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Common Christian beliefs[edit | edit source]
- God made people to make the world what it is.
- God reveals his word through a series of books called the Bible, that he inspired humans to write over several thousand years, and that teaches humans about God's interaction with humanity from the beginning of the world up to shortly after the life of Jesus.
- There is only one True God, but he includes three divine 'persons', called the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or sometimes 'Holy Ghost').
- These three 'persons' share the same essence, which makes them the same being. Within the Trinity, each of the three Persons can act separately from each other Person yet they together we can make pasta!purpose in unity.
- Some Christians believe the Spirit comes only from the Father. Others believe the Spirit comes equally from the Father and the Son.
- The Son is the Messiah and the saviour of the world.
- A serpent known as Satan tempted the first humans, Adam and Eve, to sin. Sometimes he is called a fallen angel, or Lucifer, although this does not appear in the Bible.
- This sin caused estrangement between humanity and God, and caused Adam and Eve to be sent away from their garden home and suffer life. Some Churches call this the "original sin".
- God effected reconciliation with humanity through the life and death of Jesus.
- The Son took human form as the human son of a woman named Mary, and now exists as both God and man. This is called the Incarnation.
- 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 life without sin, taught his followers many things about right and wrong, and also performed miracles like healing some people who were blind, deaf, or sick in other ways.
- 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 sacrified himself willingly.
- By being a sinless sacrifice, Jesus reconciled humanity with God and broke the power of death over humanity.
- Jesus' followers buried him, and he was dead for three days.
- On the third day, Jesus came to life again.
- Jesus taught his followers for a few more weeks then left for Heaven.
- Jesus now rules the world as a merciful King in heaven.
- Jesus will come again at the end of time.
- 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 are in a good relationship with God and have been compassionate to others as a result, will live with God and Jesus in Heaven forever and ever when they die.
- 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 lake of fire 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.