What is the Christian Faith? Part I (CC-2)
This blog is the second in a short series dedicated to the Christian faith. As the title clearly implies by the use of the phrase "Christlike Character", the Diamond Soul book is addressed primarily to a Christian audience. It would only make sense, therefore, to provide a brief refresher on the Christian theological doctrines which are applicable to the subject matter of my book.
On the other hand, I strongly believe that the teachings contained in the Diamond Soul are highly relevant to all open-minded people interested in self-growth and personal development. I take, therefore, this opportunity to introduce them to the beauty, mystery, and richness of the Christian faith.
What is the Christian Faith?
According to Wikipedia, the Christian faith is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is the Christ, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew sacred books. The central tenet of Christianity is the belief that Jesus, the Son of God, was sent by the Father on earth to become man and to wash away the sins of humanity by dying on the cross. By coming on earth, the divine nature of Jesus was endowed with a second nature, that of a human. As man, Jesus suffered the pain and temptation of mortal men, but he did not sin. He was unjustly accused by his fellow men and sentenced to death on the cross, which he accepted without protest.
Christians share basic convictions that are encapsulated in Creeds. Creeds are also known as statements, professions, or doctrines of faith. In the protestant world and Catholic faith, the most accepted Creed is the Apostle's Creed, while in the Eastern Orthodox countries it is the Nicene Creed.
Here are the main points of the Cristian Creed:
- the belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ as the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.
- the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Christ
- the holiness of the church and communion of saints
- Christ's second coming, the Day of Judgment and the Salvation
Although most Christians share the basic doctrines listed above, they also differ in the interpretation of the sacred texts and traditions. These differences have provided for the diversity, richness, and dynamics of various Christian denominations over the two millennia of existence of the faith.
For the remainder of this blog. I'm going to outline two of the core Christian doctrines: the doctrine of the Holy Bible and the doctrine of God.
The Holy Bible as God's Revelation
From ancient times, humans have asked basic questions like: What is life? What is the world? Is there a purpose for me being here? Is there an explanation for how things and people came to be? Some people believe that there is no purpose to life, that life is mere existence. They think that each person is left to oneself to make sense of all this as best as they can. Others believe that there exists a source of truth apart from the human mind and above it. They think that only a Higher Power could have created the sky, the earth, and all things and living creatures on it, including humans. Therefore, only the divine Higher Power can provide us an explanation for the world and our lives.
In the Western culture, the Christian Bible is considered the most influential book ever. It was translated into over six hundred languages, and it has been printed in over five billion copies. Currently, about one hundred million copies are sold and distributed each year. The first printed Bibles were produced by Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the movable typeset, in Meinz, Germany, in the year 1450. One copy of the d's intentional revelation is to be found supremely in Jesus Christ, and therefore in the Bible, because the Bible is the original book about Christ.
The Bible is a sacred, authoritative, and accurate book. It is the Word of God spoken to humankind by God made flesh. The Bible is a collection of sixty-six sub-books organized in two main parts. The first part is called the Old Testament and consists of thirty-nine books dealing mainly with the creation, the beginning of history, the story of God's people, and the narrative of God's preparation for the coming of the Savior. The second part is called the New Testament, which covers the ministry of Jesus Christ on earth. The New Testament consists of twenty-seven books written mainly within three hundred years from the life of Christ. Christians consider that Jesus Christ was God himself present in human form on earth. As such, he was the very expression of God, God's best self-revelation.
To the casual reader, the Bible may appear to be a collection of random stories about what God has done in the past. However, there is a greater unity that binds these stories together; there are several broader themes that flow throughout all the books of the Bible. These larger, overarching themes are called meta-narratives or meta-stories. Most scholars agree there are several major meta-narratives that stand out as one reads the Bible as a whole. They are built upon and flow out of the foundation of creation-fall-redemption.
The very idea that the Bible is revelation suggests that God himself was involved in the making of it. But evidently, the Bible is a very human document as well. Its authors––people such as Moses, David, Isaiah, Luke, John, and Paul––were much involved in the writing of it, as witnessed by their choice of words, individual writing styles, culture, and personalities. So how can we reconcile the idea of humans writing about God without God telling them what to write? To explain the unique character of Scripture as God's truth expressed in human words, Christian scholars have adopted the doctrine of "divine inspiration." It merely states that all writings in the Holy Scripture resulted from a cooperative activity between God and human authors. God exerted enough divine influence on the authors to reveal the truth, without controlling them completely.
In the Western culture, the Christian Bible is considered the most influential book ever. It was translated in over six hundred languages, and it has been printed in over five billion copies. Currently, about one hundred million copies are sold and distributed each year. The first printed Bibles were produced by Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the movable typeset, in Meinz, Germany, in the year 1450. One copy of the Gutenberg Bibles was brought to the United States in 1847 and is exhibited in the Lenox Rare Book Depository of the New York Public Library in New York City, N.Y.
BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD
SPOKEN TO HUMANITY BY GOD HIMSELF
The Doctrine of God
Thinking about God and trying to understand him is not easy. In fact, it would be impossible to know much about God since God is always greater than our highest thoughts of him. Although many people struggle with the question about God's very existence, we Christians simply trust the Scriptures when it affirms that God exists. From the very first lines in the Old Testament, it becomes evident that a world without God is inconceivable, since God is the reason for creation and the backdrop for all life.
The Christian doctrine about God is based on the revelations that God himself made in the Bible. Such revelations allow us humans to understand some aspects of his being, but not much more than that. Although human thoughts falter and our language fails at describing God, scholars have agreed on three features fundamental to his divine nature. They are transcendence, holiness, and dynamism.
Transcendence is the quality of God that represents him as prior to, distinct from, and not depending on anything or anyone. It means that God must not be confused with the universe he created because he is not part of it. God cannot be contained in time or space because he made them. That's why he is considered omnipresent. By his being the Creator of all things and all beings, he has ultimate mastery and sovereignty over them. This makes God omnipotent. The Bible teaches that God is perfect in knowledge, being the creator of time and space, earth and heaven, beasts, and humans. As a result, God has a whole perspective over the massive arch of history from the creation to the very end. This makes God omniscient.
Holiness is the quality of God resulting from his transcendence. Since God existed before any form of evil ever occurred, this fact gives him radiant splendor, awesome majesty, and pure righteousness. Therefore, God is holy in his very nature, apart from his actions, which are also holy. God's holiness makes him good and loving, and what he creates is also good. God loves and protects his creation by giving them rules, laws, and commandments. God's love is always a giving love, starting with giving his image to a form of clay from the dust of the ground. Thus, humankind becomes the supreme object of God's love. Besides his giving love, God also offers a servant love. Yes, God loves servants, and by establishing the Sabbath on the seventh day of his work, he created a model for humans to follow: work hard six days, but on the seventh day, everybody must rest, including lowly draft animals and insignificant servants.
We cannot conclude this brief on the Doctrine of God without glancing at the concept of Evil. This, again, is a complicated Christian topic because it acknowledges the conflicting coexistence of God and Evil, and the spectacular collision of goodness with the realities of evil, sin, suffering, and death. In a sense, the duality of Good and Evil is a reflection of the contradictions of human existence, of the polarity of right and wrong, pleasure and suffering, life and death.
Dynamism is one of God's least understood feature, but equally fundamental with the first two, i.e., transcendence and holiness. Dynamism is manifest in God's activity and within himself. The Holy Scriptures show us an active God from the very beginning: he creates the heaven and the earth, all living creatures, and the human race. Not only that, but God continues to be involved with his creation by sustaining and abiding it to fulfill his purpose for it. Besides being dynamic in his actions, God is also dynamic within himself. From the very beginning, Genesis 1:1 introduces God as the Father and originator of all the created world. Then, the Bible talks about God as the Spirit, who watches over the works of creation in his role as protector and perfecter. And lastly, in Genesis 1:3, we are introduced to the "Word" of God, through whose agency God's will becomes activated. God speaks and the Word makes it happen. In this way, the Old Testament gives us a hint of the essential Christian doctrine of God being a trinity of persons in one being. This doctrine is called "Holy Trinity," which receives full treatment in the rest of the Bible, particularly in the New Testament. The Holy Trinity teaches about the oneness between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.
We cannot conclude this brief on the Doctrine of God without glancing at the concept of Evil. This, again, is a complicated Christian topic because it acknowledges the conflicting coexistence of God and Evil, and the spectacular collision of goodness with the realities of evil, sin, suffering, and death. In a sense, the duality of god and evil is a reflection of the contradictions of human existence, of the polarity of right and wrong, pleasure and suffering, life and death.
GOD IS TRANSCENDENT, HOLY, AND DYNAMIC
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Useful links: Wikipedia Moody Bible Institute Vatican