What is a Christian? This question has been debated by believers and skeptics for centuries. It is often defined in light of the time and culture in which persons find themselves living.
Simply speaking, a Christian is a person who follows the teachings and principles of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the central figure of Christianity. Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament, the second section of the Christian Bible. With a few exceptions, Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God and the savior of humanity. Faith in him as Savior leads to eternal life. The exceptions are outside of historic Orthodoxy and considered adjacent Christian cults.
As the name implies, a Christian is one who accepts that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, God’s chosen one. Christ is Greek for ‘Anointed One.’ The Hebrew equivalent is Messiah. Due to the Jewish origin of this concept, Christianity accepts the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, as authoritative. Jesus and all his earliest followers were Jews. It was only later, after conflict with other Jews, who did not believe that Jesus was the Christ, and after Gentiles (non-Jews) were accepted as followers of Jesus that Christianity defined itself separately from Judaism.
There are various sects within Christianity, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. Within these sects are thousands of denominations and belief systems. These groups have various interpretations of Jesus’ teachings and the role of the Church in spiritual matters, but they all generally hold the belief in Jesus’ divinity with salvation being a central tenet of their faith.
The history of Christianity dates back to the first century CE when Jesus preached in the region of Palestine. After his death, his followers, known as the apostles, continued to spread his teachings and the religion began to spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Over time, Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe and has since spread to every corner of the globe.
Christianity is founded on the belief in one God, who is the creator of the universe and all living things. Christians believe that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good and that he is present in all things. They also believe in the existence of the Holy Spirit, who is the third person of the Holy Trinity, along with God the Father and Jesus the Son. These three within the Godhead are of one essence but are separate in function and person. The belief in the triune nature of God is a central tenet of the Christian faith. This was codified at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE in what is called the Nicene Creed. This council along with others served to define the parameters of Christian doctrines, including what is accepted as canon in the Christian Bible.
One of the central teachings of Christianity is the belief in the divinity of Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and that he is the Son of God. They also believe that Jesus was fully human and fully divine and that through his death and resurrection, he conquered sin and death and made it possible for humanity to be reconciled with God.
Another important aspect of Christianity is the belief in the Bible as the inspired word of God. The Bible is divided into two parts. The Old Testament contains the Hebrew Scriptures. The New Testament contains the origins, life, and teachings of Jesus and the writings of apostles that illuminate the significance of Jesus and how to live, individually and corporately, as followers of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that the Bible is the ultimate authority on matters of faith and practice. They also believe it contains revelation of God’s will and plan for humanity. Roman Catholicism includes additional books in the canon known as The Apocrypha that are not included in Protestant versions of the Bible.
The Christian faith is centered on the belief in Jesus as the savior of humanity. Christians believe that through faith in Jesus, one receives forgiveness for their sins and is reconciled with God. This belief is expressed through the sacrament of baptism, which initiates believers into the Christian community. Various Christian denominations hold diverse perspectives on the significance of and modes of administering baptism. Further, Christians believe that they receive the power to serve as witnesses to the deity of Christ and his message of salvation through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
In addition to orthodoxy, defined by church tradition and councils, Christianity also emphasizes orthopraxy. Orthopraxy places a strong emphasis on the importance of love, compassion, and service to others. Christians are called to follow Jesus’ example and obey his command to love each other as he has loved them They are also to love their neighbors as themselves as expressed through acts of charity and service, such as helping the impoverished, the sick, and the marginalized.
In addition to personal faith and practice, Christianity also has a communal aspect. Believers gather together in churches for worship, fellowship, and to receive teaching and guidance. The Church is a source of support and encouragement for believers and plays a vital role in the spread of the gospel.
There are many practices and rituals associated with Christianity. These include prayer, worship, and the celebration of sacraments such as communion, baptism, and Christian marriage. Christians also observe various holy days and festivals, such as Christmas, which commemorates the birth of Jesus, and Easter, which celebrates his resurrection.
A Christian is someone who seeks to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Bible. In doing so, Christians believe they have been given the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and eternal life with Jesus. A Christian embraces truths about God and Jesus that as defined by their particular tradition. Beliefs generally include the deity of Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection, and the triune nature of God. Additionally, Christians believe in the attributes of his benevolent omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. A Christian gathers with other like-minded believers in a myriad of cultural contexts and trusts in the Bible as a guide for daily life and eternal salvation, as interpreted by their tradition and spiritual leaders.
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