Christianity religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as presented in the New Testament and sacred tradition.
The central tenet of Christianity is the belief in Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah (Christ). Christians believe that Jesus, as the Messiah, was anointed by God as savior of humanity, and hold that Jesus’ coming was the fulfillment of messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.
– Sinful humans can be reconciled to God and thereby are offered salvation and the promise of eternal life.
With around 2.4 billion adherents, split into three main branches of Catholic, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox, Christianity is the world’s largest religion. The Christian share of the world’s population has stood at around 33% for the last hundred years.
Worldwide, the three largest branches of Christianity are the
- Roman Catholic Church,
- Eastern Orthodox Church
There are many important differences of interpretation and opinion of the Bible and sacred tradition on which Christianity is based. Because of these irreconcilable differences in theology and a lack of consensus on the core tenets of Christianity, Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox often deny that members of certain other branches are Christians.
Its main points include:
- Belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Holy Spirit
- The death, descent into hell, resurrection, and ascension of Christ
- The holiness of the Church and the communion of saints
- Christ’s second coming, the Day of Judgement and salvation of the faithful.
Christianity, like other religions, has adherents whose beliefs and biblical interpretations vary. Christianity regards the biblical canon, the Old Testament and the New Testament, as the inspired word of God. The traditional view of inspiration is that God worked through human authors so that what they produced was what God wished to communicate.
- Christians assemble for communal worship on Sunday, the day of the resurrection,
- Baptism is the ritual act, with the use of water, by which a person is admitted to membership of the Church
The Catholic Church consists of those particular Churches, headed by bishops, in communion with the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, as its highest authority in matters of faith, morality and Church governance.
- In the 16th century, Martin Luther, and subsequently Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin, inaugurated what has come to be called Protestantism.
- Western culture, throughout most of its history, has been nearly equivalent to Christian culture,
- It began as a small sect of Judaism during the first century in ancient Israel. Christianity quickly spread to all continents through missionary work and colonization. Christianity has played a prominent role in the shaping of Western civilization.
- Christian Beliefs
Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the savior of humanity whose coming as the Messiah (the Christ) was prophesied in the Old Testament.
These professions of faith state that Jesus suffered, died, was buried, descended into hell, and rose from the dead, in order to grant eternal life to those who believe in him and trust in him for the remission of their sins.
The creeds further maintain that Jesus bodily ascended into heaven, where he reigns with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, and that he will return to judge the living and the dead and grant eternal life to his followers.
His Incarnation, earthly ministry, Crucifixion, and Resurrection are often referred to as “the gospel”, meaning “good news”.The term gospel also refers to written accounts of Jesus’s life and teaching, four of which—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are considered canonical and included in the Christian Bible.
- Christian Practices
Christian practices vary by denomination, but common elements include a Sunday worship service, private and corporate prayer, study and reading of the Scriptures, and participation in rites such as baptism and communion (known as sacraments).
Christian worship services generally include singing, prayer and a sermon. Most churches have a special ritual for ordination, or designating a person fit for a leadership position in the church. At home, most practicing Christians pray regularly and many read the Bible.
Many Christians will have been baptized, either as an infant or as an adult, and regularly participate in communion (also called the Lord’s Supper and the Eucharist). Baptism and communion are considered sacraments – sacred rituals instituted by Christ himself. The Catholic Church recognizes five additional sacraments, as well as many other distinctive practices that are known as “sacramentals” or “devotions” and include praying the rosary and going on pilgrimages.
Distinctive Catholic practices include recognition of seven total sacraments, Sunday mass, devotion to the Virgin Mary and the saints, and veneration of relics and places associated with holy figures. Eastern Orthodoxy holds many practices in common with Catholicism, but is especially distinguished by the central role of icons: ornate images of Christ and the saints believed to provide a connection to the spiritual world.
- Christian Texts – The Bible
The primary sacred text of Christianity is the Bible. Its name is derived from the Latin word biblia, which simply means “books.” The Christian Bible is made of two parts: the Old Testament, which is almost identical to the Jewish Bible; and the New Testament, a collection of Christian writings that includes biographies of Jesus Christ and the apostles, like the Apostle Paul, letters to new churches, and an apocalyptic work.
The names given to these two parts of the Bible are significant. The word testament means “covenant,” so the notion of old and new testaments reflects the Christian perspective that the Church is the successor to Israel as God’s chosen people. The Old Testament is viewed as foundational, authoritative, and relevant, and is read and cherished by Christians along with the New Testament. But it is also regarded as having been superseded and fulfilled by the new testament (covenant) God has made with the Church.
- Christian Holidays and Festivals
– The most important Christian holiday is Easter, a spring festival that celebrates Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
– Easter is immediately preceded by Holy Week, which includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday.
– The 40 days prior to Easter form the Lenten season, a time of fasting and repentance.
– Christmas, which commemorates the birth of Jesus on December 25.
– Saints’ days are also important. Some of these, such as St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day, have come to play a prominent role in popular western culture.