christianity as well as many other religions and philosophies then I suppose it wouldn’t be totally inaccurate to describe it as a Christian principle. Quite often though the term is used as if they are somehow owned exclusively or primarily by Chritianity. As in the example used in the OP.

If they are not uniquely Christian then do Christians operate under Buddhist principles as much as Christian, since they share so many?

Did they specifically state what principles they were referring to, and that nobody else has them?

Presumably because they are Christians and embrace those values for that reason.

If I say that spiciness is trait of Korean food, it does not mean I think spiciness is not also a trait of Mexican food.

Frankly, I dislike that term only slightly less than I dislike “Judeo-Christian”, when it means “Christian.”

No, it’s more the tone and context in which they are used.

True, You make a valid point which I will consider when I hear the term used.

Still , am I the only one that hears a certain sense of “holier than” in the term.

Not sure if it’s relevant, but the Am. Heritage Dictionary includes the following definition for “Christian”:

  1. Informal. Neighborly; decent.

They don’t specify as such, but I always thought it was spelled with a small “c” when used in this way.

The “Christan Principles” cited in the OP surely refer to something more specific to that particular religion, though there are connections to the definition given above: “Love thy neighbor as thyself”, e.g.

Seems to have worked out okay vis a vis Canada. Not quite so well with Mexico.

I disagree with the notion that this country was founded on Christian principles.

Christianity is by no means the only monotheistic religion. It’s not the only religion that teaches that the mankind is created by a single deity. It’s not the only religion that teaches that Jesus was a special person. It’s not the only proselytizing religion, and it’s not the only one that uses or reveres some or all of the books known collectively as the Bible, and so on.

Kindness, charity, piety, modesty - just about everyone claims that these are hallmarks of his or her own religion or personal code of ethics. Cruelty, selfishness, irreverence, licentiousness - just about everyone seems to claim that the other guys indulge in one or more of these.

The only specifically Christian principles I can think of concern the special nature of Jesus Christ, the belief that Jesus is literally the son of G-d (not figuratively a “child of god”), and the notion that a person’s relationship with G-d is directly related to that person’s belief in the nature of Jesus.

I’m with E-Sabbath on this one - the use of “Christian” as shorthand for “all that is generally agreed to be good” really galls me. Since Jesus is not mentioned in the founding documents of the United States of America (I’m thinking here of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution), I really don’t see how one can conclude that these documents lay the foundation for a specifically “Christian” nation. While most of the framers of these documents espoused some form of Christianity, the documents themselves are not Christian. There is nothing in the basic documents that is explicitly in conflict with this non-Christian’s beliefs, and I believe that most other non-Christians could say the same.

Think of it this way. I’m a Jew with a loaf of bread, a knife, and a jar of grape jelly. If I use these to to put together a jelly sandwich, it is *NOT * a Jewish sandwich just because I made it. Even if it’s Challah from the kosher bakery, jelly from the grapes of the Gallilee, and a knife that was certified kosher by the local mashgiach, it’s still just a sandwich. Anyone can eat it, and they will not acquire a general air of Jewishness just because I made it out of those things.

Ha I love the sandwich analogy. I agree. I love the words of Jesus but it irks me when someone says this country was founded on Christian principles. There’s all kinds of popular myths and dishonesty being spread by people who supposedly revere the truth about that very subject. The fact that our early population was predominantly Christian and yet our founding documents specificly not so, speaks a lot about intent.
You described my objection to how the term is often used. I get a sense of “Christian principles” suggesting that love, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness, under the christian banner are better than love, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness, under any other banner. With some, the love expressed by non christians is just secular love and doesn’t have any holy qualities. It’s ignorant and a form of unrecognized bigotry.

That is a good example, furt. However, and not to speak for the OP, but it seems to me that many people who call mercy, say, a Christian principle mean that mercy exists in our culture because of Christianity. I get the strong impression that these people believe that Christianity brought mercy to the world in the same way that the West brought television and airplanes.

One can try to argue that the merciful elements of our culture are there because of Christianity, but such a causative link seems tenuous. (After all, one can find mercy in Homer, and a marked lack of mercy during the Inquisition.) I find it more plausible that modern Christianity stresses mercy because mercy is, for separate reasons, a component of the broader culture. To insist that Christianity made modern culture merciful, rather than the other way around, smacks of hubris.

I would have to agree mainly because Christians can’t seem to agree on what Christian principles are. I’m sure we’ll have someone in here to tell us what TRUE Christians really value, or what Jesus REALLY thought was important, but that’s exactly the problem. No one agrees, and even if we narrow things down by only allowing interpretations of the Gospels as source texts, they are too vague, jumbled full of odd elements and so forth, to declare anyone teh winnar.

If you want to convince me of your principles, sell them on their merits, not their pedigree.

Good point, but I think you missed the OP’s intent a little. I think what the OP is saying is this: some say that “this country was founed on Christian principles” or that someone “has Christian principles” in such a way that implies that the principles being referred to are actually owned by Christianity exclusively, that those principles were apples and other peoples’ values were oranges.

Those are interested in this will find it enlightening to research Thomas Jefferson’s personal writings and beliefs, particularly post-Declaration.

I suspect that that’s putting a lot more thought into it than the people saying it do. I think a straightforward question of “are you saying that Buddhists don’t believe in loving their neighbor” would be met with, in descending order of frequency:

  1. How should I know?
  2. Of course not.
  3. Yes; they are evil heathens.

IOW, while some may have the mindset the OP seems to exect, I don’t think most do.

I agree with you, those prerequisites don’t make it a Jewish sandwich. But isn’t it just the perception of it as such that makes the difference? When you put all those words in front of it that qualify the ingredients as kosher and acceptable, I think there’s an insinuation of “Jewishness.” Let’s say you hand a guy a sandwich. Fine. But if you told that same guy all of that above, there’s a chance that person would find it unappetizing. Same sandwich, different perception.
Same with principles. If you’re raised Christian, it’s natural to think of your values as Christian. Same for Jewish, Buddhist, etc. But it’s more mature to realize that religions share core principles because perhaps religions are, at heart, based on the same idea of community and decent behavior. Don’t steal, don’t kill. That’s how one lives in the community. Be nice to other folks because you want other folks to be nice to you.
Bottom line: No one owns principles. That’s like owning breathing. If you think it’s Christian, then it’s Christian to you. If it’s Buddhist…yada yada. The question of WHY people believe some ideals and principles are solely Christian or Jewish or Muslim is more tantalizing.

Correct. I think some posters have made a good point in that the term Christian principle can be used without a claim that it is exclusively Christian. Even the implication that Christian love or mercy is somehow the new improved version of love and mercy bothers me. It serves to add to the things that seperate us as humans which I see as the opposite of what Jesus taught.

I think that what people say AFTER they say, “This country was founded on Christian principles” is what is interesting. It’s usually something along the lines of:

" … so we should allow prayer in schools."

" … so we shouldn’t allow civil unions."

" … so abortion should be illegal."

" …so the Ten Commandments belong on the courthouse wall."

In other words, it is usually a prelude to some sort of attack on separation of church and state.

fetus also makes a good point. Before one argues about what the Founders may or may not have intended, one definitely needs to read some of Thomas Jefferson’s opinions on religion and Christianity in particular.
Frankly, I think arguing over what was intended in the constitution is exactly what was intended when it was written. It was left intentionally vague so that it could be interpreted openly. There’s never, ever, ever been universal agreement over much of what is contained in that document. Hell, even the guys who wrote it almost couldn’t get everyone to accept it. I think the general principles it sets down have to be reapplied as the times change.
On a personal note, I don’t believe the constitution was intended to keep religion or religious people out of government. Rather, it sought to prevent a government sanctioned church and the exclusion of others. It was designed to prevent a theocracy in which law is no longer “law,” but “sin.” While an effective way to rule and maintain order, it can breed an isolated society of zealots.

(humor) This is the difference between marketing and rational thought. (/humor)

I argue that the principles that we’re discussing haven’t been qualified in that way (“bread” versus “challah from the King David kosher bakery”). For instance, “charity” isn’t a uniquely Christian principle. There may well be a uniquely Christian notion of charity, but not all charity is motivated by Christian principle. A Christian may perform acts of charity because Jesus would have wanted it that way, but performing acts of charity doesn’t make one Christian. Performing an act of charity may strengthen a Christian person’s feeling that he or she is acting according to his or her faith. However, performing an act of charity - in the absence of Christian faith - does not give the actor the quality of Christian-ness.

Has there ever been a philosophically bonded group of people in which all agreed as to the particulars of every principle, or even the interpretations of the shared philosophy? Atheism’s own underpinning philosophy, existentialism, can be interpreted forty ways from Sunday. Even scientific disciplines, like quantum mechanics, have multiple interpretations. Why would disagreement among Christians cause you to “have to agree”?