In the Name of God,
Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life

What is Christianity?

Christianity is centred on Jesus the Christ, born in the land of Israel-Palestine about 2,000 years ago. Christianity is a missionary faith, with an ambition to transform the lives of all individuals and communities. Today about a third of the world's population are Christians.

Those who put their faith in Jesus Christ need fellowship with one another to keep their faith alive. This living faith is experienced in the ongoing work of God within 'the Church', in the nurture and sustenance of worship, community, teaching and encouragement. While there are many denominations of Christians, with many church congregations, all are part of 'the Church'. Throughout history, the Church has fallen into temptation and become corrupt, but it is also constantly capable of renewal.

Christians might be viewed in three traditions: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant. The call of Jesus that his followers might 'all be one, so that the world might believe' remains a challenge to Christians through the world.

What do Christians believe?

Christians believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God, and that this One God is revealed in a dynamic relationship of three expressions: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, known as the Trinity.

God the Father is Creator of the world, in fact of everything that exists (no contradiction to science or evolution is necessary). The Fatherhood of God points to care, love and relationship, not to be understood literally or in terms of a male God. As in a caring family, the love of God the Father is unconditional, and our human response God's greatest joy or sorrow. God the Creator is all-powerful, ruling over the material world, which is distinct from God. God the Creator can redeem the world and human nature from their imperfect state and create them anew.

It is a Christian conviction that God began to do so through the people of Israel and in particular through Jesus Christ, a unique revelation of God, fully human and fully God. Jesus is known as the Son, the expression of God within humanity, space and time: the Incarnation, God enfleshed.

Christians look forward with hope to the time when God will complete this new creation. The Holy Spirit is God at work in the world: sustaining, guiding, empowering and encouraging Christians today in countless ways.

Christianity explicitly emphasises God as love. This love takes the initiative, not waiting to be deserved. It seeks actively to bring peace where there is conflict, good out of evil, hope out of despair, and love out of hatred. It is also called 'grace'.

The sources of our knowledge about God are the Bible, human experience, reason and tradition.

How does someone become a Christian?

Outwardly, a person becomes a Christian by being baptised. Baptism symbolises cleansing, dying and rising with Christ (dying to sin and rising to new life), and the gift of the Holy Spirit. In many traditions, infants are baptised and later confirm the promises made on their behalf, claiming that faith for themselves.

Inwardly, it is through faith in Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit that a person becomes a Christian.

What does the term 'Christian' mean?

The term 'Christian' is taken from a Greek title given to Jesus, 'Christ', which is a translation of the Hebrew 'Messiah', both meaning 'Anointed One'. 'Christian' effectively means 'follower of Christ'.

Roman Catholic Christians recognize the Pope as their spiritual head, understood to be heir to St Peter; Protestant Christians are the descendants of the Reformation, who no longer share loyalty to Rome; Eastern Orthodox Christians are inheritors of shared early Christianity, independent of Rome. They have a rich sense of ritual.

Does Christianity share origins with Judaism and Islam?

Christianity grew directly out of Judaism. Jesus was born a Jew, as were the first Christians. Like Islam and Judaism, Christians trace their faith-ancestry to Abraham, and understand that they are inheritors of the promise that he would become a blessing to all the families of the earth.

Who is Jesus?

Born about 2000 years ago, Jesus probably lived most of his life as a carpenter in the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He travelled around the country with a group of disciples, teaching and healing the sick, challenging his hearers to welcome the 'Kingdom of God', to embody love and justice, and to turn aside from religious hypocrisy. He was crucified on a hill outside Jerusalem (a brutal Roman execution technique), probably in his early thirties. His disciples, however, became convinced that he had been raised from the dead and was present with them, alive in a new, more glorious way. Ever since then Christians have continued to find that they could stand in a close, personal relationship with him, and also with God who sent him.

How did he come to be seen as a revelation of God?

Jesus was recognised by his followers as the promised Messiah to the Jewish people, who would usher in a new age of God's presence. Although shattered at his death by crucifixion, they experienced repeated encounters with the risen Jesus. They came to believe that this figure who did not hold back from confronting suffering and death was both truly divine and truly human. All of God that could be contained in a human being was to be found in him -- he was God 'focused' in a human person. Jesus reflected God's character, and if people wanted to know what God was like, they should look at him and see.

Jesus showed that God's love was limitless, for all peoples, and present even in the midst of the most terrible suffering. His resurrection from the dead signified victory over all suffering and evil, even death.

What is the Bible?

The Christian Bible ('book') is divided into two main sections, the first of which is also Scripture for Jews.

The Old or First Testament was originally written in Hebrew and contains a wide variety of types of literature: history, stories, laws, psalms, poems, proverbs and prophecies. It represents different people's experience of God over more than 1,000 years.

The second part of the scriptures is called the New Testament. It was originally written in Greek, and it consists of four gospels ('good news'), a brief church history, a large number of letters written by St Paul and others, and an apocalyptic book called Revelation, rich in symbolism and encouragement for a persecuted Church.

What is the Bible about?

Beginning with symbolic stories about human origins and human nature, the First Testament tells chiefly of God's dealings with ancient Israel, a people chosen for service and witness to God. It recounts their relationship and often their distance from God, and the call to be what God desires us to be.

The heart of the New Testament, the gospels, provide accounts of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus. They were not intended to be history as we understand it. They are written, as John 20:30-31 puts it,'that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.'

The letters of the New Testament offer encouragement and teaching for the first Christians, and for Christians today.

Are there any other sacred sources?

Yes, the Apocrypha are a part of the sacred writings that are viewed slightly differently, notably between Catholic and Protestant Christians. These writings, from the period between the First Testament and the New Testament, are not considered fully part of the Bible by most Protestants. The Eastern Orthodox canon is slightly different again.

Does Christianity tolerate other beliefs?

While Christians have always had a missionary impetus, there is nothing in the writings of the Christian Bible that suggests compulsion or violence is an appropriate way to spread 'good news' (the gospel). On the contrary, Jesus' example invites us to interact with people as they are. It is by living the gospel that people will be drawn to it. Jesus' example also makes it clear that living justly is to be honoured over an empty profession of 'religion'.

What do Christians think about Moses and Mohammed?

Christians accept Moses unreservedly as part of their faith-ancestry. The New Testament explicitly links Jesus with Moses. Many Christians recognise too that the prophetic voice is uttered in all generations, and some would view Mohammed as falling within that tradition. Dogmatically, however, Christians do not recognise the position or writings attributed to Mohammed.

What about Christian women?

Like other faiths, Christianity has been influenced by and encountered in cultures that are patriarchal. The stories of Jesus' first followers, many of whom were women (most clearly the witnesses to the Resurrection), suggest that the position of women in the early Church challenged the male-dominated culture of the time. As a living faith, this challenge goes on. Differing parts of the global Church are at different points on the journey

Why is family so important to Christians?

Contemporary Christians will respond in many different ways to issues and definitions of 'the family'. Families are where, it is to be hoped, we learn first to be loved and to love others. This is central to a Christian response to God. The use of relational terms like 'Father' in talking about God emphasise God's care for the human race, and an intimacy we see reflected in the family.

What does Christianity say about war?

The Christian ideal is for peace, not war. While there have always been significant voices within Christianity advocating pacifism, Christian history and other voices would say that on occasions there is such a thing as a 'just' war. Many issues need to be thought out in the light of both basic Christian convictions and contemporary circumstances.

How do Christians view death?

By Jesus' death and Resurrection, Christians are encouraged not to fear dying. Christians understand that death will not separate us from God, and most believe that the faithful are in fact brought more fully into God's presence after this life (often called 'heaven'). In the classic words of Paul (a hugely influential early Christian): 'I am sure that neither death, nor life ... nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depths, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Romans 8:38-39).

How does Christianity guarantee human rights?

The Christian assertion, together with others, than humankind is created in the image of God must stand as a fundamental impetus towards universal human rights. The central Christian festival of Easter (which draws on the imagery of the Jewish Passover) explicitly tells of our freedom from slavery and invites all people to enter into that freedom.

The fact that Jesus was (by virtue of the method of his death) essentially a political martyr in the wider sense, has inspired some Christians with a very strong sense of social justice.

What about food?

Although Christianity has no dietary laws, some traditions make use of fasting and voluntary self-denial. The Church emerged in a context where there were many issues around foods (as both sacred and prohibited), and Christians are urged to be respectful of the positions taken by others.

The Eucharist or Holy Communion is a significant expression of faith for almost all Christians. This is a ritual meal, remembering the final meal of Jesus with his disciples, his life and death, and looking for the full coming of the Kingdom of God. Christians are also invited to enter into the hospitality of God, and like Jesus to share food and fellowship with the poor and outcast.