Beyond just the common hatred of Christianity on WB (and throughout the world); there also seems to be a lot of ignorance concerning my faith. I don’t mean this as derogatory assertion… just an observation. I assure you, I am very ignorant of many things I haven’t been exposed to.
With that in mind, I’m going to write a simple primer on the subject of Christianity. This is meant simply to inform; not proselytize or debate the existence of God. So please don’t comment on that point. We all know where we all stand on that issue.
But if you agree/disagree with my premise of what constitutes the foundation of being a Christian. or have a question/comments concerning these beliefs (other than they are wrong, because there is no God), I would love to hear from you.
Hopefully, I’ll help some better understand our core beliefs. Hopefully, I’ll dispel some misnomers, clarify others… AND I’m sure I will likely confirm a few misgivings. I don’t claim to have all the answers, or understand every jot and tittle of the gospel. But, I think I know enough to write this primer and intelligently discuss aspects of my Christian faith.
Just the Foundation:
As with all religions there is disagreement among followers of Christ concerning certain details. We Christians are not immune to this sort of thing. We are divided into denominations and suchlike. So, I’m going to try and concentrate on core Christian beliefs, those the vast majority of Christians share and the foundation of the faith. There will be a few places where I note some disagreement within the faith.
Beyond this foundation, I’ll also make note of a few beliefs concerning our faith, either confirming, denying, or clarifying them. Again... just for information.
There is a large segment of the population that would adopt the label Christian who simply believe in God; but are for the most part ignorant of the teachings of Christ. They, more or less, see God as a old white haired figure who will weigh one’s good vs bad at the end of our lives and if the good outweighs the bad, you go to heaven. This (as you will see below) is one of the most anti-Christian doctrines one can hold.
So, this primer does not address the beliefs of these “Christians” but rather those who take the teachings of Christ seriously enough to know what they are; and who believe the foundation of His teachings, His gospel (good news).
OK… Christians take our religion from the New Testament of the Bible. We generally see the Old Testament as history and prophesy preparing the way for the Messiah, who is Christ. Christ’s story, and teachings are found in the New Testament as recalled and written down by His followers.
We are aware of the arguments that these words were written by fallible men, and even debate these issues among ourselves; but it is a common belief among Christians that God inspired and guided these men as they recalled and produced the New Testament (the Bible as a whole actually).
Other books and commentaries, and primers have been written; and those can be very insightful, but the source, the only source of the gospel is the Bible.
What I am describing here is the basic message of the New Testament, paraphrased by me and placed in a somewhat logical order. Here we go…
1) Man is flawed/sinful and this state separates him from God who is perfect.
2) God loves man. God loves man so much he was determined to bridge that separation.
3) There is a big problem though, in that NOTHING man can do (no sacrifice, no paid price) is good enough to bridge that gap. Understanding this basic tenant of Christianity should lay to rest the idea of God as a wise old man with scales weighting good and evil; at least for those who would call themselves “Christian”.
4) So, God implemented a plan that would (bridge the gap and reconcile man and God). Man could not sacrifice enough or pay a price high enough, but God could on men’s behalf. And that’s what He did.
5) God sent His Son, the prophesied Messiah, (Jesus Christ) to make the sacrifice and pay the price for all men to be reconciled to God. For this to work, Jesus had to live the perfect sinless life and then be ultimately punished/sacrificed as if He had committed the sins of the world. This is why Jesus is often referred to as the Lamb of God and the perfect sacrifice.
6) Jesus did this. He left His Heavenly home, walked the earth, taught what I am describing here (and more). THEN he was crucified/punished for the sins of the world. Why? Because NO man could do this. Only God could, and Jesus taught that HE was God.
7) That brings us to our small part in all of this. What must we do (according to the New Testament) to take advantage of what God (through Jesus) did for us?
a) We must know that what He did was a gift (grace); and not something we deserve or can work for.
b) We must believe and acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God and the promised Messiah.
c) We must repent of our sins which means to acknowledge them and seek to change our ways.
d) We must be baptized for the remission of those sins. (Note: Baptism is one of those subjects that denominations disagree on… It’s necessity and what constitutes the act.)
e) We must remain faithful to the above for the remainder of our lives.
That’s it. That is the foundation of the gospel. Everything else in the New Testament either reinforces this foundation or is advise on how to implement one’s faith… particularly remaining faithful.
Addressing a few Common Beliefs:
With the primer of the foundation of Christianity behind us. Let me spend just a little space addressing a few common beliefs concerning what we Christians believe. Some are misconceptions, some aren’t and some (I think) need clarification.
Please understand that the clarifications and answers below are mine based on my study of what Jesus and the apostles have taught. I don’t claim to speak for anyone other than myself here.
“You must believe the entire Bible (or at least the New Testament) to go to Heaven.”
No. What you must believe and act upon is the foundation described above. Everything else is meant to help you better understand that foundation and live by it.
The perfect example might be the golden rule “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” Jesus taught this rule as a lesson on how you repent and change your ways; in other words, how to walk the walk. He did not teach this rule as the means to attain salvation and go to heaven.
It gets back to the basic principle of what Christians call “works”. Living by this rule is works/action but no amount of works is sufficient to attain salvation/heaven. You do works because you are saved… not in order to be saved.
He (Christ) is the Only Way:
“Christ and the means he set forth in His teachings are the only way to achieve salvation/heaven.”
Yes. Jesus said this point blank. He is it… nothing else works.
We Christians catch a lot of grief for this and to be honest, I don’t know why. Two plus two equals four. It doesn’t equal three. It doesn’t equal five. It doesn’t equal twenty-two. Not even sometimes. We simply think we are right AND thus religions, belief systems, and people who disagree are wrong.
This is no different than a Muslim saying that Muhammad is THE prophet of Allah. They say anybody who denies this is wrong. Atheists say that anybody who believes in a god is wrong. I don’t take either of these non-Christian beliefs personally; nor do I take offense. We (Christians) just ask that the same courtesy be extended to us.
Jesus was a Wise Teacher
Some people choose to believe that Jesus was a wise teacher (a Rabi), kind of like Buddah; but was not divine. They therefore feel free to pick and choose which of his teachings they will admire and take to heart.
Christians do not subscribe to this belief or approach. So, No.
He was wise. He was a teacher. But He was God. If the first two are meant to exclude the third, then the belief is false.
This approach readily fits agnostics and those who want to pretend that all religions lead to the same place.
Picking and choosing a path in this manner is an option; and quite a few follow it. I personally don’t find it very logical but don’t begrudge those who do. We simply disagree. I would also simply say that this position is non-Christian in that it is not what Christ taught.
From my standpoint, I don’t think a “wise teacher” can be a liar. I also don’t think a “wise teacher” can be crazy. Jesus said He was God. That makes Him (logically) one of three things 1) A liar, 2) crazy , or 3) God.
The only way to get around that is to decide that Jesus didn’t really claim to be God; but did say all the good things I agree with. This too (in my opinion) is not a logical approach to forming one’s religious or philosophical beliefs. It is essentially living by meme or worship of oneself.
Christians are Morally Superior:
“Christians have a monopoly on moral authority and thus an upper hand in living moral lives.”
There is a Christian meme that states “Not perfect, just forgiven”. That, I think is a good description of the state we Christians find ourselves in. We are taught that we are to try to be better, to try to be like Christ, BUT to understand one thing. We will fail, because we are human.
That would be very bad news if our success/salvation depended upon us. It doesn’t. It depends on Him, and He paid that price and won that victory 2K years ago.
Still, we catch grief because we do not turn a blind eye to sin the world has decided to embrace. And we are (thankfully) guilty of that. But we are also guilty of committing our own sins equal to those. Hypocrisy would be pretending one is worse than the other, or that we were without sin altogether. We’re not… and those few who may believe that are dead wrong. Far fewer Christians than you think do believe it.
Side Story: I remember a preacher in Houston thanking visitors for attending church one morning. He said something like this “I know some of you are looking around for the perfect church to attend. THIS is not it. I would also ask that if you ever do find that perfect church, to leave immediately; or else it would cease to be perfect.” I always liked that…
I’ll stop here, though I’m sure I’ve missed a few Christian myths/misnomers. Feel free to add your own in the comments. I thank any readers who got through this whole thing and hope it helps a few better understand what it is to follow Christ. God bless you, every one. :)