Christianity – What is it?
The foundational teachings from the Bible that have been traditionally held for the last 2000 years to define Christianity are as follows:
- There is only one true sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons–Father, Son and Holy Spirit–with each being fully God and with characteristics of personality.
- Man was originally created in the image of God; however he “sinned” by disobeying God.
- God’s penalty or judgment against man for his “sin” was death of man’s spirit and physical body.
- God’s Spirit communicates with man through man’s spirit. Because man’s spirit is dead because of sin; he is totally alienated/separated from God and cannot communicate with God.
- God chose to restore man to God by Jesus Christ.
- Jesus Christ being God, physically came to earth being conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary; while on earth He was fully God and fully man.
- Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and voluntarily took God’s punishment for the sins of man by dying on the cross as a substitute for man. Jesus Christ took the punishment of death, thus satisfying (paying the penalty) God’s judgment on Man.
- Three days after his death, Jesus Christ rose from the dead in the same body, though glorified, in which He lived and died.
- By an act of God’s unmerited favor on man, and not because of anything man does relating to works of goodness or religious ceremony, God assigns/imputes/imparts His righteousness (sinlessness, rightness, or pureness) to those who believe in Christ’s death alone for their salvation.
- God places His Holy Spirit to live in those who believe in Christ’s death for their salvation making them spiritually alive.
- At physical death the believer’s spirit enters into eternal, conscious fellowship with the Lord and awaits the resurrection of his body to everlasting glory and blessing.
- At physical death the unbeliever’s spirit enters into eternal, conscious separation from the Lord and awaits the resurrection of his body to everlasting judgment and condemnation.
- Jesus Christ will come again to the earth–personally, visibly and bodily–to consummate history and the eternal plan of God.
What is Christianity? What is it to be a Christian?
This would appear on the surface to be a straight-forward reasonably easy question to answer. However, the reality is that there are a lot of opinions in the world about “Christianity”. These varying opinions have contributed to the creation of divisions, sects, or denominations with the organized “Christian” religion.
If you ask ten people who follow the Christian faith to recite or describe, the basic doctrines of “Christianity” you will get similar, but different, responses. The variations that occur in their responses are not unique to the Christian faith. Similarly, people of other faiths are also often not united in their core doctrines. However, Christians in the west (and especially North America) do appear to have more diverse opinions on matters of their faith that their counterparts in the east.
If core beliefs above are traditionally held by the majority of those who would call themselves a Christian, then why the divisions within the Christian Religion? The division often occur as man rationalizes in some fashion those scriptures that are difficult for him to accept; his product of rationalization often leads him into a camp of belief (or dis-belief) of like-minded individuals.
So the question that we to wrestle with is: “Is the Bible anything more than just a collection of stories? Are the accounts of this God and Jesus true?”.
To provide some insight into this diversity of ideals, we must first consider the Bible, which has been traditionally considered to be the only single authoritative Christian scripture. Most Christians believe that the Bible was written by God through the hands of man and to be entirely without error (i.e., God told the scribes exactly what to write.) The following passage from the Bible is often presented as a proof text: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness that the man of God may be adequate, fully equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Several other passages express similar thoughts:
- Matthew 24:35
- Isaiah 40:8
- Hebrews 4:12
The Bible – Differing of Opinions
How can scholarly, or reasonably educated, people read the Bible (the Christian scriptures) and obtain different views of what has been written? Are the words of the Bible that contain the ideals and concepts that define and describe Christianity that ambiguous, confusing, or difficult to understand?
The ANSWER is NO. The Bible, although not a simple read, is not for the most part ambiguous, or tremendously difficult to understand.
The Bible – The Conflict Within
The problem that people have with the Bible is not an issue of trying to decipher or untangle difficult or mysterious passages in order to understand what the words and accounts of the Bible “really” mean. The problem arises when what is within the Bible is in direct conflict with human reason, human understanding, or human wisdom.
The Bible – Dismissal
Man attempts to resolve those conflicts that may occur with his reason by:
- Dismissing the Bible to be nothing more than a collection of mostly fictions stories written by man (not God).
- Determining that the Bible is not a “holy” book at all and has no more special significance than other mere books from antiquity.
- That the Bible at one time may have been “holy” scriptures, but through the multiple copying and translations, revisions and errors have been introduced into the Bible and it no longer accurately represents the original autographs.
The Bible – Man’s Rationalization and Rejection
Alternately, those who would consider themselves “Christian” usually attempt to resolve those portions of the Bible that cause internal conflicts by:
- Rationalizing the particular troublesome requirements of the scripture away. Often this is done by stating that this or that particular portion of scripture only applies to a certain group of people that lived in a particular period of time, but does not apply to mankind today.
- Choosing to disbelieve that portion of the scripture to be true and accurate.
- Re-interrupting the plain and clear understanding of the passage and twisting its meaning to a form or interruption that is more palatable.
- Agree that the Bible is true and applicable to them, but willfully reject its teaching and the demand it requires believing that the benefit of rejecting the Bible’s demands are better than complying with its teachings.
The Bible – Man’s Only Truly Correct Response
When the Bible, or portions of the Bible, are read or heard and a conflict is created within the mind of the reader, the reader MUST NOT chooses to resolve this internal conflict by one of the methods above.
The reader’s mind and thoughts about a subject MUST BE altered, brought into subjection to, and slavery to the clear teaching of the Bible and thus re-align themselves with the teachings of the Bible – this unfortunately is rare.