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CHRISTIANITY

INTRODUCTION

Around the world over the centuries, much has been written
about religion, its meaning, its relevance and contribution to
humanity. In the West particularly, sizable tomes have been
composed speculating upon the nature and historical background
of one of the main characters of Western religions, Jesus Christ.
Many have tried to dig into the precious few clues as to Jesus'
identity and come up with a biographical sketch that either
bolsters faith or reveals a more human side of this godman to
which we can all relate. Obviously, considering the time and
energy spent on them, the subjects of Christianity and its
legendary founder are very important to the Western mind and
culture, and increasingly to the rest of the world as well.

DEFINITION

Christianity is a word gotten from the word (noun) Christian. It is


an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and oral
teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the New
Testament.

Christianity is an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ! And the


fruit of that relationship are joy, love, peace, and freedom.
Christianity is not learn and do, It is know and be!
ETYMOLOGY

A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic,


monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of
Nazareth. "Christian" derives from the Koine Greek word Christs
(), a translation of the Biblical Hebrew term mashiach.
There are diverse interpretations of Christianity which sometimes
conflict. However, "Whatever else they might disagree about,
Christians are at least united in believing that Jesus has a unique
significance. The term "Christian" is also used adjectivally to
describe anything associated with Christianity, or in a proverbial
sense "all that is noble, and good, and Christ-like."It is also used
as a label to identify people who associate with the cultural
aspects of Christianity, irrespective of personal religious beliefs or
practices. The Greek word (Christianos), meaning
"follower of Christ", comes from (Christos), meaning
"anointed one",[6] with an adjectival ending borrowed from Latin
to denote adhering to, or even belonging to, as in slave
ownership.[7] In the Greek Septuagint, christos was used to
translate the Hebrew

( Maa, messiah), meaning "[one who
is] anointed."In other European languages, equivalent words to
Christian are likewise derived from the Greek, such as Chrtien in
French and Cristiano in Spanish.
THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY

Christianity developed out of Judaism in the 1st century C.E. It is


founded on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus
Christ, and those who follow him are called "Christians."
Christianity has many different branches and forms with
accompanying variety in beliefs and practices. The three major
branches of Christianity are Roman Catholicism, Eastern
Orthodoxy, and Protestantism, with numerous subcategories
within each of these branches. Until the latter part of the 20th
century, most adherents of

Christianity was in the West, though it has spread to every


continent and is now the largest religion in the world. Traditional
Christian beliefs include the belief in the one and only true God,
who is one being and exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and
the belief that Jesus is the divine and human Messiah sent to the
save the world. Christianity is also noted for its emphasis on faith
in Christ as the primary component of religion. The sacred text of
Christianity is the Bible, including both the Hebrew scriptures
(also known as the Old Testament) and the New Testament.
Central to Christian practice is the gathering at churches for
worship, fellowship, and study, and engagement with the world
through evangelism and social action. The history of Christianity
concerns the Christian religion, its followers and the Church with
its various denominations, from the 1st century to the present.

Christianity emerged in the Levant (now Palestine and Israel) in


the mid-1st century AD. Christianity spread initially from
Jerusalem throughout the Near East, into places such as Syria,
Assyria, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Asia Minor, Jordan and Egypt. In
the 4th century it was successively adopted as the state religion
by Armenia , Georgia , the Aksumite Empire , and the Roman
Empire . After the Council of Ephesus , the Nestorian Schism
created the Church of the East. The Council of Chalcedon further
divided Christianity into Oriental Orthodoxy and Chalcedonian
Christianity. Chalcedonian Christianity divided into the Roman
Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church . The Protestant
Reformation created new Christian communities that separated
from the Roman Catholic Church and have evolved into many
different denominations. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox
Christianity spread to all of Europe in the Middle Ages. Christianity
expanded throughout the world during Europe's Age of
Exploration from the Renaissance onwards, becoming the world's
largest religion. Today there are more than two billion Christians,
greater than a third of all humanity.

EARLY DEVELOPMENT OF CHRISTIANITY

Christianity began as a Jewish sect in the Levant of the middle


east in the mid-1st century. It had a number of influences,
including other religions. John Bowker states that Christian ideas
such as "angels, the end of the world, a final judgment, the
resurrection, and heaven and hell received form and substance
from ... Zoroastrian beliefs". Its earliest development took place
under the leadership of the Twelve Apostles, particularly Saint
Peter and Paul the Apostle, followed by the early bishops, whom
Christians consider the successors of the Apostles. According to
the scriptures, Christians were from the beginning subject to
persecution by some Jewish religious authorities, who disagreed
with the apostles' teachings . This involved punishments,
including death, for Christians such as Stephen[Acts 7:59] and
James, son of Zebedee.[Acts 12:2] Larger-scale persecutions
followed at the hands of the authorities of the Roman Empire, first
in the year 64, when Emperor Nero blamed them for the Great
Fire of Rome.

According to Church tradition, it was under Nero's persecution


that early Church leaders Peter and Paul of Tarsus were each
martyred in Rome.

Further widespread persecutions of the Church occurred under


nine subsequent Roman emperors, most intensely under Decius
and Diocletian. From the year 150, Christian teachers began to
produce theological and apologetic works aimed at defending the
faith. These authors are known as the Church Fathers, and study
of them is called Patristics. Notable early Fathers include Ignatius
of Antioch, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of
Alexandria, and Origen. However, Armenia is considered the first
nation to accept Christianity in 301 AD.

CHRISTIANITY AND OTHER RELIGIONS

Relationship with Islam: Islam shares a number of beliefs with


Christianity. They share similar views on monotheism, judgment,
heaven, hell, spirits, angels, and a future resurrection. Jesus is
acknowledged and respected by Muslims as a great prophet.
However, while Islam relegates Jesus to a lesser status than God
"in the company of those nearest to God" in the Qur'an,
mainstream (Trinitarian) Christianity teaches without question
that Jesus is God the Son, one of the three Hypostases (common
English: persons) of Christianity's Trinity, divinely co-equal with
the Father and the Holy Spirit. The religions both share a belief in
the virgin birth of Jesus, his miracles and healings, and that he
ascended bodily into heaven. However, Jesus is not accepted as
the son by Muslims, who strictly maintain that he was a human
being who was loved by God and exalted by God to ranks of the
most righteous. They believe in God as a single entity, not as the
Trinity accepted by the vast majority of Christians. Neither do
Muslims accept Jesus' crucifixion. Since Muslims believe only in
the worship of a strictly monotheistic God who never assumed
human flesh, they do not accept the use of icons, and see this as
shirk (idolatry). Muslim influence played a part in the initiation of
iconoclasm and their conquests caused the iconoclasm in the
Byzantine Empire. For the same reason, they do not worship or
pray to Muhammad, Jesus, or any other prophets; only to God.

Relationship with Hinduism: Buddhism, Hinduism and


Christianity differ on fundamental beliefs on heaven, hell and
reincarnation, to name a few. From the Hindu perspective, heaven
(Sanskrit svarga) and hell (Naraka) are temporary places, where
every soul has to live, either for the good deeds done or for their
sins committed. There also exist significant similarities in
Christian and Hindu theology, most notably in that both religions
present a trinitarian view of God. The Holy Trinity of Christianity,
consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is sometimes seen
as roughly analogous to the Trimurti of Hinduism, whose members
-- Brahma, Vishnu, and Shivaare seen as the three principal
manifestations of Brahman, or Godhead.

Relationship with Buddhism:

Although surface level non-scholarly analogies have been drawn


between the two traditions, Buddhism and Christianity have
inherent and fundamental differences at the deepest levels,
beginning with monotheism's place at the core of Christianity and
Buddhism's orientation towards non-theism (the lack of relevancy
of the existence of a creator deity) which runs counter to
teachings about God in Christianity; and extending to the
importance of Grace in Christianity against the rejection of
interference with Karma in Theravada Buddhism, etc. Another
difference between the two traditions is the Christian belief in the
centrality of the crucifixion of Jesus as a single event that some
believe acts as the atonement of sins, and its direct contrast to
Buddhist teachings.

Possible relationship with Zoroastrianism through Judaism: Many


scholars believe the eschatology of Judaism and possibly the idea
of monotheism originated in Zoroastrianism, and may have been
transferred to Judaism during the Babylonian captivity, thus
eventually influencing Christian theology. Bible scholar P.R.
Ackroyd states: "the whole eschatological scheme, however, of
the Last Judgment, rewards and punishments, etc., within which
immortality is achieved, is manifestly Zoroastrian in origin and
inspiration." However, the theory is questioned by other
mainstream historians and scholars. The Oxford History of the
Biblical World states "There is little if any effect of Zoroastrian
elements on Judaism in the Persian period." Nevertheless scholars
such as Soloman Nigosian contend, in regarding the similar ideas
of Zoroaster and later Jewish writers, that "the ideas were
indigenous to Iran...it is hardly conceivable that some of the
characteristic ideas and practices in Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam came into being without Zoroastrian influence."The new
faith (Zoroastrianism) emerged in larger Persian empires. "
Zoroastrianism reflected the cosmopolitan society of the
empires". During this time Zoroastrianism profoundly effected the
beliefs and values of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam ("Traditions
& Encounters: A brief global History", Jerry H. Bentley. pg. 93). It is
also possible that Zoroastrianism and later Jewish theology came
from a common source. Though some early Christians were aware
of Buddhism, which was practiced in the Roman Empire in the
early Christian period, the majority of modern Christian
scholarship has roundly rejected any historical basis for the
travels of Jesus to India or Tibet or direct influences between the
teachings of Christianity in the West and Buddhism, and has seen
the attempts at parallel symbolism as cases of parallel mania
which exaggerate the importance of trifling resemblances.

THE CLAIMS OF CHRISTIANITY

Before a study of Christian evidences can be in any way


beneficial, it must first be established that Biblical Christianity is
indeed unique from all other philosophies or religions. For if it is
not unique, there is no need to defend it. If it is not unique then it
can not be the only way to God and it is, in fact, just another of
man's many religions. The purpose of this lesson, then, is to
establish the fact that Christianity is unique from all other
philosophies or religions. Biblical Christianity is unique from all
other religions in the following ways: The following claims rule out
the possibility that Christianity is only one of many ways to God.
For if the claims are true, then all other religions are false. If,
however, the claims are false, then Christianity cannot possibly be
considered a "good religion" that can lead to God, because it has
deluded and deceived people for nearly 2000 years. A religion
that makes a false claim to be the only way to God is simply a
false religion. These unique claims of Christianity are in direct
opposition to some eastern religions (especially Hinduism) which
are eclectic and all-inclusive. They teach that all religions can lead
to God. Such religions are tolerant of all beliefs except the belief
that says there is only one way to God and all else are false (i.e.,
Biblical Christianity). Examples of the Bible's exclusive claims
are :

1. The God of the Bible is claimed to be the only true and living
God (See Jeremiah 10:10-12; Isaiah 43:10, 44:6; John 17:3; etc.)

2. The Bible is claimed to be the only true, special revelation from


God (See Isaiah 8:20; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19; etc.)

3. Jesus Christ is claimed to be the only way to God, salvation,


and eternal life. (See John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Galatians 1:9; etc.)

THE PROBLEMS/CHALLENGES OF CHRISTIANITY

Christianity seems to be in a state of crisis these days. Countless


news articles bemoan declining attendance while boldly
proclaiming the imminent death of the Church. From the fleeing of
millennial to debates over same-sex marriage to Pat Robertson,
the Christian faith is not without its challenges. But what is the
single greatest challenge to Christianity today? Despite the
ravings of folks like Ken Ham and Richard Dawkins, its not
science. Nor is it fundamentalism in general, no matter how
frustrating or appalling it might be. The church is filled with
hypocrisy, which certainly undermines our integrity, but hypocrisy
is not our gravest threat. And even though it fills headlines and
offers plenty of fodder for folks proclaiming an impending
apocalypse, same-sex marriage does not pose an existential
threat to the faith. No, the single greatest challenge to
Christianity is the same great challenge weve always faced: the
proclamation of a good and loving Creator in the face of a
creation filled with so much evil. No matter what we do to combat
it, evil only ever seems to increase, never diminish. While, to the
critical eye, God appears either disinterested or incapable of
doing anything about it. That is, if God exists at all. To be fair,
when we closely examine the problem of evil, we have to admit
that a great deal of responsibility lies at our own feet.
Nevertheless, the world is filled with needless suffering that one
would presume a good and loving God could eradicate without
impinging on our cherished free will. So why doesnt God act? Or
if God does act, why the hell isnt God doing more?

Its all too easy to dismiss the severity of this issue while sitting
behind a glowing MacBook, sipping on a Venti Frappuchino at
Starbucks. Blessed that we are to live in the relative safety and
undeniable comfort of the United States, its easy to consider
what theologians call theodicy as little more than a philosophical
problem. Or an issue of faith that simply requires more trust on
the part of the believer.
CONCLUSION

Protestantism shares with Christianity as a whole the issues and


concerns of the 21st century. On the negative side, the apparent
decline of church attendance in Europe presents a serious
challenge for Christians everywhere to look at different ways of
spreading the gospel message. Christianity's centre of gravity has
moved away from Europe and indeed, it seems to lie in Africa,
Asia or South America, where some of the fastest growth rates are
to be found. As we saw in the section 'Denominations', the
Pentecostal movement has played a huge part in this. Sadly,
inter-denominational conflict still remains in some parts of the
world, but the overall situation is vastly improved. Some groups
(e.g. The Methodists) have reunified themselves following
previous internal disagreements and in some countries (e.g.
Australia with the 'Uniting Church') there have been unions that
have cut across several Protestant denominations. The modern
ecumenical movement has done much to encourage a sense of
shared faith and common understanding. These ideas have
spread, not just between Protestants but across all of
Christendom. Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox can now meet
and pray together in a way that might have seemed unthinkable
only several decades before. At the beginning of this Introduction
to Protestantism, we quoted Jesus's prayer from John 17.
We now quote it again - our oneness is rooted in Christ, our
Saviour, Redeemer and Lord: "That they all may be one, as thou,
Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that
the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory
which thou hast given me, I have given to them: that, they may
be one, as we also are one." John 17:21-12 (DRB)
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