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A beginner’s guide to Christianity

Christianity

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

Every other religion was founded by somebody, by a prophet or a sage or a figure, who came and said “Here is the way to find God”. Only Christianity was founded by a man who said “I am God coming to find you”. – Tim Keller (in The Gospel-Shaped Life)

Christianity is a big country. Without a map and a compass you can easily get lost.

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, including the Roman Catholic church, have a tendency to claim representing 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.

In Christianity, as in every group, it is easy to observe different groups of people holding up the Bible and citing it as a proof for why the other group is wrong. See also About controversial questions.

Types of Christian faith cultures

Controversial questions for Christians

Justice. Responsibility. Equality. Same rules for everybody.

Mercy. Liberty. “Love and do as you will”.

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.

Misleading comparisons

The opposite of “progressive” is not “traditional” but “conservative”.

You cannot say that progressive people don’t care about traditions. Somebody with progressive faith may want to change some tradition just because they care about it.

Some authors differentiate “traditional” from “progressive” (or “modern”, or “post-modern”).

Some authors designate progressive faith as “liberal”. That’s an 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.

See also