Religion creates mechanisms that help individuals move through the complex limitations encountered in life. Considering the modern skepticism, it is evident that the story of religion has not been a consistently enlightening one. Religion describes human activities inclined to some form of religious beliefs. The religious life and activities demonstrate the tendencies toward resentments, ethnocentrisms, sexism absolutism, elitism and other important aspects of human life.
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One of the most significant ways to understand religion is to view it as an instrument used by humans to find routes through the most rigorous barriers that interfere with the stability and continuity of life. Life impediments and limits are those unexpected, bothering situations encountered through life. According to (Haught 4), religion provides solutions to the most inflexible obstacles that interfere with the human way of life (Mencken, Bader and Stark 196).
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the knowledge and recognition that spirituality greatly contributes to the well being of humans expanded speedily. Scientific study and interpretation as well as humanistic research explored the connections between peoples’ understanding of God and spirituality as well as the aspects of the human wellness, which proved that spiritual health is strongly linked to an individual’s well being.
Awareness of the significance of spirituality to human wellness exists in almost every facet of life. Spirituality instills human existence and has a significant influence on every human activity. Therefore studying spirituality remains relevant and helpful for all people (Mencken, Bader and Stark 197).
Biblical and historical Background of Christianity
Weaver and Brakke (6) explain that Christianity is an open religion in which Christians believe that God is evidenced in words and in the history of redemptive events. The Christians believe that God communicates with them through the bible. They also believe that the life of Christ together with his death and resurrection form the basis of faith and the foundation of Christianity as a religion.
Christians believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church and that God is the creator and the savior of mankind. According to the Christian faith, Jesus Christ is God’s most central self-revelation and the Holy Spirit is the power through which God works among the Christians. The development of Christianity was not easy.
There were serious arguments among the believers and between the believers and the Jews regarding the person and the mission of Christ. For a long time, Christianity has grown and changed since its humble beginnings in the early centuries (Weaver and Brakke 5).
The Jewish Bible, Tanakh contains the Torah, Nevi’im which are the books of prophecy and the Ketuvim commonly referred to as writings. It is divided into three sections which include the Torah, the prophets and the writings. Christians reorganized the Tanakh and renamed it as the Old Testament for the Christian believers.
The bible comprises of two parts, the old and the new testaments and exists in many versions such as the Hebrew bible, new standard version and so on. There is no common understanding between the Protestants and the Catholics regarding how many books should make up the Old Testament (Mencken, Bader and Stark 198).
The word bible refers to “book”, because it’s a holy book for the Jews and the Christians separated from other books because of the holy nature of its components and the source. It has a central point in the Jewish and Christian worship across the globe. The Jewish and Christian believers use the biblical text to keep in touch with God’s actions since they believe that the actions are God’s saving power. The liturgical use of the scriptures allows believers to access God’s saving actions.
The bible has been converted into a variety of languages and it exists in numerous versions. It is continuously deliberated, quoted and referenced. Many of the believers do not understand the whole book and the Old Testament in particular. Parts of the bible appear hard to understand while other parts appear incomprehensible or strange. For example, the list of early genealogies appears unrelated to the present life (Weaver and Brakke 6).
The believers agree that the bible is instigated though they do not have a common agreements regarding which parts are inspired and which parts are not. Some believers are satisfied with the fact that God determined every word of the Bible. There is a large disagreement among Christian believers regarding how the bible should be read.
A few believe that the bible should be read and understood directly and plainly while others believe that the bible was created by specific individuals and that there is a need to understand its historical framework before it can be well interpreted and understood. Other people approach the Bible with the tools of research and study and they aim at understanding the bible from a scientific point of view (Weaver and Brakke 6).
Peculiarity and the Universality of the Gospel
There are internal and external factors that prompted the spread and development contextual Christology. Many Christians across Africa, Asia and Latin America, are convinced that their theological reflection must respond to their distinctive non-western cultures and mind-set.
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They scrape the non-western imperialism that has accompanied the spread of Christianity into their regions. Many of them marvel why the faith in Christ can be articulated with the help of western theoretical conceptualities but not with the help of the American or Asian structures of thought. Several black and Asian Christian believers in Europe and Northern America of all races assert that traditional theologies have neglected their specific histories and struggles.
The Christian gospel centralizes on the work of God and His aim to reconcile man to Himself through His son Jesus Christ. The scriptural witness and the ecumenical creed explain that God appears to the believers, not in theoretical principles, but in concrete historical accounts. Christianity as a religion is a chronological and a manifestation of faith that focuses on God’s activity in the calling of His people, Israel and most importantly in the coming of God Himself and the work of His son Christ.
God’s activity among the people of Israel and the superiority of Christ is said to have worldwide importance. The fact of Christ’s life, crucifixion, death and resurrection from the dead is considered the principal reason and the most significant phenomenon in the Christian faith (Mencken, Bader and Stark 200). This has had profound implications for the witness of the church of Christ all over the world.
God’s crucial self-communication is through the manifestation in human life and so the spread of the gospel of the church uses concrete and different languages, knowledge, theoretical conceptualities, and cultural practices. The practice of the early church presents sufficient evidence of the translation principle and the spread of the gospel. There are four gospels that present Jesus in a unique way.
The acknowledgement of the inseparable bond between the particularities and universalities of the gospel assists in explaining the necessity and the challenge of theology. In order to emphasize on the universality of the gospel, the believers must stress on its historical contingency and the peculiarity and its power to transform human life of all diversity.
Cosmologies East and West
The Christian Old testament
The Old Testament has a straightforward account of the source of the universe. It emphasizes that God is above the world that He made the world and that He is completely separated from the universe. The world is an objective actuality and God’s last action of creation was to place man in the Garden of Eden. The creation was made for man to enjoy as his heritage and inheritance.
The garden however does have its hazards and vices and lures man from a righteous living. The prevalence of evil in the world created by God has been a theoretical problem that has never been resolved. The aim of man’s struggles on earth is to strengthen and prepare his soul for the salvation and entry into the eternal life. The universe is principal objective, which means that it comprises of a material world which can be explained by laws of physics and chemistry as part of God’s work of creation.
God is considered separate, above and outside of it. When the souls of mankind detach from the material world, the Christians believe that it goes beyond the physical and to the place where God lives. The believers claim that every person has one soul and that it is the soul that does not lose its individuality even when the physical death takes place in the material world (Weaver and Brakke 7).
Modern scientific cosmology
The modern scientific cosmology does not consider the earth as the center of the universe, but rather expresses the idea that the earth is a component of the larger solar system and a part of the galactic structure within the universe.
Many people who view the matter today accept the scientific theories such as the big bang theory that gives scientific explanation regarding the origin of the universe (Magueijo and Baskerville 3227). The theory explains that there was once a spectacle of all matter which was compressed in a single substance and which at one point exploded scattering matter in all directions.
The forces of gravity attracted some matter to each other under extreme pressure causing a fusion to establish the sun while other lesser mixtures of the matter created the planets which became conducive to life in the conditions around and near the sun. Several other scientific theories have been formulated and used to explain the possible origin of the planets, the sun and the stars (Magueijo and Baskerville 3226).
Religious beliefs and practices of the East and West
Native American religions
The present theories have explained that the Native Americans descended from the people who arrived in the new world about twelve thousand years ago. By the time of Columbus, there existed over 200 cultural groups with different tribal religions and languages. The Native Americans traditionally believe that the natural world is alive and that human beings form an essential part of it.
Nature and mankind interact in equally significant ways and that humans should demonstrate a keen interest in nature and respect it in all its fullness. The natives believe that a significant fact about nature is that it changes from day to night, seed to plant, and material to immaterial, spiritual beings to human beings, and from young to old. The belief is that humans are responsible for the steadiness and stability of the world status and have the power to interfere and to significantly influence the occurrences.
Two important religious points include (1) Shamans who have a sacred partner and who have the power to cure diseases and to get back lost souls and (2) priests, who put on masks and dance as gods in the rites and customs that are profitable to humans. Nature is occupied by godly beings to which people present their prayers and sacrifice. Other kinds of beings, both beneficial and harmful reside in the forests, streams, air, oceans and even underground. The religious practices aim at a number of things.
Firstly, they aim at establishing and maintaining a fair and just relation with other humans and with nature and all its populace. Secondly, the practices aim at maintaining personal and communal health and to facilitate a long and successful living (Hubbard, Hatfield and Santucci 133).
Sacred books and scriptures
The Native Americans initially had no writing. They memorized the sacred histories and mythology using special techniques such as singing, story telling, drawings, carvings, dancing and other rituals. The histories and myths illustrate how everything came to be as it is today.
They explain to the Native Americans how to live and the next thing after the present life they live. By enacting the past events and myths in ceremonies and art, the Native Americans make the activities of the story concrete in their own lives (Hubbard, Hatfield and Santucci 135).
All the tribes have one or more leaders. Some Native Americans use charms and songs in order to communicate to the sacred world. A few of them rely on the dreams, visions and spirits. Apart from the myths there are several other stories of other scared beings and activities. All Native American religious practices involve dancing, singing drumming and rattling in the ceremonies.
Two common religious practices are the “sweat lodge” and the “sacred pipe” (Irwin 45). The sweat lodge ceremonies are characterized by a dome shape representation of the word. Participants pour water on hot stones and believe that the steam purifies them spiritually. On the other hand, for the sacred pipe, tobacco is used to talk with the sacred creatures and to heal.
The pipe signifies the cosmos and its creation together with the good connection between the human beings and the holy creatures. The participants sit in a circular manner and every individual smokes the pipe and extends it in six different directions which include up, down, west, north, south and east. This, according to the participant calls for the attention of the natural world in all its proportions (Mencken, Bader and Stark 205).
Religion is one of the most essential and unique features of human life. It is universal and exists across all cultures but in a spectacle of diverse forms. It forms a fundamental aspect of human politics, education, economics cultural invention and social life. It has become a central feature to the self understanding of an individual and a group of individuals.
Religion has had an important impact in every civilization and cultural framework and has helped inspire historical and scientific perceptions regarding human conditions in general (Haught 4).
Haught, John. What is religion?, an introduction. New York: Paulist Press, 1990. Print.
Hubbard, Benjamin, John Hatfield and James Santucci. An educator’s classroom guide to America’s religious beliefs and practices. Westport: Libraries Unlimited, 2007.print.
Irwin, Lee. “Freedom, law, and prophecy: A brief history of native Americans’ religious resistance. University of Nebraska Press.21.1 (1997): 35-55. print.
Magueijo, João and Kim Baskerville. Big bang riddles and their revelations. The Royal Society. 357.1763 (1999). 3221-3236.print.
Mencken, Carson., Christopher Bader and Rodney Stark. Conventional Christian beliefs and experimentation with the paranormal. Religious Research Association, Inc. 50.2 (2008): 194-205.print.
Weaver, MZary and Mary Brakke. Introduction to Christianity (4th ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning. 2008.print.