Christianity For Dummies
Understanding Christianity starts with looking at the basics that connect Christians. Then you can compare the beliefs across the Christian church, the keys to worship, and read the Nicean creed, which is commonly used in Christian liturgy.
A Brief Look at Christianity
Christianity encompasses a great number of beliefs about a great number of different subjects and the ideas that spring from those beliefs, resulting in endless specific convictions. Basically, though, Christians agree on these ideas of salvation:
God loves and wants a relationship with each person.
Everyone is born with a tendency to sin. And this sin, whether it’s large or small, separates people from God.
God came to earth in human form (as Jesus Christ) and paid the costly penalty for sin by dying on the cross for all people. He rose from the dead three days later, triumphing over death.
God offers forgiveness to everyone.
Anyone who accepts this gift of forgiveness and believes in Jesus Christ receives salvation.
Comparing Beliefs across the Christian Church
Different Christian denominations are organized and worship in different ways. This handy table will help you keep track of and compare some differences in worship, rituals, and beliefs of the largest groups of the Christian Church:
|Means of salvation||How they worship||Sacraments and ordinances observed||Organization||Ordain women?||Who can be baptized?|
|God’s grace by faith alone||Traditional style through liturgy; contemporary liturgy is possible||Baptism, Lord’s Supper (Regard the other five that Catholics observe as “minor sacraments”)||Episcopal (Clergy in local churches presided over by bishop.)||Yes||Infants and professing Christians|
|Assembly of God|
|God’s grace by faith alone||Non-liturgical (free) worship; sometimes contemporary||Baptism, Lord’s Supper||Mixture of Congregational and Presbyterian (Local churches largely govern themselves, but don’t have complete autonomy.)||Yes||Only professing Christians|
|God’s grace by faith alone||Non-liturgical (free) worship; sometimes contemporary||Baptism, Lord’s Supper||Congregational (Local churches are self-governing.)||Depending on the convention (division of churches)||Only professing Christians|
|God’s grace, which Christians receive by faith and by observing the sacraments||Traditional style through liturgy; contemporary liturgy is possible||Baptism, Eucharist (Lord’s Supper), Penance, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick||Papal/Episcopal (Clergy in local churches presided over by bishop; the pope [the Bishop of Rome] is the ultimate Church leader.)||No||Infants and professing Christians|
|God’s grace by faith alone||Traditional style through liturgy; contemporary worship is possible||Baptism, Lord’s Supper||Mixed (Congregational, Presbyterian, and Episcopal structures exist.)||Depending on the synod (council)||Infants and professing Christians|
|God’s grace by faith alone||Traditional style through liturgy; contemporary worship is possible||Baptism, Lord’s Supper||Episcopal (Clergy in local churches presided over by bishop.)||Yes||Infants and professing Christians|
|God’s grace received through faith and on-going participation in the work of one’s salvation||Traditional style through liturgy||No official position, but often observes the Catholic sacraments||Episcopal (Clergy in local churches presided over by bishop.)||No||Infants and professing Christians|
|God’s grace by faith alone||Traditional style through liturgy||Baptism, Lord’s Supper||Presbyterian (A graded organizational system by presbyters or elders.)||Yes||Infants and professing Christians|
Principles of Christian Worship
When Christians worship God (and God alone) they’re showing him devotion and admiration. Worship is done in a variety of ways, through singing, praying, preaching, and reading the Bible. Worship not only honors God, but it also empowers the worshiper. Keep in mind the following keys to worship:
Worship in reverence.
Worship intentionally and with focus; don’t simply go through the motions.
Worship by letting the Holy Spirit work in your heart.
Worship by giving to God with abandon.
Worship constantly; it’s not a once-a-week activity, but a way of life.
The Nicean Creed
Developed in the fourth century, the Nicean Creed (or the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, as Orthodox Christians call it) serves as the basic, non-negotiable statement on who exactly God is according to the Christian Church. This creed is a profession of faith among all parts of the Church and is often used in Christian liturgy.
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.