The Crucifixion
Easter
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Christianity

My God... look at all the topics covered in this. Don't panic though, most of it's pretty obvious anyway... Just concentrate on the stuff you're not too sure on. And smile.

J

The Bible

The Bible is the Christian scriptures. Some people believe that is literally God's words. This means they believe everything in it, right from Genesis. They are known as 'Creationists' or 'Fundamentalists' and refuse to accept what science tells us about the world.

Other people don't think all of it's literally true, but it is the ideas behind everything that is important.

The Bible is the world's best seller every year. Still, when they hand them out to reluctant school kids each year it's not surprising...

It contains a total of 66 different 'books' written by many different people and it is split into two sections: the New Testament and the Old Testament. The Old Testament contains 39 books, and the first five are identical to the Jewish Torah. It was originally written in Hebrew. The New Testament tells of Jesus, has 27 books, and was originally written in Greek.

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Sacraments

Sacraments are crucial points of a Christian's life. They are recognised in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, but most other denominations practice them too. They are outward signs of inward spiritual grace.

The seven sacraments are:

  1. Baptism
  2. Confirmation
  3. Eucharist/Mass/Holy Communion
  4. Penance (Confession)
  5. Marriage
  6. Orders (Becoming a Priest, Monk or Nun)
  7. Anointing the sick with oil (Unction)

Common features of all these ceremonies are:

  • Intro/Welcome
  • Prayers
  • Hymns
  • Bible reading(s)
  • Talk/Sermon
  • Vows/Promises
  • Mass (if the Church is Roman Catholic)
  • Finish

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Baptism

What is said and done at a Infant Baptism?

Baptism is one of the seven sacraments, but it's pretty important in most denominations. The Bible instructs us to baptise in Matthew 28, for example:

"Go then and make disciples of all nations, baptising them".

I'm going to describe an Anglican Baptism, so remember to mention that in the exam.

Baptism usually takes place during Eucharist. The words spoken in an Anglican baptism come from the Anglican Alternative Service book.

The ceremony begins with the priest introducing it. He will give an opening speech, which talks about the oaths the parents take on behalf of the child - a large stress being placed on how important it is for the parents to bring up the child in the Christian way.

Later, the priest will ask the parents a series of questions:

  • Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
  • Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
  • Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbor?

To these the parents must answer, "I repent them".

Next are asked the questions:

  • Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
  • Do you submit to Christ as Lord?
  • Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?

The parents answer, "I do".

The child is then baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Holy water is poured over the child's head three times, corresponding to each part of the Trinity.

A candle is handed to the parents or god parents. The priest tells them to receive the light to show that the child has now passed from dark to light. The priest welcomes the child into the family of God, and the whole congregation join the welcoming in unison.

Denomination difference:

  • In the Orthodox church they completely submerge the child.
  • The Baptist church won't baptise infants.
  • Quakers and Salvation Army don't baptise.

Symbols:

  • Water and oil - symbols of the Holy Spirit.
  • Candle - Jesus the light of the world is now shining on the child.
  • White - Purity.
  • Cross on head - remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice.

Should Christians baptise infants?

Arguments For
Arguments Against
 Children are supposed to have 'Original Sin' (inherited sin) that needs washing away.  Parents shouldn't pressurise their children into what they should belive - but they've promised to bring the child up as a Christian.
 In the New Testament, children were baptised as well as adults.  Everyone should have a choice - a baby is too young to make the decision.
 Baptism is often compared to the Jewish circumcised, and that is done at 8 days old.  They might not believe in Christianity when they're older and it might be like a barrier in future.
 It's a welcome for the child into the Church.  Some families only baptise as tradition, or to have a big party.
 The child can confirm their faith later in Confirmation.  Nothing in the Bible commands child baptism.
 In Roman Catholic belief, if a child dies before baptism, they cannot go to heaven.  If someone believes, it doesn't matter how old they are when they're baptised.
 The Bible never says not to baptise children.  Baptism washes away sin - but a child has hardly any!
 When you get older, it allows you to be married in a church.  Jesus was baptised as an adult.
 It's easier to get into a Church of England school.  Children won't remember the ceremony, but it's supposed to be special.

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Confirmation

As another sacrament, Confirmation is very important for Roman Catholics. The Orthodox Church doesn't confirm though. As part of baptism, it has something called 'chrismation' which replaces confirmation.

Before the confirmation, there are usually many weeks of preparation and Bible study classes. The person being confirmed will usually have a sponsor, who supports them through the preparation and the ceremony itself.

Unlike a baptism, the Bishop takes the confirmation. He asks the person the same questions that were asked at baptism, reaffirming their belief.

Next, he lays his hands on the person's head as a sign of the Holy Spirit entering the person. The candidate is blessed and now a full member of the church.

Holy Communion follows the service - the confirmed's very first. From there on, they can have Holy Communion.

In the Anglican church, children are usually baptised around 14. In the Roman Catholic, they are even younger, around 8. In the Quakers, for example, there is no confirmation, as they believe they already have the Holy Spirit.

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Holy Communion

After Confirmation, a child can take Holy Communion. Another name for this is Eucharist (from the Greek meaning 'thanksgiving'), Lord's Supper and Mass.

Depending on which church denomination you are from, things are slightly different.

Anglican Roman Catholic  Methodist Orthodox
Service Name Holy Communion  Mass Holy Communion/ Lords Supper  Eucharist
How often?  Every Sunday, but can be everyday. Every Sunday, but can be everyday. Can be every week, but usually every 4 weeks.  Every Sunday, but can be everyday.
Wine  One chalice. Alcoholic. One chalice. Alcoholic.  Individual glasses. Non-alcoholic.  Bread soaked in alcoholic wine. 
Bread  Wafers  Wafers  Real bread  Real bread 

As usual, churches like the Quakers don't take Holy Communion.

A good Bible quote for Eucharist is Mark 14: "This is my body" "This is my blood".

Some Christians believe that when blessed, the bread and wine literally become Jesus' body and blood. This belief is called transubstantiation. Other Christians, though, believe the bread and wine are still just symbols. This is called consubstantiation.

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Marriage 

The ceremony as usual begins with a welcoming introduction by the priest. It also consists of a Bible reading, 1 Corinthians 13 all about love being ideal, and has happy hymns.

The man and woman will make a number of vows:

To have & to hold
From this day forward
For better or worse
For richer or poorer
In sickness & Health
To love & to cherish
Till death us do part

This shows what Christians think of marriage - it should be special, and last through any trials, only being split by death (in heaven there is no marriage). It is seen as a union with God too.

The couple's hands are usually bonded, symbolising the new link between them, and the rings they exchange are a symbol of their love being never ending. Gold is a symbol of purity, as it the white dress the woman wears. Christians often believe in Chastity before marriage (abstaining from sex).

In Matthew 19, Jesus said: "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except [it be] for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery." In other words, if you remarry you are in effect committing adultery.

The Bible is very clear on the matter of not committing adultery -- Exodus 20: "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

Marriage is a lawful contract in the eyes of God, in which Christians should keep until "death do us part".

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Funerals

Death isn't a sacrament, but a funeral fits with the previous three because it's a rite of passage. This is a major event in a person's life. This is the fourth of the rites of passage.

Christians believe in life after death, which can be seen from the Apostles Creed, they believe in "the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting". When Jesus came back to life, he defeated death, giving Christians something to strive for. In John 3, Jesus said, "he who believed in me will not die".

Because of this, a funeral isn't always a terrible time. Some Christians believe it should be a celebration of the person's life, and after all, they have something better awaiting them. Hymns will be sung, and the vicar will give a sermon, focusing on the resurrection. Family members will often also give speeches about the deceased.

The service in the church is either followed by a cremation or a burial. Because Christians don't believe in the physical resurrection of the body, they don't have a problem with cremation. There will be a short service at the committal in which the coffin is sprinkled with holy water as a sign of cleansing sins.

Denomination Differences:

  • The Roman Catholic Church believe in purgatory. This is a place between heaven and hell, where the soul waits until sins on earth a redeemed. If there was no baptism, RCs believe the soul cannot leave purgatory.
  • Roman Catholics also have a special mass called requiem mass.
  • The Orthodox Church has an open coffin throughout the service, positioned at the front of the church.

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The Apostles Creed

The Apostles Creed is a statement of belief. It out lines all Christianity, making it very important. And here it is...

I believe in God the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;

'God' shows there's only one. 'Father' makes him seem loving, caring and respectable. 'Almighty' shows God is all powerful and 'heaven and earth' means he made everything.

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

This talks about Jesus, the second part of the Trinity. He was part human 'born of the Virgin Mary' but also holy 'conceived by the Holy Spirit'. Pontius Pilate was a historical figure, attempting to prove Jesus' existance. The resurrection of Jesus is a key part of Christian belief. It also says the Day of Judgement will come.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

The third part of the Trinity - the Holy Spirit. 'Catholic' means world wide. 'Saints' tells us that all good people will have life after death, whether alive or dead. 'communion' means the coming together. The prayer ends with 'Amen' which means 'so be it'.

Is the Apostles Creed relevent?

Yes No
 It's a statement of belief, containing all the central Christian beliefs.  It's old fashioned, with archaic language. "sitteth" for example instead on "sit".
 It protects against wrong beliefs.  Contained old fashioned ideas, such as the world being flat and "ascending" to heaven.
 It safeguards Christianity, as all these new religious cults are emerging.  Meaning is difficult to understand, leading to misinterpretation.
 It's useful to have something historical that challenges modern views of society.  It's original purpose is lot as there are few "conversions" nowadays.
 Churches without the Apostles Creed may have to make up something complecated to replace it.  Christianity is about a relationship with God, not the ability to recite a load of out of date words...

 

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Sermon on the Mount

As well as the Apostles Creed, the Sermon on the Mount is also very good for understanding Christian beliefs. Like the title says, it is a sermon delivered by Jesus on a mount, near the sea of Gallilee.

The sermon's found in Matthew 5-7. The most famous section of this sermon, though, were teachings known as the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

There are 8 in total, and they teach Christians how to be 'blessed' or happy. For example, 'those that mourn' are in reality happy, if they allow God to fill in the gap. It might be tricky to remember them all, so pick your three favourites, and make sure you can remember what they mean!

The Beatitudes turn common conceptions of life on their head. They say that the true happy are not those that:

  • long for money, but those who are "spiritually poor".
  • aim to be popular, but those who are "persecuted" for justice.
  • fight, but those aim to make others find peace, i.e "peacemakers".
  • seek dependence from oneself, but in "thirsting for righteousness" from God.

A great example for a number of these Beatitudes is Luke 18, the Parable of the Taxcollector and the Pharesee. While these two men went to the Temple to pray, the Pharasee did so in the centre, in a loud voice, declaring to God how perfect he was. The Taxcollector, though, prayed quietly in a corner - knowing he was a sinner.

In God's eye, the Taxcollector was the better man, because he needed God. He was "spiritually poor" and "meek" and "pure in heart".

Other important teachings at the Sermon on the Mount are:

  • The Lord's Prayer
  • The Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have done unto you". (Matthew 7).
  • Turn the other cheek (Matthew 5).
  • You can't serve both God and money.
  • Matthew 7: "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but don't consider the beam that is in your own eye?" Don't be a hypocrite - only when you are perfect can you judge others.

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Liberation Theology

This is helping the poor. "Liberating" is freeing something".

Ecumenism

This is the belief that as all Churches in Christianity follow the same belief, they should try to co-operate more.

 

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All text copyright © 2006 to Elizabeth Taylor. Page Template created by James Taylor. Site created: 10 April, 2006. Last revised: June 21, 2006 .