Christianity is one of the most-practiced religions in the world and has been a significant part of civilization since its early development approximately 2,000 years ago. Despite having a long and varied history, Christianity is still commonly-misunderstood by many who lack an understanding of it’s basic principles.
Originating in the Judeo-Christian region of the Middle East, Christianity began its development into a recognizable religion during the life of Jesus Christ. In essence, Christianity was a continuation of Judaism as outlined in the Old Testament of the Bible, but expanded to include Jesus as the physical incarnation of the Jewish Messiah that was prophesied to come.
Sometime during the 1st century of the Common Era, Christianity began to spread through the far reaches of the Roman Empire, along with it’s core ideas and beliefs. This was a somewhat complex process that was affected by the political and religious climate of the time, and due to the effort of evangelists such as Paul and Barnabas. The religion of Christianity steadily grew in popularity and adherents, which climaxed with the Edict of Milan in 313AD. This officially declared Christianity an accepted religion of the Roman Empire, which led to its fast expansion across the Mediterranean Sea.
Today, Christianity remains the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents in 2019. While much of the current belief and practice may be considered different from their early roots, contemporary Christianity still shares many of the same basic concepts of its original conception. Regardless of their deviation from the original faith, it is important to consider the impact that Christianity has had on the world’s present religious landscape.
The emergence of Christianity was nestled in the core scriptures of the Bible, which were recognized and accepted by adherents to the new religion. The Bible itself contains two main sections, the Old and New Testament, each containing accounts of historic events and teachings that were seen as an acceptable way of living by its adherents. These scriptures are arguably the basis of modern Christianity, providing the primary source of guidance, theology and ethics that define their faith.
The teachings of Christianity were spread by the apostles, a group of followers of Jesus who were witnesses of his miracles and teachings during his life. The apostles are generally accepted to have a vital role in the development of Christianity, since they were the ones who passed on Jesus’s teachings throughout the Mediterranean region. Their missionary work instilled a refined understanding of Christianity that gave adherents a core set of values, including the power of forgiveness and the importance of charity.
Christian prophecy is a religious theory according to which Christians believe that God speaks through the events of history and interprets it through the teachings of the Bible. This ideology was a major factor of early Christianity, as it provided a basis for early believers to understand why Christianity is significant and why it is considered to be the one true faith. Prophecy also became a powerful tool to explain and understand questions related to suffering and oppression, and has been instrumental in providing hope and faith to those who look for it.
Christianity in the West
The most recognizable version of Christianity is the Western Church traditions, which are differences in the beliefs and practices among denominations such as Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. These variations offer alternate interpretations and beliefs in relation to matters such as the Christian trinity, sacraments and eschatology. The holy scriptures are still a crucial part of Western Churches, but much of the structure of the religion is seen to have been developed from within a historical context, as opposed to strictly following the teachings and examples of Jesus.
In the present-day, the interpretation of Christianity is becoming far more flexible, as more people are open to looking at the core ideas of the religion from different perspectives. This greater acceptance has led to the development of Faith-based organizations such as the World Council of Churches, allowing different Christians to unite under a single purpose and provide a strong collective voice. It is to these emerging groups that we can offer a modern interpretation of Christianity, whilst looking to find ways to incorporate it within our own societies.
Influence on Society
The development of Christian tradition has had a significant influence on many aspects of society, with the teachings of Jesus being seen as the bedrock of morally accepted behavior. This has had a widespread effect on both public and private life, often highlighting the importance of ethics, justice and equality. It has been seen to have a visible effect in modern legislation, as many countries now put into practice laws which promote a leniency for those in need, which could be directly attributed to Christianity and its beliefs.
Differences in Practices
The main differences between Christianity and other worldviews tend to be based on religious practices, such as the Catholic use of the Rosary and the Protestant prohibition of graven images. Deviations in Christian traditions are far more widespread in practice rather than in accepted beliefs, and have led to various denominational divisions within the religion. Although these might appear minor, they have led to differing interpretations of the same scripture and even disagreement within the framework of the religion.
Christianity is also heavily focused on the collective, which is regulated through the church and encourages attendees to unite and form a single unit of believers. This united view allows the church to become a powerful entity in a region, due to its ability to provide help and assistance to vulnerable people, while also looking to uphold the teachings of Jesus. It is the communal aspect of the religion that has made it such a popular option in recent times, and has helped to further propel its growth worldwide.
Liturgical practices refer to formalised types of religious activities, such as prayer and benediction. These are an ever-present part of Christian tradition and are an important feature of the religion’s identity worldwide. Liturgical traditions are also widely seen as responsible for keeping strong ties between the church and its adherents, allowing them to strengthen their faith and receive guidance from the Church itself.