A beginner’s guide to Christianity

Christianity is a big country. Without a map and a compass you can easily get lost. In Christianity it is easy to observe different groups of Christians holding up the Bible and citing it as a proof for why the other group is wrong. (More about this in About controversial topics).

One thing is clear: don’t expect me to fix a problem on which millions of humans have been working much harder than I will ever do. I am just bringing in my two cents, my naive little attempt.

Christianity

Everything that’s based on the faith in Jesus Christ, i.e. on the assumption that the historic Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ.

Jesus Christ

Title given to the historic Jesus of Nazareth when seeing him as the Messiah (χριστός, chrīstós, the anointed one) announced by Jewish religion.

Bible

The Holy Scripture of Christianity. The historic document used by all Christians to cultivate their faith.

Church

The ideal community of all humans who believe in Jesus Christ and decided to follow him.

denomination

A part of the Church represented by an official organization that works according to human-made laws and rules, in order to cultivate and teach a given interpretation of the Bible and the Good News.

Most modern denominations try –more or less– to reconcile with other denominations and acknowledge them as being part of the Church. On the other hand some of them, especially the Roman Catholic church, have a tendency to try to represent the whole Church.

Christian denominations give different answers to many concrete controversial questions. Here are some concepts used for classifying them along different scales of dichotomies.

Types of Christian faith cultures

Controversial questions for Christians

conservative

progressive

Scripture-based

Reality-based

justice

mercy

Equality. Same rules for everybody.

Liberty. “Love and do as you will”.

We are God’s soldiers.

We are God’s witnesses.

militant, proselytizing, intrusive

reconciling, embracing, inclusive

well-founded, true, clear, authorised, strong, loud

searching, shining, inspired, empathic, weak, silent

To love means to care and protect.

To love means to encourage and tolerate.

Only those who formally believe in Jesus can be saved.

Salvation is possible without formal belief in Jesus.

God is supernatural. God does super-natural things. A miracle is when God decides to act concretely.

God is natural. God does not act against natural laws. A miracle is something that we cannot explain because we don’t know everything about nature.

Science is a dangerous temptation.

Science is a valuable tool that God wants us to use.

Misleading comparisons

traditionalist

Who over-emphasizes the value of traditions and does not want them to change.

progressivist

Under-estimating the value of traditions. Promoting changes in a system without considering the dangers they imply.

Some authors differentiate “traditional” from “progressive” (or “modern”, or “post-modern”). But you cannot say that progressive people don’t care about traditions. A human with progressive faith may want to change some tradition just because they care about it.

Some authors designate progressive faith as “liberal”. That’s an arrogant and offensive misnomer. Progressive faith does not mean that everybody should be allowed to do what they want. Every religious faith says that you must do what God wants you to do and that this might differ from your own ideas. Progressive Christians don’t doubt about this. You cannot say or insinuate that progressive faith is less religious than conservative faith.