Christian doctrine and theology
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, Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox often deny that members of certain other branches are Christians.
Concise doctrinal statements or confessions of religious beliefs are known as creeds . They began as baptismal formulae and were later expanded during the Christological controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries to become statements of faith. Many evangelical Protestants reject creeds as definitive statements of faith, even while agreeing with some or all of the substance of the creeds. The Baptists have been non-creedal “in that they have not sought to establish binding authoritative confessions of faith on one another.” 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.
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. The Christian concept of the Messiah differs significantly from the contemporary Jewish concept. The core Christian belief is that through belief in and acceptance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, sinful humans can be reconciled to God and thereby are offered salvation and the promise of eternal life.
Death and resurrection
Christians consider the resurrection of Jesus to be the cornerstone of their faith and the most important event in history. Among Christian beliefs, the death and resurrection of Jesus are two core events on which much of Christian doctrine and theology is based. According to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified, died a physical death, was buried within a tomb and rose from the dead three days later.
like Jews and Roman pagans of his time, believed that sacrifice can bring about new kinship ties, purity and eternal life. For Paul, the necessary sacrifice was the death of Jesus: Gentiles who are “Christ’s” are, like Israel, descendants of Abraham and “heirs according to the promise”. The God who raised Jesus from the dead would also give new life to the “mortal bodies” of Gentile Christians, who had become with Israel the “children of God” and were therefore no longer “in the flesh.
Trinity refers to the teaching that the one God comprises three distinct, eternally co-existing persons; the Father, the Son (incarnate in Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. Together, these three persons are sometimes called the Godhead, although there is no single term in use in Scripture to denote the unified Godhead. In the words of the Athanasian Creed, an early statement of Christian belief, “the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.
Theology of Christianity
In Christian belief and practice, a sacrament is a rite, instituted by Christ, that confers grace, constituting a sacred mystery. The term is derived from the Latin word sacramentum, which was used to translate the Greek word for mystery. Views concerning both which rites are sacramental, and what it means for an act to be a sacrament, vary among Christian denominations and traditions.
Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Eastern Christians and traditional Protestant communities frame worship around the liturgical year. The liturgical cycle divides the year into a series of seasons, each with their theological emphases, and modes of prayer, which can be signified by different ways of decorating churches, colours of paraments and vestments for clergy, scriptural readings, themes for preaching and even different traditions and practices often observed personally or in the home.
Christianity has not generally practiced aniconism, or the avoidance or prohibition of types of images, even if the early Jewish Christians sects, as well as some modern denominations, preferred to some extent not to use figures in their symbols, by invoking the Decalogue’s prohibition of idolatry. The cross, which is today one of the most widely recognized symbols in the world, was used as a Christian symbol from the earliest times. Tertullian, in his book De Corona, tells how it was already a tradition for Christians to trace repeatedly on their foreheads the sign of the cross. Although the cross was known to the early Christians, the crucifix did not appear in use until the 5th century.
Baptism is the ritual act, with the use of water, by which a person is admitted to membership of the Church. Beliefs on baptism vary among denominations. Differences occur firstly on whether the act has any spiritual significance. Some, such as the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, as well as Lutherans and Anglicans, hold to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which affirms that baptism creates or strengthens a person’s faith, and is intimately linked to salvation. Others view baptism as a purely symbolic act, an external public declaration of the inward change which has taken place in the person, but not as spiritually efficacious. Secondly, there are differences of opinion on the methodology of the act. These methods are: by immersion; if immersion is total, by submersion; by affusion (pouring); and by aspersion (sprinkling). Those who hold the first view may also adhere to the tradition of infant baptism; the Orthodox Churches all practice infant baptism and always baptize by total immersion repeated three times in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church also practices infant baptism, usually by affusion, and utilizing the Trinitarian formula.
Jesus’ teaching on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount displays a distinct lack of interest in the external aspects of prayer. A concern with the techniques of prayer is condemned as ‘pagan’, and instead a simple trust in God’s fatherly goodness is encouraged. Elsewhere in the New Testament this same freedom of access to God is also emphasized. This confident position should be understood in light of Christian belief in the unique relationship between the believer and Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
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