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Christianity

From Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia written in simple English for easy reading.

The Christian cross is a symbol of Christianity.
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The Christian cross is a symbol of Christianity.

Christianity is a religion based on the life and teaching of Jesus,[1]. He lived in a town called Nazareth in the 1st Christian century. It is a religion that believes in only one God. [2]

People who follow this religion are called Christians. A group of people who follow Jesus together is called a church. Christianity is the world's largest religion.[3] In 2001 about 2 billion people were Christians.

Christians believe God made the Earth and the Universe. Christians believe that God loves humans and came to the Earth in the person of Jesus, God’s Son. Christians give Jesus the title "Messiah" (מָשִ?יחַ from the Hebrew language) or "Christ" (Χ?ιστός from the Greek language). This title means he was chosen to be a leader by God.

Jesus was born into a religion called Judaism. Christianity began in the 1st century as a part or "sect" of Judaism.[4] Christianity and Judaism share many beliefs. Both Christians and followers of Judaism, called Jews, believe in only one God. Christians and Jews also believe that the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament is ‘scripture’ — the word of God. Christians have another group of books that were written later called the New Testament. The New Testament is also scripture.

According to the New Testament [5], the people who followed Jesus were first called "Christian" in the town of Antioch [6] Before that they were called people of The Way. Today, people who call themselves Christians may show their faith in different ways. They may be in churches that believe different things and worship God in different ways. The three main groups or "denominations" of Christianity are the Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches. Also, some Christians do not belong to these denominations.

Contents

[edit] Life and Worship

Christians try to live more like Jesus. This includes doing what God has taught in the Bible. In the New Testament Jesus said the most important rules for life, or commandmentsfrom the Hebrew Bible were: "Have love for the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind ... And have love for your neighbour as for yourself."[7]

Jesus loved people in many ways. The New Testament says that he gave food to hungry people, ate with lonely people and cared for his enemies. Jesus said that just knowing what he had said was not enough to be a good person. People must also do the good things that he said. He said: "Everyone to whom my words come and who does them, will be like a wise man who made his house on a rock ... And everyone to whom my words come and who does them not, will be like a foolish man who made his house on sand."[8]

Jesus loved God in many ways. The New Testament says he read the Bible, talked to and listened to God (prayer), did what God wanted him to do and met with others to worship. Worship can include learning from the Bible, praying and singing to God, and doing special religious actions. These things are called acts of piety. Worship is an important part of Christianity.

Christianity teaches that all people are imperfect and need God's help to be more like Jesus. It is a gift (or grace) that God shows mercy and forgiveness. Christians believe that through the gift of God's Spirit they share in Christ's life.[9]

[edit] Charity - Showing love for people

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[edit] Piety - Showing love for God

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[edit] Worship - Showing love for God together

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[edit] Common Christian beliefs

  • There is only one true God.
  • Christians believe in praying to God. The Lord's prayer ("Our Father") is one prayer they believe Jesus taught them to say in public.
  • Most Christians say God is three divine 'persons', called the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or sometimes 'Holy Ghost'). They know God as the Father who made the world. They know God as the Son (Jesus), who changes the world. And they know God as the Holy Spirit, who helps the world. These three 'persons' in the Trinity always work for the same goal.
  • God teaches through a collection of books called the Bible. Some say that God guided different people to write the books over a very long time. The Bible teaches about God talking to people and doing things for them, from the beginning of the world until after Jesus died and came back to life.
  • God made the world and all people. At first everything was good.
  • People did things that separated them from God. This is called sin.
  • God loved people and tried to help them change. God worked with many people, such as Abraham, Moses, and Isaiah, to help change the world.
  • God sent Jesus (himself in human form) to teach that everybody's mistakes and sins will be forgiven, if they forgive each other and repent for their own (Matthew 6:14) also people must show one another mercy, if they wish to receive God's Mercy. (Matt. 5:7, 9:13 18:35, etc. etc.)
  • Jesus' mother was a woman named Mary. Mary was a virgin. She was chosen by God to bear God's son.
  • Mary gave her son the Hebrew name Yehoshu`ah, which means "God saves". In English it has become "Jesus". Christians also call him Messiah or Christ, which means "chosen by God by having oil poured on his head". He grew up in a town called "Nazareth".
  • Jesus was free of sin, and taught his followers many things about right and wrong. He cared for the sick and poor and also did miracles like healing some people who were blind, deaf, or sick in other ways, and feeding people who were hungry or thirsty.
  • Jesus taught about what the world will be like in the future in God's eternal Kingdom. He taught that people must forgive other people's mistakes and show mercy if they expect God to show them the same mercy. He said that after the end of this age, he will come as king so people can live God's good way.
  • Some of the leaders of the Jews did not like what Jesus was doing and teaching, so they planned to kill him. Jesus let them catch him and he was killed like a criminal by crucifixion (nailed to a cross) by the Romans. Jesus planned all this and said, when he died, "Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing."
  • Jesus' followers buried him in a tomb in the ground, and he was dead for three days.
  • On the third day, God raised Jesus to life again.
  • Jesus told his friends that he would always be with them and send them the Holy Spirit to help them. He taught them for a few more weeks, then went up to Heaven. This is called the Ascension.
  • The Holy Spirit came to the people who followed Jesus. The Spirit helped them and gave them hope to show more people God's love.
  • Jesus will come again at the end of time, people who have died will come back to life, and he will judge all people who have ever lived. People who are in a good relationship with God, and have been kind to others, will live with God and Jesus forever. People who are not in a good relationship with God and have not been kind to others, will be separated from God forever in a lake of fire called Gehenna, or Hell. (Matt. 25)

Some Churches have different teachings about the Trinity. Some say the Spirit comes only from the Father. Others say the Spirit comes both from the Father and the Son. Some Christian-like groups do not believe in the Trinity, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Iglesia ni Cristo, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Unitarians. Christians who believe in the Trinity do not all agree about whether those who do not are fully Christians.

[edit] Christian symbols

  • Alpha and Omega - The Greek letters Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Sometimes the Alpha and Omega are written next to each other, and sometimes the Omega is written over the Alpha. Alpha and Omega is a reference to Jesus, who calls himself "Alpha and Omega" (First and Last) in the Revelation.
  • Chi - The Greek letter Chi is the first letter of 'Christ' in Greek: Christos.
  • Chi Rho - The Greek letters Chi and Rho are the first two letters of 'Christ' in Greek: Christos. Usually the long stem of Rho (?) runs up and down through the cross of the Chi (χ).
  • Christian cross - The cross is the most common symbol of Christianity. Christians believe that their saviour Jesus Christ was crucified by the Romans. The cross is important because Jesus died as a sacrifice for the sins of believers. It represents God's love for humanity.
  • Crucifix - The crucifix is a cross with the body of Jesus still hanging on it. It is a more popular symbol with Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox. It has the same meaning as the cross.
  • (Note on crosses and crucifixes) Christians express different feelings to crucifixes and crosses, and can have a preferred way of remembering that moment in time. Some like to think of him still on the cross (reminding us what the price for our sin was), and some like to see an empty cross to remember that Jesus has arisen from the dead, and that he is now in heaven preparing to raise all dead for Judgement Day and the Kingdom.
  • Dove - The dove is a bird and a symbol of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptised, the Holy Spirit came to him as a dove and rested on him.
  • Ichthys - In Greek, the word ichthys /iktheews/ means 'fish', and forms an acronym meaning "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Saviour" in Greek. The symbol looks like this: <><
  • INRI - INRI is an acronym in Latin "Iesus Nazoream Rex Iudaeorum" meaning "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." This is the message that was put on the cross as being the crime for which he was being punished. Christians now use it as a symbol that Jesus is the Messiah, or King of all kings.
  • Interlocking rings - The interlocking rings are a symbol of the Trinity. Each ring is a complete circle, representing each complete person of the Trinity. But each ring is locked with the other two rings, showing that they cannot be separated from the Trinity.

[edit] Types of Christianity

People who call themselves Christians may show or live their faith in different ways. They may also believe different things. Through history the three main groups or "denominations" of Christianity have been the Orthodox, the Roman Catholic and the Protestant churches. Not all Christians use these titles. Some believe Christianity is bigger and includes others. Some believe Christianity is smaller and does not include all these churches.[10]

These groups split up because they did not agree on some points about Christian teaching (called “doctrine?) or practice. The first split was in the 5th century after the Church Council of Chalcedon. The argument was about the nature of Jesus. Should he be regarded as God and human in one combined nature, or in two separated natures? Most of the bishops, following the Pope (the Bishop of Rome), refused to stay in communion with any bishop who wouldn't say "two separated natures". The Christians who did not agree with the decision of the Council to excommunicate them, became the Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox. The largest Non-Chalcedonian Churches are the Coptic Orthodox in Egypt, the Ethiopian Orthodox, the Armenian, and some Lebanese Orthodox Churches. Recent discussions between the Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II and the Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III concluded that they believe many of the same things after all, even though the Coptic Church does not recognise the Pope of Rome as its leader.

The second split happened in the 11th century. It is called the Great Schism. It was mostly based on personal disagreements between the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople. The disagreements were made worse because the two cultures often did not understand one another. Also many Crusaders from Western Europe behaved badly. The Christians in Western Europe were led by the Bishop of Rome, known also as the Pope. They are called the Roman Catholic Church. Most Christians in Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Middle East belong to the Orthodox Churches, led by the Bishops of other cities or areas.

In the 15th century the invention of the printing press made it easier for more people to read and study the Bible. This led many thinkers over the years to come up with new ideas and to break away from the Pope and his church. They started the Protestant or Reformed churches. Some Catholics and Orthodox do not consider Protestants to be fully Christian. The most important Protestant leaders were Martin Luther and John Calvin. Later some of these groups disagreed amongst themselves, so that these denominations split again into smaller groups. The main Protestant denominations today are the Baptist, Lutheran, and Calvinist Presbyterian Churches. In England, a similar protest against the Pope, first political and later religious, led to the Church of England who call themselves Protestant, but are sometimes felt to be Reformed Catholic because they have bishops. The Anglican communion of churches includes several churches called "Episcopal" or "Episcopalian", because they have bishops. Some Anglican Churches have a style of worship that is closer to the Protestant services, others worship more like Catholics, but none of them accept the Pope, or are accepted by him. In general, the Protestant denominations differ from the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches in having given up some of the traditional sacraments, having no ordained priesthood, and not having the same fondness for Mary, the mother of Jesus, that the Catholic and Orthodox churches have.

The main worship service in Catholic Churches is the Mass and the main worship service in many Orthodox Churches is called the Divine Liturgy. In both of these Churches, there is a priest who leads the service where the people remember when Jesus changes a small amount of bread and wine into his real body and blood, but without changing the accidents (appearance, taste, colour, etc.) of the bread and wine. This service is called the Eucharist or Communion. Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of their Saviour, Jesus. Catholics in particular have developed a short ceremony worshipping Jesus present in the Eucharist. This ceremony is known as Eucharistic Benediction. Many Protestant churches have ceremonies more or less similar to the Mass, but they have different views about the way Jesus is present at the service, and some believe the bread and wine are just symbols that remind us of what Jesus did. Protestants also differ from Catholic and Orthodox Christians in placing more importance on each person’s experience of joining the Church. Catholic and Orthodox Christians think that the ongoing growth in holiness that should take place over the person's lifetime is more important. Roman Catholic Christian spirituality often involves the use of statues and other artistic representations, candles, incense, and other physical items as reminders or aids to prayer. The Orthodox Churches also use candles, incense, and bells, and icons, but there are never statues in an Orthodox Church. Protestants have also said that statues can tempt people to worship graven (carved) idols that are forbidden by the Ten Commandments, but they do use some artwork in the church. Orthodox Churches have a particularly well-developed spiritual-beauty connection. Orthodox and Catholic worship also involves use of gestures, such as the Sign of the Cross. The Roman Catholic sign of the cross is made by each person touching first the forehead, then chest, one shoulder, then the other shoulder. There is also bowing, kneeling, and prostration involved in Catholic and Orthodox worship.

There are other denominations that do not fit into the three largest categories. Some of the larger and more important of these are:

All of these denominations are less than 200 years old. Most of them do not believe Jesus is God, or do not believe in the Trinity, or for other reasons do not believe what other Christians believe.

One denomination that is Protestant but has some beliefs that are different from most Protestant denominations is the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

More than 3000 Christian denominations now exist, each a little different from the others, but all of them believe that Jesus is God. The biggest by numbers is the Catholic Church.

[edit] Bible in Basic English

The Bible In Basic English (also known as BBE) is a translation of the Bible into Basic English. The BBE was translated by Professor S. H. Hooke using the standard 850 Basic English words. 100 words that were helpful to understand poetry were added along with 50 "Bible" words. The New Testament was released in 1941 and the Old Testament was released in 1949.

[edit] EasyEnglish Bible and Commentaries

EasyEnglish is part of the work of Wycliffe Associates UK. There is an Internet Bible in very simple English and many books about the Bible.

[edit] Notes

  1. Dictionary.com, Christianity
  2. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX, Monotheism; William F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity; H. Richard Niebuhr, Radical Monotheism and Western Culture; About.com, Monotheistic Religion resources; Jonathan Kirsch, God Against the Gods; Linda Woodhead, An Introduction to Christianity; The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia Monotheism; The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, monotheism; New Dictionary of Theology, Paul pp. 496-99; David Vincent Meconi, "Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity" in Journal of Early Christian Studies pp. 111–12
  3. Adherents.com, Religions by Adherents
  4. Tacitus, Annales xv 44; Josephus Antiquities xviii 3; Mortimer Chambers, The Western Experience Volume II chapter 5; The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion page 158.
  5. "the disciples were first given the name of Christians in Antioch." Acts 11:26b
  6. E. Peterson, "Christianus" pp. 353-72.
  7. Matthew 22:37-40
  8. Matthew 7:24ff. A Christian life should show love for Jesus by doing good things for others, even strangers and enemies. This is called charity.<ref>"charity in the Jewish and Christian sense was unknown to the pagan world." Martin Goodman, ''The Ruling Class of Judaea: The Origins of the Jewish Revolt Against Rome AD 66-70'', Cambridge University Press, p.65 </li> <li id="_note-6">[[#_ref-6|↑]] "For all have done wrong and are far from the glory of God; And they may have righteousness put to their credit, freely, by his grace, through the salvation which is in Christ Jesus: Whom God has put forward as the sign of his mercy." Romans 3:23ff</li> <li id="_note-7">[[#_ref-7|↑]] S E Ahlstrom said breaking the church into groups or "denominations" was not real, because many churches said they were the only true Christians. Ahlstrom p. 381. For examples, see the ''Catechism of the Catholic Church'' §816; Donald Nash, [http://www.crownhillchurch.com/Why_the_Churches_of_Christ_Are_Not_A_Denomination.pdf#search=%22church%20of%20christ%20not%20a%20denomination%22 Why the Churches of Christ are not a Denomination]; Wendell Winkler ,[http://www.thebible.net/introchurch/ch4.html Christ's Church is not a Denomination]; and David E. Pratt, [http://www.biblestudylessons.com/cgi-bin/gospel_way/denominations.php What does God think about many Christian denominations?]</li></ol></ref>

[edit] See also

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Christianity

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