Christianity Glossary


Small conservative group in the USA and Canada arising from a division within the Swiss Brethren in Alsace under the leadership of Jakob Ammann (c.1656-1730). Further divisions occurred after the Amish migrated to North America, but most are members of the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church. Amish are similar to other Mennonites in doctrine and practice, but the former worship in private homes instead of a church, wear "plain" dress and retain the use of German in their services.


Belief, taught by Arius in the 4th century, that Christ was created by the Father, and although greater than man he is inferior to the Father. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, wrote and campaigned against Arianism. It was delcared a heresy at the Council of Nicea in 325.


The rite of admission to membership in Christian churches that involves immersing, sprinkling or anointing with water. Regarded as a sacrament by Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians. Most denominations practice infant baptism; some only baptize adult believers.


One of the largest Protestant denominations, with 40 million members (and many more non-member adherents) worldwide and 26.7 million in the United States. The Baptist tradition has its roots in the Anabaptist movement of the Reformation and English Puritan John Smyth (1554-1612). Its most notable distinction is its rejection of infant baptism. Today, most Baptists in American belong either to the Southern Baptist Convention or the American Baptist Convention.


(Old English Christes masse, "Christ's mass"). Holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25.


1. A profession of faith (e.g. by the martyrs) or statement of doctrine (e.g. Augsburg Confession). 2. Admission of sin, either directly to God in prayer, generally to the congregation, or privately to a priest.


One of the seven Catholic sacraments, and a practice in some Protestant churches, in which a baptized young adult (usually aged 13) confirms his or her continuing commitment to the Christian faith. Confirmation is usually preceded by a period of education called catechism.


The ritual of abstaining from specific types of food, or more usually all food, for set period of time.


Not a unified belief system, but a complex of religious movements that predate Christianity and have roots in both paganism and Judaism. By about the second century AD, Gnostic Christianity had developed and was labeled a heresy by the established church. Distinctive Gnostic beliefs include: two separate divine beings (the unknowable supreme deity and an inferior, evil creator god); the inherent goodness of spirit and evil of matter; the importance of gnosis, or special knowledge, for salvation; and a view of Christ as a messenger of the supreme deity who only appeared to take on a body. Major Gnostic teachers include Valentinus, Basilides, and Marcion.


(Greek evangelion; Old English godspel, "good news"). The content of Christian preaching; that is, that Christ died to save humans from the penalty of sin and reunite them with God. When capitalized, the word usually refers to one of the first four books of the New Testament, which relate the life of Christ.


The central figure of Christianity, considered by most believers and scholars to be a historical figure who was a Jewish teacher and miracle-worker in the Roman province of Palestine around 30 CE. Christians further believe Jesus was the Son of God who died for the sins of humankind and came back from the dead three days after his execution.


(Greek christos; "anointed one"). The future hero or king of Israel predicted by the Hebrew prophets.


A ritual appointing a person to the clergy or ministry.

Orthodoxy, Eastern

The branch of Christianity prevalent in Greece, Russia and Eastern Europe. Originates as a separate body when the Eastern (Orthodox) church split from the Western (Catholic) church in 1054 AD. Orthodox Christians do not recognize the authority of the Pope, but rather the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Seven Ecumenical Councils are also of special authoritative importance. Orthodox Christianity is characterized by emphasis on icons.

saints, veneration of

no in Protestantism; yes in other branches


The practice of giving a set amount of one's income, traditionally 10 percent, to a religious or governmental organization.

Holy Trinity = God the Father + God the Son + God the Holy Spirit