The world’s largest religion with 2.4 billion followers.

 

Monotheistic: belief in One God who is transcendent, all powerful, demands exclusive loyalty. Whilst being a Monotheistic religion, Christianity believes in a Trinity of the Father (God), the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit (the active power of God) in the one person of God.

 

Jesus is not just a Prophet: According to Christian belief, He is the Son of God sent to earth by God as God’s sacrifice on the Cross to save those of humanity who will believe in Him. Following the crucifixion he rose from the dead (the Resurrection) to teach his Apostles and prove his status as one with God (summed up in the Nicene Creed).  Jesus performed miracles such as curing the blind, lepers, fed thousands with a small amount of food, walked on water, etc. He is the Messiah and we should accept Him as your personal Saviour so that you can have eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

Faith in Jesus: According to Christian belief, Jesus is the Son of God and sent by Him as the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. He was sent by God as our Saviour to cleanse Man’s Original Sin. In order to be a Christian you need to accept Christ as your Saviour and this is the only way to get to eternal life in heaven when you die; to be resurrected in the distant future when Christ returns to rule the world and to cleanse the earth of sin. Jesus will surely return on this Judgement Day to save all the people who believe in Him. Therefore, Christianity is strongly based in Faith.

 

Christian Life: in addition to Faith, according to Christian belief, you need to live a Christian life whist alive. Love God, love yourself, other Christians, and even your enemies as well – ‘turn the other cheek’. Help the poor.

 

Forms of Worship: Going to church at least once per week. Highly ritualistic with sacraments, music, reverence for relics/sacred places, and pilgrimage. It is not necessary in all types of Christianity to go to church as long as you attempt to live a Christian life and have faith in Christ the Redeemer. Christianity also has a mystical tradition within the church, eg. Meister Eckhardt, St Theresa, Thomas A’Kempis, and heretical traditions not accepted by the mainstream churches, such as the Gnostic Christians who had such a major impact on early Christianity.

 

Conversion: Christianity is a proselytizing religion which expects that Christians will try and convert as many people as possible to Christianity to save them too.

 

Sacred Texts: The Bible, meaning the Old and New Testaments. The Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are the main source of information on Jesus, his life and ministry. There is little independent confirmation of his existence and ministry, eg. Josephus.

 

Three Major Forms of Christianity: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant. There are innumerable permutations of these three basic forms of Christianity. Most forms of Christianity have a hierarchical structure of priests, bishops, archbishops, etc.

 

Festivals: Christmas – birth of Jesus; Good Friday – death of Jesus on the Cross; Easter – resurrection of Jesus.

 

History of Jesus life (according to the New Testament): Judea in Palestine was conquered in 63BCE and Herod became the client king of the Romans with his son of the same name being the king when Jesus was born. There was a long history of resentment and rebellion amongst the Jewish people in reaction to the Roman conquest with some (Zealots and Sicari) wanting an outright rebellion, and the majority awaiting a Messiah or Saviour who would restore righteousness, the Jewish way of life, and rid them of the Romans. Jesus was born into this volatile situation to a poor family in Bethlehem attended by a number of miracles including Virgin birth to his mother Mary. Not much is known of his early life except that he worked as a carpenter.

At the age of 30 he began his ministry and was baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus of Nazareth was basically a Jewish priest of that time talking about monotheism, the 10 commandments, with new elements of his teaching being: a personal relationship with God, love, forgiveness, looking out for the poor and weak, attended by many miraculous healings, casting out of demons, and other miracles showing Jesus super-natural powers. The New Testament, especially the first four books, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, tell us most about Jesus were all written 60 to 70 years after Jesus death. In the three years of his ministry Jesus appointed 12 male Apostles and Mary Magdalene, his constant companion, preaching a promise of eternal life if they followed Him.

In 29CE Jesus went to Jerusalem where he was seen to be the Messiah promised for ages by Judaism. This presented a real problem for Jewish priests (Pharisees) for whom it was a heresy of the highest order to say that Jesus was the Son of God, and for the Roman authorities (Pontius Pilate the Governor) who were worried about any further cause for instability in a very volatile political environment in Judea of that time. At the Last Supper Judas betrayed Jesus and the Jewish religious authorities gave Jesus back to the Romans to be crucified between two thieves. Jesus was put into a tomb when 3 days later he was found to have gone and he visited the Apostles when he told them to spread the word of eternal life through the world. Then Jesus ascended into heaven where He sits at the right-hand of God the Father.

Following His death Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire largely due to the efforts of St Peter and especially St Paul., a Roman citizen with freedom of travel in the empire and a common language to preach the Gospel. St Paul preached that Christianity is open to all without circumcision, Jesus was the long-awaited Jewish Messiah for all peoples, no observation of Jewish laws necessary, the promise of eternal life, particularly attractive to the poor and dispossessed of which there were many in the Roman world at that time, attraction for women – the cult of Mary, simple and exclusive faith in Jesus enough to achieve these great benefits. James, brother of Jesus was opposed to Gentiles converting to the cult of Jesus, but he was killed early in the period after Jesus death. In 70CE the Romans brutally crushed the Jewish rebellion pushing the Jews out of Palestine. Persecution of Christians, especially by Roman Emperor, Nero, who ordered the death of St Peter and St Paul, but Christianity continued to spread. Emperor Constantine (280-337CE) was converted to Christianity in 312CE and in 380CE Christianity became the official state religion of Rome guaranteeing its status as the leading religion in Europe thereafter spreading across the world wherever European civilization spread.

In the first decades of the 21st century, the future of Christianity lies less in the First World where numbers and enthusiasm seem to be declining, than in developing nations. The greatest numerical growth of Christianity today is in Asia, Africa, and Latin America as well as the countries of Eastern Europe where communism had forbidden religious practice. The future of Christianity appears to lie in its capacity to become a truly ‘world religion’.