It is a fact beyond doubt that there are many religions in the world today. The religions vary from one to the other although there are some common features which are to be found in all of them. For example, most of the religions believe in the existence of a supernatural being or beings. The religions are also characterized by a set of beliefs that bring together their members setting them apart from those of other religions.
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Christianity is such one form of religion that exists in the world today. It is the largest of all religions in the world with more than 2 billion members as of the year 2000 (Esler 25). According to Bryan & William (25), followers of this religion represent about 25 percent of the world’s population. Out of the more than 2 billion followers, about 38 percent of comes from South and North American continents. Europe represents about 26 percent while Africa represents approximately 23 percent (Esler 20).
This paper is going to address various issues surrounding this religion. The author is going to look at the name of the religion followers, the founder of the religion, name of the Supreme Being and sacred texts used as well as the place of worship. The author is also going to look at the major beliefs found in this religion, major rituals and observances as well as the symbols used and their meaning.
Name of the Followers
A person who practices Christianity is referred to as a Christian. A Christian has to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ as espoused in the gospels (refer to the section on history of Christianity to learn more about Jesus). There are several stages that an individual goes through before becoming a true Christian. This is for example baptism, salvation and Christian teachings (Bokenkotter 118).
Origins of Christianity and its Founder
According to Christianity scholars such as McGrath (118) and Bokenkotter (120), this religion started as a Jewish sect in the first century. It has its roots in the eastern shores of the Mediterranean in the Middle East. This is modern day Israel and Palestine regions (Bryan & William 30). From here, the religion spread rapidly to other areas of the world such as Syria, Egypt and Mesopotamia. Within a short period, this religion expanded to become one of the most popular and influential religions in the world.
However, Christianity as it is known to many people today can be traced back to Jesus Christ. This man is believed to be the Messiah prophesied in early sacred writings. Christians refer to the early teachings which were written before the coming of the Messiah as the Old Testament. The sacred texts written after the Messiah was born and which capture His life and teachings are referred to as the New Testament (McGrath 116).
When Jesus died after accomplishing His work in the world, He left one church that was under the leadership of His 12 disciples. However, this church split and today there are many denominations of Christianity. The major denomination is the Roman Catholic Church which is closely followed by Eastern Orthodox churches (Bokenkotter 122). These two parted ways during the East-West Schism (Esler 23) that occurred in 1054 AD (Bryan & William 22).
Name of Supreme Being
Christianity is a monotheistic religion believing in the existence of a single Supreme Being. The Supreme Being in this case is God. When talking about God within the context of Christianity, it is important to mention the issue of trinity. According to McGrath (111), trinity is the Christian teaching asserting that this one God (as mentioned above) is made up of three interdependent yet distinct parts. This is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The son in this case is Jesus Christ who is believed to have died and resurrected. He now reigns in heaven with the Father and the Holy Spirit according to Christians.
Those Christians who believe in this trinity are referred to as Trinitarians (Bryan & William 22). This is for example the Roman Catholic followers. There are other Christians who interpret the Bible differently and who do not believe in the trinity. These are referred to as non-trinitarians.
Sacred Texts and Writings in Christianity
Like other religions such as Islam and Hindu, Christianity has a set of sacred texts which contains the teachings and beliefs of this religion. Bible is regarded by Christians as the authoritative word of God (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). This is the sacred text in Christianity. It is made up of two parts. The first part is referred to as the Old Testament which captures important events that took place before the birth of Christ. The other is the New Testament which contains the teachings of Jesus Christ (Esler 13).
It is important to note at this juncture that the texts making up the Bible were written by human beings. Christians believe that these authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit and as such, their writings became the word of God. Several versions of the Bible are in existence today.
Place of Worship for Christians
There are many practices which are undertaken by members of this faith. These practices are either carried out in a designated place or in any other place depending on their nature. The church is the major place of worship for Christians. This is where practices and observances such as Mass are usually carried out.
The church is just like any other building as far as building materials are concerned. However, unlike other buildings, the church is regarded as a holy place and sometimes referred to as the House of God (Bryan & William 28).
Worshipping for a Christian is not limited to the physical walls of the church. There are other places such as shrines where Christians pray and meditate. Prayers can also be conducted at home, at school or in any other place.
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Major Beliefs in Christianity
As earlier indicated in this paper, Christians from different denominations interpret the Bible differently. However, there are some major beliefs shared by all Christians and which sets Christianity apart from other religions such as Islam and Hinduism.
One major belief is the creed. According to Bokenkotter (120), this is a Latin word that when loosely translated means ‘I believe’. Creeds are distinct statements and confessions that show one is a true Christian. This is for example baptism and catechism teachings in major denominations such as the Roman Catholic.
Another belief that brings Christians together is the belief in Jesus Christ the Son of God (McGrath 112). Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah or the anointed one. God anointed Him to save humanity from sin and to bring man closer to God.
The Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Christians believe that Jesus was not mortal. Instead, He was God in the body of man. Unlike mortals, Jesus died and resurrected defeating death. The resurrection of Jesus is taken as one of the major tenets of Christianity (Esler 22). A significant chunk of Christian teachings is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Christians believe that Jesus came to the world to save humanity. Man committed sin when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit creating a schism between God and man. Jesus died to save humanity from this sin. Christians believe that one is saved from sin by believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (McGrath 112).
Major Rituals and Observances
Christians believe that when one is born into this world, they are born with the sin which resulted from Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. This sin can only be cleansed through baptism (McGrath 112). Any individual who wishes to join Christianity must undergo baptism for them to be accepted by God.
Some Christians such as Roman Catholics observe the ritual of taking sacrament. A sacrament is regarded as a representation of the body and blood of Jesus Christ which was shed on the cross (Esler 20).
Symbols used in Christianity and their Meaning
There are various symbols which are associated with Christianity in the world today. Here are some of them:
Also known as the crucifix, this symbol has come to be associated with Christianity in the world today. It represents the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified to cleanse the sins of humanity.
The dove is another symbol used widely by Christians. According to Bryan & William (23), this bird is used to symbolize the Holy Spirit.
According to McGrath (118), the sacrificial lamb is used to symbolize the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made in order to bring humanity closer to God.
10 Key Words used in Christianity
According to Bokenkotter (120), this is the belief in a God who is made up of three distinct persons
This is a representation of body and blood of Jesus Christ
This is the Holy Book or sacred texts used by Christians
This is the Son of God who agreed to be sacrificed to save humanity
These were the followers of Jesus Christ during His stay on earth
The gospel is regarded as the teachings that were given by Jesus Christ during His stay on earth
This is whereby a Christian is cleansed of all sins and comes closer to God
This means the return of Jesus Christ to heaven after He resurrected from the dead (McGrath 29).
This is the rising of the dead
This is a Christian who is persecuted and killed as a result of his or her faith in Christ
Bokenkotter, Thomas. A Concise History of the Catholic Church. London: Doubleday, 2004.
Bryan, Ball & William, Johnson. The Essential Jesus. New York: Pacific Press, 2002.
Esler, Phillip F. The Early Christian World. London: Routledge, 2004.
McGrath, Alister E. Christianity: An Introduction. London: Blackwell Publishing, 2006.