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by Lenny Esposito
One of the key things kids learning elementary science is the basic groups of backboned animals. You may remember how to differentiate fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
- Birds have feathers, lay eggs, and have bills.
- Reptiles are cold blooded, have scales, lay eggs, and some, like snakes, can inject venom.
- Amphibians are cold-blooded, lay eggs, breathe air but live on the land and in the water.
- Mammals are warm-blooded, have hair, give live births, and produce milk for their young
So when English naturalists had quite a quandary on their hands when in 1798 they received drawings and the hide of a platypus from the newly colonized Australia. Many believed the animal was too outrageous to be real; it had to be a hoax. Here was an animal that had a bill, webbed feet, and laid eggs like a bird. It lived in and out of the water. Its legs are not below it but come from the side of the body, its eggs are soft-shelled, and males could inject venom like a reptile. Yet, they are warm-blooded, are covered in hair and they nurse their young. One of the necessary characteristics of all mammal is the females have mammary glands that produce milk for their young. Because this was true of the platypus, it could confidently be classified as a mammal.
What Does It Mean to Be a Christian?
Understanding the various religious systems offered today can sometimes be as confusing to navigate as those naturalists who sought to classify the platypus, especially when it comes to what makes someone a Christian. It seems everybody wants to claim that they are following Jesus's teachings in some way. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the parent organization for Jehovah's Witnesses, claims to be Christian.1 Former Mormon president Gordon B. Hinckley, when asked whether Mormons were Christians, answered "We are Christians in a very real sense."2 Other organizations such as The Way International, the Restored Church of God, and various Oneness denominations all claim to be representing true Christianity. Yet, they all have radically different beliefs.
How can you tell what is Christian and what isn't? Most people I speak with don't have a clear idea of just what classifies someone as a real Christian. They think as long as they claim Jesus and point in some way to his teachings, it is enough. But that's like calling a platypus a bird or a reptile. There's some resemblance, but it is still different and will lead you to a different belief, one that leads to judgment instead of salvation.
Just as with classifying animals, there are certain essential beliefs that define what a Christian is and while the various denominations within Christendom differ on many things, they all hold these specific beliefs as non-negotiable…
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