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What Is Christianity? A Review of the Essentials Prof. Felix Just, S.J. Introduction: Christianity is a major world religion , A“Western” religion (w/ Judaism & Islam) The largest world religion today (ca. 2 billion)

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What Is Christianity?

A Review of the Essentials

Prof. Felix Just, S.J.

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  • 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

What Is Christianity?

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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)

What Is Christianity?

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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 coloniesP: by leaders/theologies: Lutheran, Reformed…

  • Groups within Catholicism:religious orders & societies (monastic, mendicant, apostolic, etc.), lay groups

What Is Christianity?

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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

What Is Christianity?

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II-A: Foundational Texts

  • TheBible: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 throughouthistory,esp. founders of orders & denominations

What Is Christianity?

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II-B: Core Theological Beliefs (Dogmas & Doctrines)

  • One God in Three Persons (Trinity): Father / Almighty / CreatorSon / Jesus / Christ / Savior / LordHoly 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

What Is Christianity?

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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

What Is Christianity?

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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.

What Is Christianity?

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III-A: Church Organization

  • Churches & Denominations:historical divisions: always! esp. 1054, 1517but 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.

What Is Christianity?

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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)

What Is Christianity?

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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?

What Is Christianity?

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  • 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

What Is Christianity?

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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?

What Is Christianity?

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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!

What Is Christianity?