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Christianity is a religion based on two main things: First: The belief and following of the Judeo-Christian God, and of the Holy Bible. (Often called by Christians "The One and Only True God.") And Second: the purpose and prophetic fulfillment of Jesus Christ ("The Lamb of God.") There are nearly two-and-a-half billion people across the world that follow Christianity, which is nearly one-third of all humanity. They call themselves Christians which means 'followers of Christ.'
Common Christian beliefs[edit | edit source]
- God is 'The Creator' the Universe, the Earth, Life on Earth, and Humanity.
- God reveals his word, plan, and purpose through his Holy Spirit, when reading a series of many ancient books wrapped into one large book called the Holy Bible, (also called "The perfect inspired Word of God.") which He inspired certain humans to write over the course of recorded human history, and that aims to teach certain special knowledge, which might develop into wisdom. Much of which tells about God's relationship with his Creation and the interaction with humanity from the beginning of the world to shortly after the life of Jesus, and as well as the Future and the "Kingdom of Heaven" to yet to come.
- There is only one True God, but he includes three divine 'persons' in one, called the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or sometimes 'Holy Ghost'). These three 'persons' share the same essence, purpose, and mind which makes them the same being. Within the Trinity, each of the three Persons can act separately from each other Person yet together they are in perfect unity.
- The Son, called Jesus Christ, is the long awaited Messiah of ancient-Judeo-prophecy and is the chosen savior of the world.
- A serpent known as Satan tempted the first humans, (Adam and Eve,) into sin. Sometimes he is called a fallen angel, or Lucifer, although this is not directly quoted in the Bible and is the long dominant inference.
- This sin caused a fundamental incompatibility, or estrangement, between humanity and God, and caused Adam and Eve to be sent away from their perfect paradise home known as 'The Garden of Eden.' (Of what some Christians believe could have been located in the center of the original super-continent of Pangea, of what now is the "Promised Land of Israel.") and suffer a cursed life of increased separation and distancing from God. Because God is Perfect and Good and cannot co-exist with eternal evil; only temporal evil.) Some Churches call this the "original sin".
- God paid the cost of evil for humanity through the life and death of Jesus.
- 'God The Son' took human form as a man, son of a Hebrew woman named Mary, and now exists as both God and man. This is called the Incarnation, where God was manifested in the flesh. It could be thought of as: Jesus is God's character or avatar which he controlled and played until 'Game Over,' but his game over was actually the secret to unlocking the secret ending, because his character had another life.
- Mary gave her son the Hebrew name Yehoshu`ah, translated into English as "Jesus". Jesus is thus the proper name in English of the Second Person of the Trinity.
- Jesus lived a perfect life without sin, and taught his followers many things about right and wrong, and also performed miracles like healing certain people who were blind, deaf, or sick in other ways. He even raised people back from the dead to perfect health.
- Jesus sacrificed himself by letting himself be crucified by the Romans. Some Christians have blamed Jews for this, but this is not an orthodox understanding. It is important that Jesus sacrificed himself willingly.
- By being a perfect and sinless sacrifice, Jesus reconciled humanity with God, by personally paying the cost of our evil and wickedness, and broke the power of 'second-death' over humanity. The second death is a dimension of justice called Hell.
- Jesus' followers buried him in a tomb, and he was dead for only a couple days until he was raised alive on the third day.
- Jesus taught his followers for a few more weeks then left for Heaven. He left into the dimension called Heaven to "Prepare a place for you." It could be thought of it as: The upgrade server for the really fun, cool new game is busy loading, but when the time is just right he's coming back for us.
- Jesus now rules the world as The Perfect King in Heaven.
- Jesus will come again at the end of an age. This happens twice in a row within a very short time and is called "The Rapture," and "Armageddon."
- People who have died physically will come alive when Jesus comes again.
- When Jesus comes again, he will judge all people who have ever lived.
- People who have accepted God's free gift of salvation into their hearts, and thus are in a good relationship with God, and have been compassionate to others as a result, will live in a perfect form with God and Jesus in Heaven forever and ever after they die or are raptured and translated.
- People who are not in a good relationship with God and have not been compassionate to others as a result, will be separated from God for all eternity in a dimension called the lake of fire, also called Gehenna, or Hell.
- Some Christians believe people will be given a second chance to love God after they die, and that no one will choose Hell. This is a minority opinion, because the Bible says the opposite.
Some Christian-like groups do not believe in the Trinity, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Unitarians. Christians who do believe in the Trinity don't agree whether those who don't are fully Christians or not.
Christian symbols[edit | edit source]
- Alpha and Omega - The Greek letters Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Sometimes the Alpha and Omega are written next to each other, and sometimes the Omega is written over the Alpha. Alpha and Omega is a reference to Jesus, who calls himself "Alpha and Omega" (First and Last) in the Revelation.
- Chi - The Greek letter Chi is the first letter of 'Christ' in Greek: Christos.
- Chi Rho - The Greek letters Chi and Rho are the first two letters of 'Christ' in Greek: Christos. Usually the stem of Rho runs vertically through the center of Chi.
- Cross - The cross is the most common symbol of Christianity. Christians believe that their saviour Jesus Christ was crucified by the Romans. The cross is important because Jesus died as a sacrifice for the sins of believers. It represents God's love for humanity.
- Crucifix - The crucifix is a cross with the body of Jesus still hanging on it. It is a more popular symbol with Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox. It has the same meaning as the cross.
- (Note on crosses and crucifixes) Christians express different feelings to crucifixes and crosses, and can have a preferred way of remembering that moment in time. Some like to think of him still on the cross (reminding us what the price for our sin was), and some like to see an empty cross to remember that Jesus' mission is complete and that he is now in heaven preparing it for Christians.
- Dove - The dove is a bird and a symbol of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptised, the Holy Spirit came to him as a dove and rested on him.
- Ichthys - The ichthys is a fish. In Greek, the word ichthys (which means 'fish') forms an acronym meaning "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Saviour". It looks like this: <><
- INRI - INRI is an acronym in Latin meaning "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." This is the message that was put on the cross as being the crime for which he was being punished (sedition). Christians now use it as a symbol of Jesus' messiahship.
- Interlocking Rings - The interlocking rings are a symbol of the Trinity. Each ring is a complete circle, which represents each complete person of the Trinity. But each ring is locked with the other two rings, showing that they cannot be separated from the Trinity.
Christian types[edit | edit source]
Christians are classified by denomination, which are split resulting from arguments over doctrine. The first split was in the 5th century after the Church Council of Chalcedon. The dispute was over the personhood of Jesus. Should he be regarded as one person with two natures, or as two persons? The philosophically technical nature of the discussion and the lack of professional translators caused the split. The Christians who did not agree with the decision of the Council to excommunicate them, became the Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox. The largest Non-Chalcedonian Churches are the Coptic Orthodox in Egypt, the Ethiopian Orthodox, the Armenian, and some Lebanese Orthodox Churches. Recent discussions between the Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II and the Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III concluded that they believe many of the same things after all, even though the Coptic Church does not recognise the Pope as its leader.
The second split happened in the 11th century. It is called the Great Schism. It was mostly based on personality conflicts between the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople, fuelled by cross-cultural miscommunications and some really bad behaviour on the part of the Crusaders from Western Europe. The Christians in Western Europe were led by the Bishop of Rome, known also as the Pope, and are called the Roman Catholic Church. Most Christians in Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Middle East belong to the Orthodox Churches, led by the Bishops of other cities or areas.
In the 15th century the invention of the printing press made it easier for more people to read and study the Bible . This led many thinkers over the years to develop new ideas and to break away from the Pope to start the Protestant Reformed churches. Some Catholics and Orthodox do not consider Protestants to be fully Christian. The most important of these thinkers were Martin Luther and John Calvin. Later, disagreements caused these denominations to split again into smaller groups. The main Protestant denominations today are the Baptist, Lutheran, and Calvinist Presbyterian Churches. In England, a similar protest against the Pope, first political and later religious, led to the Church of England who call themselves Protestant, but are sometimes felt to be Reformed Catholic because they have bishops. Within the Anglican Churches can be found groups ranging from more Protestant to more Catholic in their style of service.
In general, the Protestant denominations differ from the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches in having given up some of the traditional sacraments, no ordained priesthood, and not having the same fondness for Mary, the mother of Jesus, that the Catholic and Orthodox churches have. The main worship service in Catholic Churches is the Mass and the main worship service in many Orthodox Churches is called the Divine Liturgy. Both services involve a ceremony with a priest where Jesus changes a small amount of bread and wine into his real body and blood, but without changing the accidents (appearance, taste, colour, etc.) of the bread and wine. Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of their Saviour, Jesus. Catholics in particular have developed a short ceremony worshipping Jesus present in the Eucharist. This ceremony is known as Eucharistic Benediction. Some Protestant churches have ceremonies more or less similar to the Mass, but believe the bread and wine are symbolic only. Protestants also differ from Catholic and Orthodox Christians in placing more emphasis on the individual's personal conversion experience. Catholic and Orthodox Christians place the emphasis on the ongoing growth in holiness that should take place over the person's lifetime. Roman Catholic Christian spirituality often involves the use of statues and other artistic representations, candles, incense, and other physical items as reminders or aids to prayer. The Orthodox Churches also use candles, incense, and bells, and icons but there are never statues in an Orthodox Church. Orthodox Churches have a particularly well-developed spiritual-beauty connection. Orthodox and Catholic worship also involves use of gestures, such as the Sign of the Cross. The Roman Catholic sign of the cross is made by touching in sequence your forehead, chest, one shoulder, then the other shoulder. There is also bowing, kneeling, and prostration involved in Catholic and Orthodox worship. Protestants have traditionally viewed these as a temptation to idolatry, and have not incorporated as much artwork into their prayer life.
There are other denominations that do not fit into the three largest categories. Some of the larger and more important of these are:
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, often called Mormons
- Jehovah's Witnesses
- Unitarian Universalists
One denomination that is Protestant but has some beliefs that are different from most Protestant denominations is the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
More than 3000 Christian denominations now exist, each a little different from the others, but nearly all of them believe that Jesus is God. The biggest by numbers is the Catholic Church.