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                          Christianity
                            the largest religion in the world

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There are many definitions of Christianity.  Some people regard their own denomination to be the only "Christianity"- all others being inadequate. Others view Christianity as including a full range of faith groups from the most conservative fundamentalist faith group to the most progressive Christian denomination.

We define as Christian any individual or group who sincerely regards themselves to be Christian. That is, they believe that they follow Jesus Christ's teachings as they understand them to be.

Many regard themselves as arbiters and insist on excluding Jehovah's Witnesses, Roman Catholics, Mormons, and/or some other denominations as non-Christian, or anti-Christian.

Christianity is the largest religion in the world at the moment.  It has over two billion followers, who classify themselves under 34,000 different denominations.

Initially, Christianity evolved between 100 AD and 500 AD in the eastern area of the Mediterranian. It derived from Judaism, Roman emperor worship, and a number of other religions in the area.  Christianity is monotheistic and is based mainly around the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ .

Christians believe in the Bible being the word of God, and although some choose to take it more literally than others, it is generally considered to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Beliefs and Principles:

The earliest statement of Christian beliefs was made at the First Council of Nicaea in 425 AD. This creed says that God and Jesus are of the same substance and essence. Jesus was born on Earth, suffered and ascended to heaven. Someday he will come and judge the world. Most Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the anointed savior of the world and that his presence on earth was the fulfilment of the prophesies made in the Old Testament about the Messiah who was to come and save humanity from their sins,

It is generally taught that, by dying on the cross, Jesus Christ paid the price for all the sin in the world. Thus anyone who accepts this belief is given eternal life and freedom from sin. They also hold that Jesus will return on Judgment Day to fulfil the rest of the Old Testament prophesies, to judge the living and the dead and establish God’s kingdom in the new creation.

 

.According to the Gospels, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. Not much is said about Jesus’ childhood, but his last years on earth were documented in the Gospels. Christians consider Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension to be the most important doctrines in their faith. This is because Jesus shows his omnipotence over death and ultimately is the most convincing evidence for Christians that he is fully God.

The Bible itself is seldom debated within Christianity, only its translation and interpretation.  Many believe that it was intended only to be read as a book of myths and moral messages. Others contend that the whole Bible is supposed to be read literally and then there are those who read the various books in the Bible differently, for example the Psalms is read as illustrative poems and the Gospels as historical facts.

Although Christianity is a monotheistic religion, Christians also believe that Jesus was God’s Son and that He, and the Holy Spirit, are both one with God, as well as being entirely separate entities. This is the doctrine of the Trinity. It cannot be fully understood, but is a mystery.  The majority of Christians see  this mystery as an essential part of their faith though some Christians do not.. The Bible does not specifically refer to the Trinity, but it is a common doctrine and is included in the  core beliefs of Christianity.

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Divisions within Christianity:

Christianity was never a unified religion. It developed as a result of schisms within the Jewish faith. By the end of the first centurythree main movements remained.

Pauline Christians: a group of mainline congregations, largely of non-Jewish Christians. Some had been created by Paul and his co-workers. They evolved to become the established church.

Gnostic Christians: They claimed salvation through special, spiritual gnosis (experience). Some were members of mainline congregations; others were part of Gnostic groups. They were  gradually suppressed and exterminated.

Jewish Christians: remnants of the group originally headed by James, the brother of Yeshua, and including Jesus' disciples. They were scattered throughout the Roman Empire after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, and gradually disappeared.

300 - 400 AD: A schism concerning the nature of God. So serious was this division, the Emperor Constantine himself had to settle it. After the death of the Emperor, the Bishop of Rome began to be recognized as the most senior of all bishops. Siricius (384-399) became the first bishop to be called Pope.

1054: A lengthy power struggle between eastern and western Christianity culminated in a schism between the Eastern Orthodox churches and the main  Roman Catholic Church).  Many Christian sects broke away from the Western Rite throughout the Middle Ages (Cathars, Knights Templars, etc.). These were generally exterminated by the central church in various genocidal wars

1517: Martin Luther attacked certain practices and beliefs of the Church, and the authority of the Pope. He was followed by other reformers which produced a mass movement -- the Protestant Reformation. They were driven largely by two fundamental principles:"Sola Scriptura" (Scripture Alone): The belief that the Holy Bible was the ultimate authority for all matters of religious belief and practice.The Priesthood of all Believers: The belief that no priest or other intermediary is needed between the Christian believer and God.

1820: Joseph Smith, at the age of 14, received his first vision. He reported that God and Jesus Christ had appeared before him as separate entities and told him that all of the Christian sects and denominations were in error and that he should not join any of them. He founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830. It attracted 1000 members during its first 12 months and has since grown rapidly. About 13 million believers who are members of almost a hundred faith groups trace their church's history back to the church that Smith founded.

Modern times: Protestant Christianity became fractured into over 1,500 individual denominations, as individuals and groups began to interpret the Bible in their own unique ways. They continually formed new sects that they felt were closer to Jesus' intentions for the church.Since 1840 in North America schisms occurred over the legitimacy of human slavery, and whether to allow women to be ordained. A number of mainline denominations -- Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal -- are attempting to keep their organizations intact in spite of differences of belief about sexual orientation. They are debating whether to grant equal rights to gays and lesbians, and whether to recognize same-sex relationships.

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Meta-groups within Christianity
Christian denominations and sects in the world can be sorted into about eight segments or branches: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian Churches, Protestants., Restorationists, Anglican Communion, Pentecostals and others.

Three wings within Christianity
Christian groups can be divided into conservative and liberal wings, according to their belief systems. Their teachings on abortioncreation and homosexuality, are three indicators of their location on the liberal- conservative continuum.

 
Fundamentalists, other Evangelical Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodoxy, and such varied groups as the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons,Unification Church, etc. generally form the conservative wing;

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Progressive Christianity, Evolutionary Christianity, United Church of Christ, United Church of Canada and others form the liberal wing. 

Often, a third, mainline wing is added, composed of such denominations as:American Baptist Churches in the USA, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, etc.

Six religious groupings:

These are the generally recognized groups of Christian faiths:

Evangelical,

Pentecostal,

Historic Protestant,

Historic Racial/Ethnic

Eastern Orthodox, and

Roman Catholic

Religious families  by denomination  
Some individual denominations are: 
the Amish,
The Brethren
Roman Catholic Church,
Children of God,
Christadelphians,  
Christian Science 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon
Eastern Orthodox churches
The Family (David Berg), (a.k.a. Family of Love)
Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Polygynists in Bountiful, British Columbia, Canada,
Gnostics,
Jehovah's Witnesses
LDS Restorationists:
Messianic Judaism & "Jews for Jesus
"The Process
Progressive Christianity 
Quakers (Society of Friends)
Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: Now called the Community of Christ
Seventh-Day Adventist Church Two by Twos ("The Jesus Way", "The Church with no Name", etc)
Unification Church 
Unitarian-Universalism (About 10% of UU members consider themselves to be Christian)
United Pentecostal Church International
Unity Church
Unity School of Christianity
Urantia Book 
Worldwide Church of God 
The Way International


 

Many systems of beliefs
Almost daily new growths and divisions are occuring within the Christian faith.
This is due to the lack of a
clear historical record and the process of continual re-interpretation