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Christianity

   
Overview
Christianity emerged from 1st Century Judaism and grew from a small persecuted group to the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th Century. Currently, it is the largest religion in the world.
Pivotal Beliefs

Jesus is the Christ/Messiah (anointed one) of God who through his teachings, ministry death and resurrection has brought God's salvation into the world.

 

Jesus

Basic teachings

  •  Intent of the law (torah) and the individual were important guides to applying the law
  • Affirmed the present dimension of the Kingdom of God
  • Altered the concept of Messiah from political to spiritual.

Over time his followers would make further affirmations about Jesus. In particular they believed:

  • Physical resurrection of Jesus demonstrated his unique relationship to God
  • Jesus was the incarnation of God
  • With the coming of Christ, God's trinitarian nature is shown

 

Christian Community:
  • From the time of Jesus, his followers understood themselves to be part of a community that was radically different from the surrounding culture both in their inclusiveness as well as their sense that the Christ continued to dwell within the community of his followers.
  • Accepted the Hebrew Scriptures and eventually added the writings known as the New Testament.
  • Two major rites (sacraments) are accepted by almost all Christianity"
    • Baptism
    • Eucharist (Lord's Supper or Holy Communion)
The Church

From the beginning the church was extremely diverse in terms of practice, worship, beliefs and even scriptures. Once the Church became the state religion of Rome (4th Century AD) a process of standardization set in.  Nevertheless, the Church divided over issues of doctrine, worship and polity in the 11th century.

Roman Catholic Church (western Europe): Authority centered in bishop of Rome (pope)

Orthodox Church (eastern Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Russia): Authority rested with councils in which leading bishops participated equally

 

A second major division occurred in the 16th Century with the Protestant Reformation in western Europe. Protestants rejected the authority of the Pope and claimed that each believer had direct access to God. Emphasis was given to scripture and faith alone as the necessary requirements for salvation.