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Christianity is a monotheistic[1] religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in the New Testament.[2] Christians believe Jesus to be the Son of God and the Messiah Bible prophecy in the Old Testament. With an estimated 2.1 billion adherents in 2001, Christianity is the major religious groups.[3] It is the predominant religion in Europe, the Americas, Southern Africa, the Philippines and Oceania.[4] It is also growing rapidly in Asia, particularly in Christianity in China and Christianity in Korea.[5]

Christianity shares its origins and many religious texts with Judaism, specifically the Tanakh, known to Christians as the Old Testament.[6] Like Judaism and Islam, Christianity is classified as an Abrahamic religion (see also, Judeo-Christian).[7][8]

The name "Christian" (Greek language Template:Polytonic Strong's G5546), meaning "belonging to Christ" or "partisan of Christ",[9] was first applied to the Disciple (Christianity) in Antioch, as recorded in Template:Nkjv.[10] The earliest recorded use of the term "Christianity" (Greek Template:Polytonic) is by Ignatius of Antioch.[11] Template:TOChidden


A depiction of Jesus and Mary, the Theotokos of Vladimir (12th century)

Although Christianity has always had a significant diversity of belief, mainstream Christianity considers certain core doctrines essential.

Jesus Christ

Main article: Jesus

As indicated by the name "Christianity", the focus of Christian theology is a belief in Jesus as the Messiah or Christ. The title "Messiah" comes from the Hebrew language word מָשִׁיחַ (māšiáħ) meaning "the anointed one" or "King." The Greek translation Template:Polytonic (Christos) is the source of the English word Christ (title).

Christians believe that, as the Messiah, Jesus was anointed as ruler and savior of humanity, and hold that Jesus's coming was the fulfilment of Messianic prophecies of Jesus of the Old Testament. The Christian concept of the Messiah differs significantly from Jewish Messiah.[12] The core Christian belief is that, through Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the perfect Son of God, mankind is reconciled to God and thereby attains salvation by grace and the promise of Immortality to all who trust in Christ. The need for salvation was caused by original sin.

While there have been theological disputes over the nature of Jesus, most Christians believe that Jesus is Incarnation (Christianity) and "Hypostatic union" (or both fully divine and fully human). Jesus, Incarnation (Christianity) in all respects, including the aspect of death, suffered the pains and temptations of mortal man, yet he did not sin. As fully God, he defeated death and rose to life again. According to the Bible, "God raised him from the dead",[13] he Ascension, to the "right hand of God",[14] and will Second Coming[15] to fulfil the rest of Messianic prophecy such as the Resurrection of the dead, the Last Judgment and establishment of the Kingdom of God (See also Messianism and Messianic Age).

According to the Gospels, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and Nativity of Jesus from the Mary (mother of Jesus). Little of Jesus' childhood is recorded in the Gospels compared to his adulthood, especially the week before his death. The Biblical accounts of Jesus' ministry include Baptism of Jesus, Miracles attributed to Jesus, Ministry of Jesus.

Death and Resurrection

File:Cristo Velázquez lou2.jpg
The Crucifixion by Diego Velázquez (17th Century)

Most Christians consider the death of Jesus, followed by his resurrection, the cornerstone of their faith[16] and the most important event in history.[17]

According to the Gospels, Jesus and his followers went to Jerusalem the week of the Passover where they were triumphal entry by a crowd. In Jerusalem, Jesus Jesus and the Money Changers,[18] and predicted its destruction[19] - heightening conflict with the Jewish authorities who were plotting his death.[20]

After sharing his Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane where he was betrayed by his disciple Judas Iscariot and Arrest of Jesus by the temple guard on orders from the Sanhedrin and the high priest Caiaphas. Jesus was Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus of blasphemy and transferred to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who had him crucified for inciting rebellion. Jesus died by late afternoon and was entombed.

Christians believe that God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day, that Jesus appeared to his apostles and other disciples, Great Commission his disciples to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them In the Name of the Father and of the Son (Jesus) and of the Holy Spirit."[21] and Ascension to heaven. Christians also believe that God sent the disciples the Holy Spirit (or Paraclete).[22]


Main article: Salvation

Christians believe salvation is a gift by Divine grace, who sent Jesus as the savior. Christians believe that through faith in Jesus one can be saved from sin and spiritual death. The crucifixion of Jesus is explained as an Atonement Sacrifice#Sacrifice in Christianity, which, in the words of the Gospel of John, "takes away the sins of the world". Reception of salvation is related to justification (theology).[23]

The operation and effects of grace are understood differently by different traditions. Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy teach the necessity of the free will to cooperate with grace.[24] Reformed theology places distinctive emphasis on grace by teaching that mankind is completely total depravity, but the grace of God overcomes Irresistible grace.[25]

The Trinity

Main article: Trinity
File:Andrej Rublëv 001.jpg
The Hospitality of Abraham by Andrei Rublev: The three angels represent the three persons of God

Most Christians believe that God is spirit (John 4:24), an uncreated, Omnipotence and eternal being, the creator and sustainer of all things, who works the redemption of the world through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Against this background, belief in the Christology and the Holy Spirit was expressed as the doctrine of the Holy Trinity,[26], which describes the single Divine Ousia existing as three distinct and inseparable persons: the God the Father, the Son (Jesus the Jesus Christ the Logos), and the Holy Spirit. According to the doctrine, God is not divided in the sense that each person has a third of the whole; rather, each person is considered to be fully God (see Perichoresis). The distinction lies in their relations, the Father being unbegotten, the Son begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeding.[27] "Begotten", in these formulae, does not refer to Mary's conceiving Jesus, but to the Son's relationship to the Father, which is described as being "eternally begotten" of the Father.

Trinitarian Christian also conceive of salvation as one work of the triune God, in which "the three divine persons act together as one, and manifest their own proper characteristics."[28]

Trinitarian Christians trace the orthodox formula of the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — back to the resurrected Jesus himself, who used this phrase in the Great Commission (Template:Bverse).

Most Christians believe the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures,[29] and that his active participation in a believer's life (even to the extent of "indwelling" within the believer), joining the believer's free actions with his own, is essential to living a Christian life.[30] In Catholic, Orthodox, and some Anglican theology, this indwelling is received through the sacrament called Confirmation (sacrament) or, in the East, Chrismation. Most Protestant traditions teach that the gift of the Holy Spirit is symbolized by baptism; however some (Baptists and comparable groups) do not attribute any sacramental significance to baptism. Pentecostal and Charismatic Protestants believe the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a distinct experience separate from other experiences like conversion or water baptism, and many Pentecostals believe it will always—or at least usually—be evident through glossolalia (speaking in tongues).


Main article: Nontrinitarianism

In antiquity, and again following the Reformation, several sects advocated views contrary to the Trinity. These views were rejected by many bishops such as Irenaeus and subsequently by the Ecumenical Councils. During the Reformation, though most Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants accepted the value of many of the Councils, some groups rejected these councils as spiritually tainted.[31] Clement Ziegler, Casper Schwenckfeld, and Melchior Hoffman advanced the view that Christ was only divine and not human. Michael Servetus denied the divinity of Christ, as did others who were tried at Augsburg in 1527.[32]

Modalists, such as Oneness Pentecostals, regard God as a single person, with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit considered modes or roles by which the unipersonal God expresses himself.[33]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accept the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but deny that they are the same being, believing them to be separate beings united only in will and purpose.[34] (see Godhead (Latter Day Saints))

Present day groups who do not consider Jesus to be God include Unitarianism,[35] descendants of Reformation era Socinianism and Jehovah's Witnesses.[36]


Main article: Bible

Christianity regards the Bible, a collection of Biblical canon books in two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament, as authoritative: written by human authors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and therefore Biblical inerrancy.[37] Protestants believe that the scriptures contain all Revelation necessary for salvation (See Sola scriptura).[38]

The Old Testament contains the entire Jewish Tanakh, though in the Christian canon the books are ordered differently and some books of the Tanakh are divided into several books by the Christian canon. The Catholic and Orthodox canons include the Hebrew Jewish canon and other books (from the Septuagint Greek Jewish canon) which Catholics call Deuterocanonical books, while Protestants consider them Biblical apocrypha.[39]

The first four books of the New Testament are the Gospels (Gospel of Matthew, Gospel of Mark, Gospel of Luke and Gospel of John), which recount the life and teachings of Jesus. The first three are often called Synoptic Gospels because of the amount of material they share. The rest of the New Testament consists of a sequel to Luke's Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles, which describes the very early history of the Church, a collection of letters from early Christian leaders to congregations or individuals, the Pauline epistles and General epistles, and the Apocalyptic literature Book of Revelation.[39]

Some traditions maintain other Religious text. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church maintains two canons, the Narrow Canon, itself larger than any Biblical canon outside Ethiopia, and the Broad Canon, which has even more books.[40]The Latter-day Saints hold the Bible and three additional books to be the inspired word of God: the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price (Mormonism).[41]


Though Christians largely agree on the content of the Bible, there is significant divergence in its interpretation, or exegesis. In antiquity, two schools of exegesis developed in Alexandria and School of Antioch. Alexandrine interpretation, exemplified by Origen, tended to read Scripture allegorically, while Antiochene interpretation adhered to the literal sense, holding that other meanings (called theoria) could only be accepted if based on the literal meaning.[42]

Catholic theology distinguishes two senses of scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral, and Anagoge senses. The literal sense is "the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation." The allegorical sense includes Typology (theology), for example the Passage of the Red Sea is seen as a "type" of or sign of baptism;[43] the moral sense contains ethical teaching; the anagogical sense includes eschatology and applies to eternity and the Apocalypse.[44] Catholic theology also adds other rules of interpretation, which include the injunction that all other senses of sacred scripture are based on the literal,[45] that the historicity of the Gospels must be absolutely and constantly held,[46] that scripture must be read within the "living Tradition of the whole Church",[47] and that "the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome."[48]

Many Protestants stress the literal sense or historical-grammatical method,[49] even to the extent of rejecting other senses altogether. Martin Luther advocated "one definite and simple understanding of Scripture".[50] Other Protestant interpreters make use of typology.[51] Protestants characteristically believe that ordinary believers may reach an adequate understanding of Scripture because Scripture itself is clear (or "perspicuous"), because of the help of the Holy Spirit, or both. Martin Luther believed that without God's help Scripture would be "enveloped in darkness",[50] but John Calvin wrote, "all who refuse not to follow the Holy Spirit as their guide, find in the Scripture a clear light."[52] The Helvetic Confessions said, "we hold that interpretation of the Scripture to be orthodox and genuine which is gleaned from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set down, and expounded in the light of like and unlike passages and of many and clearer passages)." The writings of the Church Fathers, and decisions of Ecumenical Councils, though "not despise[d]", were not authoritative and could be rejected.[53]


Main article: Creeds

Creeds, or concise doctrinal statements, began as baptismal formulas and were later expanded during the Christology controversies of the 4th century and 5th century. The earliest creeds still in common use are the Apostles' Creed (Apostles' Creed#Latin text in Latin and Greek, with English translations) and Paul's creed of 1 Cor 15:1-9.

Template:Wikisource The Nicene Creed, largely a response to Arianism, was formulated at the Councils of First Council of Nicaea and First Council of Constantinople in 325 and 381 respectively,[54] and ratified as the universal creed of Christendom by the Council of Ephesus in 431.[55]

The Chalcedonian Creed, developed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451,[56] (though not accepted by the Oriental Orthodox Churches)[57] taught Christ "to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably": one divine and one human, that both natures are perfect but are nevertheless Hypostatic union.[58]

The Athanasian Creed (Athanasian Creed#English-Language Translations), received in the western Church as having the same status as the Nicene and Chalcedonian, says: "We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons not dividing the Substance."[59]

Most Protestants accept the Creeds. Some Protestant traditions believe Trinitarian doctrine without making use of the Creeds themselves,[60] while other Protestants, like the Restoration Movement, oppose the use of creeds.[61]

Eschaton and afterlife

Main article: Christian eschatology

Most Christians believe that upon the death of the body, the individual soul, which is considered to be immortal, experiences the particular judgment and is either rewarded with heaven or condemned to hell. The elect are called "saints" (Latin sanctus: "holy") and the process of being made holy is called sanctification. In Catholicism, those who die in a state of grace but with either unforgiven venial sins or incomplete penance undergo purification in purgatory to achieve the holiness necessary for entrance into heaven.

At the Second Coming, the eschaton or end of time, all who have died will be Resurrection of the dead for the Last Judgement, whereupon Jesus will fully establish the Kingdom of God in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.[62]

Some groups do not distinguish a particular judgment from the general judgment at the end of time, teaching instead that souls remain in stasis until this time (see Soul sleep). These groups, and others that do not believe in the intercession of saints, generally do not employ the word "saint" to describe those in heaven. Universal reconciliation hold that eventually all will experience salvation, thereby rejecting the concept of an eternal hell for those who are not saved.

Worship and practices

Christian life

Christians believe that Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant (see Hebrews 8:6)(and 1Timothy2:5). His famous Sermon on the Mount representing Mount Zion is considered by many Christian scholars to be the Typology (theology)[63] of the proclamation of the Ten Commandments by Moses from Mount Sinai

Christians believe that all people should strive to follow Christ in their everyday actions. For many, this includes obedience to the Ten CommandmentsCite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag [64] This love includes such injunctions as "feed the hungry" and "shelter the homeless", and applies to Expounding of the Law#Love for enemies. Though the relationship between charity and religious practice are sometimes taken for granted today, as Martin Goodman (historian) has observed, "charity in the Jewish and Christian sense was unknown to the pagan world."[65] Other Christian practices include acts of piety such as prayer and Bible reading.

Christianity teaches that one can only overcome sin through divine grace: moral and spiritual progress can only occur with God's help through the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling within the believer. Christians believe that by sharing in Christ's life, death, and resurrection, and by believing in Christ, they become dead to sin and are resurrected to a new life with Him.

Liturgical worship

Justin Martyr described second century Christian liturgy in his First Apologetics (c. 150) to Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, and his description remains relevant to the basic structure of Christian liturgical worship:

The Holy Bible, Crucifix, and Rosary
"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need."[66]

Thus, as Justin described, Christians assemble for communal worship on Sunday, the day of the resurrection, though other liturgical practices often occur outside this setting. Scripture readings are drawn from the Old and New Testaments, but especially the Gospels. Often these are arranged on an annual cycle, using a book called a lectionary. Instruction is given based on these readings, called a sermon, or homily. There are a variety of congregational prayers, including thanksgiving, confession, and intercession, which occur throughout the service and take a variety of forms including recited, responsive, silent, or sung. The Lord's Prayer, or Our Father, is regularly prayed. The Eucharist (also called Holy Communion, or the Lord's Supper) consists of a ritual meal of consecrated bread and wine, discussed in detail below. Lastly, a collection occurs in which the congregation donates money for the support of the Church and for Charitable organization.

Some groups depart from this traditional liturgical structure. A division is often made between "High church" church services, characterized by greater solemnity and ritual, and "Low church" services, but even within these two categories there is great diversity in forms of worship. Seventh-day Adventists meet on Saturday (the original Sabbath), while others do not meet on a weekly basis. Charismatic movement or Pentecostal congregations may spontaneously feel led by the Holy Spirit to action rather than follow a formal order of service, including spontaneous prayer. Society of Friends sit quietly until moved by the Holy Spirit to speak. Some Evangelicalism services resemble concerts with Christian rock, dancing, and use of multimedia. For groups which do not recognize a priesthood distinct from ordinary believers the services are generally lead by a minister of religion, preacher, or pastor. Still others may lack any formal leaders, either in principle or by local necessity. Some churches use only a cappella music, either on principle (e.g. many Churches of Christ object to the use of instruments in worship) or by tradition (as in Orthodoxy).

Worship can be varied for special events like baptisms or weddings in the service or significant Calendar of saints. In the Early Christianity Christians and those yet to complete initiation would separate for the Eucharistic part of the worship. In many churches today, adults and children will separate for all or some of the service to receive age-appropriate teaching. Such children's worship is often called Sunday school or Sabbath school (Sunday schools are sometimes held before rather than during services).


Main article: Sacrament


A sacrament is a Christian rite that is an outward sign of an inward grace, instituted by Christ to sanctify humanity. Catholic, Orthodox, and some Anglicanism Christians describe Christian worship in terms of seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation (sacrament) or Chrismation, Eucharist (communion), Penance (reconciliation), Anointing of the Sick (last rites), Holy Orders (ordination), and Catholic marriage.[67] Many Protestant groups, following Martin Luther,[68] recognize the sacramental nature of baptism and Eucharist, but not usually the other five in the same way, while other Protestant groups reject sacramental theology. Latter-day saint worship emphasizes the symbolic role of rites, calling some Ordinance (Latter Day Saints). Though not sacraments, Pentecostalism, Charismatic movement, and Holiness Churches emphasize "gifts of the Spirit" such as spiritual healing, prophecy, exorcism, glossolalia (speaking in tongues), and laying on of hands where God's grace is mysteriously manifest.


Main article: Eucharist

The Eucharist (also called Holy Communion, or the Lord's Supper) is the part of liturgical worship that consists of a consecrated meal, usually bread and wine. Justin Martyr described the Eucharist as follows:

"And this food is called among us Eukaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh."[69]

Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and many Anglicans believe that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ (the doctrine of the Real Presence). Most other Protestants, especially Reformed, believe the bread and wine represent the body and blood of Christ. These Protestants may celebrate it less frequently, while in Catholicism the Eucharist is celebrated daily. Catholic and Orthodox view communion as indicating those who are already united in the church, restricting participation to their members not in a state of mortal sin. In some Protestant churches participation is by prior arrangement with a church leader. Other churches view communion as a means to unity, rather than an end, and invite all Christians or even anyone to participate.

Liturgical Calendar

Main article: Liturgical year

In the New Testament Paul of Tarsus organised his missionary travels around the celebration of Pentecost. (Acts 20.16 and 1 Corinthians 16.8) This practice draws from Jewish tradition, with such feasts as the Feast of Tabernacles, the Passover, and the Jubilee (Biblical). Today Catholics, Eastern Christians, and traditional Protestant communities frame worship around a Liturgical year. This includes Holy Day of Obligation, such as Solemnity which commemorate an event in the life of Jesus or the saints, periods of fasting such as Lent, and other pious events such as memoria or lesser festivals commemorating saints. Christian groups that do not follow a liturgical tradition often retain certain celebrations, such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. A few churches make no use of a liturgical calendar.


Today the best-known Christian symbol is the Christian cross, which refers to the method of Jesus' execution.[70] Several varieties exist, with some denominations tending to favor distinctive styles: Catholics the crucifix, Orthodox the crux orthodoxa, and Protestants an unadorned cross. An earlier Christian symbol was the 'ichthys' fish (Greek Alpha - α) symbol and anagram. Other text based symbols include 'Christogram' and 'Labarum' (the first two letters of the word Christ in Greek). In a modern Latin alphabet, the Chi-Rho appears like an X (Chi - χ) with a large P (Rho - ρ) overlaid and above it. It is said Constantine I and Christianity saw this symbol prior to converting to Christianity (see History and origins section below). Another ancient symbol is an anchor, which denotes faith and can incorporate a cross within its design.

History and origins

Template:Seealso Template:Seealso

File:Nicaea icon.jpg
An icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea

In the mid-first century, Christianity spread beyond its Jewish origins under the leadership of the Apostles, especially Peter and Paul of Tarsus. Within a generation an episcopal hierarchy can be seen, and this would form the structure of the Church.[71]Christianity spread east to Asia and throughout the Roman Empire, despite Persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperors until its Edict of Milan by Constantine I (emperor) in 313. During his reign, questions of orthodoxy lead to the convocation of the first Ecumenical Council, that of First Council of Nicaea.

In 391 Theodosius I established Nicene Christianity as the official and, except for Judaism, only legal religion in the Roman Empire. Later, as the political structure of the empire collapsed in the West, the Church assumed political and cultural roles previously held by the Roman aristocracy. Eremitic and Coenobitic monasticism developed, originating with the hermit Anthony the Great around 300. With the avowed purpose of fleeing the world and its evils in contemptu mundi, the institution of monasticism would become a central part of the medieval world.[72]

Christianity became the established church of the Axumite Kingdom (presently encompassing Eritrea and Northern Ethiopi ) under king Ezana in the 4th century through the efforts of a Syrian Greek named Frumentius, known in Ethiopia as Abba Selama, Kesaté Birhan ("Father of Peace, Revealer of Light"), thus making Ethiopia one of the first christian state even before most of Europe. As a youth, Frumentius had been shipwrecked with his brother Aedesius on the Eritrean coast. The brothers managed to be brought to the royal court, where they rose to positions of influence and converted Emperor Ezana to Christianity, causing him to be baptised. Ezana sent Frumentius to Alexandria to ask the Patriarch, Athanasius of Alexandria, to appoint a bishop for Ethiopia. Athanasius appointed Frumentius himself, who returned to Ethiopia as Bishop with the name of Abune Selama.

During the Migration Period of Late Antiquity, various Germanic peoples adopted Christianity. Meanwhile, as western political unity dissolved, the linguistic divide of the Empire between Latin-speaking West and the Greek-speaking East intensified. By the Middle Ages distinct forms of Latin and Greek Christianity increasingly separated until Cultural identity and disciplinary disputes finally resulted in the East-West Schism (conventionally dated to 1054), which formally divided Christendom into the Catholic west and the Orthodox east. Western Christianity in the Middle Ages was characterized by cooperation and conflict between the Secularism rulers and the Church under the Pope, and by the development of Scholasticism.

Beginning in the 7th century, Islam began a long series of military conquests of Christian areas, and it quickly conquered areas of the Byzantine Empire, Asia Minor, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, North Africa, and even southern Spain. Numerous military struggles followed, including the Crusades, the Spanish Reconquista, the Fall of Constantinople and the aggression of the Ottoman Empire.

In the early 16th century, increasing discontent with corruption and immorality among the clergy resulted in attempts to reform the Church and society. The Protestant Reformation began after Martin Luther published his 95 theses in 1517, whilst the Roman Catholic Church experienced internal renewal with the Counter-Reformation and the Council of Trent (1545-1563). During the following centuries, competition between Catholicism and Protestantism became deeply entangled with political struggles among European states. Meanwhile, partly from missionary zeal, but also under the impetus of Colonialism by the European powers, Christianity spread to the Americas, Oceania, East Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

In the Modern Era, Christianity was confronted with various forms of skepticism and with certain modern Ideology such as liberalism, nationalism, and socialism. This included the anti-clericalism of the French Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, and general hostility of Marxist movements, especially Russian Revolution.


Christians have frequently suffered from Religious persecution. Starting with Jesus, the early Christian church was persecuted by state and religious establishments from its earliest beginnings. Notable early Christians such as Saint Stephen, eleven of the Apostles as well as Paul of Tarsus died as martyrs according to tradition. Systematic Roman persecution of Christians culminated in the Diocletian#Persecution of Christians of Diocletian and ended with the Edict of Milan.[73] Persecution of Christians persisted or even intensified in other places, such as in Sassanids.[74] Later Christians living in Islamic countries were subjected to various legal restrictions, which included taxation and a ban on building or repairing churches. Christians at times also suffered violent persecution or confiscation of their property[75]

There was persecution of Christians during the French Revolution (see Dechristianisation of France during the French Revolution).[76] State restrictions on Christian practices today are generally associated with those authoritarian governments which either support a majority religion other than Christianity (as in Muslim states),[77] or tolerate only churches under government supervision, sometimes while officially promoting state atheism (as in North Korea). The People's Republic of China allows only government-regulated churches and has regularly suppressed house churches and underground Catholics. The public practice of Christianity is outlawed in Status of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. Areas of persecution include other parts of the Middle East, the Sudan, and Kosovo.[78]

Christians have also been perpetrators of persecution against other religions and other Christians. Christian mobs, sometimes with government support, destroyed Paganism temples and oppressed adherents of paganism (such as the philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria, who was murdered by a Christian mob). Also, Jewish communities have periodically suffered violence at Christian hands. Christian governments have suppressed or persecuted groups seen as heretical, later in cooperation with the Inquisition. Denominational strife escalated into religious wars. Witch hunts, carried out by secular authorities or popular mobs, were a frequent phenomenon in parts of early modern Europe and, to a lesser degree, North America.

Christian divisions

There is a diversity of doctrines and practices among groups calling themselves Christian. These groups are sometimes classified under Christian denominations, though for theological reasons many groups reject this classification system.[79] Christianity may be broadly represented as being Schism (religion) into three main groupings:[80]

  • Roman Catholic Church: The Roman Catholic Church, the largest single body, includes the Latin Rite and totals more than 1 billion baptized members.[3]
  • Eastern Christianity: Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodoxy, the 100,000 member Assyrian Church of the East,[81] and others with a combined membership of more than 300 million baptized members.[3]
  • Anglican Communion: The Anglican Communion is a group of Anglican and Episcopal Churches that are descended from the Church of England. Most Anglicans don't consider themselves Protestant or Catholic but believe that the Church of England always existed and wasn't formed during the Reformation but rather broke away from the Church of Rome.
  • Protestantism: Groups such as Lutheranism, Reformed/Presbyterians, Congregational church/United Church of Christ, Evangelicalism, Charismatic movement, Baptists, Methodists, Nazarenes, Anabaptists, Seventh-day Adventists and Pentecostalism. The oldest of these separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century Protestant Reformation, followed in many cases by further divisions. Estimates of the total number of Protestants are very uncertain, partly because of the difficulty in determining which denominations should be placed in this category, but it seems to be unquestionable that Protestantism is the second major branch of Christianity (after Roman Catholicism) in number of followers.[3]

Some Protestants identify themselves simply as Christian, or born-again Christian; they typically distance themselves from the confessionalism (religion) of other Protestant communities[82] by calling themselves "non-denominational" — often founded by individual pastors, they have little affiliation with historic denominations. Others, particularly some Anglicans, eschew the term Protestant and thus insist on being thought of as Catholic, adopting the name "Anglo-Catholic."[83] Finally, various small communities, such as the Old Catholic Church and Independent Catholic Churches, are similar in name to the Roman Catholic Church, but are not in Communion (Christian) with the Holy See. The Roman Catholic Church was simply called the "Catholic Church" until other groups started considering themselves "Catholic". The term "Roman Catholic" was made to distinguish the Roman Catholics from other groups.[84][85]

Restorationism, are historically connected to the Protestant Reformation,[86] do not usually describe themselves as "reforming" a Christian Church continuously existing from the time of Jesus, but as restoring the Church that they believe was lost at some point. Restorationists include Churches of Christ with 2.6 million members, Disciples of Christ with 800,000 members,[87] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 12 million members,[3] and Jehovah’s Witnesses with 6.6 million members.[88] Though Restorationists have some superficial similarities, their doctrine and practices vary significantly.

A simplified chart of historical developments of major groups within Christianity

Mainstream Christianity

Mainstream Christianity is a widely used[89] term, used to refer to collectively to the common views of major denominations of Christianity (such as Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Anglicanism, Orthodox Christianity) as against the particular tenets of other sects or Christian denomination. The context is dependent on the particular issues addressed, but usually contrasts the orthodox majority view against heterodox minority views. In the most common sense, "mainstream" refers to Nicene Christianity, or rather the traditions which continue to claim adherence to the Nicene Creed.[90][91]

Some groups identifying themselves as Christian deviate from the tenets considered basic by most Christian organizations. These groups are often considered Christian heresy, or even non-Christian, by many mainstream Christians. This is particularly true of Nontrinitarianism.


Main article: Ecumenism

Template:Unreferenced Most churches have long expressed ideals of being reconciled with each other, and in the 20th Century Christian ecumenism advanced in two ways. One way was greater cooperation between groups, such as the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of Protestants in 1910, the Justice, Peace and Creation Commission of the World Council of Churches founded in 1948 by Protestant and Orthodox churches, and similar national councils like the National Council of Churches in Australia which also includes Roman Catholics.

The other way was institutional union with new United and uniting churches. Congregational church, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches united in 1925 to form the United Church of Canada and in 1977 to form the Uniting Church in Australia. The Church of South India was formed in 1947 by the union of Anglicanism, Methodism, Congregational church, Presbyterianism, and Reformed Church churches.

Steps towards union on a global level have also been taken in 1965 by the Catholic and Orthodox churches mutually revoking the excommunications that marked their East-West Schism in 1054; the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) working towards full communion between those churches since 1970; and the Lutheran World Federation and Roman Catholic Church churches signing The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999 to address conflicts at the root of the Protestant Reformation. In 2006 the World Methodist Council also adopted the declaration.

Current controversies and criticisms

Template:See also

There are many controversies surrounding Christianity as to its influences and history.

  • Although historians generally agree that historicity of Jesus, a few writers propose that Jesus as myth,[92] and have aimed at reconstructing the historical Jesus. Some such writers depict Jesus as a metaphor for Religious experience or a fictional figure based on Egyptian mythology.
  • Some writers consider Paul of Tarsus to be the founding figure of Christianity, pointing to the extent of his writings and the scope of his Missionary.[93] See also Pauline Christianity.
  • Members of the Jesus Seminar, and other Biblical scholars, have argued that the historical Jesus never claimed to be divine. They also reject the historicity of the empty tomb and thus a bodily resurrection, and several other events narrated in the gospels. They assert that Gospel accounts describing these things are probably literary fabrications.[94]
  • Adherents of Judaism generally believe that followers of Christianity misinterpret passages from the Old Testament, or Tanakh. (See also Judaism and Christianity.)
  • Muslims believe that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is incompatible with Tawhid, and they reject the Christian teaching that Jesus is the Son of God, though they affirm the Virgin Birth and view him as a prophet preceding Muhammad.[95] The Qur'an also uses the title "Messiah", though with a different meaning.[96][97] Muslims dispute the historical occurrence of the crucifixion of Jesus (believing that while a crucifixion occurred, it was not of Jesus).[98] Muslims also believe that while Islam's holy book, the Quran, is the word of God, today's Bible has been corrupted because it has gone through a human editing process.[99]

See also

History and denominations



  • Christian theology
  • Wikipedia:Wikiportal/Eastern Christianity
  • Great Schism
  • Protestant Reformation


  • Restorationism
  • List of Christian denominations
  • Social Gospel
  • Third Church



  1. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX, Monotheism; William F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity; H. Richard Niebuhr, ;, Monotheistic Religion resources; Jonathan Kirsch, God Against the Gods; Linda Woodhead, An Introduction to Christianity; Columbia Encyclopedia Monotheism; The New Dictionary of Cultural literacy, monotheism; New Dictionary of Theology, Paul pp. 496-99; David Vincent Meconi, "Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity" in Journal of Early Christian Studies pp. 111–12
  2. BBC, BBC - Religion & Ethics - Christianity
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4, Religions by Adherents
  4. See Christianity by country for a detailed list.
  5., Growth of Christianity in China;, Growth in South Korea;, History of Christianity in Korea
  6. Template:Nkjv; Template:Nkjv; Template:Nkjv; Template:Nkjv; Template:Nkjv; Template:Nkjv; Template:Nkjv; Tacitus, Annales xv 44; Josephus Antiquities xviii 3; Mortimer Chambers, The Western Experience Volume II chapter 5; The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion page 158.
  7. J.Z.Smith 98, p.276
  8. Anidjar 2001, p.3
  9. Eric Ziolkowski, Making the familiar strange
  10. E. Peterson, "Christianus" pp. 353-72
  11. Walter Bauer, Greek-English Lexicon; Ignatius Letter to the Magnesians 10, Epistle to the Romans (Roberts-Donaldson tr., Lightfoot tr., Greek-text). However, an edition presented on some websites, one that otherwise corresponds exactly with the Roberts-Donaldson translation, renders this passage to the interpolated inauthentic longer recension of Ignatius's letters, which does not contain the word "Christianity".
  12., The Messiah
  13. Acts 2:24, Romans 10:9, 1 Cor 15:15, Acts 2:31-32, 3:15, 3:26, 4:10, 5:30, 10:40-41, 13:30, 13:34, 13:37, 17:30-31, 1 Cor 6:14, 2 Cor 4:14, Gal 1:1, Eph 1:20, Col 2:12, 1 Thess 1:10, Heb 13:20, 1 Pet 1:3, 1:21
  14. Mark 16:19, Luke 22:69, Acts 2:33, 5:31, 7:55-56, Romans 8:34, Eph 1:20, Col 3:1, Hebrews 1:3, 1:13, 10:12, 12:2, 1 Peter 3:22
  15. Acts 1:9-11
  16. Template:Niv
  17., The Most Important Event in History;, Christianity; Hank Hanegraaff, Resurrection: The Capstone in the Arch of Christianity
  18. According to the Synoptic Gospels (Template:Niv and parallel passages), this occurred in the last week of Jesus' life, but Template:Niv narrates a similar event early in his account of Jesus' ministry.
  19. Template:Niv, Template:Niv, Template:Niv
  20. Template:Niv
  21. Template:Niv
  22. Template:Niv, Template:Niv
  23. Template:Niv, Template:Niv
  24. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Grace and Justification
  25. Westminster Confession, Chapter X; Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism
  26. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines pp. 87-90; T. Desmond Alexander, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology pp. 514-515; Alister E. McGrath, Historical Theology p. 61.
  27. Vladimir Lossky God in Trinity; Loraine Boettner, One Substance, Three Persons
  28. For an example from Reformed theology see: John Hendryx, The Work of the Trinity in Monergism; for the Catholic view see: Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 50) part 1, section 2, Chapter Two.
  29. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sacred Scripture; Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, online text; Template:Niv; Template:Niv
  30. Template:Niv; Template:Niv
  31. MacCulloch, Reformation pp. 185, 187
  32. MacCulloch, Reformation pp. 186-8
  33. William Arnold, Is Jesus God the Father?; in this way they parallel ancient Sabellianism, see: J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines pp. 119-123; Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship pp. 97-98
  34. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  35. On Unitarians, see:, Unitarian Views of Jesus; on connection with Socinianism, see:, Socinianism: Unitarianism in 16th-17th Century Poland and Its Influence (Note that the icon at the top of the page expresses Trinitarian theology with a symbolic hand gesture); on this matter they parallel the ancient Ebionites, see: J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines pp. 139
  36. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, What Does the Bible Say About God and Jesus?
  37. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture (§105-108); Second Helvetic Confession, Of the Holy Scripture Being the True Word of God; Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, online text
  38. Thirty-nine Articles, Art. VI; Westminster Catechism, Q. 3; James White, Does The Bible Teach Sola Scriptura?
  39. 39.0 39.1 F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture; Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Canon of Scripture § 120; Thirty-nine Articles, Art. VI Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Canon" defined multiple times with different content
  40. Ethiopian Orthodox Old Testament, The Bible: The Book That Bridges the Millennia
  41. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Scriptures, Internet Edition
  42. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines pp. 69-78.
  43. Template:Niv
  44. Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Holy Spirit, Interpreter of Scripture § 115-118
  45. Thomas Aquinas, Whether in Holy Scripture a word may have several senses?; c.f. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §116
  46. Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum (V.19)
  47. Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Holy Spirit, Interpreter of Scripture § 113
  48. Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Interpretation of the Heritage of Faith § 85
  49. R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture pp. 45-61; Greg Bahnsen, A Reformed Confession Regarding Hermeneutics (art. 6)
  50. 50.0 50.1 Scott Foutz, Martin Luther and Scripture Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Foutz" defined multiple times with different content
  51. E.g., in his commentary on Matthew 1 (§III.3) Matthew Henry interprets the twin-sons of Judah, Phares and Zara, as an allegory of the Gentile and Jewish Christians. For a contemporary treatment, see W. Edward Glenny, Typology: A Summary Of The Present Evangelical Discussion
  52. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles 2 Peter 3:14-18
  53. Second Helvetic Confession, Of Interpreting the Holy Scriptures; and of Fathers, Councils, and Traditions
  54. Catholics United for the Faith, We Believe in One God; Encyclopedia of Religion, Arianism
  55. Catholic Encyclopedia (vol. 5), Council of Ephesus
  56. Matt Slick, Chalcedonian Creed; History of Christianity Institute, First Meeting of the Council of Chalcedon
  57. British Orthodox Church, The Oriental Orthodox Rejection of Chalcedon
  58. Pope Leo I, Letter to Flavian
  59. Catholic Encyclopedia (vol. 2) Athanasian Creed
  60. E.g., The Southern Baptist Convention gives no official status to any of the ancient creeds, but the Baptist Faith and Message says:
    The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.[1]
  61. "The History of the Church", Howard A. White
  62. See, e.g., Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologicum, Supplementum Tertiae Partis questions 69 through 99; and John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book Three, Ch. 25.
  63. See also Expounding of the Law#Antithesis of the Law.
  64. Template:Niv
  65. Martin Goodman, The Ruling Class of Judaea: The Origins of the Jewish Revolt Against Rome AD 66-70, Cambridge University Press, p.65
  66. Justin Martyr, First Apology §LXVII
  67. For Catholicism: see Catechism of the Catholic Church §1210
  68. Martin Luther, Small Catechism
  69. Justin Martyr, First Apology §LXVII
  70., Christian Symbols
  71. Catholic Encyclopedia, Canons of the Council of Nicaea, especially canon 6.
  72. Jo Ann H. Moran Cruze and Richard Gerberding, Medieval Worlds pp. 118-119
  73. 313 The Edict of Milan
  74. Macro History, The Sassanids to 500 CE
  75. (Lewis (1984) p. 26)
  76. Mortimer Chambers, The Western Experience (vol. 2) chapter 21
  77. Paul Marshall, Their Blood Cries Out;, Christians persecuted in Islamic nations
  78. see;; and Cliff Kincaid, Christians Under Siege in Kosovo
  79. S. E. Ahlstrom characterized denominationalism in America as “a virtual ecclesiology” that “first of all repudiates the insistences of the Roman Catholic church, the churches of the 'magisterial' Reformation, and of most sects that they alone are the true Church." Ahlstrom p. 381. For specific citations, on the Roman Catholic Church see the Catechism of the Catholic Church §816; other examples: Donald Nash, Why the Churches of Christ are not a Denomination; Wendell Winkler, Christ's Church is not a Denomination; and David E. Pratt, What does God think about many Christian denominations?
  80. Encyclopedia Britannica, Christianity
  81. Nichols, Rome and the Eastern Churches, pp. 27-52
  82. Confessionalism is a term employed by historians to describe "the creation of fixed identities and systems of beliefs for separate churches which had previously been more fluid in their self-understanding, and which had not begun by seeking separate identities for themselves — they had wanted to be truly Catholic and reformed." MacCulloch, Reformation p. xxiv
  83. Thus distinguishing themselves, though "not too much", from "Roman" Catholics — MacCulloch Reformation p. 510
  84. "Catholic", Herbert Thurston, Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  85. "Roman Catholic", The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. First published in The Month, Sept 1911.
  86. Ahlstrom's summary is as follows: Restorationism has its genesis with Thomas and Alexander Campbell, whose movement is connected to the German Reformed Church through Otterbein, Albright, and Winebrenner (p. 212). American Millennialism and Adventist, which arose from Evangelical Protestantism, produced certain groups such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (p. 387, 501-9), the Jehovah's Witness movement (p. 807), and, as a reaction specifically to William Miller, Seventh Day Adventism (p. 381).
  87. Statistical Report: Annual Council of the General Conference Committee Silver Spring, Marlyand, October 6—11, 2006
  88. Membership 2005
  89. Appx 112k GHits
  90. "The Nicene Creed is the profession of the Christian Faith common to the Catholic Church, to all the Eastern Churches separated from Rome, and to most of the Protestant denominations." The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company.[2]
  91. "Christian statement of faith that is the only ecumenical creed because it is accepted as authoritative by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and major Protestant churches." Nicene Creed Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.[3]
  92. Kenneth Latourette, Christianity p. 394; E. A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Religion
  93. David Wenham, Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity?
  94. "The empty tomb is a fiction - Jesus did not raise (sic) bodily from the dead." front flap of Acts of Jesus.
  95. Gary Miller, A concise reply to Christianity.
  96. Qur'an, 3:46.
  97. ;;Mike Tabish, What does the Qur'an say about Isa (Jesus)?
  98., What does the Holy Qur'an say about Jesus (peace be upon him).
  99. Answering [4]

Further reading

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External links

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