A common type of Email that we receive states that “denomination X” is not Christian” — where “X” may refer to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Roman Catholics, the United Church, Unity Church, etc. What the Emailer is really saying is that their own faith group are real Christians, and that anyone who holds beliefs that are significantly different are, in their opinion, not Christian.
Two widely different definitions of “Christian” are:
By Fundamentalist Christians: Have been filled with the Holy Spirit and are thus part of the body of Christ. A necessary pre-requisite to salvation is to repent of one’s sins, and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. The Email continued by saying that most Americans are not Christians, because they are “not filled with God’s Spirit and anyone not filled with His Spirit is in opposition to God…” Probably about 1 in 3 adult Americans would meet his definition.
?By governments: A Christian is a person who seriously considers themselves to be a Christian. Some are Roman Catholics, others are Southern Baptists. Some are members of the Assemblies of God; others of the Jesus Seminar….and some are not affiliated with any group or denomination. Surveys consistently show that about 7 in 8 adult Americans meet this definition.
No matter which definition we use, we will continue to receive hate Emails. We prefer to be on the side of inclusiveness. We don’t like drawing lines in the sand, by telling some very devout folk that they are not following the religion that they think that they are following. That activity can lead to serious problems, even genocide as in Bosnia. Given the tradition of religious intolerance in some areas of the world, it is only a small jump to go from “You are not a real Christian” to “You are sub-human” to “You have no right to live.” We thus use the definitions adopted by the government census on this web site.
Christians follow the teachings of and about commonly referred to as Jesus Christ. (Jesus is the Greek form of Yeshua; Christ is Greek for the Messiah or the “anointed one.”) He was a Jewish itinerant preacher who was born circa 4 to 7 He who was executed by the Roman occupying authorities in Palestine probably on 30-APR-9 Most Christians regard him as the son of God. They further believe that he is God, the second person in the Trinity. (The Trinity consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; three separate persons, all eternal, all omnipresent, who form a single, unified deity). Most Christians believe that Jesus co-existed with God before the creation of the world, was born of a and was three days after his death. Many conservative Protestant Christians believe that people are born and remain sinful; they will end up being eternally punished in unless they are Roman Catholics believe that salvation is obtained through repentance and church sacraments. Religious liberals generally interpret hell symbolically, not as an actual place of punishment.
About 33% of the world’s population regard themselves as Christian. This percentage has been stable for decades. (The second most popular religion is Islam, which is expected to become the dominant religion of the world during the 21st century.) 87% of North Americans identify themselves as Christian. This has been dropping very slowly in recent years, mainly due to the sudden increase in non-theists, such as Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, etc. Other factors are the increase in minority religions, largely caused by immigration and the emergence of new religions like New Age, Wicca and other Neopagan religions.
Christianity in North America is a severely divided faith consisting of over 1,000 denominations, which are often categorized into conservative, mainline and liberal wings:
?Many Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians regard themselves as the only true Christians. They maintain separate religious denominations, radio stations, publishing houses, local ministerial associations, etc — even exercise videos. They tend to look upon Christianity not as a religion, but as a living relationship with their Savior.
?Mainline Christians tend to be much more inclusive. They accept as Christian anyone who follows the teachings of and about Jesus Christ.
?Liberal Christians agree with mainline Christians, and are even more inclusive. Some theologians, particularly those who are members of the Jesus Seminar, have abandoned or reinterpreted most traditional Christian beliefs.
The main purpose of this section of our Web site is to help Christians understand the great diversity of beliefs and practices within Christianity, and how they developed through time. We try to compare and contrast the beliefs of the most conservative and liberal Christians. We realize that many, if not most, Christians hold intermediate views. We also describe the beliefs of the early Christian church movements, which are generally quite different from those of modern Christians.
We receive many critical Emails about these essays. Some are quite angry and hateful. Some accuse us of promoting our own liberal beliefs. Some say that we are a stealth Islamic, Satanic, Scientology or Mormon group trying to undermine Christianity. Others perceive us as lacking any deeply held beliefs. Still others say that we are just plain wrong. None of these are true. We are simply reporting the wide diversity of belief within Christianity. Yet many of our readers are distressed at seeing their beliefs described beside those of other wings of Christianity.