Christianity Christianity at a Glance Christianity is the most popular religion in the world with over 2 billion adherents. Christianity is the most adhered to religion in the United States, with 75% of polled American adults identifying themselves as Christian in 2015. This is down from 85% in 1990, lower than 81.6% in 2001, and slightly lower than 78% in 2012. About 62% of those polled claim to be members of a church congregation. The United States has the largest Christian population in the world, with nearly 240 million Christians, although other countries have higher percentages of Christians among their populations. According to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, there were 2.19 billion Christians around the world in 2010, more than three times as much from the 600 million recorded in 1910, however this rate of growth is slower than the overall population growth over the same time period. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, by 2050, the Christian population is expected to be 3.0 billion.
Christianity at a Glance (continued) Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Christians believe that God sent His Son to earth to save humanity from the consequences of its sins. One of the most important concepts in Christianity is that of Jesus giving His life on the Cross (the Crucifixion) and rising from the dead on the third day (the Resurrection). Christians believe that there is only one God, but that there are three elements to this one God: God the Father God the Son The Holy Spirit Christians worship in churches. Their spiritual leaders are called priests or ministers. The Christian holy book is the Bible, and consists of the Old and New Testaments. Christian holy days such as Easter and Christmas are important milestones in the Western secular calendar
Beliefs The Assumption of Mary Roman Catholics believe the doctrine of the Assumption, which teaches that at the end of her life, Mary, the mother of Christ, was taken body and soul (i.e. both physically and spiritually) into heaven to live with her son (Jesus Christ) for ever. Human beings have to wait until the end of time for their bodily resurrection, but Mary's body was able to go straight to heaven because her soul had not been tainted by original sin. Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on August 15th each year. Eastern Orthodox Christians, following the Julian calendar, mark the event as the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, or the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God on 28 th August. Creationism and Intelligent Design Creationism The main points of creationism are these:
All life was created by the actions of God Some Creationists say God did this in a single creative event Some Creationists do not limit creation to one event All the forms of life existing today were created by the actions of God The organisms created by God can't produce new forms of organism - only God can do this The most common theory follows the accounts in the Biblical Book of Genesis, but most religions have their own creation story Modern creationism uses scientific evidence to support scripture Most scientists say the creationism theory is false and unscientific Intelligent design (also called neo-Creationism) The current state of life on Earth has come about through the actions of an intelligent Designer This is because Some living things contain certain types of complexity that are best explained as the result of an intelligent cause Some aspects of the universe show positive evidence of having been designed by some form of intelligence This designer need not be God but most proponents of intelligent design seem to have God in mind This theory has been accused of being creationism in disguise Although a few scientists have supported intelligent design, the majority of those working in the field regard the theory as false and unscientific
Immaculate Conception The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary, the mother of Christ, was conceived without sin and her conception was thus immaculate. Mary's sinless conception is the reason why Catholics refer to Mary as "full of grace". The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated by Catholics on December 8th each year. Original Sin Original sin is an Augustine Christian doctrine that says that everyone is born sinful. This means that they are born with a built-in urge to do bad things and to disobey God. It is an important doctrine within the Roman Catholic Church. The concept of Original Sin was explained in depth by St Augustine and formalized as part of Roman Catholic doctrine by the Councils of Trent in the 16th Century. Original sin is not just this inherited spiritual disease or defect in human nature; it's also the 'condemnation' that goes with that fault. An explanation for the evils of the world Some Christians believe that original sin explains why there is so much wrong in a world created by a perfect God, and why people need to have their souls 'saved' by God.
A condition you're in, not something you do Original sin is a condition, not something that people do: It's the normal spiritual and psychological condition of human beings, not their bad thoughts and actions. Even a newborn baby who has not done anything at all is damaged by original sin. The sin of Adam In traditional Christian teaching, original sin is the result of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God when they ate a forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Effects of original sin Original sin affects individuals by separating them from God, and bringing dissatisfaction and guilt into their lives. On a world scale, original sin explains such things as genocide, war, cruelty, exploitation and abuse, and the "presence and universality of sin in human history". How to cure original sin Some Christians believe that human beings can't cure themselves of original sin. The only way they can be saved from its consequences is by the grace of God. The only way people can receive God's grace is by accepting His love and forgiveness, believing that Jesus Christ died on the cross to redeem their sins, and getting baptized. Why did Jesus die? The events leading up to the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus are well-told by
the Gospel writers, as are stories of the Resurrection. But why did Jesus die? In the end the Roman authorities and the Jewish council wanted Jesus dead. He was a political and social trouble-maker. But what made the death of Jesus more significant than the countless other crucifixions carried out by the Romans and witnessed outside the city walls by the people of Jerusalem? Christians believe that Jesus was far more than a political radical. For them the death of Jesus was part of a divine plan to save humanity. The death and resurrection of this one man is at the very heart of the Christian faith. For Christians it is through Jesus's death that people's broken relationship with God is restored. This is known as the Atonement. The basics of Christian beliefs God, Jesus and the Saints God Christians believe that there is only one God, whom they call Father as Jesus Christ taught them. Jesus Christians recognize Jesus as the Son of God who was sent to save mankind
from death and sin. Jesus Christ taught that He was Son of God. His teachings can be summarized, briefly as the love of God and love of one's neighbor. Jesus said that He had come to fulfil God's law rather than teach it. The basics of Christian beliefs (continued) Justification by faith Christians believe in justification by faith - that through their belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and in His death and resurrection, they can have a right relationship with God whose forgiveness was made once and for all through the death of Jesus Christ. The Trinity Christians believe in the Trinity - that is, in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Some confuse this and think that Christians believe in three separate gods, which they do not. Christians believe that God took human form as Jesus Christ and that God is present today through the work of the Holy Spirit and evident in the actions of believers.
The basics of Christian beliefs (continued) Life after death Christians believe that there is a life after earthly death. While the actual nature of this life is not known, Christians believe that many spiritual experiences in this life help to give them some idea of what eternal life will be like. The Saints These days, the word saint is most commonly used to refer to a Christian who has lived a particularly good and holy life on earth, and with whom miracles are claimed to have been associated after their death. The formal title of Saint is conferred by the Roman Catholic and Churches through a process called canonization. Orthodox Members of these Churches also believe that Saints created in this way can intercede with God on behalf of people who are alive today. This is not accepted by most Protestants. In the Bible, however, the word saint is used as a description of anyone who is a committed believer, particularly by St. Paul in the New Testament (i.e. Ephesians 1:1 and 1:15). Prayer Prayer is the means by which Christians communicate with their God.
The New Testament records that Jesus taught His disciples how to pray and that He encouraged them to address God as Father. Christians believe that they continue this tradition. Sometimes the prayers are formal and part of a ritual laid down for hundreds of years. Others are personal and spontaneous, and come from personal or group need. Whilst prayer is often directed to God as Father, as taught by Jesus, some traditions encourage prayer to God through intermediaries such as saints and martyrs. Prayers through Mary, as the mother of God, are central to some churches and form a traditional part of their worship. The Church The Christian church is fundamental to believers. Although it has many faults it is recognized as God's body on Earth. The church is the place where the Christian faith is nurtured and where the Holy Spirit is manifest on earth. It is where Christians are received into the faith and where they are brought together into one body through the Eucharist.
Baptism The Christian church believes in one baptism into the Christian church, whether this be as an infant or as an adult, as an outward sign of an inward commitment to the teachings of Jesus. Eucharist Eucharist is a Greek word for thanksgiving. Its celebration is to commemorate the final meal that Jesus took with his disciples before His death (the Last Supper). This rite comes from the actions of Jesus who, at that meal, took bread and wine and asked His disciples to consume them and continue to do so in memory of Him. At the meal, the wine represented His blood and the bread His body. The Eucharist (also known as a Communion meal in some churches) is central to the Church and is recognized as a sign of unity amongst Christians. Different Churches understand and practice the Eucharist in different ways. As a result, the central ideas of the Eucharist can cause disharmony rather than unity. For example, the idea that Christ is present in the bread and wine is interpreted literally by some churches and metaphorically by others. This has given rise to substantial and
often irreconcilable disagreement. The Trinity Christian beliefs concerning God There is only one God God is a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit God is perfect God is omnipotent God is everywhere God knows everything God created the universe God keeps the universe going God intervenes in the universe God loves everyone unconditionally (though people have to comply with various conditions in order to achieve salvation) Human beings can get to know God through prayer, worship, love, and mystical experiences Human beings can get to know God through God's grace - that is through His love and His power God the Holy Spirit
After the Resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for only a few days before going up into Heaven Jesus promised that He would stay with His followers, so after He went to Heaven He sent His Spirit to guide them The Holy Spirit continues to guide, comfort, and encourage Christians The Trinity (continued) God the Son God lived on earth as Jesus Jesus was both wholly God and wholly human Jesus was born to a human woman, Mary, but conceived of the Holy Spirit Because Jesus was wholly human he was subject to pain, suffering, and sorrow like other human beings Jesus was executed by crucifixion but rose from the dead at the Resurrection Jesus's life provides a perfect example of how God wants people to live Jesus died on the Cross so that those who believe in him will be forgiven all their sins End Times
Millennialism, Pre-Millenialism, Dispensationalism Millennialism, premillennialism and dispensationalism are all theories of the end of the world. Introduction Many Christian Churches are greatly concerned about the ultimate fate of everything in creation. They believe that God has a divine plan for the end of everything. The technical name for the subject of the end-times is eschatology (from the Greek word eschatos which means last). Many of the theories are inspired by the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible. Much of the writing and teaching about the end times is apocalyptic, frightening and threatening, and it's important to remember that many mainstream churches do not believe that these teachings should be taken literally. But one can find a popular expression of these theories in the best-selling (over 63 million copies by 2010) Left Behind series of novels, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, which bring the ideas right up to date. A word of reassurance Some Christians do believe that the end of everything is going to happen soon. But don't panic; throughout recorded history people have believed that the end of the world is about to happen, and it has not happened yet. Liberation Theology
Liberation theology was a radical movement that grew up in South America as a response to the poverty and the ill-treatment of ordinary people. The movement was caricatured in the phrase If Jesus Christ were on Earth today, he would be a Marxist revolutionary. Liberation theology said the church should derive its legitimacy and theology by growing out of the poor. The Bible should be read and experienced from the perspective of the poor. The church should be a movement for those who were denied their rights and plunged into such poverty that they were deprived of their full status as human beings. The poor should take the example of Jesus and use it to bring about a just society. Some liberation theologians saw in the collegiate nature of the Trinity a model for co-operative and non-hierarchical development among humans. Most controversially, the Liberationists said the church should act to bring about social change, and should ally itself with the working class to do so. Some radical priests became involved in politics and trade unions; others even aligned themselves with violent revolutionary movements. A common way in which priests and nuns showed their solidarity with the poor was to move from religious houses into poverty stricken areas to share the living conditions of their flock. The Trinity
The doctrine of the Trinity is the Christian belief that there is One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Other ways of referring to the Trinity are the Triune God and the Three-in-One. The Trinity is a controversial doctrine; many Christians admit they don't understand it, while many more Christians don't understand it but think they do. In fact, although they'd be horrified to hear it, many Christians sometimes behave as if they believe in three Gods and at other times as if they believe in one. The idea that there is One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit means:
There is exactly one God The Father is God The Son is God The Holy Spirit is God
The Father is not the Son The Son is not the Holy Spirit The Father is not the Holy Spirit An alternate way of explaining it is: There is exactly one God There are three really distinct Persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Each of the Persons is God Common mistakes The Trinity is not Three individuals who together make one God Three Gods joined together Three properties of God
Christmas Christmas is marked on the 25 December (7 January for Orthodox Christians). Christmas is a Christian holy day that marks the birth of Jesus, the son of God. The story of Christmas Jesus' birth, known as the nativity, is described in the New Testament of the Bible. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give different accounts. It is from them that the nativity story is pieced together. Both accounts tell us that Jesus was born to a woman called Mary who was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter. The Gospels state that Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant. In Luke's account Mary was visited by an angel who brought the message that she would give birth to God's son. According to Matthew's account, Joseph was visited by an angel who persuaded him to marry Mary rather than send her away or expose her pregnancy. Matthew tells us about some wise men who followed a star that led them to Jesus' birthplace and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Luke tells how shepherds were led to Bethlehem by an angel. According to tradition, Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem shortly before Jesus' birth. Joseph had been ordered to take part in a census in his home town of Bethlehem. All Jewish people had to be counted so the Roman Emperor could determine how much money to collect from them in tax. Those who had moved away from their family homes, like Joseph, had to return to have their names entered in the Roman records. Joseph and Mary set off on the long, arduous 90-mile journey from Nazareth along the valley of the River Jordan, past Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Mary
travelled on a donkey to conserve her energy for the birth. But when they arrived in Bethlehem the local inn was already full with people returning for the census. The innkeeper let them stay in the rock cave below his house which was used as a stable for his animals. It was here, next to the noise and filth of the animals, that Mary gave birth to her son and laid Him in a manger. Ethics Abortion Christianity and abortion has a long and complex history, and there are a variety of positions taken by contemporary Christian denominations on the topic. There is no explicit prohibition of abortion in either the Old Testament or New Testament books of the Christian Bible. While some writers say that early Christians held different beliefs at different times about abortion, others say that, in spite of the silence of the New Testament on the issue, they condemned abortion at any point of pregnancy as a grave sin, a condemnation that they maintained even when some of them did not qualify as homicide the elimination of a fetus not yet "formed" and animated by a human soul. Some authors have contrasted the prohibition of abortion in later Christian societies
with the availability of abortion that was present in earlier Roman society, arguing that this reflects a wider condemnation of pagan practices. Today, different Christian denominations take on a range different stances on the issue of abortion. Capital Punishment Christians argue both for and against the death penalty using secular arguments, but like other religious people they often make an additional case based on the tenets of their faith. For much of history, the Christian Churches accepted that capital punishment was a necessary part of the mechanisms of society. Pope Innocent III, for example, put forward the proposition: "The secular power can, without mortal sin, exercise judgment of blood, provided that it punishes with justice, not out of hatred, with prudence, not precipitation." The Roman Catechism, issued in 1566, stated that the power of life and death had been entrusted by God to the civil authorities. The use of this power did not embody the act of murder, but rather a supreme obedience to God's commandments. In the high Middle Ages and later, the Holy See authorized that heretics be turned over to the secular authorities for execution.
The law of Vatican City from 1929 to 1969 included the death penalty for anyone who tried to assassinate the Pope. Research done in the 1990s in the United States found that Protestants (many of whom interpret the Bible to be the literal word of God) were more likely to be in favor of the death penalty than members of other religious factions and denominations. Contraception Christian ideas about contraception come from church teachings rather than scripture, as the Bible has little to say about the subject. As a result, their teachings on birth control are often based on different Christian interpretations of the meaning of marriage, sex and the family. Christian acceptance of contraception is relatively new; all churches disapproved of artificial contraception until the start of the 20th century. In modern times different Christian churches hold different views about the rightness and wrongness of using birth control. Liberal Protestant churches often teach that it is acceptable to use birth control, as long as it is not used to encourage or permit promiscuous behavior. Less liberal churches only approve the use of contraception for people who are married to each other. Since these churches regard sex outside marriage as morally wrong (or if not wrong, as less than good), they believe that abstaining from sex would be morally better than having sex and using birth control.
More conservative churches suggest that contraception should be limited to married couples who are using it to regulate the size and spacing of their family. They often teach that using contraception to prevent children altogether is not desirable. The Roman Catholic Church only allows 'natural' birth control, by which it means only having sex during the infertile period of a woman's monthly cycle. Artificial methods of contraception are banned. Thus the only way for a Catholic couple to be faithful to the Church's teachings on human sexuality and to avoid having children is to use 'natural' family planning. Many Catholics have decided to disobey church teaching in this part of their lives, causing a substantial breach between laity and the Church establishment. Organ Donation Sacrifice and helping others are key themes across all forms of Christianity, and therefore a decision to donate organs is seen as a positive thing. Christians should be encouraged to help others in need. They look upon organ donation as an act of love, and a way of following Jesus' example. All mainstream Protestant denominations support organ donation, whether they see it as an individual choice motivated by compassion, or encourage it as an act of charity. The Vatican strongly supports organ donation. Eastern Orthodox Christianity, most Pentecostal and evangelical churches also support organ
donation, as do the Amish. War The main Christian view of war ethics is contained in the doctrine of the Just War. The basic assumption of modern Christians is that war is rarely justified and should be avoided unless the Just War conditions are met. An individual Christian may believe that the standard of evidence and argument required for them to support a war is higher than the standard of evidence that national leaders may require to go to war. Christianity is no longer (if it ever was) wholly against war. Some say that modern Christianity has a 'presumption against war', but others say that it has a 'presumption against injustice' - and the bias against war comes from the injustice that war can do. This view says that the aim of Christianity is to promote a world in which peace and justice flourish everywhere: war may sometimes be the tool needed to do this, and waging war may sometimes be a lesser evil (a lesser injustice) than allowing injustice to persist or tolerating the victimization of innocent people. Animal Rights
For most of history Christians largely ignored animal suffering. Christian thinkers believed that human beings were greatly superior to animals. They taught that human beings could treat animals as badly as they wanted to because people had few (if any) moral obligations towards animals. Modern Christians generally take a much more pro-animal line. They think that any unnecessary mistreatment of animals is both sinful and morally wrong. The traditional Christian view When early theologians looked at "nature red in tooth and claw" they concluded that it was a natural law of the universe that animals should be preyed on and eaten by others. This was reflected in their theology. Christian thinking downgraded animals for three main reasons: God had created animals for the use of human beings and human beings were therefore entitled to use them in any way they want Animals were distinctively inferior to human beings and were worth little if any moral consideration, because: humans have souls and animals don't humans have reason and animals don't Christian thought was heavily humano-centric and only considered animals in relation to human beings, and not on their own terms
Circumcision In the Old Testament circumcision is clearly defined as a covenant between God and all Jewish males. Circumcision is not laid down as a requirement in the New Testament. Instead, Christians are urged to be "circumcised of the heart" by trusting in Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. As a Jew, Jesus was himself circumcised (Luke 2:21; Colossians 2:11-12). However, circumcision was a big issue in the early Christian Church. Adult Greeks, in particular, who converted to Christianity were unwilling to undergo the painful operation. The ritual was not enforced amongst non-Jewish converts and circumcision was even seen by some as being contrary to the Christian faith. It became a sign of separation between circumcised Jews and new adherents of Christianity. Euthanasia and Assisted Dying Christians are mostly against euthanasia. The arguments are usually based on the beliefs that life is given by God, and that human beings are made in God's image. Some churches also emphasize the importance of not interfering with the natural process of death. Life is a gift from God
all life is God-given birth and death are part of the life processes which God has created, so we should respect them therefore no human being has the authority to take the life of any innocent person, even if that person wants to die Human beings are valuable because they are made in God's image human life possesses an intrinsic dignity and value because it is created by God in his own image for the distinctive destiny of sharing in God's own life saying that God created humankind in his own image doesn't mean that people actually look like God, but that people have a unique capacity for rational existence that enables them to see what is good and to want what is good as people develop these abilities they live a life that is as close as possible to God's life of love this is a good thing, and life should be preserved so that people can go on doing this to propose euthanasia for an individual is to judge that the current life of that individual is not worthwhile such a judgement is incompatible with recognizing the worth and dignity of the person to be killed therefore arguments based on the quality of life are completely irrelevant nor should anyone ask for euthanasia for themselves because no-one has the right to value anyone, even themselves, as worthless The process of dying is spiritually important, and should not be disrupted Many churches believe that the period just before death is a profoundly spiritual time They think it is wrong to interfere with the process of dying, as this would interrupt the process of the spirit moving towards God
Same-Sex Marriage 1. All humans are simultaneously sinful and loved. All people, regardless of their story, are deeply and unconditionally loved by God, each created with profound dignity and worth, not one more than another. This is more than mere religious happy talk it's truth whether one is gay, straight, or otherwise. But, all people are also stricken with a terminal illness: sin. Everyone. No exceptions and to the same degree. Our sin demands our repentance and needs forgiveness, and God's love and grace are where we find both. This is basic Christianity and the great equalizer of all people. 2. Jesus was not silent on homosexuality. Some claim Jesus never said anything about homosexuality and therefore is neutral on the topic. Not true. Jesus was unequivocal in saying that to understand marriage and the sexual union, we must go back to the beginning and see how God created humanity and to what end. (See Matthew 19 and Mark 10.) Jesus holds up the creation story in Genesis not as a quaint Sunday school lesson, but as authoritative reminding us that God created each of us male and female, each for the other. And the sexual union that God created and ordains is for husband and wife to come together in physical union, one flesh. 3. There is only one option. Both Jesus and all of scripture approve of no other sexual union than that between a husband and wife. This is the uncontested historical teaching of Judaism and Christianity, and it is not something that true Christianity is free to adjust with the times. Yes, concubines and multiple wives are found in the Bible, but doesn't make them "biblical." In fact, they violate the Genesis narrative Christ points us to. 4. Male and female complete God's image on earth. It is not just mere "traditionalism" that makes sex-distinct marriage the norm for Christians. It is a common grace God has given to all peoples at all
times that is rooted in deeper theological reasons. The first chapter of the Jewish and Christian scriptures tells us that humanity is uniquely created to show forth the image of God in the world to make visible the invisible. God does this not just in generic, androgynous humanity, but through two very similar but distinct types of humans: male and female. They are human universals, not cultural constructs. When God said that it "is not good that the man be alone" (Genesis 2:18) he wasn't lamenting that Adam didn't have a buddy or was just lonely. He was saying that the male could not really know himself as male without a human "other" who equally shared his humanity but was meaningfully distinct right down to every bit of her DNA. The same is true for her in Adam. Taoists understand this in that the Yin cannot be Yin without its corresponding and contrasting Yang. In both Jewish and Christian belief, both male and female become fully human in their correspondence and contrast with one another. This does not happen solely in marriage, but it does happen most profoundly and mysteriously in marriage. Same-Sex Marriage (continued) 5. Sex is indeed about babies. It is a new and culturally peculiar idea that human sexuality is all about intimacy and pleasure, but not necessarily babies. Babies and reproduction matter. And sure, while not every male/female sexual engagement is toward the end of procreation intimacy and pleasure matter as well it has been the overwhelming norm and desire in nearly all marital relationships throughout time. That some couples are infertile either by age or incapability does not diminish or challenge this reality. Infertility is the vast exception for male/female couples. It is the fact of same-sex unions, a human cul-desac. Heterosexual union reaches into and creates the next generation. To establish a sexual relationship without any interest in or openness to babies is contrary to God's intention for such relationships. 6. Children have a right to a mother and father.
Every person ever born can track his origin to a mother and a father. There are no exceptions, including those artificially produced. This was the first command God gave to the first two humans: to come together and bring forth the coming generations of new divine image-bearers. Nearly all cultures in all places in the world at all historical times hold as fundamental that every child should be loved and raised by a mother and father. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes a mother and father as a basic right of every child. 7. Same-sex attraction is not a sin. To be human is to have a disordered sexuality. Everyone does. We all have some manner of sexual drive that compels us to disobey God's design for sexuality. But, while temptation is universal, it's different from sin. Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are, but did not sin (see Hebrews 4:15). Sexual sin is giving in to that desire in either mind or body. Faithful Christian discipleship cannot avoid temptation, but it strives to resist and master it with God's help. Doing so is not sin, but obedience and dependence upon Christ. Many are indeed same-sex attracted, but live obediently within a Christian sexual ethic. It can be difficult, as it is for heterosexuals who are required to live in celibacy. Christianity requires that we each subjugate our sexual (and many other) desires to our faith commitment and countless same-sex attracted believers do so willingly and joyfully.
8. Sexual intimacy is not a right. Every Christian has limitations placed on his sexuality. For married Christians, it is exclusive to one's spouse. For single, engaged, and divorced Christians, it is abstinence, no exceptions. Is it unfair for so many to be forced into a life that cannot know the wonder and beauty of physical intimacy just because marriage is not an option for them? Is it fair for a Christian to be stuck in a loveless marriage? Christians have long understood that fairness is not really the question. Sex is not a right, but a gift and the Giver knows what is best for us. 9. Rewriting God's rules is never an option. One of the marks of a Christian is his or her desire to be obedient to Christ's teaching. Certainly most of us would like to rewrite the scriptures to make life easier. Christianity is a demanding faith. The scriptures define and change us, not the other way around. A biblical sexual ethic does not, indeed cannot, change with the times. 10. People are more than their sexuality. To identify people by their sexuality is to reduce people to their sexuality. Every individual is so much more. A person's inherent and undeniable value is rooted in his membership in humanity, not his particularity, sexual or otherwise. To advocate for extending rights to someone based in particular and occasionally mutable desires, relationships, and behaviors as important as they might be to the
individual is actually a violation of the principle of universal human rights. History The Basics of Christian History Background to the life and death of Jesus Christ The traditional story of Jesus tells of His birth in a stable in Bethlehem in the Holy Land, to a young virgin called Mary who had become pregnant with the son of God through the action of the Holy Spirit. The story of Jesus' birth is told in the writings of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament of the Bible. His birth is believed by Christians to be the fulfilment of prophecies in the Jewish Old Testament, which claimed that a Messiah would deliver the Jewish people from captivity. Jesus' ministry After the story of His birth, little is known about Jesus until He began his ministry at the age of about 30. He then spent three years teaching, healing and working miracles. He taught in parables - everyday stories which had divine messages for those who would hear it.
He had twelve disciples whom he called to follow Him and help Him in his work. The Basics of Christian History (continued) Persecution and death Jesus stated publicly that He spoke with the authority of God. This claim angered the religious authorities in Palestine and they handed Jesus over to the Roman authorities as a revolutionary. He was tried for heresy, condemned and put to death by means of crucifixion. Resurrection On the Sunday following His execution, some of His women followers discovered that the tomb into which His body had been placed was empty. Jesus then appeared to them, alive, as the Jesus they had known prior to His death. His followers realized that God had raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus was seen by many of His disciples and followers over the next few days before, according to the Gospel accounts, He was taken up into heaven. The Basics of Christian History (continued)
Paul and the early church It has been suggested that the work of Jesus Christ and the impact of His death and resurrection would not have made any lasting impact on the world were it not for the missionary work of Paul. The account of Paul's conversion to Christianity is contained in the New Testament book, the Acts of the Apostles. Before his conversion Paul had been known as Saul and had been violently opposed to the Christian faith as taught by Jesus and after His death, by His disciples. Saul experienced a dramatic conversion, known as the Damascus Road conversion, when he was temporarily blinded. He found himself filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately began preaching the Christian gospel. Paul's concept of Christianity Paul's teaching centered on understanding the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as a central turning point in history. He understood the resurrection to signal the end of the need to live under Jewish law. Instead Paul taught of living in the Spirit in which the power of God was made to work through human flesh. Some of his letters to fledgling churches throughout the Roman Empire are contained in the New Testament and outline Paul's theology. He insisted that Gentiles had as much access to the faith as Jews and that freedom from the Law set everyone free. It was this teaching which was essential for the development and success of the early church which would otherwise have remained nothing more than another Jewish sect.
The Basics of Christian History (continued) Roman Empire Paul established Christian churches throughout the Roman Empire, including Europe, and beyond - even into Africa. Persecution However, in all cases, the church remained small and was persecuted, particularly under tyrannical Roman emperors like Nero (54-68), Domitian (81-96), under whom being a Christian was an illegal act, and Diocletian (284-305). Many Christian believers died for their faith and became martyrs for the church (Bishop Polycarp and St Alban amongst others). Constantine turns the tide When a Roman soldier, Constantine, won victory over his rival in battle to become the Roman emperor, he attributed his success to the Christian God and immediately proclaimed his conversion to Christianity. Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Constantine then needed to establish exactly what the Christian faith was and called the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD which formulated and codified the faith. The Basics of Christian History (continued)
Formulating the Faith Over the next few centuries, there were debates and controversies about the precise interpretation of the faith, as ideas were formulated and discussed. The Council of Chalcedon held in 451 was the last council held whilst the Roman Empire was intact. It gave rise to the Nicene Creed which Christians still say today to affirm their belief in God, Christ and his church. When Rome fell in 476, it meant that Western and Eastern Christians were no longer under the same political rule and differences in belief and practice arose between them. The Great Schism The differences between Eastern and Western Christianity culminated in what has been called the Great Schism, in 1054, when the patriarchs of the Eastern and Western division (of Constantinople and Rome respectively) were unable to resolve their differences. The split led to the Orthodox church and the Roman Catholic church. The Orthodox church does not recognize the authority of the Roman papacy and claims a Christian heritage in direct descent from the Christian church of Christ's believers. Holy Days
All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day All Saints' Day (also known as All Hallows' Day or Hallowmas) is the day after All Hallows' Eve (Hallowe'en). It is a feast day celebrated on 1st November by Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Roman Catholics. It is an opportunity for believers to remember all saints and martyrs, known and unknown, throughout Christian history. As part of this day of obligation, believers are required to attend church and try not to do any servile work. Remembering saints and martyrs and dedicating a specific day to them each year has been a Christian tradition since the 4th century AD, but it wasn't until 609AD that Pope Boniface IV decided to remember all martyrs. Originally 13th May was designated as the Feast of All Holy Martyrs. Later, in 837AD, Pope Gregory IV extended the festival to remember all the saints, changed its name to Feast of All Saints and changed the date to 1st November. Ascension Day Ascension Day celebrates Jesus's ascension to heaven after He was resurrected on Easter Day. A quotation from Mark 16:9-20 tells the story. He appeared first to Mary of Magdala. She went and carried the news to his mourning
and sorrowful followers, but when she told them that he was alive they did not believe her. Later he appeared to two of the disciples as they were walking into the countryside. They also went and took the news to the others, but again they did not believe that the Lord was alive. Then, when the eleven disciples were at the table. He appeared to them and reproached them because they had not believed those who had seen him after he was raised from the dead. Then he said to them: 'Go forth to every part of the world, and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. Those who believe it and receive baptism will find salvation; those who do not believe will be condemned, Faith will bring with it these miracles: believers will cast out devils in my name and speak in strange tongues; if they handle snakes or drink any deadly poison, they will come to no harm; and the sick on whom they lay their hands will recover. So after talking with them the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven, and he took his seat at the right hand of God. Jesus's prophecy in this passage is believed to foreshadow the later events of Pentecost. Candlemas Candlemas commemorates the ritual purification of Mary, 40 days after the birth of her son Jesus. This day also marks the ritual presentation of the baby Jesus to God in the Temple at Jerusalem.
The Gospel of Luke says that Jesus was met by Anna and Simeon. Simeon held the baby Jesus and called him a Light to the World. Ritual purification stems back to a Jewish tradition that women were considered unclean after the birth of a child. For 40 days for a boy, and 60 days for a girl, women weren't allowed to worship in the temple. At the end of this time, women were brought to the Temple or Synagogue to be purified. After the ceremony women were allowed to take part in religious services again. The festival is called Candlemas because this was the day that all the Church's candles for the year were blessed. On Candlemas night, many people place lighted candles in their windows at home. Like some other Christian festivals, Candlemas draws some of its elements from Paganism. In pre-Christian times, it was the festival of light. This ancient festival marked the mid point of winter, half way between the winter solstice (shortest day) and the spring equinox. Some people lit candles to scare away evil spirits on the dark winter nights. People believed that Candlemas predicted the weather for the rest of the winter. For some people, different superstitions surround this festival. For instance, if a candle drips on one side when carried in church on Candlemas, this denotes a death of a family member during the year. If someone brings snowdrops into the house on Candlemas day it symbolizes a parting or death. Any Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night (January 5th) should be left up until Candlemas Day and then taken down.
Corpus Christi The festival of Corpus Christi celebrates the Eucharist as the body of Christ. The name 'Corpus Christi' is Latin for 'the body of Christ'. This jubilant festival is celebrated by Roman Catholics and other Christians to proclaim the truth of the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the actual body of Christ during Mass. In some countries in the world, Catholic churches still celebrate the festival, not only with a Mass, but also with a procession that carries the consecrated wafer through the streets as a public statement that the sacrifice of Christ was for the salvation of the whole world. Corpus Christi falls between late May and the middle of June, on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday (60 days after Easter). In some countries the festival is celebrated on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday. In the Church of England this feast is also kept on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday and known as the Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion (Corpus Christi). It's worth noting that Christians already mark the Last Supper, when Christ instituted the Eucharist, on Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday). Because Maundy Thursday falls during the solemn period of Holy Week, it was thought necessary to have a separate festival of
the Eucharist that would allow the celebration not to be muted by sadness. Epiphany The Epiphany is an ancient Christian feast day and is significant in a number of ways. In the East, where it originated, the Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. It also celebrates Jesus' birth. The Western Church began celebrating the Epiphany in the 4th century where it was, and still is, associated with the visit of the magi (wise men) to the infant Jesus when God revealed Himself to the world through the incarnation of Jesus. According to Matthew 2:11 they offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. For many Protestant church traditions, the season of Epiphany extends from 6 January until Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent leading to Easter. Other traditions, including the Roman Catholic tradition, observe Epiphany as a single day, with the Sundays following Epiphany counted as Ordinary Time. In the Spanish speaking world Epiphany is also known as Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day). All Hallows' Eve
All Hallows' Eve falls on 31 October each year, and is the day before All Hallows' Day, also known as All Saints' Day in the Christian calendar. The Church traditionally held a vigil on All Hallows' Eve when worshippers would prepare themselves with prayers and fasting prior to the feast day itself. The name derives from the Old English 'hallowed' meaning holy or sanctified and is now usually contracted to the more familiar word Hallowe'en. Lent Lent is the period of 40 days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities. Whereas Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after His death on the cross, Lent recalls the events leading up to and including Jesus' crucifixion by Rome. This is believed to have taken place in Roman occupied Jerusalem. The Christian churches that observe Lent in the 21st century (and not all do significantly) use it as a time for prayer and penance. Only a small number of people today fast for the whole of Lent, although some maintain the practice on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It is more common these days for believers to surrender a particular vice such as favorite foods or smoking. Whatever the
sacrifice it is a reflection of Jesus' deprivation in the wilderness and a test of self-discipline. Why 40 days? 40 is a significant number in Jewish-Christian scripture: In Genesis, the flood which destroyed the earth was brought about by 40 days and nights of rain. The Hebrews spent 40 years in the wilderness before reaching the land promised to them by God. Moses fasted for 40 days before receiving the ten commandments on Mount Sinai. Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry. Most Christians regard Jesus' time in the wilderness as the key event for the duration of Lent. The color purple Purple is the symbolic color used in some churches throughout Lent, for drapes and altar frontals. Purple is used for two reasons: firstly because it is associated with mourning and so anticipates the pain and suffering of the crucifixion, and secondly because purple is the color associated with royalty, and celebrates Christ's resurrection and sovereignty. Week of Prayer for Christian Unity The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity involves Christian communities across the world and from almost every denomination. The materials used in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are prepared each year jointly by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of
Churches and the Roman Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. It is traditionally celebrated over the eight days of 18-25 January, although other dates are sometimes chosen in the Southern hemisphere. The Week lasts for 8 days (which is why it was originally called an Octave of Prayer), and covers the period from the feast of St Peter to the feast of St Paul. The Feast of the Annunciation The feast of the Annunciation marks the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, during which he told her that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is celebrated on 25 March each year. More importantly, since it occurs 9 months before the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, the Annunciation marks the actual incarnation of Jesus Christ - the moment that Jesus was conceived and that the Son of God became the son of the Virgin. The festival has been celebrated since the 5th century AD. The festival celebrates two things: God's action in entering the human world as Jesus in order to save humanity
Humanity's willing acceptance of God's action in Mary's freely given acceptance of the task of being the Mother of God The Christian year The Church year is divided up by various festivals and seasons. Some, like Christmas Day, happen on the same date every year, while others move around within a range of dates. The main festival that moves is Easter, and since many other festivals have their dates fixed in relation to Easter, they move with it. Christian annual festivals Annunciation, 25 March The Easter period, in Spring (dates vary): Lent Holy Week Easter Ascension Day (40 days after Easter) Pentecost (7th Sunday after Easter) The Christmas period, late November to early January Advent, the period leading up to Christmas: begins on the Sunday closest to 30 November
Christmas Eve, 24 December Christmas Day, 25 December Epiphany, early January Some denominations of Christianity also celebrate Saints' days, which happen on fixed dates every year. Christmas Christmas is marked on the 25 December (7 January for Orthodox Christians). Christmas is a Christian holy day that marks the birth of Jesus, the son of God. Easter Easter Sunday is the culmination of Holy Week. Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the most important Christian festival, and the one celebrated with the greatest joy. The date of Easter changes each year, and several other Christian festivals fix their dates by reference to Easter. Churches are filled with flowers, and there are special hymns and songs. But not all Easter
customs are Christian; some, such as the Easter Bunny, are pagan in origin. The Easter story is at the heart of Christianity On Good Friday, Jesus Christ was executed by crucifixion. His body was taken down from the cross, and buried in a cave. The tomb was guarded and an enormous stone was put over the entrance, so that no-one could steal the body. On the following Sunday, some women visited the grave and found that the stone had been moved, and that the tomb was empty. Jesus Himself was seen that day, and for days afterwards by many people. His followers realized that God had raised Jesus from the dead. Feast of Guardian Angels The Feast of the Guardian Angels is a Catholic festival celebrated annually on 2 October. Paul V was the first Pope, in 1608, to authorize a feast day in honor of guardian angels. Pope Clement X changed the date to 2 October and Leo XIII, in 1883, upgraded the date to a double major feast. Guardian angels Catholics believe that each soul, including Christians and non-Christians, has an angel
assigned to it to give guidance throughout its life on earth. These guardian angels, according to Thomas Aquinas, are from the lowest rank of angels. They help their humans in several ways, including protecting them from demons and encouraging them to do good works. The angel cannot affect its human's free will, but only the senses and imagination, and through these, the intellect. On reaching heaven, each person is united with his or her guardian angel. Holy Week The most solemn week of the Christian year, Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter, and is the week during which Christians particularly remember the last week of Jesus's life. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday commemorates Christ's triumphant arrival in Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd. Some Christians display the crosses from that service in their homes during the year as a symbol of their faith. The crosses are burned at the start of Lent the next year to provide the ash for Ash Wednesday. Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter. Christians remember it as the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and established the ceremony known as
the Eucharist. The most important events in Christianity are the death and later resurrection of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the Son of God, and whose life and teachings are the foundation of Christianity. Good Friday is the Friday before Easter. It commemorates the Passion: the execution of Jesus by crucifixion. Pentecost Pentecost is the festival when Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is celebrated on the Sunday 50 days after Easter (the name comes from the Greek pentekoste, "fiftieth"). Pentecost is regarded as the birthday of the Christian church, and the start of the church's mission to the world. The Pope The Pope
The pope is the Bishop of Rome, based in the Vatican City, and head of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope comes from the Latin for 'father' (the traditional title for a bishop). The adjective for something relating to the Pope is papal. Catholics believe that the pope is the successor to Saint Peter whom Jesus appointed as the first head of his church Each pope is part of what Catholicism calls the apostolic succession, an unbroken line back to Peter and has supreme authority. The current pontiff Francis is the 266th pope and succeeded Benedict XVI in 2013. Popes can speak infallibly on matters of faith and morals but in practice do so rarely. Second in the hierarchy after the Pope are the Cardinals, who elect the next pope on the death of the current incumbent. Pope Francis He was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio;17 December 1936 and is the 266th and current Pope and sovereign of the Vatican City State. Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first pope from outside Europe since the Syrian Gregory III, who reigned in the 8th century. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bergoglio was ordained a Catholic priest in 1969, and from 1973 to 1979 was
Argentina's provincial superior of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998 and was created a cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II. He led the Argentine Church during the December 2001 riots in Argentina. The administrations of Nstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernndez de Kirchner considered him a political rival. Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on 28 February 2013, a papal conclave elected Bergoglio as his successor on 13 March. He chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. Throughout his public life, Pope Francis has been noted for his humility, emphasis on God's mercy, international visibility as Pope, concern for the poor and commitment to interfaith dialogue. He is credited with having a less formal approach to the papacy than his predecessors, for instance choosing to reside in the Domus Sanctae Marthae guesthouse rather than in the papal apartments of the Apostolic Palace used by previous popes. He maintains that the Church should be more open and welcoming. He does not support unbridled capitalism, Marxism, or Marxist versions of liberation theology. Francis maintains the traditional views of the Church regarding abortion, marriage, ordination of women, and clerical celibacy. He opposes consumerism and overdevelopment, and supports taking action on climate change, a focus of his papacy with the promulgation of Laudato si'. In international diplomacy, he helped to restore full diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. Since 2016, Francis has faced increasingly open criticism, particularly from theological conservatives, on the question of admitting civilly divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion with the publication of Amoris Laetitia, and on the question of alleged systematic cover up of clergy sexual abuse.
Papal succession When a pope dies, nine days of mourning are declared and burial occurs between the 4th and 6th day after death. Most popes are buried in St. Peter's Basilica, which is where the body will have lain in state for people to pay their respects. Traditionally the body of the Pope lies inside a cypress-wood coffin, encased within a second one of lead with an inscription bearing the Pope's name and pontificate dates, which is in turn contained by a third outer coffin of elm. The funeral is organized by the Cardinal Camerlengo (title of the appointed treasurer of the Holy See), who also organizes the conclave which chooses the next pope. Papal succession (continued) Choosing the new Pope Though it is their cardinals, gathered in the Sistine Chapel, who choose the new pope, Catholics believe that these men are simply conduits who are doing the Holy Spirit's bidding. This is what distinguishes the papal election from any other poll. The Holy Spirit plays His part and thereby ensures in theory that any pope wanting to decide his own succession by filling the College of Cardinals with men of like mind will be thwarted. Catholicism teaches that each pope is the successor to the Apostle Peter who was chosen by Jesus as the rock on which the church was to be built.
Because of the role allotted of the Holy Spirit, each pope after Saint Peter is said to stand in a chain called the Apostolic Succession. (Legend has it that in the ninth century a woman, disguised as a man, was elected, but the Catholic Church dismisses the tale of Pope Joan as a fabrication.) Round the dome of St Peter's Basilica in Rome, in letters six feet high, are Christ's words in Latin to Peter from the Gospel of St Matthew, chapter 16: "Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church and I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven". It is again by way of acknowledgement of the hand of God in the papacy that popes do not retire. They relinquish office only when God judges it appropriate and takes them up to join Him in heaven. Only four popes have abdicated: Clement 1 in 97, Pontian in 235, Benedict IX in 1045 though he later made a comeback - and Celestine V in 1294. A simple, elderly monk, chosen as Pope as a compromise between rival candidates in July of that year, Celestine V stood down six months later when the strains of the job proved too much. He wanted to return to his monastery but instead was imprisoned by his successor until his death two years later. The origins of the word pope date back to the early church, where it simply meant 'father' and was applied to all priests. The man who is elected in the Sistine Chapel will first and foremost be Bishop of Rome. Again Catholicism links this office back to St Peter himself, though all the indications of history are that there was no single bishop of Rome for almost a century after the death of the Apostles. The early church was slow to develop the office of bishop, relying at first on a looser association of elders. The first reference to the idea of an apostolic succession giving the Bishop of Rome special authority comes in the writings of the early Christian writer Irenaeus of Lyon in AD180. By AD250 the shrine to St Peter had been built at the Vatican. Papal infallibility Though papal infallibility was only set in stone in 1870, the idea had been part of church history and debate as far back as 519 when the notion of
the Bishop of Rome as the preserver of apostolic truth was set out in the Formula of Hormisdas. In 1075 Pope Gregory VII in his Dictatus Papae (The Pope's Memorandum) put it more bluntly. He set out 27 propositions about the powers of the office of Bishop of Rome. These included the statement that the papacy "never will err to all eternity according to the testimony of Holy Scripture". The word infallibility, however, was not used. It was believed that only God was infallible and it was acknowledged that various popes down the ages had brought disgrace on the office by their behavior and judgements. Moreover, papal teaching authority was not seen as being wholly independent of councils of the church. No major controversy in the first thousand years of Christianity was ever settled simply by papal decree. It was not until the nineteenth century that moves began to make a formal acknowledgement that the pope was infallible. It was seen as a useful tool in the Church's rejection of the liberal, secular agenda that was sweeping Europe. Having been dethroned as ruler of the Papal States by the movement for Italian Reunification that finally triumphed in 1870, Pope Pius IX called the First Vatican Council where he was determined to buttress his own spiritual authority. Though many cardinals believed it dangerous to try to define quite how and when the Pope might speak infallibly, a compromise agreement was finally reached. It stated that Pope "when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when exercising the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians" is "possessed of infallibility" when "he defines... a doctrine concerning faith and morals to be held by the whole Church, through the divine assistance promised to him by St Peter". Once the Pope has spoken, the First Vatican Council agreed, his definitions "are irreformable of themselves". Voting on this form of words took place during a thunderstorm. A majority gave their assent but God, some said, was angry. Routine papal teaching is not therefore infallible and it was not until 1950 that a pope exercised his "infallible magisterium" to declare that the
Virgin Mary had been assumed body and soul into heaven. The belief is unsupported in scripture. Pope John Paul II spoke infallibly once: in 1994 he ruled out the possibility of women ever being ordained and furthermore decreed that Catholics should not even talk about the issue any more. To date (2009) Pope Benedict XVI has not spoken infallibly. Rites and Rituals Confirmation Confirmation is a sacrament, ritual or rite of passage practiced by several Christian denominations. The word means strengthening or deepening one's relationship with God. Confirmation is a popular practice in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Churches where infant baptism is also performed. It enables a baptized person to confirm the promises made on their behalf at baptism. It is also a sign of full membership to the Christian community. In Christian confirmation, a baptized person believes that he or she is receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. A bishop usually conducts the service but there are variations in how it is carried out. In the Anglican Church, the sacrament of confirmation is conferred through the laying of hands. In the Roman Catholic Church, each participant is also anointed with oil. In Protestant denominations outside the Church of England, confirmation is seen as a rite of passage or initiation to full Christian discipleship. It is a symbolic act allowing the baptized person to make a
mature statement of faith. Confirmation is not regarded as a sacrament or a means of conferring divine grace. Confirmation can be held at any age. In the Eastern Churches, it is conferred on infants straight after baptism. In the West, most denominations insist that participants are old enough to understand the significance of their promises. Christians believe Jesus instituted the sacrament or rite of confirmation when he promised to send another counsellor to empower his disciples to bear witness. (John 14:16; John 15:26; John 16:13). The Eucharist The Eucharist, which is also called the Holy Communion, Mass, the Lord's Supper or the Divine Liturgy, is a sacrament accepted by almost all Christians. Christians don't say that they 'do' or 'carry out' the Eucharist; they celebrate it. In some churches, the person who takes the leading role in the ceremony is called the celebrant. Christian worship
Christian worship involves praising God in music and speech, readings from scripture, prayers of various sorts, a sermon, and various holy ceremonies (often called sacraments) such as the Eucharist. While worship is often thought of only as services in which Christians come together in a group, individual Christians can worship God on their own, and in any place. Origins Christian worship grew out of Jewish worship. Jesus Christ was a religious Jew who attended the synagogue and celebrated Jewish festivals, and his disciples were familiar with Jewish ritual and tradition. The first obvious divergence from Judaism was making Sunday the holy day instead of Saturday. By doing this the day of Christian worship is the same as the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus's promise to stay with his followers, fulfilled in the sending of the Holy Spirit, illuminated the development of Christian worship from early times. God is present So Christians regard worship as something that they don't only do for God, but that God, through Jesus's example and the presence of the Holy Spirit is also at work in. The Eucharist and the Word Church services on a Sunday divide into two general types: Eucharistic services and services of the Word. Both types of service will include hymns, readings and prayers.
The Eucharistic service will be focused on the act of Holy Communion. The service of the Word does not include this rite, but instead features a much longer sermon, in which the preacher will speak at length to expound a biblical text and bring out its relevance to those present. Style Different churches, even within the same denomination, will use very different styles of worship. Some will be elaborate, with a choir singing difficult music, others will hand the music over to the congregation, who sing simpler hymns or worship songs. Some churches leave much of the action to the minister, while others encourage great congregational participation. (Of course all churches encourage the full participation of the congregation in praising God with heart, mind, and soul, but some churches give the congregation more physical participation.) Divorce in Christianity In Christian law, marriage is a sacred institution. However, a variety of denominations have different approaches to divorce (the legal separation of a married couple). Christian funerals When a Christian dies, it is seen as the end of his/her life on earth. A funeral is held for friends and family to grieve for the person who has died and give thanks for
their life. If someone is on their deathbed, a minister will prepare them for death. This is most likely after a long period of illness. Prayers of preparation and reconciliation may be said, with only the minister in the room. Family and friends can participate in the Lord's Prayer, the Word of God and Holy Communion. Often, the deceased will have left information in his/her will concerning what they want to be included in the funeral service (hymns, prayers) and will also say whether they wanted to be buried or cremated. The funeral is held about a week after death. It can either take place in a church or at a crematorium. Marriage and Weddings Christians believe that marriage is a gift from God, one that should not be taken for granted. It is the right atmosphere to engage in sexual relations and to build a family life. Getting married in a church, in front of God, is very important. A marriage is a public declaration of love and commitment. This declaration is made in front of friends and family in a church ceremony. The history of marriage
Marriage vows, in the form "To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part", have been recited at UK church weddings since 1552. But before the wedding service was written into the Church of Englands Book of Common Prayer, marriages were much more informal: couples could simply promise themselves to one another at any time or place and the spoken word was as good as the written contract. Subdivisions/Denominations Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church is the oldest institution in the western world. It can trace its history back almost 2000 years. Today there are more than a billion Catholics in the world, spread across all five continents with particular concentrations in southern Europe, the United States, the Philippines and the countries of Central and South America. What binds this diverse group of people together is their faith in Jesus Christ and their obedience to the papacy. Catholics believe that the Pope, based in Rome, is the successor to Saint
Peter whom Christ appointed as the first head of His church. He therefore stands in what Catholicism calls the apostolic succession, an unbroken line back to Peter and has supreme authority. Popes can speak infallibly on matters of faith and morals but in practice do so rarely. Roman Catholic Church (continued) Catholics share with other Christians a belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, the son of God made man who came to earth to redeem humanity's sins through His death and resurrection. They follow His teachings as set out in the New Testament and place their trust in God's promise of eternal life with Him. Catholicism, however, is distinct from other Christian churches in both its organization and its teaching. Roman Catholic Church (continued) Catholic doctrine is based the scriptures and on the church's own traditions. It believes that its doctrines were revealed to the apostles and have been preserved in the continuous tradition ever since. There are several doctrinal issues where the Catholic Church has a distinct position:
in its devotion to Christ's mother, the Virgin Mary, who Catholics believe gave birth to Jesus without having sex first and who was raised body and soul into heaven where she occupies a special place interceding between God and His people in its belief in transubstantiation, that during the celebration of the mass when the priest repeats Christ's words from the Last Supper the bread and wine become Christ's body and blood, though no change takes place in their outward appearance in its opposition, as stated in the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae vitae, and reiterated on numerous occasions by Pope John Paul II, to artificial methods of contraception which, it says, interfere with the transmission of human life and the sacred purpose of sex in its unflinching condemnation of abortion as the destruction of human life, which, it believes, begins at the moment of conception Eastern Orthodox Church The Orthodox Church is one of the three main Christian groups (the others being Roman Catholic and Protestant). Around 200 million people follow the Orthodox tradition. It is made up of a number of self-governing Churches which are either 'autocephalous' (meaning having their own head) or 'autonomous' (meaning self-governing). The Orthodox Churches are united in faith and by a common approach to theology, tradition, and worship.
They draw on elements of Greek, Middle-Eastern, Russian and Slav culture. Each Church has its own geographical (rather than a national) title that usually reflects the cultural traditions of its believers. The word 'Orthodox' takes its meaning from the Greek words orthos ('right') and doxa ('belief'). Hence the word Orthodox means correct belief or right thinking. The Orthodox tradition developed from the Christianity of the Eastern Roman Empire and was shaped by the pressures, politics and peoples of that geographical area. Since the Eastern capital of the Roman Empire was Byzantium, this style of Christianity is sometimes called 'Byzantine Christianity'. The Orthodox Churches share with the other Christian Churches the belief that God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, and a belief in the incarnation of Christ, His crucifixion and resurrection. The Orthodox Church differs substantially from the other Churches in the way of life and worship, and in certain aspects of theology. The Holy Spirit is seen as present in and as the guide to the Church working through the whole body of the Church, as well as through priests and bishops. Episcopal Church The Episcopal Church is a member church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It is a mainline Christian denomination divided into nine provinces. The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church is Michael Bruce Curry, the first African-American bishop to serve in that position.
In 2017, the Episcopal Church had 1,905,349 baptized members, of whom 1,745,156 were in the United States. In 2011, it was the nation's 14th largest denomination. In 2015, Pew Research estimated that 1.2 percent of the adult population in the United States, or 3 million people, self-identify as mainline Episcopalians. The church was organized after the American Revolution, when it became separate from the Church of England, whose clergy are required to swear allegiance to the British monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The Episcopal Church describes itself as "Protestant, yet Catholic". The Episcopal Church claims apostolic succession, tracing its bishops back to the apostles via holy orders. The Book of Common Prayer, a collection of traditional rites, blessings, liturgies, and prayers used throughout the Anglican Communion, is central to Episcopal worship. The Episcopal Church was active in the Social Gospel movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since the 1960s and 1970s, the church has pursued a decidedly more liberal course. It has opposed the death penalty and supported the civil rights movement and affirmative action. Some of its leaders and priests are known for marching with influential civil rights' demonstrators such as Martin Luther King Jr. The Church calls for the full legal equality of LGBT people. In 2015, the Church's 78th triennial General Convention passed resolutions allowing the blessing of same-sex marriages and approved two official liturgies to bless such unions. The Episcopal Church ordains women and LGBT people to the priesthood, the diaconate, and the episcopate, despite opposition from a number of other member churches of the Anglican Communion. In 2003, Gene Robinson became the first openly homosexual person ordained as a bishop.
The Amish The Amish are an American Protestant group with around 200,000 members descended from European Anabaptists who came to the United States more than two centuries ago to escape persecution. They are best known for their 19th century way of life that was portrayed in the 1985 Harrison Ford film Witness, in which violent crime clashed with their peaceful existence. Their old-fashioned traditions are not what is now called a 'lifestyle choice'. Amish believe that their religious faith and the way they live are inseparable and interdependent. The Amish originated in Europe after splitting from Mennonite Swiss Brethren in 1692 over the treatment of members who had been found guilty of breaches of doctrine. The first Amish arrived in Pennsylvania in the 1730s to escape persecution in Europe. The Amish (continued) Basic features of Amish life
Amish believe that the community is at the heart of their life and faith, and that the way to salvation is to live as a loving community apart from the world. Individualism is avoided. Self-help Members of the community help each other, and the whole community will work together to help a member in trouble. They do not accept state benefits or use insurance, but rely on community support instead. Separate The Amish believe that it's essential to keep themselves separate from the 'world', so they live in their own small communities and differ from other Americans in their dress, language, work, travel and education. Not exclusive The Amish are not exclusive, and have many contacts with outsiders, who they call 'English'. Amish groups Each Amish district is fully independent and lives by its own set of unwritten rules, or Ordnung. The Old Order is the strictest of these groups. There is no central authority. Simplicity and humility The Amish stress simplicity and humility. They avoid anything associated with self-exaltation, pride of position or enjoyment of power. Harmony with nature Amish believe that God is pleased when people work in harmony with nature, the soil, the weather, and care for animals and
plants. Amish always live in rural communities. The Amish (continued) Technology Some modern 'conveniences', such as cars, electricity and telephones are avoided. They only avoid technology where it might damage the community, not because they are Luddites or think technology is inherently evil. Non-confrontation Amish are pacifists and conscientious objectors. They avoid all violence - including angry words or going to law. Discipline The Amish community governs itself strictly. Baptized members are morally committed to church rules. Erring members may be shunned until there is repentance, forgiveness and restoration to full fellowship. Language Amish use three languages, a German dialect called Pennsylvania Dutch at home, High German for worship and English with outsiders. Family Amish only marry other Amish and don't divorce. They have large families averaging 7-8 children. Education Amish children are educated in their own schools. Schooling stops at 14 after which they learn practical skills on the job. Holy days
Amish celebrate the same holy days as other Christians. Growing up After 16 Amish children can experience life outside the community for a few years to decide whether they wish to become full baptized members of the community. 90% decide to do so. Mennonites The Mennonites are members of certain Christian groups belonging to the church communities of Anabaptist denominations named after Menno Simons (14961561) of Friesland (which today is a province of the Netherlands). Through his writings, Simons articulated and formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders. The early teachings of the Mennonites were founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus, which the original Anabaptist followers held to with great conviction despite persecution by the various Roman Catholic and Protestant states. An early set of Mennonite beliefs was codified in the Dordrecht Confession of Faith in 1632, but the various groups do not hold to a common confession or creed. Rather than fight, the majority of these followers survived by fleeing to neighboring states where ruling families were tolerant of their belief in believer's baptism. Over the years, Mennonites have become known as one of the historic peace churches because of their commitment to pacifism. In contemporary 21st-century society, Mennonites either are described only as a religious denomination with members of different ethnic origins or as both an ethnic group and a religious denomination. There is controversy among Mennonites about this issue, with some insisting that they are simply a religious group while others argue that they form a distinct ethnic group. Historians and sociologists have increasingly started to treat Mennonites as an ethno-religious group, while others have begun to challenge that
perception. There is also a discussion about the term "ethnic Mennonite". Conservative Mennonite groups, who speak Pennsylvania German, Plautdietsch (Low German), or Bernese German fit well into the definition of an ethnic group, while more liberal groups and converts in developing countries do not. There are about 2.1 million Anabaptists worldwide as of 2015 (including Mennonites, Amish, Mennonite Brethren, Hutterites and many other Anabaptist groups formally part of the Mennonite World Conference).Mennonite congregations worldwide embody the full scope of Mennonite practice from "plain people" to those who are indistinguishable in dress and appearance from the general population. Mennonites can be found in communities in at least 87 countries on six continents. The largest populations of Mennonites are to be found in Canada, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India and the United States. There are German Mennonite colonies in Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay, and Paraguay, who are mostly descendants of Plautdietsch-speaking Mennonites who formed as a German ethnic group in what is today Ukraine. Today, fewer than 500 Mennonites remain in Ukraine. A relatively small Mennonite presence, known as the Algemene Doopsgezinde Societeit, still continues in the Netherlands, where Simons was born. Baptist Baptists are Christians distinguished by baptizing professing believers only (believer's baptism, as opposed to infant baptism), and doing so by complete immersion (as opposed to affusion or sprinkling). Baptist churches also generally subscribe to the tenets of soul competency/liberty, salvation through faith alone, scripture alone as the rule of faith and practice, and the autonomy of the local congregation. Baptists
generally recognize two ordinances: baptism and the Lord's supper. Diverse from their beginning, those identifying as Baptists today differ widely from one another in what they believe, how they worship, their attitudes toward other Christians, and their understanding of what is important in Christian discipleship. Historians trace the earliest "Baptist" church to 1609 in Amsterdam, Dutch Republic with English Separatist John Smyth as its pastor. In accordance with his reading of the New Testament, he rejected baptism of infants and instituted baptism only of believing adults. Baptist practice spread to England, where the General Baptists considered Christ's atonement to extend to all people, while the Particular Baptists believed that it extended only to the elect. Thomas Helwys formulated a distinctively Baptist request that the church and the state be kept separate in matters of law, so that individuals might have freedom of religion. Helwys died in prison as a consequence of the religious persecution of English dissenters under King James I. In 1638, Roger Williams established the first Baptist congregation in the North American colonies. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the First and Second Great Awakening increased church membership in the United States. Baptist missionaries have spread their faith to every continent. Baptist (continued) Shared doctrines would include beliefs about one God; the virgin birth; miracles; atonement for sins through the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus; the Trinity; the need for salvation (through belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, His death and resurrection); grace; the Kingdom of God; last
things (eschatology) (Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth, the dead will be raised, and Christ will judge everyone in righteousness); and evangelism and missions. Some historically significant Baptist doctrinal documents include the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1742 Philadelphia Baptist Confession, the 1833 New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith, the Southern Baptist Convention's Baptist Faith and Message, and written church covenants which some individual Baptist churches adopt as a statement of their faith and beliefs. Most Baptists hold that no church or ecclesiastical organization has inherent authority over a Baptist church. Churches can properly relate to each other under this polity only through voluntary cooperation, never by any sort of coercion. Furthermore, this Baptist polity calls for freedom from governmental control. Exceptions to this local form of local governance include a few churches that submit to the leadership of a body of elders, as well as the Episcopal Baptists that have an Episcopal system. Baptists generally believe in the literal Second Coming of Christ. Beliefs among Baptists regarding the "end times" include amillennialism, dispensationalism, and historic premillennialism, with views such as postmillennialism and preterism receiving some support. Some additional distinctive Baptist principles held by many Baptists: The supremacy of the canonical Scriptures as a norm of faith and practice. For something to become a matter of faith and practice, it is not sufficient for it to be merely consistent with and not contrary to scriptural principles. It must be something explicitly ordained through command or example in the Bible. For instance, this is why Baptists do not practice infant baptismthey say the Bible neither commands nor exemplifies infant baptism as a Christian practice. More than any other Baptist principle, this one when applied to infant baptism is said to separate Baptists from other evangelical Christians. Baptists believe that faith is a matter between God and the individual (religious freedom). To them it means the advocacy of absolute liberty of conscience. Insistence on immersion as the only mode of baptism. Baptists do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. Therefore, for Baptists, baptism is an ordinance, not a sacrament, since, in their view, it imparts no saving grace.
Lutheran A major branch of Protestant Christianity which identifies with the theology of Martin Luther(14831546), a German friar, ecclesiastical reformer and theologian. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the Catholic Church launched the Protestant Reformation in the German-speaking territories of the Holy Roman Empire. Beginning with the Ninety-Five Theses, first published in 1517, Luther's writings were disseminated internationally, spreading the early ideas of the Reformation beyond the influence and control of the Roman Curia and the Holy Roman Emperor. The split between the Lutherans and the Catholics was made public and clear with the 1521 Edict of Worms: the edicts of the Diet condemned Luther and officially banned citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending or propagating his ideas, subjecting advocates of Lutheranism to forfeiture of all property, half of the seized property to be forfeit to the imperial government and the remaining half forfeit to the party who brought the accusation. The divide centered primarily on two points: the proper source of authority in the church, often called the formal principle of the Reformation, and the doctrine of justification, often called the material principle. Lutheranism advocates a doctrine of justification "by grace alone through faith alone on the basis of Scripture alone", the doctrine that scripture is the final authority on all matters of faith. This is in contrast to the belief of the Catholic Church, defined at the Council of Trent, concerning authority coming from both the Scriptures and Tradition. In addition, Lutheranism accepts the teachings of the first seven ecumenical councils of the Christian Church. The Augsburg Confession, a Lutheran statement of belief contained in the Book of Concord, teaches that "the faith as confessed by Luther and his followers is nothing new, but the true catholic faith, and that their churches represent the true catholic or universal church". When the Lutherans presented the Augsburg Confession to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, they believe to have "showed that each article of faith and practice was true first of all to Holy Scripture, and then also to the teaching of the church fathers and the councils".
Unlike Calvinism, Lutherans retain many of the liturgical practices and sacramental teachings of the pre-Reformation Church, with a particular emphasis on the Eucharist, or Lord's Supper. The predominant rite used by the Lutheran Churches is a Western one based on the Formula missae although other Lutheran liturgies are also in use, such as those used in the Byzantine Rite Lutheran Churches. Lutheran theology differs from Reformed theology in Christology, the purpose of God's Law, the divine grace, the concept of perseverance of the saints, and predestination. Today, Lutheranism is one of the largest denominations of Protestantism. With approximately 80 million adherents, it constitutes the third most common Protestant denomination after historically Pentecostal denominations and Anglicanism. The Lutheran World Federation, the largest communion of Lutheran churches, represents over 74 million people. Other Lutheran organizations include the International Lutheran Council and the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference, as well as independent churches. Lutheran (continued) Topic Lutheranism Human will Total depravity: Humanity possesses free will in regard to "goods and possessions", but is sinful by nature and unable to contribute to its own salvation.
Election Unconditional election. Justification and atonement Justification for all men, completed at Christ's death and effective through faith alone. Conversion Monergistic, through the means of grace, resistible. Perseverance and apostasy Falling away is possible, but God gives gospel assurance.
Methodist Methodism (also known as the Methodist movement) is a group of historically related denominations of Protestant Christianity which derive their inspiration from the life and teachings of John Wesley. George Whitefield and John's brother Charles Wesley were also significant early leaders in the movement. It originated as a revival movement within the 18th-century Church of England and became a separate denomination after Wesley's death. The movement spread throughout the British Empire, the United States, and beyond because of vigorous missionary work, today claiming approximately 80 million adherents worldwide. Wesley's theology focused on sanctification and the effect of faith on the character of a Christian. Distinguishing Methodist doctrines include the new birth, an assurance of salvation, imparted righteousness, the possibility of perfection in love, the works of piety, and the primacy of Scripture. Most Methodists teach that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for all of humanity and that salvation is available for all; in theology, this view is known as Arminianism. This teaching rejects the Calvinist position that God has pre-ordained the salvation of a select group of people. However, Whitefield and several other early leaders of the movement were considered Calvinistic Methodists and held to the Calvinist position. Methodism emphasizes charity and support for the sick, the poor, and the afflicted through the works of mercy. These ideals are put into practice by the establishment of hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, and schools to follow Christ's command to spread the gospel and serve all people. The movement has a wide variety of forms of worship, ranging from high church to low church in liturgical usage. Denominations that descend from the British Methodist tradition are generally less ritualistic, while American Methodism is more so, the United Methodist Church in particular. Methodism is known for its rich musical tradition, and Charles Wesley was instrumental in writing much of the hymnody of the Methodist Church.
Early Methodists were drawn from all levels of society, including the aristocracy, but the Methodist preachers took the message to laborers and criminals who tended to be left outside organized religion at that time. In Britain, the Methodist Church had a major effect in the early decades of the developing working class (17601820). In the United States, it became the religion of many slaves who later formed "black churches" in the Methodist tradition. Methodist (continued) Wesleyan Methodists identify with the Arminian conception of free will, as opposed to the theological determinism of absolute predestination. Methodism teaches that salvation is initiated when one chooses to respond to God, who draws the individual near to Him (the Wesleyan doctrine of prevenient grace), thus teaching synergism. Methodists interpret Scripture as teaching that the saving work of Jesus Christ is for all people (unlimited atonement) but effective only to those who respond and believe, in accordance with the Reformation principles of sola gratia (grace alone) and sola fide (faith alone). John Wesley taught four key points fundamental to Methodism: A person is free not only to reject salvation but also to accept it by an act of free will. All people who are obedient to the gospel according to the measure of knowledge given them will be saved. The Holy Spirit assures a Christian of their salvation directly, through an inner "experience" (assurance of salvation). Christians in this life are capable of Christian perfection and are commanded by God to pursue it. After the first work of grace (the new birth), Methodist soteriology emphasizes the importance of the pursuit of holiness in salvation, a concept best summarized in a quote by Methodist evangelist Phoebe Palmer who stated that "justification
would have ended with me had I refused to be holy." Thus, for Methodists, "true faith...cannot subsist without works". Methodism, inclusive of the holiness movement, thus teaches that "justification [is made] conditional on obedience and progress in sanctification", emphasizing "a deep reliance upon Christ not only in coming to faith, but in remaining in the faith." John Wesley taught that the keeping of the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments, as well as engaging in the works of piety and the works of mercy, were "indispensable for our sanctification". Pentecostalism Pentecostalism or Classical Pentecostalism is a renewal movement within Protestant Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through baptism with the Holy Spirit. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, the Greek name for the Jewish Feast of Weeks. For Christians, this event commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus Christ, as described in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Like other forms of evangelical Protestantism, Pentecostalism adheres to the inerrancy of the Bible and the necessity of accepting Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. It is distinguished by belief in the baptism in the Holy Spirit that enables a Christian to live a Spirit-filled and empowered life. This empowerment includes the use of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues and divine healingtwo other defining characteristics of Pentecostalism. Because of their commitment to biblical authority, spiritual gifts, and the miraculous, Pentecostals tend to see their movement as reflecting the same kind of spiritual power and teachings that were found in the Apostolic Age of the early church. For this reason, some Pentecostals also use the term Apostolic or Full Gospel to describe their movement. Pentecostalism emerged in the early 20th century among radical adherents of the Holiness movement who were energized by revivalism and expectation for the imminent Second Coming of Christ. Believing that they were living in the end times, they expected God to spiritually renew the Christian Church thereby
bringing to pass the restoration of spiritual gifts and the evangelization of the world. In 1900, Charles Parham, an America evangelist and faith healer, began teaching that speaking in tongues was the Bible evidence of Spirit baptism and along with William J. Seymour, a Wesleyan-Holiness preacher, he taught that this was the third work of grace. The three-year-long Azusa Street Revival, founded and led by Seymour in Los Angeles, California, resulted in the spread of Pentecostalism throughout the United States and the rest of the world as visitors carried the Pentecostal experience back to their home churches or felt called to the mission field. While virtually all Pentecostal denominations trace their origins to Azusa Street, the movement has experienced a variety of divisions and controversies. An early dispute centered on challenges to the doctrine of the Trinity. As a result, the Pentecostal movement is divided between Trinitarian and non-Trinitarian branches, resulting in the emergence of Oneness Pentecostals. Comprising over 700 denominations and a large number of independent churches, there is no central authority governing Pentecostalism; however, many denominations are affiliated with the Pentecostal World Fellowship. There are over 279 million Pentecostals worldwide, and the movement is growing in many parts of the world, especially the global South. Since the 1960s, Pentecostalism has increasingly gained acceptance from other Christian traditions, and Pentecostal beliefs concerning Spirit baptism and spiritual gifts have been embraced by non-Pentecostal Christians in Protestant and Catholic churches through the Charismatic Movement. Together, Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity numbers over 500 million adherents. Presbyterian Presbyterianism is a part of the reformed tradition within Protestantism which traces its origins to Britain, particularly Scotland. Presbyterian churches derive their name from the Presbyterian form of church government, which is governed by representative assemblies of elders. A great number of Reformed churches are organized this way, but the word Presbyterian, when capitalized, is often applied uniquely to churches that trace their roots to the Church of Scotland, as well as several English dissenter groups that formed during
the English Civil War. Presbyterian theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures, and the necessity of grace through faith in Christ. Presbyterian church government was ensured in Scotland by the Acts of Union in 1707 which created the Kingdom of Great Britain. In fact, most Presbyterians found in England can trace a Scottish connection, and the Presbyterian denomination was also taken to North America mostly by Scots and Scots-Irish immigrants. The Presbyterian denominations in Scotland hold to the Reformed theology of John Calvin and his immediate successors, although there is a range of theological views within contemporary Presbyterianism. Local congregations of churches which use Presbyterian polity are governed by sessions made up of representatives of the congregation (elders); a conciliar approach which is found at other levels of decision-making (presbytery, synod and general assembly). The roots of Presbyterianism lie in the Reformation of the 16th century; the example of John Calvin's Republic of Geneva being particularly influential. Most Reformed churches that trace their history back to Scotland are either Presbyterian or Congregationalist in government. In the twentieth century, some Presbyterians played an important role in the ecumenical movement, including the World Council of Churches. Many Presbyterian denominations have found ways of working together with other Reformed denominations and Christians of other traditions, especially in the World Communion of Reformed Churches. Some Presbyterian churches have entered into unions with other churches, such as Congregationalists, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Methodists. Presbyterians in the United States came largely from Scottish immigrants, Scotch-Irish immigrants, and also from New England communities that had originally been Congregational but changed because of an agreed-upon Plan of Union of 1801 for frontier areas. Along with Episcopalians, Presbyterians tend to be considerably wealthier and better educated (having more graduate and post-graduate degrees per capita) than most other religious groups in United States, and are disproportionately represented in the upper reaches of American business, law and politics.
Presbyterian (continued) Presbyterianism is historically a confessional tradition. This has two implications. The obvious one is that confessional churches express their faith in the form of "confessions of faith," which have some level of authoritative status. However this is based on a more subtle point: In confessional churches, theology is not solely an individual matter. While individuals are encouraged to understand Scripture, and may challenge the current institutional understanding, theology is carried out by the community as a whole. It is this community understanding of theology that is expressed in confessions. However, there has arisen a spectrum of approaches to confessionalism. The manner of subscription, or the degree to which the official standards establish the actual doctrine of the church, turns out to be a practical matter. That is, the decisions rendered in ordination and in the courts of the church largely determine what the church means, representing the whole, by its adherence to the doctrinal standard. Some Presbyterian traditions adopt only the Westminster Confession of Faith as the doctrinal standard to which teaching elders are required to subscribe, in contrast to the Larger and Shorter catechisms, which are approved for use in instruction. Many Presbyterian denominations, especially in North America, have adopted all of the Westminster Standards as their standard of doctrine which is subordinate to the Bible. These documents are Calvinistic in their doctrinal orientation. The Presbyterian Church in Canada retains the Westminster Confession of Faith in its original form, while admitting the historical period in which it was written should be understood when it is read. The Westminster Confession is "The principal subordinate standard of the Church of Scotland" but "with due regard to liberty of opinion in points which do not enter into the substance of the Faith" (V). This formulation represents many years of struggle over the extent to which the confession reflects the Word of God and the struggle of conscience of those who came to believe it did not fully do so (e.g. William Robertson Smith). Some Presbyterian Churches, such as the Free Church of Scotland, have no such "conscience clause".
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has adopted the Book of Confessions, which reflects the inclusion of other Reformed confessions in addition to the Westminster Standards. These other documents include ancient creedal statements (the Nicene Creed, the Apostles' Creed), 16th-century Reformed confessions (the Scots Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Second Helvetic Confession), and 20th century documents (The Theological Declaration of Barmen, Confession of 1967 and A Brief Statement of Faith). The Presbyterian Church in Canada developed the confessional document Living Faith (1984) and retains it as a subordinate standard of the denomination. It is confessional in format, yet like the Westminster Confession, draws attention back to original Bible text. Presbyterians in Ireland who rejected Calvinism and the Westminster Confessions formed the Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland. Nondenominational Nondenominational (or non-denominational) Christianity consists of churches which typically distance themselves from the confessionalism or creedalism of other Christian communities by calling themselves nondenominational. Often founded by individual pastors, they have little affiliation with historic denominations, but typically adhere to evangelical Protestantism. There is no identifiable standard among such congregations. Nondenominational church congregations may establish a functional denomination by means of mutual recognition of or accountability to other congregations and leaders with commonly held doctrine, policy, and worship without formalizing external direction or oversight in such matters. Some nondenominational churches explicitly reject the idea of a formalized denominational structure as a matter of principle, holding that each congregation is better off being autonomous.
This is a main feature of the congregational polity. Many of the nondenominational churches trace their origins back to the United States. Their history is often associated with American Protestantism, even though nondenominational members emphasize their Christian identity above all others. A 2012 Gallup survey reported that 10 percent of U.S. adults identify as non-specific Christian. According to 2014 data, nondenominational Protestants are the second largest group in American Protestantism after Baptists and ahead of Methodists and Pentecostals, at 6.2% of the U.S. population. Nondenominational churches have grown significantly in the 20th century, and continue to in the 21st. Worldwide, nondenominational members constitute a substantial share of Protestants. Mormonism Mormonism is the predominant religious tradition of the Latter Day Saint movement of Restorationist Christianity started by Joseph Smith in Western New York in the 1820s and 30s. After Smith was killed in 1844, most Mormons followed Brigham Young on his westward journey to the area that became the Utah Territory, calling themselves The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Other sects include Mormon fundamentalism, which seeks to maintain practices and doctrines such as polygamy, and various other small independent denominations. The secondlargest Latter Day Saint denomination, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, since 2001 called the Community of Christ, does not describe itself as "Mormon", but instead follows a Trinitarian Christian restorationist theology, and also considers itself Restorationist in terms of Latter Day Saint doctrine. The word Mormon originally derived from the Book of Mormon, a religious text published by Smith, which he said he
translated from golden plates with divine assistance. The book describes itself as a chronicle of early indigenous peoples of the Americas and their dealings with God. Based on the name of that book, early followers of Smith were more widely known as Mormons, and their faith was called Mormonism. The term was initially considered pejorative, but Mormons no longer consider it so (although generally preferring other terms such as Latter-day Saint, or LDS). Mormonism shares a common set of beliefs with the rest of the Latter Day Saint movement, including use of and belief in the Bible, as well as in other religious texts including the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. It also accepts the Pearl of Great Price as part of its scriptural canon, and has a history of teaching eternal marriage, eternal progression, and polygamy (plural marriage) (although the LDS Church formally abandoned the practice of plural marriage in 1890). Cultural Mormonism, a lifestyle promoted by Mormon institutions, includes cultural Mormons who identify with the culture, but not necessarily with the theology. Mormonism (continued) One way Mormon fundamentalism distinguishes itself from mainstream Mormonism is through the practice of plural marriage. Fundamentalists initially broke from the LDS Church after that doctrine was discontinued around the beginning of the 20th century. Mormon fundamentalism teaches that plural marriage is a requirement for exaltation (the highest degree of salvation), which will allow them to live as gods and goddesses in the afterlife. Mainstream Mormons, by contrast, believe that a single Celestial marriage is necessary for exaltation. In distinction with the LDS Church, Mormon fundamentalists also often believe in a number of other doctrines taught and
practiced by Brigham Young in the 19th century, which the LDS Church has either abandoned, repudiated, or put in abeyance. These include: the law of consecration also known as the United Order (put in abeyance by the LDS Church in the 19th century); the AdamGod teachings taught by Brigham Young and other early leaders of the LDS Church (repudiated by the LDS Church in the mid-20th century); the principle of blood atonement (repudiated by the LDS Church in the mid-20th century); and the exclusion of black men from the priesthood (abandoned by the LDS Church in 1978). Mormon fundamentalists believe that these principles were wrongly abandoned or changed by the LDS Church, in large part due to the desire of its leadership and members to assimilate into mainstream American society and avoid the persecutions and conflict that had characterized the church throughout its early years. Others believe that it was a necessity at some point for "a restoration of all things" to be a truly restored Church. Jehovahs Witness Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The group reports a worldwide membership of approximately 8.5 million adherents involved in evangelism and an annual Memorial attendance of around 20 million. Jehovah's Witnesses are directed by the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, a group of elders in Warwick, New York, which establishes all doctrines based on its interpretations of the Bible. They believe that the destruction of the present world system at Armageddon is imminent, and that the establishment of God's kingdom over the earth is the only solution for all problems faced by humanity.
The group emerged from the Bible Student movement founded in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell, who also co-founded Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society in 1881 to organize and print the movement's publications. A leadership dispute after Russell's death resulted in several groups breaking away, with Joseph Franklin Rutherford retaining control of the Watch Tower Society and its properties. Rutherford made significant organizational and doctrinal changes, including adoption of the name Jehovah's witnesses in 1931 to distinguish them from other Bible Student groups and symbolize a break with the legacy of Russell's traditions. Jehovah's Witnesses are best known for their door-to-door preaching, distributing literature such as The Watchtower and Awake!, and refusing military service and blood transfusions. They consider the use of God's name vital for proper worship. They reject Trinitarianism, inherent immortality of the soul, and hellfire, which they consider to be unscriptural doctrines. The group does not observe Christmas, Easter, birthdays or other holidays and customs they consider to have pagan origins incompatible with Christianity. They prefer to use their own Bible translation, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, although their literature occasionally quotes and cites other Bible translations. Adherents commonly refer to their body of beliefs as "The Truth" and consider themselves to be "in the Truth". They consider secular society to be morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan, and most limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses. Congregational disciplinary actions include disfellowshipping, their term for formal expulsion and shunning. Baptized individuals who formally leave are considered disassociated and are also shunned. Disfellowshipped and disassociated individuals may eventually be reinstated if deemed repentant. The group's position regarding conscientious objection to military service and refusal to salute national flags has brought it into conflict with some governments. Consequently, some Jehovah's Witnesses have been persecuted and their activities are banned or restricted in some countries. Persistent legal challenges by Jehovah's Witnesses have influenced legislation related to civil rights in several countries. The organization has received criticism regarding biblical translation, doctrines, and alleged coercion of its members. The Watch Tower Society has made
various unfulfilled predictions about major biblical events such as Christ's Second Coming, the advent of God's Kingdom, and Armageddon. Their policies for handling cases of child sexual abuse have been the subject of various formal inquiries. Jehovahs Witness (continued) Religious Authority The New World Translation (NWT) of the Bible Bible Sections "Hebrew Scriptures" and "Christian Greek Scriptures" (See Jehovah's Witnesses texts) God Jehovah Trinity
Rejected Identity of Jesus Christ Son of God, Word of God, God's first creation, Archangel Michael (See Jesus Christ) Holy Spirit God's active force (impersonal) Results of Fall Physical and spiritual death entered the world Free will Free to do good or evil (See 10 Articles)
Purpose of Christ's Incarnation Teach about God, provide a model for right living, die sacrificially for human sin (See Jesus Christ) Means of Christ's Execution Crucifixion on an upright stake (no crossbar) Resurrection of Christ? Yes Salvation Both faith and works; works emphasized. Second Chance After Death?
Yes Afterlife Souls of wicked are annihilated, a select few Witnesses go to Heaven, other Witnesses enjoy a paradise earth for eternity (See Afterlife) Hell Exists as a place of the dead (Jesus went there), but hellfire does not exist; idea was invented by Satan to turn people from Jehovah. Place of Worship Kingdom Hal Meaning of Sacraments Symbolic acts commanded by Christ
Number of Sacraments Two: Baptism and Lord's Supper Symbols The watchtower Holidays Memorial of Christ's Death only Involvement in Politics Minimal Blood Transfusions
Rejected . Texts The Bible The Bible is not just one book, but an entire library, with stories, songs, poetry, letters and history, as well as literature that might more obviously qualify as 'religious'. The Christian Bible has two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is the original Hebrew Bible, the sacred scriptures of the Jewish faith, written at different times between about 1200 and 165 BC. The New Testament books were written by Christians in the first century AD. The Bible (continued)
The Old Testament The Law The Hebrew Bible has 39 books, written over a long period of time, and is the literary archive of the ancient nation of Israel. It was traditionally arranged in three sections. The first five books, Genesis to Deuteronomy. They are not 'law' in a modern Western sense: Genesis is a book of stories, with nothing remotely like rules and regulations, and though the other four do contain community laws they also have many narratives. The Hebrew word for Law ('Torah') means 'guidance' or 'instruction', and that could include stories offering everyday examples of how people were meant to live as well as legal requirements. These books were later called the 'Pentateuch', and tradition attributed them to Moses. Some parts undoubtedly date from that period, but as things changed old laws were updated and new ones produced, and this was the work of later editors over several centuries. The Prophets The Prophets is the largest section of the Hebrew Bible, and has two parts ('former prophets' and 'latter prophets'). The books of 'latter prophets' preserve sayings and stories of religious and political activists ('prophets') who served as the spiritual conscience of the nation throughout its history, reminding people of the social values that would reflect the character of God. Some books are substantial (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel), others are much shorter (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi). Sometimes, the prophets could be mime artists and dramatists, accompanying their actions by short spoken messages, often delivered in poetic form. These were the sound bites of their day, which made it easy for others to remember them and then write them down. The 'former prophets' consist of Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings. They are history books, but what makes them also 'prophets' is that they not only record information, they interpret it, explaining its significance in relation to other events in the history of Israel, and of the wider world of their day.
The Writings These include Psalms (songs, prayers and liturgies for worship), Proverbs (sayings of homespun wisdom), Job (a drama that explores the nature of suffering), plus the 'five scrolls' ('Megiloth') which were grouped together because each had associations with a particular religious festival: Ruth (the Jewish Feast of Weeks, also called Shavuot), Song of Solomon (Passover), Ecclesiastes (Tabernacles), Lamentations (Destruction of Jerusalem), and Esther (Purim). This section also includes the last books of the Hebrew Bible to be written: Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1-2 Chronicles (all history books), and Daniel (visions of a better world). The Bible (continued) The New Testament The New Testament has 27 books, written between about 50 and 100 AD, and falling naturally into two sections: the Gospels, which tell the story of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John); and the Letters (or epistles) - written by various Christian leaders to provide guidance for the earliest church communities. The Gospels The Gospels were written to present the life and teachings of Jesus in ways that would be appropriate to different readerships, and for that reason are not all the same. They were not intended to be biographies of Jesus, but selective accounts that would demonstrate His significance for different cultures. The first three are effectively different editions of the same materials, and for that reason are known as the 'synoptic gospels'. The writer of Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles, which tells the story of how Christianity spread from being a small group of
Jewish believers in the time of Jesus to becoming a worldwide faith in less than a generation. The Letters Letters were the natural way for itinerant church leaders to communicate with their converts, and the earliest ones were written before the Gospels. With some exceptions (Romans, Hebrews), they were not meant to be formal presentations of Christian belief, but offered advice to people who were working out how to express their commitment to Jesus in ways that would be relevant to the many different cultural contexts in which they found themselves throughout the Roman empire. Reading them can be like listening to one half of a conversation, as the writers give answers to questions sent to them either verbally or in writing. Paul was the most prolific writer of such letters, though he was not the only one. The New Testament concludes with the book of Revelation, which begins with a series of letters to seven churches in the area of Asia Minor (modern Turkey), but then offers a visionary presentation of the meaning of all things, from creation to the end of the world.