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Mainstream first century Christians believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ within a single human lifespan, largely due to Paul's influence.<ref>See: The First Christian Centuries: Perspectives on the Early Church by Paul McKechnie ISBN 0830826777</ref> Unfortunately, this was continually delayed and the explanation seemed to be that He could not return to Jerusalem while it was occupied by "heathens". Consequently, it was necessary to recapture Jerusalem. This was done in 1099 and 50,000 of the "heathens" (Muslims, Jews, and Christians who were in the wrong place at the wrong time) were murdered, but He still did not turn up (unless He was somewhere under the piles of corpses). Gaudefroi de Bouillon, the First Crusade leader, boasted that he rode his horse through the Holy Sepulchre knee deep in the blood of the unbelievers.
 
Mainstream first century Christians believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ within a single human lifespan, largely due to Paul's influence.<ref>See: The First Christian Centuries: Perspectives on the Early Church by Paul McKechnie ISBN 0830826777</ref> Unfortunately, this was continually delayed and the explanation seemed to be that He could not return to Jerusalem while it was occupied by "heathens". Consequently, it was necessary to recapture Jerusalem. This was done in 1099 and 50,000 of the "heathens" (Muslims, Jews, and Christians who were in the wrong place at the wrong time) were murdered, but He still did not turn up (unless He was somewhere under the piles of corpses). Gaudefroi de Bouillon, the First Crusade leader, boasted that he rode his horse through the Holy Sepulchre knee deep in the blood of the unbelievers.
 
   
 
   
Modern Christians have argued that maybe the Crusaders were [[No True Scotsman|not the proper sort]] of Christians, although they obviously thought they were.
+
Modern Christians have argued that maybe the Crusaders were [[No True Scotsman|not the proper sort]] of Christians, although they obviously thought they were. It should also be noted that religious and temporal power were intertwined in a way that is unimaginable today, and so-called 'holy' wars, of any religion, were always conducted at least partly in pursuit of (temporal) wealth, territory or glory.
  
 
=== Christianity in Asia ===
 
=== Christianity in Asia ===

Revision as of 16:31, 19 March 2009

Template:Wikipedia article

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For those living in an alternate reality, Conservapedia has an "article" about Christianity

Christianity is a monotheistic Abrahamic religion, originally derived from a populist offshoot of 1st century Judaism. Its most important tenet is that Jesus Christ was or is the Son of God, incarnated on earth as a man in order to suffer and die to provide a route of individual salvation from damnation for sin. It is held that all humanity can, by accepting this, dwell at God's side in Heaven in the eternal afterlife.

For God so loved the world that he gave his Only-Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
— John 3:16 [1]

It is a pretty good deal if it's true.

Christianity is based on the Bible and faith. Well, my version is, anyway. Yours is not, and you're going to Hell.

To be a Christian you must handle snakes, hate homosexuals, go door-to-door like the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, roll-in-the sawdust, babble-in-tongues, rock back and forth with your eyes rolled back in your head, eschew card playing, eschew dancing, eschew Demon Rum, campaign for the prohibition of alcohol and other drugs, send the man on the TV your money, flog your children (and stone them if they object), make anti-Semitic remarks (ala Pat Robertson and Billy Graham), burn CDs which spew Satanic messages (that you were explicitly looking for) when you play them backwards, watch for black helicopters, look for commies under every bed, preach that the UN is going to invade America, join a militia, take Harry Potter books out of schools, believe that your beliefs must be the law for everyone (because "we" have to "get right" with God), and believe that the existence of a single non-Christian anywhere in the world means that you're being oppressed.

Doctrine

Fundamentally, Christianity is the belief that Jesus preached a message that reformed 1st century Judaism and the impending Judgment, that he was persecuted for his ministry, was killed by Roman civil authorities with the blessing and encouragement of the Jewish Sanhedrin, and then rose from the dead three days after his Passover Eve crucifixion; all this, it is said by some, was because Jesus was an atonement sacrifice for the sins of humanity and the prophesied Messiah [2] who was to deliver the Jews from Roman domination. Most Christians agree on at least this much.

Apart from that, exactly what constitutes Christianity is often rather unclear, and varies widely depending on whom you talk to. The traditional definition is set down in the declaration of faith known as the Nicene Creed, but others have been devised. Writer C.S. Lewis promulgated a definition known as Mere Christianity, and some evangelical groups use the Four Spiritual Laws as a basic working definition for proselytization purposes. Doctrine varies in strictness as well; the Catechism of the Catholic Church used by the RCC is highly systematized, while liberal denominations give wide latitude to individual worshippers and fundamentalist denominations profess very rigid and moralistic doctrines. (Pentecostals, as usual, are a special case, often focusing on the spiritual experience to the exclusion of a strict doctrine.)

At different times, Gnostics, Cathars, Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, Quakers, Mormons, Universalists, and many other groups have been called heretic or non-Christian by other Christian groups. Historically, heresy was, in most churches, considered an act equivalent to treason, and in situations where a church had temporal power, disputes over doctrine led to massive persecution, torture, and murder. Not many people are bothered about heretics these days though, and no one who is has any power... not yet, at least.

Salvation

The most fundamental concept of Christianity is that due to the inherent imperfection of humanity (said to stem from original sin, an act of disobedience by Adam and Eve, the first humans in the Bible), salvation is required in order for humanity to proceed to the presence of God after death. Exactly how this is to be accomplished is a little vague in the Bible, but it is universally agreed that Jesus' torture and death as described in the Gospels was an atonement for the sins of the human race. From there, it becomes quite unclear.

The largest segment of Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church, considers salvation to be a meritocracy, and claims salvation through both faith and works (the RCC also has a heavy investment in social services in most countries in which it is active). Many Protestant believers, on the other hand, subscribe to the doctrine of sola fides, or "by faith alone", in which simply accepting Jesus' death as a sacrifice for one's sins is an automatic entry into the Kingdom of Heaven [3], a process known as "becoming saved" or "being born again".

There are schools of thought that state that humans have no control over the status of their salvation; one, the school that Jesus' sacrifice was sufficient for all humanity's sins regardless of personal acceptance, is known as Universalism, while another, strongly influential on modern Christian fundamentalism though not universally expressed among them, is Calvinism, where God chooses his "elect" to be saved, with no regard to the beliefs or actions of each individual human.

There is substantial debate over, once a person becomes saved, whether the salvation gained can ever be lost. While many Christians take a "once saved, forever saved" point of view, this presents a significant problem in cases of apostasy, whereby it must be assumed that either someone can apostatize and remain in fellowship with God, or the apostate was never truly a Christian in the first place. Many formerly sincere ex-Christians find the latter to be insulting, and many non-Christians find it to be a case of No True Scotsman. Also, if anyone who is "saved" cannot be un-saved, that would imply that they have carte blanche to do whatever they want with no consequences in the afterlife; most coherent thinkers agree that people who think this must have gone wrong somewhere.

The Trinity

Most, but not all, Christians subscribe to a concept known as the Holy Trinity, where the single God YHWH exists in three equal but distinct natures simultaneously -- God the Father (the God of the Old Testament), God the Son (i.e. Jesus, sometimes referred to as the Word), and the Holy Spirit (the force that protects and enables God's people on Earth). The exact way this is supposed to work is argued differently depending on the theology of one's faith, but essentially God the Son was incarnated as a leader and sacrifice for original sin, and the Holy Spirit came after the Son's death and resurrection to guide the Church.

Trinitarianism is the majority viewpoint within modern Christianity, but is not the only viewpoint; in particular, Unitarian-Universalists traditionally recognize only a single person of God (if, that is, the individual UU member accepts a god at all), while Oneness Pentecostals consider Jesus alone to be God; in addition, some ancient Christian sects rejected God the Father and focused on Jesus in a manner similar to Oneness Pentecostals. Outside Christianity, the concept of a Trinity is generally considered blasphemous or even polytheistic, or nonsensical at best.

The Bible

The Bible, or The Book of Jewish Folk-tales and Legends, in Christianity's case meaning the Hebrew Tanakh (aka the Old Testament) and the Greek Gospel or New Testament, contains the fundamental founding documents of the religion; however, different denominations have different views on exactly what it says and how it is supposed to be interpreted. On one extreme, most Christian fundamentalists espouse a position of Biblical inerrancy, where everything stated in the Bible is to be taken literally [4] and as is, with no additions; at another extreme is the "looseleaf Bible" approach of extreme liberal denominations such as the Unitarian Universalists which allows the worshipper to consider anything as scripture that they find inspiring. The middle ground, adopted by mainline Protestantism as well as most Catholic believers, is to assume that the Bible was written as a spiritual text, not a historical or scientific text, and therefore is inspired as regards its moral and spiritual teachings, but is not necessarily accurate in regard to secular records and research.

For more information on different denominational approaches to Biblical canon, see the Bible article.

Christianity and schism

Christianity is one of the most highly fragmented of all major religions, with thousands of denominations ranging in size from the billion-plus people baptized into the Roman Catholic Church[5] down to small, family-sized church groups.

The earliest schisms happened even before the Christian church was established, with the personal animosity between James, Peter, and the other original disciples and Saul of Tarsus (later, "Paul"), who preached a much more regimented theology than is recorded in the earliest known biographical writings such as the reconstructed Gospel of Q,[6] the Gospel of Thomas, and the Gospel of Mark. Subsequent doctrinal fights between groups such as the Arians, Marcionites, and the Gnostics led to the formation of the earliest version of the Roman Catholic Church under Emperor Constantine, while later tensions between Western Europe and the Byzantine Empire led to the Great Schism of Eastern and Western Christianity in the 1000s. Martin Luther's rejection of papal primacy in doctrinal interpretation led to the Protestant Reformation and even further schism as Protestant and Catholic authorities simply refused to try to settle their differences and began to accuse each other of not even being Christian at all.

In the modern United States, the tendency towards schism is especially strong. Large numbers of churches (particularly nondenominational fundamentalist, Baptist, and individual Congregational churches) are essentially denominations unto themselves, and even members of mainline churches such as Catholicism and the Anglican Communion have rejected the authority of church hierarchy, generally over increased liberalism in the church's thinking. For example, the Northern Baptist vs. Southern Baptist schism in the United States was over slavery and other racial issues -- the Northern Baptists were largely neutral or abolitionist in their thinking, while the Southern Baptists made heavy use of scripture condoning slavery to maintain their position that it was not only justified, but even required.

Members of mainline churches such as the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches have occasionally talked about reconciliation or reunification, but as a general rule such discussions have never gotten past the "wouldn't it be nice"[7] stage. However, while formal reconciliation is a long way off, many ecumenical (ie cross-denominational) groups exist and function well at local level.

Christian apologetics

Christian apologetics is the field of study concerned with the systematic defense of Christianity. Prominent Christian apologists include Josh McDowell, C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, and (in his pre-Pope days, in his role as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) Pope Benedict XVI.

For example, with regard to the divinity of Jesus, it is often argued that "Jesus was either telling the truth, he was a lunatic, or a liar," an argument called the "trilemma" that was most famously formulated by author C.S. Lewis. Another, the above-mentioned Pascal's Wager, assumes the benefits of belief outweigh the negatives. [8]

Such arguments have limited value in the opinion of some RW contributors. While Christian apologetics can be useful for making a would-be Christian feel as though he is not moving in an irrational direction, faith based on logical arguments is subject to attack with logical responses, e.g., by arguing that Jesus never even walked the Earth, or that a supernatural entity that cannot be observed also cannot affect our universe.

Because apologetics claims to use the same reasoning as science, it is open to the same critiques, which opens faith to scientific criticism. This eliminates faith for faith's sake, a basic Christian concept. Apologists have also been accused of using the logical fallacy of assuming the conclusion, that is, assuming that their faith is in fact the truth and then trying to support it logically, a variant of the Texas sharpshooter fallacy.

Although Christians have historically been responsible for many deaths, a Christian apologist recently justified this saying, "The number of people killed in the name of Christianity pales in comparison to the number of people killed in the name of atheistic ideologies such as communism (Mao, Stalin)." This is an interesting example of the "not as bad as" argument.

Killings in the Bible: [9]

  • directly by God: more than 399,933 people, not counting those instances where a number is not provided (like "the Flood", a city, an army, ...)
  • indirectly (by God's command): more than 2,017,956 people, not counting 65 entire cities.
  • by Satan: 10[10].

The Crusades

Mainstream first century Christians believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ within a single human lifespan, largely due to Paul's influence.[11] Unfortunately, this was continually delayed and the explanation seemed to be that He could not return to Jerusalem while it was occupied by "heathens". Consequently, it was necessary to recapture Jerusalem. This was done in 1099 and 50,000 of the "heathens" (Muslims, Jews, and Christians who were in the wrong place at the wrong time) were murdered, but He still did not turn up (unless He was somewhere under the piles of corpses). Gaudefroi de Bouillon, the First Crusade leader, boasted that he rode his horse through the Holy Sepulchre knee deep in the blood of the unbelievers.

Modern Christians have argued that maybe the Crusaders were not the proper sort of Christians, although they obviously thought they were. It should also be noted that religious and temporal power were intertwined in a way that is unimaginable today, and so-called 'holy' wars, of any religion, were always conducted at least partly in pursuit of (temporal) wealth, territory or glory.

Christianity in Asia

Christianity holds a special place in Asia, because of its continuous growth. Although originally seen as inimical to social values and traditional belief, Christianity is gradually gaining ground in Asia as conversion continues, mostly as an after-effect of globalization, the perceived affirmation of Western values in the wake of the Cold War and Christianity's insistence on proselyzation by its devotees.

Quotes

Dad, what religion are we?- Bart Simpson

You know...the one with all the well meaning rules that don't work out in real life... Christianity!- Homer Simpson

See also

Footnotes

  1. King James Version
  2. From the Hebrew moshiakh, meaning "anointed"
  3. Many "born again" believers simply undergo a brief profession of faith known as the "Sinner's Prayer", very similar to the Islamic shahadah; other churches such as the Roman Catholic have more formal conversion processes.
  4. How obviously metaphorical writing is to be taken is sometimes a bit up in the air.
  5. http://www.adherents.com/adh_rb.html
  6. See Wikipedia on the Gospel of Q
  7. Brian Wilson, Pet Sounds
  8. Many non-Christian students of religion feel that both arguments, whether they are or are not sound in their logic, are based on faulty premises; the trilemma assumes that Jesus said all that was attributed to him, and Pascal's Wager assumes that the choice of belief will automatically be the correct one; with many choices of a "correct" path within Christianity alone, many claiming to be mutually exclusive, this is something of a long shot.
  9. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-820380763887160689 Video (at 10:00)
  10. And even those were contract killings for the Big Guy
  11. See: The First Christian Centuries: Perspectives on the Early Church by Paul McKechnie ISBN 0830826777