Dear friends (or rather, brothers and sisters), this is part 2 of my “Understanding Religions” series. Today we’ll explore Christianity major beliefs, including its fascinating backstory and its position in the world today.
Here’s part 1 of the series if you missed it.
Christianity Core Beliefs
Christians believe in one eternal loving God who is the creator of all that is. Jesus Christ, whom you must have heard of, is the son of God who has (it is said) performed miracles, such as bringing a deceased person back to life, the healing of a paralyzed man, the stilling of a storm, and many more, during his lifetime. Christians believe in the Trinity of God, which means three persons in one God: Father (God), Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit (God’s presence in the world). Thus, Jesus can be thought of as God in human form.
Christians believe that all people sin and see Jesus as their savior, who, out of his love for us, paid for the sins of all humanity by dying on a cross. Three days later, he rose from the dead as he promised thus proving his deity. Christians believe that Jesus will come again at the end of time.
Christians believe that the Bible is God’s written message to all humanity. The Bible contains Jesus’ teachings, including a historical record of Jesus’ life and miracles, his personality, his love and truth, and how one can know and relate to God.
It is Christians’ belief that through believing in Jesus and following his teachings they can inherit eternal life.
The Christianity Story
Jesus was a Jew born in about 7 B.C. He was described as a teacher and miracle worker. He set the requirements for participation in the kingdom of God, a future reality that is at the same time already present, as a change of heart and repentance for sins, love of God and neighbor, and concern for justice.
He was executed on a cross in Jerusalem, at around A.D. 30, for being considered a political threat to the Roman Empire. It was said that Jesus post-resurrection was seen by his disciples. After his death, his disciples helped spread his teachings. Therefore, Jesus and his disciples are thought of as the founders of Christianity.
Christianity spread quickly throughout the Roman Empire and began to develop its own distinctive doctrine, liturgy and ministry. By the fourth century (A.D. 301-400), Christianity had taken root in countries from Spain (in the West) to Persia and India (in the East). Christians had been subject to persecution by the Roman Empire, but gained tolerance and acceptance under Constantine the Great and his successors. In the year 392, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.
In 1517, a German monk Martin Luther started a movement called the Reformation when he criticized certain Roman Church practices as well as the supremacy of the Pope. Reformers also began to look at Christianity in a distinctly new way. This divided Christianity in the West into the Roman Catholic Church and Protestantism. Hence, the major Protestant denominations – Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed and Episcopalian – were born.
Christianity in the World
There are currently two major general denominations of Christianity, Catholicism and Protestantism. Besides the two, there is also Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Oriental Orthodoxy and Assyrians. The different denominations interpret the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in different ways. Globally, there are about 1.3 billion Catholics and 900 million Protestants, and together they make up more than 90% of the world’s Christians.
Every major religion has its own places of worship, and for both Catholics and Protestants they are the same: churches, chapels and cathedrals.
Church is the basic term for the Christian place of worship. Chapels are usually smaller spaces: a room within a church or a secular place like an airport, a hospital or a university. A cathedral is a church that is run by a Bishop (or above).
The clergy for Catholics is the Pope who is the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, followed by Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Monks and Deacons. For Protestants, each church is independent. Protestant churches are headed by Pastors, followed by Elders and Deacons.
Christianity is a monotheistic (one God) religion.
Stay Tuned, My Friend!
I may write more of Christianity in the future, but in the next few parts I will delve into other major religions first. Come back often to see whether I have published a new part, and please feel free to subscribe to my emails! Just leave any questions or comments that you have in the comment box below, and I’ll be more than happy to start a discussion with you. And finally, may I request that you share this post with your friends and loved ones. Thanks a lot!
Part 3: Islam