Christian theism is the largest of the world's three largest monotheistic faiths. However, there are substantial variations of doctrinal beliefs and creeds. Therefore, the answers below reflect the core of what is essentially held in common--what may be called "orthodoxy" or, in the term of C. S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity." This refers to the doctrines that transcend denominational lines.
To begin with, Christian theism emphasizes its uniqueness in that the main thrust of the faith is primarily a person, and not an idea or belief system. Jesus Christ--who he is and what he has done for us-- is central to Christian theism, and to emphasize any other aspect is a misrepresentation of its essence. This central role of the person of Jesus Christ is the most distinguishing aspect of Christian theism, setting it apart from any other world religion. This primary assertion is in direct conflict with both Judaism (Christianity's antecedent) and Islam, the other two major monotheistic world religions. Nevertheless, Christianity bears a special relationship to Judaism, because its recognizes that Jesus is the culmination of the Messianic prophecies of Judaism. Therefore, Christian theists maintain that Christianity is the continuation and culmination of Judaism (not merely an addition or rival to Judaism). While different forms of Judaism disagree in their expectation of a coming king (Messiah), Judaism rejects any claim that Jesus is or was that Messiah-King. Likewise, Islam has historical links to both Judaism and Christianity, but sees Jesus as (merely) a prophet, of inferior status to Muhammad, and neither the world's Savior nor King.. Thus, the insistency upon the absolute centrality of Christ as the Redeemer and Ruler over all humanity remains the most unique feature of Christian Theism.
"That transcendence and distinctiveness of the deity (Christ) which some Christians now want to remove from Christianity, was really the only reason why anyone wanted to be a Christian."
-- G.K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy, p 112)
"All other religions are oblique. The founder stands aside and introduces another speaker, they themselves therefore come under religion Christianity alone is direct speech (I am the truth)."
-- Soren Kierkegaard, Journals 1837
Belief about God
Does God exist?
How do you describe God?
- Infinite, unchanging, transcendent, spirit, sovereign, a personal being, triune, creator, holy, loving
- Incarnated and revealed in Jesus
"Christianity, then, has at its heart not an idea but a person. Since Christianity further asserts that this person is both fully human and fully divine, it is clear that this person, Jesus Christ, stands as the paradigmatic figure against which all human effort must be measured."
- The Harper-Collins Dictionary of Religion
Is there any kind of spirit world?
Yes. angels; Satan & evil forces; spirits of the dead
The Bible does not reveal a great deal about the spirit world. The belief that angels and demons are immaterial (spiritual beings) is not particularly unique to Christian theism (both Judaism and Islam have similar teachings). Such spiritual beings are represented as personal, and as such, they do interact with our physical world, though only rarely do they do so as physically visible. Contrary to popular belief, angels are not the spirits of deceased humans, but have an entirely different identity and role as the messengers (the Greek word angelos means "messenger") for God or Satan. In Christian theism, angels continually praise God, and may reveal and communicate God's message to humans (i.e. bring "the word of the Lord" to human's prophets). Demons are those angels who have rejected God's will, and also can influence, tempt, and interact with humans, with their goal including both to corrupt and to lead us away from God's will.
Belief about the world
Is there an overall plan or order behind nature?
- created by God
- damaged by the Fall The term "fall" is used to describe the catastrophic change from the original sinless and perfect state of the initial creation, into the sinful, broken, world we now live in, with its pain, suffering, and ultimately, death.
- the stage for redemption Although, by free choice humankind threw the world into a state of sinfulness, God's plan for redemption is accomplished through the person of Jesus Christ. It is through Christ, that the world is, and will be, restored to its intended order.
"Infinite humiliation and grace, and then a striving born of gratitude-this is Christianity."
- Soren Kierkegaard
- Awaiting future transformation Christian Theism teaches that through Christ, all people of every nation are invited to receive forgiveness of their sins before God. However, in the "last days" God will judge the world. At that time, those who have believed in Jesus Christ will be rewarded with eternal life, while those who rejected him in this life will be punished.
"It seems obvious that the divine plan to form a real moral community on earth has been to some extent at least thwarted. There has been a fall from the original divine plan for this planet, and there needs to be a restoration of that plan."
- Keith Ward
Belief about humanity
Are human beings different from the rest of nature?
"Man is at once placed in an exalted position. Man is represented as standing at the apex of all the created orders. He is crowned as king of the lower creation, and given dominion over all the inferior creatures."
- L. Berkof
- Image of God Essentially humans are both physical (having a body) and spiritual (having a spirit and/or soul): the body is described as made out of the dust of the earth, but that the "breath of life" (Gen. 2:7) imparts a living spirit.
- Immortal soul The belief actually stems from the earlier point concerning God's judgment of all humanity based upon each individual's response to (i.e. acceptance or rejection of) God's gracious forgiveness made available through faith in Jesus.
- Freedom Each individual has been given the freedom of choice either to obey God's will, or disobey it. "Sin" is simply the rejection of God's will in favor of one's own preferences (i.e. autonomy). While all humans are guilty of sin, each one is presented with, and responsible for, the choice either to accept God's form of redemption through Jesus Christ or reject it. The consequences of that choice have direct bearing upon the quality of life lived both here on earth and in the afterlife.
- Will be rewarded / punished Christian theism acknowledges that "No one is holy, not even one. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:9). Yet though we all are deserving of God's punishment, there is hope of acceptance and forgiveness by God through faith in Christ's death on our behalf. One's acceptance or rejection of Christ as the sole basis of reconciliation with God is therefore single criterion by which individuals reap either reward or punishment on the day that God judges all humanity.
"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done', and those to whom God says, 'Thy will be done. All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self choice there would be no Hell"
- C.S. Lewis
Where did we come from, & where are we going?
- Created by God
- Each chooses to worship God or idols
- All will be judged: the righteous with God, the wicked forever separate Thus, our choices have consequences, and will literally "echo into eternity."
"First, the Christian faith has a purpose and a goal and is going somewhere. Unlike many religions and popular philosophies today, Christians do not see the world as a great wheel swirling endlessly around and around in cyclical repetitions that go on forever. No, Christians believe that the world, and everyone in it, has a special destiny, a rendezvous with eternity for which our life on earth is but a preparation."
- Timothy George
2.1 Beliefs about purpose
What is the overall purpose or meaning of humanity?
To love God, and to love others (thereby reflecting his image and bringing him glory)
"Teacher what is the greatest commandment in the law? And he said to them, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first command. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"
What is the main purpose or highest good for each individual?
The same thing, through individual gifting
Belief about ethics
How does one decide right & wrong?
- By obeying God's will
- Revealed in the Bible [Would you like to read the Bible?]
- Impressed on our conscience: the Holy Spirit, wisdom of church elders, the believing community
Is it possible for humans to know truth?
What are legitimate sources of truth?
- General Revelation: science, history, human reason "General Revelation" is a term which refers to the order and patterns that are seen in the world around us with regularity. This includes observations and interpretations of scientific phenomena, math, logic, human behavior, cause-and-effect, etc..
- Special Revelation: Christ, the Bible, the H.S., etc. "Specific" or "Special Revelation" consists of those things revealed by God which require faith to believe. To those with "eyes of faith," these revelations are judged reliable and trustworthy, though (like the study of any historical event) most are not subject to scientific proofs and verification..
HYBRIDS: Obviously Christian theism cannot "hybridize" with itself. Look at each of the other worldview summary pages to learn how Christian theism has been blended ("syncretized") with other worldviews to produce an inauthentic form of Christian theism.
Further Resources |
- The Harper-Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition. Gen. Ed. Paul J. Achtemeier. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1996
- Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007): 265-276.
- Ward, Keith. Christianity: A Short Introduction. Oxford, England: Oneworld Publications, 2000
- Erickson, Millard J. Introducing Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids Michigan: Baker Book House, 1992
- Zacharias, Ravi. Can Man Live Without God? Nashville: W Publishing Group, 1994
- Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York: The MacMilliam Company, 1958
- [Book] Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Springfield: Doniger, Wendy Cons. Ed. 1999.
- The Harper-Collins Dictionary of Religion. Smith, Jonathan Z. Gen. Ed. New York, Harper Collins. 1995.