But what if such a theist and a rationalist didn't even believe in the Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement? (The first four Presidents and Ben Franklin!) Then, it seems to me, that they don't deserve the label "Christian" for historical purposes. Those tenets have historically been viewed as more central to the faith.When I wrote that passage I was speaking within Dr. Frazer's paradigm. If someone disbelieves in the Trinity, Incarnation and Atonement but still thinks of themselves as a "Christian" in some sense, I don't have a problem terming them such with all of the scholarly qualifications.
David L. Holmes and Joseph Waligore term them "Christian-Deists." Gary North who does have a PhD in history from University of California, Riverside terms it small u unitarianism, that is theological unitarianism not denominational Unitarianism. Though we should probably credit more mainstream scholars with that paradigm. Cushing Strout, for instance.
And of course, there was that classic note that my friend and noted attorney and Unitarian Universalist Eric Alan Isaacson sent me cautioning me to be more generous in my understanding of who gets to be a "Christian." As he wrote:
Hi Jonathan, I’m troubled by those who insist that only people who believe in one way can be “true Christians.” If Mormons consider themselves followers of Jesus, that’s good enough for me to regard them as Christians. If Trinitarian Evangelicals regard themselves as followers of Jesus, I’ll consider them Christians too — even though, so far as I can tell, Jesus never claimed to be God.
If someone like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and the Rev. Dr. Joseph Priestley honored Jesus and endeavored to follow his teachings, they should not be denied the name “Christian” merely because others who claim that name have embraced any number of extra-biblical doctrines.Mr. Isaacson then went on to discuss the classic case of Hale v. Everett, which we've discussed before but should revisit and examine in more detail.