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