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.

Church

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

the teachings of the Church

The ideal teachings of the Church as an eternal expression of divine law into human language.

denomination

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

confession

Another word sometimes used for denomination.

Each denomination, by definition, assumes to represent the whole Church. On the other hand they all –more or less– try to reconcile with other denominations and acknowledge them as being part of the Church.

Most Christians agree that the Bible is the one and only authoritative source that defines Christianity.

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

Are there two opponent camps of Christianity?

post-modern

A label given by traditionalist Christians to their progressive

A biblical definition “Post-modern Christianity is just as difficult to lock down in a concise definition as post-modernism itself. (…) The Church didn’t really feel this effect until the 1990s. This reaction was a dissolution of “cold, hard fact” in favor of “warm, fuzzy subjectivity.” Think of anything considered post-modern, then stick Christianity into that context and you have a glimpse of what post-modern Christianity is. Post-modern Christianity falls into line with basic post-modernist thinking. It is about experience over reason, subjectivity over objectivity, spirituality over religion, images over words, outward over inward. Are these things good? Sure. Are these things bad? Sure. It all depends on how far from biblical truth each reaction against modernity takes one’s faith.” https://www.gotquestions.org/post-modern-Christianity.html

traditional

Who acknowledges the value of traditions. All Christians are more or less traditional by definition.

traditionalist

Who sees Christian tradition as divine law and consequently refuses to change them.

conservative

Who wants to conserve the teachings of the Church as they have always been.

progressive

Who wants the teachings of the Church to

progressivist

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

The two opponent camps of Christianity?

conservative

progressive

Scripture-based

Reality-based

justice

mercy

Same rules for everybody. Equality.

“Love and do as you will”. Liberty.

We are God’s soldiers

We are God’s witnesses

militant, proselytizing, intrusive, elitist

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 trust and tolerate.

Those who believe in Jesus will be saved.

Jesus can save each human.

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

God is natural. Science is a valuable tool and God wants us to use it. God does not act against natural laws. A miracle is something that we cannot explain because we don’t know everything about nature.

Progressive versus conservative

Some authors would add “traditional” on the left side and “modern” or “postmodern” on the right side. But these formulations are misleading.

As a progressive Christian, I care very much about traditions; that’s why I see the need to change some of them.

and there are modern Christians with very traditional teachings.

Same remark for “liberal”. Preferring the right side does not mean that you believe you can do what you want (because it is often difficult to differentiate between love and proud egoism)