Christianity, the most common and complicated world religion
This month we are focusing our faith feature on Christianity.
It almost feels as though this particular religious group needs no introduction. With just over 30 per cent of people identifying themselves as believers of the Christian faith it is the most populated of world religions. Yet while it is the most common it is also, in my humble opinion, the most complicated.
The complexities are highlighted in the fact that there are over 45,000 Christian denominations across the globe – a number that continues to grow annually. From Orthodox to Catholic, Pentecostal to Presbyterian, Lutheran to Baptist, Methodist to Adventist – the list of Christian denominations will quite literally go on and on.
However, the purpose of this feature is not to explain or critique this fact. Instead, the purpose here is to highlight the central beliefs of the Christian faith that most, if not all, denominations have in common.
The faith itself is built on a few fundamental and important beliefs. Here are some:
Christians believe in one God. Christians believe that God is the creator of the universe and continues to sustain life within it. This monotheistic principle originated in Jewish culture. Like Judaism, Christianity is also an Abrahamic religion and reveres Abraham as the father of the faith.
The Bible is the holy book that Christians derive their beliefs and teachings from. Scriptural interpretation varies across denominations, but all Christians use the Bible as their holy text. The Bible is divided into two parts – the Old Testament and the New Testament – inspired by God through man over the span of about 1,500 years. It is a collection of books that include history, advice, encouragement and prophecy.
In addition to the belief in one God, Christians also believe that God had a son, Jesus Christ, who took human form when he was born of the Virgin Mary. He was sent to earth with the specific purpose to die for the sins of humanity and fulfil the plan of salvation promised in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Jesus, or the Messiah as many refer to him, is the central figure of the Christian faith. While denominational doctrine may vary on the principle of salvation, all denominations agree that to receive it one must believe in Jesus Christ as the saviour of the world.
Understanding salvation can get complicated, as different interpretations of the scripture draw different conclusions. But in simple terms, salvation means to be saved from the consequences of sin. This is a gift given to humanity from God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In receiving this gift, Christians are promised eternal life in heaven.
Organised or communal worship is another important component of the faith. Believers across different denominations gather to express acts of worship and share their faith with each other. How and when this happens differs from one denomination to the next, but time spent in communion with God is an important part of Christian life.
It’s hard to say when Christianity was formed. Its history begins with the life and death of Jesus Christ and it has grown into a global phenomenon of sorts. So much so that the timeline for the Gregorian calendar – the calendar most widely used around the world – is based on the timeline of Jesus’ life.
The popularity of the faith has led to the inclusion of many of its observances as cultural practices. Holidays such as Good Friday, Easter and Christmas are all very popular in Western culture. They make up a huge part of human life, for Christians and non-Christians alike.
In Bermuda, Christianity is the dominant religion. The 2010 census report highlighted that over 40,000 people living in Bermuda at the time identified as Christian. Unfortunately, we do not have more recent statistics, but it would be safe to say that it remains the largest religion on island.
There is so much more to know about the Christian faith and its history, more than space or time would allow. The history of the faith and the contrast in doctrine from one denomination to the other is fascinating, to say the least.
But differences aside, Christian denominations everywhere have built their faith on the love of Jesus Christ, a desire to worship him and a mission to share that love with their neighbours around the world.
It’s safe to say they have collectively achieved that goal. Christianity has permeated through just about every part of human life. Remnants of its beliefs can be found in pop culture, education, business and even the highest levels of government and the judiciary.
It is truly a world wonder, having made its way to every part of the globe, transforming lives and offering the gift of salvation to anyone who chooses to accept it.
We will continue to share stories of faith from within the Christian community in Bermuda, as this faith continues to influence our island and the people within it.