Stained Glass

Christianity

History:

Jesus of Nazareth was born as a Jew in about 7 B.C. and began a life of public service after his 30th birthday in the city of Galilee. Christian holy texts describe that Jesus was a teacher, miracle worker, and public speaker. He spoke to communities within the Roman Empire about the kingdom of the Abrahamic God, and determined the requirements to participate in the kingdom of God. He discussed changing people’s hearts, repentance of sins, justice, and a love of God and fellow human beings. In 30 A.D. he was executed on a cross in Jerusalem as punishment from the Roman Empire. 

After his death, his wide body of followers started believing that he was the Messiah that was foretold in Jewish tradition. Christian holy texts retain an account of Jesus rising from the dead. After, one of Jesus’ followers, Paul, spread the word about this new faith within his missionary travels. This caused Christianity to form from Judaism, claiming that Jesus fulfilled promises that were granted in Hebrew scriptures, commonly referencing the book of Isaiah.

Within the first two centuries, Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and developed a concrete church system. This included doctrine, liturgy, and ministry. By the fourth century, it had spread across Europe to Spain, Persia, and India. Christians suffered multiple large massacres from the Roman Empire, but eventually Christianity was deemed the official religion of Rome by Theodosius in 380. 

A standard Christian creed was adopted in the 300s by ecumenical councils. This was to determine the ideas about which scriptures would be accepted into the canonical Bible, whether Jesus was both divine and human, and the overall Christian perspective about the Trinity (an idea that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are the same entity). 

The church was broken apart in 1054 into Christians of the East and West, forming the Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople and the Roman Catholic Church in the West. In 1517, the Reformation began with people who didn’t agree with certain practices within the Roman church. This ended up forming the Protestant denominations of Christianity, including denominations such as Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed, Methodist, and Anglican churches. 

Since then, Christianity has spread through missionary work to most of the world. It is currently the world’s largest religion, with over 2 billion followers.

Beliefs:

 

Although specific beliefs differ between denominations, most Christians agree with several fundamental principles that distinguish them from other Abrahamic faiths. They believe in one omnipresent, omniscient, all-powerful God, which is the god of the Abrahamic faiths. They believe that God is timeless and eternal, and that he created everything in the universe.

 

Many Christians also speak about the Trinity. This is the belief that their god is made up of three distinct parts within one singular entity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or ghost). Christians believe that Jesus was God taking a human form, and that after Jesus returned to heaven after his resurrection, God sent the Holy Spirit into the world to guide humanity. Christians also believe that Jesus was born through the virgin Mary and is the son of God. They believe that when Jesus was executed, he rose from the dead and therefore provided redemption for everybody’s sins if they repent to God.

Christians also believe in an apocalypse that is known as Judgment Day. They believe that during this time, God will judge the righteous from the unrighteous to determine who will inherit the kingdom of God. Everybody is subjected to an afterlife in Christianity, and Christians also believe in a universal church, although this church has been separated into many different denominations.

The standard that most Christian denominations use as a basic summary of Christian beliefs is the Apostle’s Creed. 

Practices:

Practices differ amongst denominations, but most Christians believe in communal worship in churches. Within these churches, practices may include baptism, the Eucharist (Communion or the Lord’s Supper), prayer, confession, confirmation, burial rites, marriage rites, and the religious education of children. Most churches have ordained clergy who lead church services. Usually they are approved and appointed within the denomination. Pastors or priests are usually the head of a specific congregation and most have attended seminary school.

In the 2nd century, communal worship was deemed appropriate, and so Christians worship on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar each week, since this is the day of resurrection. Although it contains a similar message to the Jewish Shabbat (Sabbath), Christians practice this one day later than Shabbat. On Sundays, most Christians will go to their church, where a service is presented by clergy members. Most services will contain worship music, usually in the form of hymns that differ by denomination, communal prayer, and a message from the leading member of the church regarding life as a Christian. This usually includes reading scripture from the Old or New Testament of the Bible.

Most churches incorporate the Eucharist into their services. This is a representation of the Last Supper that Jesus ate with his followers on the Jewish holiday of Passover before his death. Christians will consume flatbread or crackers and wine or grape juice to represent the bread and wine that Jesus consumed during his last meal. This is done to remember Jesus and obtain unity with him. Eucharist practices differ based on denominations, as some denominations offer it to all service attendants, and some churches only offer it to those who are members of their church. 

Another important practice to Christians is baptism. This usually determines that somebody is an official follower of Christ, and some denominations believe that baptism is necessary to inherit the kingdom of God after death. Other denominations believe that it strengthens a person’s bond with God, or that it is a symbolic act. It usually consists of a person either being sprinkled with water or fully immersed in water by a clergy member. 

Scriptures:

 

The holy texts of Christianity consist of the Old Testament, containing the Hebrew Bible that is used in Judaism, and the New Testament, which features stories about the life of Jesus and his followers after his death. Christians believe that these books are inspired by God and that God worked through human authors to produce the ideas that God wished to communicate with humanity.

Some denominations, such as Catholicism, include additional books within the Bible that are not part of the traditionally-accepted canon. All Bibles include the Tanakh, but Catholics include the deuterocanonical books from the Septuagint that Protestants deem to be apocrypha. The Bible also includes four books which are known as the Gospel in the beginning of the New Testament, which detail Jesus’ life. 

The books of the Bible vary in content. Some contain historical texts, while others contain letters, poetry, or songs. The authorship of most books of the Bible are contested to this day. 

Churches:

 

Christians worship in churches. This can take many forms depending on the denomination that a Christian is a member of. A church is usually made up of clergy members who run the church and members of the local community. They gather together throughout the week, but usually on Sundays, to worship together. Many churches will contain an altar, but otherwise, the extravagance of a church’s architecture varies significantly. 

Christian churches are divided into denominations based on differing beliefs. Although there are dozens of denominations, the four primary divisions of Christianity are the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. The Catholic Church makes up the largest group of Christians. These denominations are a result of schisms that have occurred within the church and a difference in beliefs. Denominations can even disagree about their fundamental interpretations of Christianity, practices, liturgy, and doctrines, although all Christian denominations seem to agree on the Nicene Creed and its contents.