- 1 Basic Christian Glossary
- 2 Faith, Works, and Approach to being a Christian
- 3 The Afterlife
- 4 Eschatology or the End of the World
- 5 The Trinity
- 6 Nature of Jesus, Mary, and the Incarnation
- 7 References
Basic Christian Glossary
Christianity is a vast and confusing religion with dozens of different branches, each claiming to be right. Saying that "Christians believe" is like nailing jelly to the wall, and responses can leave you lost in a loop of sophisticated theology. The best we can do is attempt to indicate what Christians believe when they use certain specific terms (of which there are a lot) and who believes which things.
Faith, Works, and Approach to being a Christian
Used by almost all Christians - although some call themselves Evangelical Christians
Evangelism is the idea that you should help people be saved by spreading the Gospel (literally "Good News") so they too join your social club.
Used by: All Protestants, many Catholics
Faith is belief beyond evidence or in the face of doubt.
Salvation by Faith Alone
A Protestant Shibboleth
Almost all Protestants believe that it isn't what you do that saves you, it's what you believe. This was originally meant to be tied to "By their fruits shall ye know them" and that those who believed would automatically do good works. It doesn't always.
Believed by all Christians
Christians are told to forgive those who hate them. In benign form this allows them to let go of what was done wrong. In malevolent form this can be twisted by the heads of churches to order people to forgive their abusers so no action is taken against the powerful, or by people like Mother Teresa to tell people to forgive disasters like Bhopal ... so no action is taken against the powerful.
Christians believe that there is an afterlife; life beyond death.
Used by almost all Christians
Heaven is where good people go after they die. It will be bliss.
Used by most Christians
Hell is a place of eternal punishment where you are continually tortured. Somehow God isn't responsible for this. Modern ideas of Hell tend to owe more to Dante than to
Believed by: Liberal Christians (including Unitarian Universalists)
Heresy to: Conservative Christians
Universalism is the belief that no one is going to go to Hell, and everyone is going to be Saved
Believed by: Conservative Christians who don't want their God to be that evil
Believed by: Middle of the Road Christians
Purgatory is the belief that most people don't deserve heaven and aren't evil enough for hell so are going to be sent to a classroom until they qualify for heaven.
Formally abolished by the Roman Catholic Church in 2007
Unbaptised babies couldn't go to heaven. They had done nothing to deserve hell. So they were sent to Limbo - and nothing happened to them.
Eschatology or the End of the World
Believed by just about all Christians in various forms
Judgement Day is the day at the End of Time when God will judge the living and the dead.
The Judgement of Nations
Believed by many Christian Socialists
The Millenium shall be a thousand glorious years Jesus will reign directly over the world before Judgement day. Where this fits with the Tribulation and the Rapture is a source of internal Fundamentalist argument that is little more interesting than reading books like Left Behind. (It used to be a popular doctrine in the first couple of centuries AD).
Invented by John Darby in the early 19th Century, at the Rapture, true believers are all whisked off to heaven and the rest of the world becomes horrible. Normally to prevent Christians having to live through The Tribulation. Even by the confused standards of the bible this appears to be a complete fabrication.
Believed by the same people who believe in the Rapture
Believed by almost all Christians
The Trinity is the idea that God is one being in three parts. God the Father, God the Son (a.k.a. Jesus Christ), God the Holy Spirit.
Believed by Unitarians (duh!)
Considered heresy by Everyone Else
There is only one God who isn't really three.
Believed by some Mormons and Unitarians
Considered heresy by almost everyone else
Jesus Christ was subordinate to God the Father.
Nature of Jesus, Mary, and the Incarnation
Believed by Catholics, many Orthodox
The Immaculate Conception is not, as many think, the belief that Jesus was born without sin - but the belief that Mary was so that Jesus as born in a flawless vessel. This does not, apparently, iterate.
Fundamental to almost all Christians
God became Man in the form of Jesus Christ.