Beliefs And Practices In The Christian Religion

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Research Essay Outline - Beliefs and Practices in the Christian Religion

Christianity owes much of itself to the ideas of the Jewish faith. The Christian faith grew among the religion of the ancient Jews, and shared many of its beliefs and practices. Common themes, such as a belief in one God, a belief that God created humankind in his own image, and the idea that God would one day send a Messiah to Earth as his representative, are deeply rooted in both religions. Yet fundamental differences also exist between these faiths. In fact, the coming of Jesus the Messiah marks one of these greatest differences. "For Christians, the death and resurrection of Christ Began a new covenant, or agreement, between God and humankind, where salvation was possible through Christian love." Christianity, the radically different idea born out of the Jewish faith nearly 2000 years ago, has itself seen change and fragmentation. Modern Christianity has also seen its own division of thought. There are nearly 2 billion Christians in the world, belonging to three broad groupings "“ Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant "“ differing on points of doctrine and ritual. Further inspection of these faiths reveals additional differences in religious interpretation. From its early days, born from Judaism as a separate thread of religious thought, to its modern collection of various religious interpretations, Christianity is a faith of variety.

        The purpose of this discussion is to outline many of the core beliefs in the Christian faith, and to address their various interpretations. While some believers observe strict adherence to the wording of the bible, others have taken the liberty of broader interpretation of the meanings behind the words. Differences of opinion are wide and varied, and have changed continuously throughout time. Let us begin our discussion of these changes from the beginning "“ the concept of creation.

        What does the Christian faith say about creation "“ or the idea of the world's creation in six days "“ or the "The Fall" of Adam and Eve? First, we will discuss the Christian view about God's creation, the Earth, and human beings. Christians believe that God created the world and human beings in the image of himself to be the caretaker of all the living things that on Earth. Traditional Christian belief, in fact, follows the doctrine that God created all from nothing, and that there is a design and purpose to the Universe that we do not understand. Theodore Ludwig raises this point in his publication, "The Sacred Paths of the West". In it, he states:

        The Christian view of creation is succinctly summed up by Paul when he writes,         "From him [God] and through him and to him are all things; to him be glory         forever"

Today's modern scientific world, has presented enormous change and challenges to traditional Christian thought. Simple words from the Bible, once taken as literal truths came into question. Words and extraordinary stories from the Bible "“ like the story of Genesis "“ were accepted as truths in early days. Yet today, in the face of extraordinary scientific fact, modern Christians have begun interpreting different meanings from those same words and storie. Modern Christian thought focuses less on stories explaining "how the world works", and more on scripture supporting its reason for existence. Keith Ward's explains this in his book, "Christianity, A Short Introduction". In it he states:

        Scientists do think that the universe began, at the moment of the "Big Bang". But         the Christian doctrine of creation is not concerned with whether the universe         began or not. It just wants to say that, whether time began or whether it has         always existed, it depends for its existence on an eternal being, a being beyond the         limitations of time. That being is God, and we understand something very         important about God when we realise that God is eternal.

Keith Ward's explanation attempts to address the modern Christian view of not putting limits on, or attempting to explain God and his creation and in human terms. He wanted his readers to realize that Christians do not need a scientific proof God or his creation of Earth. Christian faith in God signifies a strong faith in his existence and that simply "being is God".

Next, let us discuss the question of physical creation, or more specifically the creation of the Earth. How do Christians today address this topic, and other topics such as the "the fall" of Adam and Eve and human sin? The first part of the question examines the accuracy of how many days God took to create the Earth. An explanation from "The Mac Arthur Student Bible, The New King James Version", clarifies the number of days it took God to make the world.

        2:2 ended"¦rested. On the seventh day of creation God rested "“ not due to         weariness but rather to establish the pattern for man's work cycle. God modeled         the ideal for man: six days of work followed by one day of rest. Later, God         ordained the Sabbath as a sacred day to set aside for worship and rest. In the New         Testament, the church began worshipping on the first day of the week (Sunday)         rather than on the last (Saturday) to commemorate the resurrection of Christ
        (Acts 20:7).

Since God created humans last, their task on Earth was to tend God's creation, but he also wanted humans to rest and worship on the seventh day. It is then clear that God created the world in the sixth day, and on the seventh day, God rested and oversaw his creation. Christians today observe Sunday as the seventh day to rest, and use this day to attend mass and worship.

But Christians also believed by not following the laws of God, humans will become astray. Since humans inherited the original sin from Adam and Eve, the only way to reach salvation is through God's teaching. This brings us to the next level of our discussion, how did "The Fall" of Adam and Eve relate to human sin. An explanation from "The Mac Arthur Student Bible the New King James Version", discussed how humans became affected from Adam and Eve's choices.

        The Bible makes it clear that the Fall brought sin into every subsequent person's         life: "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through         sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Roman 5:12). Our         capacity for sin is inborn. We are sinners before we have the opportunity to sin.         Not only are we sinners because we sin; we first sin because we are sinners.

The passage addressed the fall of Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Since they were, the first humans on Earth, the next generations inherited the consequences that they had chosen. I believed many Christians today recognized the loss of human innocence began during the fall of Adam and Eve when they defied the Lord. However, Christians are also aware that Adam and Eve was the beginning for humans to recognize their freedom to choose knowledge, to know the difference between right and wrong and to being able to redeem ourselves by confessing to God any evil inclination. As Theodore Ludwig discussed from "The Sacred Paths of the West" how Christians viewed sin as an inborn nature of humans.

        Most Christians today try to find ways of thinking about sin that do not blame our         sinfulness on Adam and Eve or on the devil "“ sin is something that belongs to our         own nature and we must take responsibility for it.

Theodore Ludwig's explains, Christians sees themselves as human beings who are not perfect with innate sins, whether an individual commits more sinful act than the other person, the punishment will all be the same. By taking responsibility of our own mistakes and repenting to God, humans will still have salvation with God. Keith Ward explained from his book, "Christianity a Short Introduction", discussed original sin is broken down in three points of view: Original sin as inherited, original sin as estrangement, and original sin as a necessary stage in evolution.

        Keith Ward described original sin or original guilt derived from the "fall" of Adam and Eve; it is the beginning and the loss of innocence for humans. From here, humans began to choose the egoism, and self-indulgence became the main appetite, God was no longer the centre of human's daily lives. As Keith Ward discussed from his book, "Christianity a Short Introduction" sheds some light on Christian's viewpoint about inherited sin. ""¦the doctrine of original guilt simply states the truth that all humans are born with fatally weakened wills, which would lead them to destruction if it were not for the forgiving grace of God" . This explanation of Christian principles about original sin being inborn shows that humans are capable in destroying the world if their faith in God was not present. Without the teachings from Jesus about a loving and forgiving God, humans will not have a sense of direction, egoism would become the centre of human lives.

        The second view of sin expresses original sin as a separation from God. Keith Ward discussed this notion in his book "Christianity a Short Introduction", explains when humans choose self-centeredness rather than God, and as humans populate the Earth, egoism becomes the centre of human lives, therefore, this characteristic of humans become passed on to the next generations.

        "Original sin" is the state of estrangement from God and weakness of will, which         is caused by the failure of early hominids to grow morally as they should have         done. Now it is almost impossible to realize the proper goal of human life, since         each human life is part of a society ruled by greed, hatred and desire.

The quote explains how humans had become so absorbed with themselves that God's teaching was no longer in their minds. Christians believed the separation from God does not only include forgetting to worship God, or being egotistical. Theodore Ludwig discussed from the Sacred Paths of the West, "All members, faculties, hearts, minds, wills, and whatever it is that makes humans what they are, all share in the sinful nature" .
As a result, Christians believed that to be truly one with God, humans must accept the teachings of God with their entire heart and soul because he is the lifeline for everything on Earth. Lastly, Keith Ward explained original sin as a necessary stage in evolution. With this in mind, the sin which humans inherited from Adam and Eve is inescapable. Christians believed that humans are not perfect, but by following the laws from God and applying his teachings to their daily lives, God will bring salvations. Keith Ward points out why it is necessary for humans to sin in his book, "Christianity, a Short Introduction"

        However, because of their evolutionary past, humans do exist in societies in         which         egoism and conflict are inevitable, so that a society of perfect compassion         and co-        operation is impossible. There is a necessary moral imperfection and a         lack of         God-consciousness in human society. This could be called "original sin".         It is not due to something that happened in the past, but it is the present condition         of being alienated from God.

Keith Ward's explanation that humans cannot break away from self-centeredness that had been passed on from generations. This is expected because human's free will would be alienated if humans stopped feeding their desires on Earth, these needs such as wealth, power, status, alcohols or sex . Christians believed that all these are acceptable just as long as God is not forgotten, since God is the only savior and the salvation. Theodore Ludwig also addressed in "The Sacred Paths of the West", why every human being sin and, why quantity of sinful act does not matter. Christians believed that God would save every human being if they repent and remembered his teachings. Another insight, which Theodore Ludwig discussed from "The Sacred Paths of the West", was how Christians perceived the punishment if humans disobeyed the Lord.

        However, Christians use the image of "death" to refer to the separation and         estrangement from God that sin causes. Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden;         people, by worshiping themselves instead of God, separate themselves from the         source of all life and love and wholeness. Cutting the lifeline to God "“ which is         what sin does means spiritual death.

Theodore Ludwig describes how Christians perceive death as either a reunion with God or a never-ending death and punishment. With this in mind, Christians understanding the connection of God into their lives allows them to enjoy the pleasures in life on Earth. By being thankful to God and remembering that without God the abundance of wealth, or good health would not be possible. Christian's perception of sin and their link with God portrays a parental figure that will always be their guidance in life. However, by choosing to sin and not repent the consequences would be a brake away from God. Yet, if humans choose the path of salvation, death becomes a spiritual experience, rather than a bleak path.

        This leads us to the next section on Christian's perception about evil. This notion
can be discussed by focusing on Keith Wards' book "Christianity a Short Introduction". He explained how the medieval Christian Theologians justify God's creation, and how it is linked to human beings evil deeds..

        Medieval theologians put this by saying that evil is the privation of good. They         did not mean that evil does not exist at all. They meant that it is an absence of         good, something parasitic on good, though perhaps a necessary side-effect of         good.

So with evil existing as a part of life, it explains the human hardship when evil inclination is the path that humans choose. The Medieval Christians saw evil as an attribute that humans had, but could not be cured because it is inborn. They also noticed that the opposite of something evil could be good if humans decide to follow the path of salvation. Therefore, Christians faith in God allowed them to repent and by knowing that God would not abandoned them the evil part of humans will always be forgiven. Therefore, human's free will allowed them to pursue either the good inclination or evil inclination. Keith Ward discussed three main points in how Christianity responds to the notion of evil from his book "Christianity a Short Introduction".

        A robust statement of this view would be that God creates weal and woe, light and         darkness (Isaiah 45:7), but God wills that good should triumph, and that we         should fight evil by uniting ourselves to God's positive will for the triumph of         good.


In relation to the quote above, the notion of evil can be stopped if humans allow the good deeds of people to show, rather than the acts of evil deeds. Since God created everything on Earth for the humans to thrive and be nourish, humans also have an obligation to treat God's creation with respect and dignity. Moreover, in order for evil to be defeated, Christians believed the teachings from God and applying it to their daily lives, humans can be saved from evil destruction. Keith Ward goes on to explain in his book, "Christianity a Short Introduction", God cannot control every evil inclination that human beings incur on themselves or in Earth, and he calls this view as the autonomy of matter.

        There are elements of chaos or of freedom in any finite cosmos which even God         cannot simply eliminate. God is the most powerful being, but even such a being         cannot simply control the wills of all the finite beings that exist. God must seek         to persuade or influence, rather than completely control.

The passage above clarifies the free will of human being, since God has the power to control or destroy what he had created. God allowed humans to experience his creations without limitations. For Christians knowing that God's role on Earth as the parental guidance, it is easier for Christians to accept evil deeds are a part of human attributes that can be defeated. Lastly, Keith Ward discussed the misuse of freedom, this point of view relates to how humans choose the pleasures of the materialistic world and disobeying the teachings from God.

        Some Christians think that God created spiritual beings "“ angels "“ some of which         chose to put themselves before God. Under their leader, Satan, these "fallen         angels" control parts of creation, and are responsible for many of its destructive         aspects. Other Christians, however, regard talk of Satan as a metaphor for those         propensities to egoism and pride which are built into the nature of emergent         persons, and become constant temptations to evil I the lives of human beings.

The first part of the quotation explains how humans like to find an escape goat for their evil deeds. Since Satan was the main culprit to expel Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, he also became the perpetrator for humans when they exercise their evil deeds, whether to themselves or to someone else. Other Christians do not blame anyone except themselves when evil actions take over. I believed other Christians acknowledge their mistakes and repent to God, their faith in God allows them to live freely and not abuse their freedom. By understanding, the cause and effect of evil inclination, and by accepting ones mistakes and repenting to God, evil can be conquer.

        Our next section deals with Christian's belief in Salvation or a chance to "save" themselves from the sins they have committed. By applying God's words into their lives this is the first part of reaching the path to salvation. Christians also believed by not allowing the materialistic part on Earth, or status in society as the focal point in life, humans can attain infinite pleasure and spiritual death with God. Therefore, Christians distinguish Jesus as their main savior in reaching nirvana. Theodore Ludwig discussed from "The Sacred Paths of the West", "Christians believed that God was also at work through Jesus Christ to bring salvation for all peoples." Christians strongly believed Jesus was the messiah who would lead them closer to God, by remembering Jesus as the person who was the son of God, who had died for the sins of man; Jesus would become the Christians main guidance. Theodore Ludwig explains from "The Sacred Paths of the West", that Christians believed God manifested through Jesus and he endured the sins of the world as well.

        But the Christian good news is that God took these consequences on Godself in         Jesus Christ, replacing the demand and punishment of the law with the power of         love. That means God's love must be a suffering love; God suffers for the sins of         the world in the servant, Jesus Christ. It is God's love that does not allow giving         up humankind to judgment and condemnation.
        
Christian's insight that God continuously provide humans the guidance by choosing a prophet to lead the people on Earth. The image of God being the loving parental, who would never abandon her children, Christian's faith in God becomes stronger. The quotation also addressed that God will not allow humans to suffer, and that God would not condemned humans who disobey, just as long as they repent on Earth.

        The last section will focus on Christian's beliefs about heaven, hell and judgment day. Many Christians have different interpretations about the life after death, whether who will go to heaven or hell. However, Christian's notion of heaven and hell can be explain in a literal interpretation or metaphorically. Either way Christians sees themselves uniting with God. We will be focusing on Keith Ward's book, "Christianity a Short Introduction" on how Christians view the life after death. The first interpretation explains how Protestant's point of view about judgment day.

        At the Day of Judgment, all the dead will rise from their graves, in bodies which         have been resurrected by God, and will face the judgment of God on their deeds.         The evil will be cast into the fires of Hell, where they will exist for ever in         torment.

The first part of the quotation addressed what happens when God will judge the faith of humans. The literal interpretation portrays an image of a torturing path for anyone who continues to sin. With this illustration, Protestant congregation can have a better picture of what happens to people who do not obey the Lord. The idea of "fires of Hell" reveals a disturbing outcome after death. Protestants literal interpretation of Hell, consuming humans in heat and flame, gives worshippers the image that God will not tolerate those who continuously choose the path of sinful acts. On the other hand, Christians believed God would show mercy to the people even to those who committed evil deeds, because they had repented their sins on Earth.

        The good, or those who have faith in Christ, will be members of a newly         refashioned Heaven and Earth, where there is no sea and where it is always day,         and there they will live for ever in the joy on the presence of God.

This representation of what happens to humans who have lived a godlike life on Earth will be rewarded, by being with God forever. Moreover, Christian's interpretation of this bliss place encourages their life on Earth to thrive as good people and follow the teachings and the laws of God. Having this literal image of a harmonious place with God allows Christians faith to have a loving relationship with families, friends and neighbors. By remembering Jesus' teaching on Earth, judgment day would become a reunion with their teacher and God. Theodore Ludwig indicates that Christian's rituals allow them to remember Jesus' teaching within their community.

        Hearing the word of the gospel is a reminder over and over of the story of Christ         that has become each Christian's story. Sharing in the Eucharist (Lord's Supper)         is a concrete experience of being united with Christ through this sacred meal.         And prayer in the name of Christ keeps the new relationship with God alive and         well. Christians speak of these practices as the "means of grace," believing that         as one participates in them, the Holy Spirit is at work in her heart, continually         transforming her sinful nature so her faith and love become more perfect.

Theodore Ludwig addressed the many practices that Christians believe to be a way of being closer to God. These practices allow them to believe the parables in the Bible and act as a reminder that God exist in their daily lives. Having this idea of how rewarding the "grace" from God when one partakes in these rituals the thought of heaven becomes a much clearer picture to look forward too. By accepting God through the teachings of Jesus, their life on Earth is also being cleansed form the original sins that humans inherited from their ancestors.. Therefore, the idea of heaven and happiness with God, becomes a motivation for humans to implement the goodness of human kindness to one another and to one self.

        The last part of our discussion deals with the metaphoric representation of heaven, hell and judgment day, Keith Ward explains from his book, "Christianity, A Short Introduction," Medieval Christians provided illustrations of what happens after death and judgment day.
        
        For many Christians, the medieval painting show precisely what the status of         Biblical language about life after death is "“ it is a series of pictures or         metaphorical images whose primary function is to shape the Christian         imagination.

Having pictures to show humans the outcome after the judgment day, people who were illiterate became aware of Christians faith, just by listening to the parables or looking at the pictures. Moreover, Christianity wanted the medieval people to believe that having faith in God would bring salvation, and by following Jesus' teaching, they would save them from the gates of hell. With the images of suffering in the fires of hell Christianity had shown a way to make, people realized that evil deeds are a serious crime, and by not repenting to God, the punishment is even worse. Therefore, having a literal explanation about heaven and hell provides Christians an in depth understanding of what God expects from them, in return humans will become reunited with God. With the pictorial being available and symbolizing the life after death, humans will have a visual image of what heaven may look like, or it may show the grotesque pictures of hell. Either way, Christian's point of view wanted everyone to understand that what ever path humans take, every individual have a free will to choose the path of salvation or eternal suffering.

        In conclusion, the interpretation of Christian beliefs is both wide and varied. Christianity is the largest faith in the world having nearly two billion followers. There are differences in modern beliefs and practices that make some Christian churches seem like different faiths altogether. Yet there are nevertheless central beliefs that bind them. The most basic belief is that the universe was created by a single, powerful being. Keith Ward explains this eloquently by concluding:
        
        "The universe thus has a purpose for its existence; it is not just an accident. This         purpose has been made known on the planet Earth in and through the life and         teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, and the purpose can ultimately be achieved by         human beings who follow that life and teaching"

By understanding Christian's perception about God, one can explain their devotion in following a good life. By keeping in mind the stories of creation, sin, evil, and salvation to heaven and hell, from the Bible which is now the main scriptures that is followed, the scripture provides them a clearer view on how to perceive life on Earth. Also, being aware to the consequences of sin and evil deeds allows every Christians the opportunity to repent their sins on Earth. Since the interpretation of judgment day explains the time when God will determine the faith of the humans after death. Christians believed that heaven and hell can be explained in literally or picture interpretation. With these resources, humans were given the knowledge to choose between good inclination and, evil inclination, it is up to every individual to choose the path that would allow them to exercise their freedom to live.
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