A Christian is a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, referred to as the Christ. Christians believe Jesus to be the Son of God, who lived a life free of sin, who at the end of his earthly life was crucified, and then on the third day, rose from the dead, and later ascended into heaven, with the promise to return.
The term "Christian" is used by various groups with diverse beliefs to describe themselves. Some people, including many born-again Christians, use a fairly specific definition of "Christian". They believe that in order to be a Christian, one must follow Jesus, and that the proof of this is found in agreeing to and following the doctrines set forth in their interpretation of the Bible.
In some areas of the world, the term "Christian" is not necessarily a person who believes in Jesus Christ at all, but is seen as an ethnic group, as the term Jew does not necessarily mean an adherent to the religion of Judaism. This point of view is most popularly held in the Arab Muslim world.
Many Christians are grouped into ecclesiastical communities called denominations which are separated by certain aspects of their respective beliefs and theologies. The liturgical denominations, including Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy, Roman and Eastern Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism, along with many constituent components of the reformed traditions of Presbyterianism, Methodism, Moravianism, et al., teach that the title Christian is honorifically bestowed upon those who have accepted the command of Jesus Christ (in Mark 8:34) to "take up your cross and follow me", and that the public mark of a Christian is to receive the sacrament of Baptism, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Many denominations advocate infant baptism, in addition to that of adult converts. However, proponents of believer's baptism contest that there is no specific passage in Scripture that mentions infant baptism.
Others who refer to themselves as Christians require only that one believes that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died and was resurrected from the dead, believing that those who do will follow the command of Christ to "take up your cross and follow me". Certain other denominations (The Church of Christ, International Churches of Christ, and the Independent Christian Churches) teach that the definition of a Christian is someone who has been baptized as a repenting adult. For them, adult baptism is the transition from non-Christian to Christian. These varying definitions arise from different biblical interpretations and differences regarding the authority of scripture in the bible in context with tradition.
A small but significant minority of ecclesiastical groups are often referred to as Christian, whose creeds consider Jesus to be theologically significant but not God. Movements along these lines include Jehovah's Witnesses, see also Nontrinitarianism.
during early times
Church is taken by some to refer to a single, universal community, although others contend that the doctrine of the universal church was established until later. The doctrine of the universal, visible church was made explicit in the Apostles' Creed, while the less common Protestant notion of the universal, invisible church is not laid out explicitly until the Reformation. The universal church traditions generally espouse that the Church includes all who are baptized into her common faith, including the doctrines of the trinity, forgiveness of sins through the sacrificial action of Christ, and the resurrection of the body. These teachings are expressed in liturgy with the celebration of sacraments, visible signs of grace. They are passed down as the deposit of faith.
Some minority traditions of Christianity have maintained that the word translated "church" in scripture most often properly refers to local bodies or assemblies. "Church" is a derivative of the Early Greek word "κυριακον", meaning Lord's house, which in English became "church". The Koine word for church is εκκλησία (ecclesia). Before Christian appropriation of the term, it was used to describe purposeful gatherings, including the assemblies of many Greek city states. Christians of this stripe maintain that a centralizing impulse in the church, present from the early days of the church through the rise of Constantine represented a departure from true Christianity. They therefore reject the authority of the Nicene Creed or the Apostles' Creed.
Christians heading for Saint Spyridon Church of Bucharest, around 1860. Watercolor by Carol Pop de Szatmary.The history of the Christian faith in modern times must be studied movement by movement, such is its diversity. In the West, the Protestant Reformation profoundly introduced to Christianity the idea of self-interpretation and the denouncement of visible unity. Intellectual pressure from the Enlightenment led to a religious reaction in the North American colonies — called the Great Awakening — to which Protestant North American Christians owe much of their pattern of practice.
Widespread Christian missions, founded by all segments of Christianity in response to the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 (also known as the Great Commission), have created today's situation in which Christians are to be found in almost every part of the world.
Within Christian communities there are members who devote themselves to active participation in prophetic communication and miraculous healing (and anything else considered to be a 'spiritual gift') as represented in the early church, the pre-Christ prophets and in the Bible (most notably in the book of Acts). They are categorized as Charismatic Christians.
The opposing view is cessationalism. This was made popular in post-reformation times to discount several radical Protestant groups (e.g. Anabaptists) that emphasized new revelations and prophetic messages. Their opponents (Lutherans, Calvinists) then responded by stating that the power of the Holy Spirit (that they agree had been with the early church), left when the last apostle died.
There are of course various other (some older) versions of cessationalism, (including that held by christadelphians) although some tend to use different names. In some cases the one belief (charismatic or cessationalist) will occupy the entire denomination as doctrine, most famously in the Pentecostal movement (founded on such charismatic principles), whilst other churches allow a more liberal view as to how widely these 'gifts of the holy spirit' are present in the modern church. Consequently there are charismatic Catholics and Anglicans, as well as the cessationalist counter-parts. Indeed the so called 'charismatic movement' began in high churches first, despite being attributed to more low-church style of worship.
Other movements within contemporary Christendom include the emergent church, fundamentalism, return to orthodoxy, messianic Judaism, liberalism, and the home church movement.
The life of a Christian is still characterized by faith in the figure of Jesus as represented in the New Testament. Sacraments aside, the concept of grace is still uniquely Christian: the idea that spiritual wholeness comes only as a result of a gift from God.
Christians have also been perpetrators of persecution, which has been directed against members of other religions and against other Christians. Christian mobs, sometimes with government support, have destroyed pagan temples and oppressed adherents of paganism (such as the philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria, who was murdered by a Christian mob). Jewish communities have periodically suffered violence at Christian hands, often in the form of a Pogrom. Christian governments have suppressed or persecuted groups seen as heretical, later in cooperation with the Inquisition. Later denominational strife has sometimes escalated into religious wars. Witch hunts, carried out by secular authorities or popular mobs, were a frequent phenomenon in parts of early modern Europe and, to a lesser degree, North America. European Colonial efforts often placed emphasis on Christianity over indigenous religions.
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