The Christian Religion
Founded by Jesus Christ approximately 2,000 years ago, Christianity is one of the most influential religions in world history. Although this faith began as a small sect of Judaism during the first century in ancient Israel, the Christian religion has nearly 2 billion followers at the beginning of the 21st century and can be found in every corner of the globe.
The Christian faith is live out within the institution called the Church. The three major branches of the Christian church are Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy. There are similarities and differences between these three branches. There are also similarities and differences between Christian denominations, which extend to issues such as beliefs, practices, and holidays.
The table of contents below will direct you to various topics on the Christian religion, from beliefs to comparison charts, to symbols, to holidays, to important literature, and much more.
Christian beliefs, history, symbols, practices, and more
8. Jesus Christ
Beliefs are very important to Christianity. The New Testament worldview is founded upon the doctrine of God, who exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Together, these three persons are commonly called the Trinity, a term, while not found in the Bible, is understood to summarize Scripture's teachings concerning the identity of God.
Christianity has traditionally taught that Christ was born to the virgin Mary.
Most Christian believe God created the world, but they don't always agree about how this happened, as see in their discussions on creation and evolution.
The Christian belief system also involves unseen realities like angels, who are spiritual, yet personal, servants of God. At a certain point of time in the past, some angels rebelled against God. The chief "fallen angel" is known as the devil or Satan. The other sinning angels are called demons. Demons sometimes torment people externally, through temptation for example, and less often they torment people internally, by means of influence and possession. The expulsion of demons from a person is known as the practice of exorcism.
The Christian view of human nature is that it has been corrupted by rebellion against God. People are, as a result, born "sinners." Some Christian, especially in the Catholic tradition, recognize the Seven Deadly Sins, which is an attempt to summarize certain rebellious tendencies that all sinful people have.
Christianity contains strong convictions about the afterlife. Believers go to heaven by means of repenting from sin and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If a person refuses the forgiveness and love Christ offers, then their destiny is hell.
How the world ends is also important to Christians. This doctrine is often referred to as the end times.
There are many expressions of Christianity in the world today, which share the same core beliefs about topics like the Trinity, the inspiration of the Bible, and the Second Coming of Christ. Various branches of the Christian often developed due to disagreement, which were sometimes theological in nature. For an overview of their occasions, see a brief history of Christian denominations.
The three major branches of the Christian faith are Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy. The Anglican or Episcopalian wing of the faith is sometimes considered a fourth branch and other times considered a unique expression of Protestantism. You can compare their belief and practices on these denomination comparison charts.
The Protestant branch has many different expressions, some dating back hundreds of years, such as the Amish, the Lutheran church, the Baptist church, the Methodist church, the Presbyterian church, and the Quakers. Other denominations are more recent, including the Seventh-day Adventist, as well as the largest Christian denomination in the world today, the Assemblies of God.
It can also be helpful to compare specific issues and beliefs in denominations: Compare denominations beliefs, compare denominations statistics, compare denominations practices, and compare denominations ethics.
Christianity is considered one of the five major world religions (although some count more than five), along with Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It can be helpful to compare and contrast what these different religions believe, which is the point of these comparison charts: Christianity and Judaism, and Christianity and Islam, and Christianity and Baha'i.
Christianity has several holy days in a calendar year. For an overview of their development, see a brief history of Christian holidays. Some sacred days stem from the religion's association with Judaism, like the Sunday Sabbath. Many, however, mark certain events in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, like his birth, such as Advent, Christmas day, Twelfth Night, and Epiphany. Holidays surrounding his death and resurrection are also very important, like Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Good Friday, and Easter.
Still other holidays are related to the Christian church, which often commemorate a believe of special significance. Examples include: St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, All Saints Day, Reformation Day, St. Andrew's Day, and Boxing Day.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that has cultural significance in the United States, and originally had Christian meaning.
Christian practices are important markers in the lives of individual believers as well as in community life. Certain practices are observed across branches and denominations (although there may be different modes of observance), such as Christian Baptism, singing Christian Hymns, and the Sign of the Cross.
Other practices are unique to certain branches. For instance, in Catholicism Catholic Mass, Honoring the Saints, Holy Water, Catechisms of the Catholic Church, The Stations of the Cross, and Praying the Rosary,
A timeline of Christianity and a one-page overview is helpful in order to see the big picture. The historical context of Christianity is helpful to understand the background of the life of Jesus. Jesus acquired many disciples who provided the foundation for the church, so the lives of the apostles are significant. Roman Catholics trace the rise of the papacy back to the early church as well. See a comparison chart of the church fathers.
Life wasn't easy for the first Christians as there was heavy persecution of the church. After the apostles, the leaders of the Church were called the early Church Fathers. Constantine was historically noteworthy because he legalized the Christian faith in the 4th century in the Roman Empire. The Council of Nicea was important to Christian theology and the rise of monasticism was important to Christian living. See a comparison chart of monks and mystics. Also see a comparison chart of the protestant reformers
The Crusades are considered by many to be one of the worst moments of the church.
To get an overview of the Bible, see fast facts. The Hebrew Bible, commonly referred to as the Old Testament, including the Ten Commandments, is important to Christians, yet the New Testament, including the Parables of Christ, is most important. Some Christians use the Apocrypha, but most reject Gnostic Scriptures as authoritative. The English versions of the sacred Scriptures are known as bible translations.