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Comparative Religions. Christianity is the most widespread religion and has the largest number of followers. There are three major divisions in Christianity:

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Presentation on theme: "Comparative Religions. Christianity is the most widespread religion and has the largest number of followers. There are three major divisions in Christianity:"— Presentation transcript:

1 Comparative Religions

2 Christianity is the most widespread religion and has the largest number of followers. There are three major divisions in Christianity: Roman Catholicism Eastern Orthodoxy Protestantism Christianity centers on the life of Jesus of Nazareth

3 Jesus Charismatic wonder-worker Mediated between the everyday world and the Spirit world Drew upon the Spirit world to alleviate suffering and seek a new social order “The spirit of the Lord is upon me.” The spiritual order dominated the biblical tradition in which Jesus stood It included angels and other invisible beings, but it centered in Yahweh The two were no spatially separate Yahweh spoke through prophets Fasting and solitude were important in communications

4 The most important fact for the understanding of Jesus’ historical career is that he stood squarely in the tradition of these Spirit-filled mediators. John the Baptist baptized Jesus, causing the heavens to open and the Spirit of the Lord to descend and declare the Lord’s pleasure with Jesus Jesus then went into the wilderness for 40 days When he returned from the wilderness, he was empowered “By the Spirit of God I cast out demons” Jesus accepted without question the supremacy of Spirit over nature Healed diseases Cast out demons Quelled storms Parted waters Brought the dead back to life

5 Jesus used this spiritual power to heal humanity, beginning with the Jews “Thy kingdom come, on earth” The Jews were in desperate situations. Four sects of Jews developed from this desperation: Sadducees – made the best of a bad situation. Accommodated themselves to Hellenistic culture and Roman rule. The other three hoped for change Essenes believed the world was too corrupt to allow for faith’s reflowering, so they withdrew into property-sharing communes and devoted themselves to piety Pharisees remained within society and sought to revitalize Judaism through adhering strictly to the Mosaic law, especially its holiness code The fourth group were rebels who sought change through armed rebellion It was their revolt in 70 ce that brought the second destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem

6 Jesus introduced a fifth option for the Jews He wanted changed where the Sadducees did not He stayed in the world while the Essenes left it He promoted peace where the rebels wanted war He taught Yahweh’s compassion where the Pharisees taught his holiness The Pharisees thought since Yahweh was holy, He wanted the world to be holy too. He chose the Jews to make the world holy. Jesus disagreed with the Pharisees because of the social lines/classes that were created by it. Pharisaic belief created The clean and unclean The pure and the defiled The sacred and the profane Jew and Gentile Religious and Sinner Jesus saw the social barriers as an affront to the compassion of Yahweh.

7 “He went about doing good” He performed miracles but did not emphasize them He performed them quietly, apart from the crowd He used them as demonstrations of faith, not power Jesus was comfortable among Ordinary people Social misfits Jesus Healed them Counseled them Jesus’ disciples and followers thought that if divine goodness were to manifest itself in human form, this is how it would behave

8 “Never spoke man thus” It was what Jesus said All of his teachings have counterparts in the Old Testament or Talmud All together, they are vivid, urgent, and appear new Really, Jesus didn’t say much, but it was HOW he said it… Love your neighbor as yourself What you would like people to do to you, do to them Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free

9 Jesus told stories too that amazed those who listened… Stories of Buried treasure Sowers Perl merchants A good Samaritan He advised people the opposite of what human nature tended to lean Don’t fight, turn the other cheek Love your enemies and bless those who curse you The sun rises on the just and the unjust Outcasts and harlots will enter the kingdom of God before the fake righteous The way to salvation is narrow Happy people are meek, they cry and are merciful and pure in heart

10 The only way to make sense of what Jesus said is to realize He saw God as one who loves human beings absolutely He saw God as one who doesn’t look at what someone was worth Think about this… Why should we give someone our cloak and our coat? Because God has ministered far more to our needs Why should we go that extra mile for others? Because we know God has stayed with us for a lot longer Why should love our friends AND our enemies? Because God’s sun shines on both

11 “We have seen his glory” Jesus didn’t just teach these things, he LIVED them His entire life was one of Humility Self-giving Love that was unselfish He didn’t care what people thought of him, he cared about what people thought of God He loved people and they love him Loved children Jesus didn’t like anything that stood in the way or mislead people about God’s compassion and love for people. Jesus hated Injustice Hypocrisy His disciples and the people said, “We have seen his glory, full of grace and truth

12 What happened after the crucifixion? Jesus’ close associates reported that he appeared to them in a new way Corporeality – eating, and Thomas’s touching the wound in his side Visionary – seeing him pass through closed doors Jesus seems to have resumed his former body, but it was a resurrection, not a resuscitation Christology is a result of the faith in Jesus’ resurrection

13 Christology Extended the status of goodness in the universe because it was omnipotent Resurrection reversed the cosmic position in which the cross has placed Jesus’ goodness. The love of Jesus was not fragile, it was victorious over everything – including death

14 Christians became one of the most dynamic groups in human history They exploded across the Greco-Roman world Preaching the Gospel – translated Good News Began in an upper room in Jerusalem In their own generation Christianity had taken root in every major city of their region Because of persecution Christian used the symbol of the fish to identify each other. When they drew it, it’s head pointed toward the place where they would secretly meet Because the Greek letters for fish were also the first letters of the phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior”

15 Those hearing the Good News were impressed by what they saw and what they heard They saw transformed lives They saw people who had changed overnight by finding the secret of living New Christians seemed to have two qualities that impacted those around them Mutual regard for others “see how these Christians love on another Total absence of social distance they really did regard one another as equals Joy – Christians possessed an inner peace that surfaced in happiness even though they were persecuted

16 What produced their joy and love? Three intolerable burdens had been lifted from the Christians shoulders Fear – including fear of death Guilt Self-centeredness What freed them from these things? Love Human love comes from being bombarded by finite human love Early Christians had felt love in infinite proportions flowing from Jesus – God’s love If we felt ourselves loved vividly and personally by one who unites all power and perfection that would also reduce our fears, guilt and self-centeredness to zero.

17 New Christians had felt Jesus’ love and believed he was God incarnate so they had felt God’s love. A new love was born – Christian love Conventional love is evoked by lovable qualities Christian love embraced sinners, outcasts, Samaritans, and enemies Good example is I Corinthians 13

18 Christians never felt alone, they believed that Jesus was in their midst as a concrete, energizing power “I am the vine, you are the branches” The Holy Spirit was the life-blood flowing through the vine Talents of each Christian were different, but they all had the same life-giving substance – the Holy Spirit The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ Christ dropped the human body and exchanged it for a new physical body – the church Christ’s mission continued through the church

19 The development of the church literally incorporated people into Christ’s person – the church Christians varied then and still vary now in their connection with Christ Holy Spirit might be flowing fully through them They may be a bit sluggish They could be apostate – paralyzed in their connection The church and the Holy Spirit bound Christians together and put them in the closest conceivable relation to Christ himself.

20 Christians came to see the church as having a double aspect The Invisible Church – Christ and the Holy Spirit dwelling in people and giving them grace and love The Visible Church – it fell short of perfection and needed to be criticized because it was full of fallible human beings. Christians differ on the possibilities of salvation Liberals think salvation is possible outside the Body of Christ Fundamentalists think it is not A lot of Christians are in between.

21 The reason the disciples were first drawn to Jesus was that they were living in the presence of someone in whom love, joy, and power intersected in a way they believed was divine What is theology? Religion always includes an ethic Ethics springs from a vision of reality that sets it in motion The vision is born of experience Religious experience is invisible so it gives rise to symbols as the mind tries to think about the invisible realities

22 So…we can define theology as the systematization of thoughts about the symbols that religious experience gives rise to Christian Creeds are the bedrock of Christian theology for being the earliest attempts by Christians to understand systematically the events that had transformed their lives

23 Three doctrines that are the Christian Creeds Doctrine of the Incarnation claims something about both God and Jesus Jesus – by identifying Jesus with God, they said his life provides the perfect model for us Making Jesus God and man wasn’t as foreign to the people in that day as it is today, Emperors often claimed to be divine. Jesus’ impact laid in the kind of God he disclosed – a God who was willing to assume the limitations of human life Concerned about humanity Concerned enough to suffer in its behalf These two concerns caused red flags in the eyes of the Jews and the Romans. These worried them as did the Christians’ radically egalitarian social views Christians were persecuted, but developed many ways to avoid persecution if possible.

24 Christians didn’t emphasize Jesus’ divinity, their Creeds took it as their first task to insure his humanity The first Creed that Christians used to prove Christ’s humanity was the Apostles Creed I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord Who was conceived by the Virgin Mary Suffered under Pontius Pilate Was crucified, dead and buried The third day he arose from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father and will come again to judge the living and the dead I believe in the universal Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins and live everlasting. Amen

25 After acknowledging God, the Creed moves immediately to its overriding concern: that part of the God-man splice was human in every respect The Church felt it needed to retain Christ’s humanity. Christ was a bridge between God and humanity and the bridge must touch both sides

26 The Doctrine of the Atonement Root meaning is reconciliation The recovery of wholeness or at-one-ment Christians believed that Christ’s life and death had effected an unparalleled rapprochement between God and humanity. Two metaphors have dominated the Church’s understanding of this realignment The legalistic one assumes that disobedience – depicted by the eating of forbidden fruit in Eden – estranged humanity from God The sin was of infinite proportion for having been directed against an infinite God Only an infinite initiative could heal the damage done Christ accomplished this through his vicarious death on the cross

27 The deeper meaning of the word is singular Sin is disconnectedness, or estrangement from God The heart’s misplacement A misalignment of its affections Self-love pulls against our love for others The bondage that imprisons us is self-love The higher power to overcome/bridge the gap between God and humanity came in the form of Christ Jesus is credited for the restoration of the bridge between God and humanity – At-one-ment!

28 The Doctrine of the Trinity While god is fully one, God is also three This is where Jews and Muslims often believe that Christians are not monotheistic Christians are monotheistic – water, steam, and ice are all H2O just in different fashions Christians, most of which were Jewish, affirmed the deity of Yahweh easily enough. They say Jesus as Yahweh’s extension in the world Then came Pentecost While the disciples were together suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind The wind filled the entire house where they were staying Divided tongues of fire appeared among them A tongue rested on each of them All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit Christians viewed this as the arrival of a third party to the divine assembly – thus, the Trinity!

29 313 ce – the Church becomes a legally recognized religion in Rome 380 ce – it becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire 1054 ce – the Church divides into the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church 16 th Century ce – Roman Catholicism is further divides into Protestantism with the Protestant Reformation The Three Great Branches are Roman Catholic Eastern Orthodoxy Protestanism

30 Roman Catholic Church is the Teaching Authority and the Sacramental Agent Teaching Authority Begins with the concept that God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to teach people how to live in this world so as to inherit eternal life The Gospels alone don’t do everything here because they contain ambiguities Bible Study, individually pursued, doesn’t resolve these ambiguities because people come up with different interpretations

31 Ambiguities Is divorce permissible? Was Christ born of a virgin? Did his body ascend after death? Is the fourth Gospel authentic? The Church stands as the Supreme Court on these issues. This leads to the doctrine of papal infallibility The earthly head of the Church is the Pope The Popes are the successors to St. Peter The doctrine of papal infallibility asserts that when the Pope speaks officially on matters of faith and morals God protects him from error The Pope is NOT endowed with extraordinary intelligence He does NOT know the answer to every conceivable question Catholics do NOT have to accept the Pope’s view on politics

32 The Church as the Sacramental Agent It’s one thing to know what to do, but another thing to be able to do it. The Sacraments help Catholics know how to be able to DO what needs to be done. Since the 12 th Century the Roman Catholics have had seven Sacraments: Baptism Confirmation Holy Matrimony Holy Orders Sacrament of the Sick Reconciliation Mass

33 Reconciliation is confession Mass is the Holy Eucharist or Communion The Catholic Church teaches that when the eucharist elements are consecrated, they become Christ’s body and blood. The Eucharist conveys grace to Catholics like a boat conveys its passengers The other six sacraments (except Baptism – which delivers the soul into the supernatural order) convey grace like a letter conveys meaning.

34 The Eastern Orthodox Church broke officially with the roman Church in 1054 ce. They honor the same Sacraments Share the same intent regarding the Teaching Authority Two differences arise The first of these is numerical The Eastern Church sees fewer issues on which unanimity is called for Only ones mentioned in scripture can qualify Only 7 times – in the Seven Ecumenical Councils, all before 787 – has there been need to interpret what scripture says about them The Roman Catholic Church looks positively on subsequent pronouncements seeing them as development of doctrine The Eastern Church sees these as additions which Christians may, but need not, endorse

35 The two churches also differ on how these additions are arrived at The Roman Catholics have the Pope The Eastern Church has no Pope, they believe God’s truth is disclosed through “the conscience of the Church” a phrase that refers to Christian consensus This Eastern view is very corporate All Christians consider themselves to be “members of one another” The Eastern Church has taken this more seriously Each Christian is working, not to save his or her individual soul, but to attain salvation with and through the rest of the Church. “One can be damned alone but saved only with others.” – From Russia Not only is the destiny of the individual bound up with the entire Church, individuals are responsible for helping to sanctify the worlds of nature and history The welfare of everything in creation is affected to some degree by what each individual contributes to or detracts from it.

36 The practical side of this… The Church dogmas reflect the consciences of Christians generally is one of these, and the principle holds in practical matters as well The laity in each congregation elect their own clergy It is believed that divine guidance is thought to suffuse the entire Church in these choices The clergy is really on separated by being able to administer the Sacraments They can marry Even the “head” of the Church, the Patriarch of Constantinople, is no more than the “first among equals” The laity is known as the ‘royal priesthood’

37 Christianity believes that reality contains two realms The natural The supernatural Following death, human life moves to the supernatural domain Roman Catholicism holds that the Trinity dwells in every Christian soul, but its presence is not normally felt The Eastern Church actively encourages its members to take the initiative toward the mystical life.

38 The causes that led to the 16 th Century break with Roman Catholicism Political economy Nationalism Renaissance individualism Concern over ecclesiastical abuses Justification by faith Protestant Principle

39 The two main reasons for the break were Justification by faith and the Protestant Principle Justification by Faith Protestant faith is not just a matter of belief It is a response of the entire self Movement of the mind (believing in certain things) Movement of the heart (loving and trusting those things) Movement of the will (doing things that are prompted by that love Creeds have their place, but unless the doctrines one professes reach one’s heart and change the way life feels, they are mere mouthings Rituals – prayer, churchgoing, etc – unless they awaken the actual experience of God’s love they are no good either Where faith is genuine, people want to help others

40 Protestant Principle warns against idolatry Protestant definition of idolatry is giving one’s life first and foremost to something in the finite world Idols cannot deliver on unlimited investments in them In Biblical times idolatry involved golden calves and graven images Today, idolatry may be sex, success, oneself, an ideology, an ethnic group, or even one’s nationality The chief Protestant idolatry has been bibliolatry – excessive adherence to the literal interpretation of the Bible

41 Another instance of idolatry is the deification of private religious experience An example of this is when people think they are Christ or God or when they do unlawful things because they say God told them to do it. Holding the Bible in such high, infallible, esteem can also be a form of idolatry Protestants believe that the Bible is the most reliable way they can enter the divine life - by reading this record of God’s grace with total openness and divine intent The dangers of misconstruing the Bible is the prospect that they will derive different truths from their encounters  The splintering of Protestantism into different denominations is proof of this hazard Overall, Protestants will take the risk of interpretation to keep the freedom of interpretation


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