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  • 1. What Is Christianity? A Review of the Essentials Prof. Felix Just, S.J.
  • 2. Introduction:
    • Christianity is a major world religion ,
      • A“Western” religion (w/ Judaism & Islam)
      • The largest world religion today (ca. 2 billion)
    • It is based on belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the “ Christ ” ( “Messiah”) & the “ Son of God .”
    • Like most other major world religions, Christianity has several core aspects :
      • I) History & Development
      • II) Core Beliefs & Practices
      • III) Structures & Regulations
  • 3. I-A: History
    • Historical Background: Abraham , Israelites, Hebrews, Jews, OT
    • Historical Foundation : Jesus of Nazareth ( crucified ca. AD 30 ) & his first disciples/apostles
    • Historical Development: Tradition preserved/adapted 2000 years ( interplay of both old & new, ancient & modern )
  • 4. I-B: Branches & Subdivisions
    • Major Christian Branches : (Eastern) Orthodox, (Roman) Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Restorationist, etc.
    • Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants: O: by nation & language: Greek, Russian… A: by nations: esp. former British colonies P: by leaders/theologies: Lutheran, Reformed…
    • Groups within Catholicism: religious orders & societies (monastic, mendicant, apostolic, etc.), lay groups
  • 5. I-C: Demographics
    • Number of Christians World-wide: ~ 2 billion in 2000; ~ 33% of world population
    • Subdivisions: 1 bill. Catholics; 500 mill. Protestant/Anglican; 250 mill. Orthodox; 250 mill. Other
    • % of Populations: 48% Africa; 85% N. America; 93% S. America; 9% Asia; 76% Europe; 85% Oceania  
  • 6. II-A: Foundational Texts
    • The Bible : official collection of books, in two parts: both Old Testament & New Testament
    • The Creeds : short professions of faith, defined by first two Ecumenical Councils: Nicea & Constantinople
    • Other Writings : writings of Church leaders throughout history, esp. founders of orders & denominations
  • 7. II-B: Core Theological Beliefs (Dogmas & Doctrines)
    • One God in Three Persons (Trinity) : Father / Almighty / Creator Son / Jesus / Christ / Savior / Lord Holy Spirit / Giver of Life / Paraclete
    • World & Humans : created by God, in God’s image, with free will; originally good, but corrupted by sin/death;
    • Church, Salvation, Eschatology : community of believers; body of Christ; resurrection of the body; eternal life
  • 8. II-C: Core Ethical Teachings (Commandments & Precepts)
    • Foundational Principles : do good & avoid evil; love God, others, self; develop an “informed conscience”
    • Sexual Morality : dual purpose of sex; consistent ethic of life; human relationships; central role of family
    • Social Ethics : dignity of each person; common good; care of the poor/needy; work, participation, property
  • 9. II-D: Religious Practices
    • Calendar, Feasts, & Festivals : Advent & Christmas ; Lent & Easter ; saints’ days; local & universal festivals
    • Public / Communal Worship : official liturgies, rites, rituals, Sacraments, esp. Baptism & Eucharist; Sunday worship
    • Private / Individual Spirituality : prayer, devotions, pilgrimages, asceticism, retreats, pious/spiritual practices, etc.
  • 10. III-A: Church Organization
    • Churches & Denominations: historical divisions: always! esp. 1054, 1517 but also reunifications & mergers
    • Structures with each Church : indiv. parishes/congregations, local dioceses, national conferences, international associations
    • Leaders within each Church : bishops (incl. Pope, cardinals), priests, deacons, lay ministers; pastors, elders, etc.
  • 11. III-B: Internal Regulations
    • Membership : Who can join? What is the process? (evangelization; catechesis; initiation)
    • Leadership: How are leaders chosen? Who is eligible?
    • Discipline : What are members’ & leaders’ obligations? Sanctions and punishments? (Canon Law)
  • 12. III-C: External Relations
    • Ecumenical Relations : dialogues between Christian denominations; bilateral & international groups (WCC)
    • Inter-religious Relations : dialogues with other major world religions; esp. with Judaism & Islam (historically close)
    • Church/State Relations : cooperation or tensions with political, social, economic, and other secular institutions?
  • 13. REVIEW
    • History & Development
      • Historical Foundations & Development
      • Branches, Divisions, Demographics
    • Core Beliefs & Practices
      • Foundational Texts: Bible, Creeds, etc.
      • Central Teachings: Theological & Ethical
      • Common Practices: Liturgical & Spiritual
    • Structures & Regulations
      • Organization, Leadership, Membership
      • Internal Rules; External Relations
  • 14. Final Exam: Essay Questions
    • What are the core beliefs and practices of Christianity? (What is common to all Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Xns?)
    • What are some of the most important differences in theology and praxis between Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Xns?
    • What was (and still is) the impact of the Second Vatican Council on Christianity (both the Catholic Church and others)?
    • Describe the typical processes of Christian Initiation (Baptism-Confirmation-Eucharist)? Differences for Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants? Differences for infants vs. adults in Catholicism?
    • Describe the wide variety of Christian "vocations" (how God "calls" Xns to live; religious & lay; historical differences; etc.)
    • What are "Scripture" and "Tradition"? How are they related in Catholic theology? …in other branches of Christianity?
  • 15. Final Exam: Practical Tips
    • I encourage you to study together with your regular group or with other students.
    • Bring several pens, one small Blue Book, your Bible, and your one page of notes.
    • The Exam will take most students about two hours; some a little more or less.
    • Study Well & Good Luck!