“Is this “N” even a Christian?” is a possible question for those dealing with a narcissist* who claims to be a Christian. The narcissist’s claims of being a Christian may stand in stark contrast to how they treat you and others in private.
The answer to this question is quite important, as it determines our understanding of how God is dealing with the narcissist – in terms of both short and long term consequences – as well as how we are to pray about the situation.
There are really two questions involved here. The first question is “Can a narcissist be a Christian” (flipping it, “Can a Christian be a narcissist”?). And the second is “Is THIS particular narcissist a Christian?”
Just because a narcissist claims to be a Christian does not make it so. Jesus said,
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
But the fact that the Bible admonishes believers to give up their pride and walk in a humble manner indicates that genuine Christians can still have remnants of insolent pride in their lives:
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
One issue in these kinds of discussion is always “what is the definition of a “Christian?””. There are many types of Christians, including cultural, denominational identity, etc. But for our purposes we will define a Christian as a genuine follower of Jesus.
The key question in discerning if the narcissist you are dealing with is a true Christian is whether they show any genuine “fruit”. If there is absolutely no evidence of any “fruit” in their lives, then we might assume that they do not genuinely know Jesus. Of course, only God knows for sure. But, if there is some evidence of fruit even though they also show traits of narcissism / insolent pride, we might be able to assume that we are dealing with a genuine follower of Jesus who has not fully taken advantage of the radical life transformation which is possible for him (see John Ryle’s discussion on “regeneration” below).
Proverbs 12:12 – The wicked man desires the booty of evil men, But the root of the righteous yields fruit.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying,drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
More from John Ryle………
1. What is regeneration?
It is that complete change of heart and character which the Holy Spirit works in a person when he becomes a real Christian. The Church Catechism calls it “a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness.” It is the same thing as being “born again,” or “born of God,” or “born of the Spirit,” “Except a man be born again” means “except a man be regenerate.” “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;” that is, he is “born again, or regenerate” (John 3:3; 2 Cor.5:17).
2. Bat are not all professing Christians real Christians?
Certainly not. Thousands, unhappily, are only Christians in name, and have nothing of real Christianity either in their hearts or lives. Just as St. Paul said, “He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly” (Rom.2:28); so he would have said, “He is not a Christian, which is one outwardly.” Just as he said, “He is a Jew, which is one inwardly;” so he would have said, “He is a Christian, which is one inwardly.” In short, real Christians are regenerate, and merely nominal Christians are not.
3. But how are we to know whether we are regenerate or not? Is it a thing we can possibly find out before we die?
Regeneration may always be known by the fruits and effects it produces on a person’s life and character. It is always attended by certain marks, evidences, effects, results, and consequences. Every regenerate person has these marks more or less distinctly, and he that has them not is not regenerate. A regeneration which produces no effects, bears no fruit, and cannot be seen in a person’s life, is a regeneration never mentioned in Scripture.
4. What are the marks and evidences of regeneration?
They are laid down for us so clearly and plainly in the First Epistle of St. John, that he who runs may read them. It is written there, “Whosoever is born of God cloth not commit sin;” “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God;” “Every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him;” “Every one that loveth is born of God;” “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world;” “He that is begotten of God keepeth himself” (1 John 3:9, 5:1, 2:29, 4:7, 5:4, 5:18). If plain English words have any meaning, these texts mean that he who has these marks is “born again” or “regenerate,” and he who has them not is not regenerate.
5. Have all regenerate persons these marks of regeneration in the same degree of depth, strength, clearness, and distinctness?
Most certainly not. There is a wide difference between the highest and lowest measure of grace possessed by those who are “born again.” There are real and true Christians who are only “babes” in spiritual attainments, and there are others who are “strong,” and vigorous, and able to do great things for Christ (1 John 2:12-14). The Scripture speaks of little faith and great faith, of little strength and great strength. One thing only is certain, — every regenerate person has more or less the marks of regeneration, and he who has none of them is not born again (Matt.14:31, 15:28; Rev.3:8; Rom.15:1).
6. But are not all baptized persons regenerate, and does not regeneration always accompany baptism
Certainly not. Myriads of baptized persons have not a single Scriptural mark of regeneration about them, and never had in their lives. They know nothing whatever of “a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness.” On the contrary, they too often live in sin, and are enemies of all righteousness. To say that such persons are “regenerate” on account of their baptism, is to say that which seems flatly contrary to the First Epistle of St. John. The Church Catechism says that baptism contains two parts, — the outward and visible sign, and the inward and spiritual grace But the Catechism nowhere says that the sign and the grace always go together.
* Narcissism is the modern colloquial term for what the Bible calls “insolent pride” – see here