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Christianity 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 Bible, called the Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with about 2.4 billion followers.

Christianity remains culturally diverse in its Western and Eastern branches, as well as in its doctrines concerning justification and the nature of salvation, ecclesiology, ordination, and Christology. Their creeds generally hold in common Jesus as the Son of God—the logos incarnated—who ministered, suffered, and died on a cross, but rose from the dead for the salvation of mankind; as referred to as the gospel, meaning the "good news", in the Bible (scripture). Describing Jesus' life and teachings are the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with the Jewish Old Testament as the gospel's respected background.

Christianity began as a Second Temple Judaic sect in the 1st century in the Roman province of Judea. Jesus' apostles and their followers spread around the Levant, Europe, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Transcaucasia, Egypt, and Ethiopia, despite initial persecution. It soon attracted gentile God-fearers, which led to a departure from Jewish customs, and, after the Fall of Jerusalem, AD 70 which ended the Temple-based Judaism, Christianity slowly separated from Judaism. Emperor Constantine the Great decriminalized Christianity in the Roman Empire by the Edict of Milan (313), later convening the Council of Nicaea (325) where Early Christianity was consolidated into what would become the State church of the Roman Empire (380). The early history of Christianity's united church before major schisms is sometimes referred to as the "Great Church". The Church of the East split after the Council of Ephesus (431) and Oriental Orthodoxy split after the Council of Chalcedon (451) over differences in Christology, while the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church separated in the East–West Schism (1054), especially over the authority of the bishop of Rome. Protestantism split in numerous denominations from the Latin Catholic Church in the Reformation era (16th century) over theological and ecclesiological disputes, most predominantly on the issue of justification and papal primacy. Following the Age of Discovery (15th–17th century), Christianity was spread into the Americas, Oceania, sub-Saharan Africa, and the rest of the world via missionary work.

Christianity and Christian ethics played a prominent role in the development of Western civilization, particularly in Europe from late antiquity and the Middle Ages. The four largest branches of Christianity are the Catholic Church (1.3 billion/50.1%), Protestantism (920 million/36.7%), the Eastern Orthodox Church (260 million) and Oriental Orthodoxy (86 million/both together 11.9%), amid various efforts toward unity (ecumenism). Despite a decline in adherence in the West, Christianity remains the dominant religion in the region, with about 70% of the population identifying as Christian. Christianity is growing in Africa and Asia, the world's most populous continents. Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, especially in the Middle-East, North Africa and South Asia.

Selected article

The parable of the talents (as depicted in this 1712 woodcut) is often cited in support of prosperity theology
Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, or the gospel of success) is a religious belief among some Christians that financial blessing and physical well-being is always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations will increase one's material wealth. It is based on interpretations of the Bible traditional in Judaism (with respect to the Hebrew Bible), though less so in Christianity. Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity. The parable of the talents is often cited in support of prosperity theology.

The doctrine emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment, proposing that it is God's will for his people to be happy. The atonement (reconciliation with God) is interpreted to include the alleviation of sickness and poverty, which are viewed as curses to be broken by faith. This is believed to be achieved through donations of money, visualization, and positive confession.

It was during the Healing Revivals of the 1950s that prosperity theology first came to prominence in the United States, although commentators have linked the origins of its theology to the New Thought movement which began in the 19th century. The prosperity teaching later figured prominently in the Word of Faith movement and 1980s televangelism. In the 1990s and 2000s, it was adopted by influential leaders in the Charismatic Movement and promoted by Christian missionaries throughout the world. Prominent leaders in the development of prosperity theology include E. W. Kenyon, Oral Roberts, TD Jakes, A. A. Allen, Robert Tilton, T. L. Osborn, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Reverend Ike and Kenneth Hagin.

Prosperity theology has been criticized by leaders in various Christian denominations, including within the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, who maintain that it is irresponsible, promotes idolatry, and is contrary to scripture.

Selected scripture

Judgment of Solomon
Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear. And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king. Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living. And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof. And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment.

Selected biography

Gregory of Nazianzus was a 4th century Christian bishop of Constantinople. He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age. As a classically trained speaker and philosopher he infused Hellenism into the early church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials. Gregory made a significant impact on the shape of Trinitarian theology among both Greek-speaking and Latin-speaking theologians, and he is remembered as the "Trinitarian Theologian". Much of his theological work continues to influence modern theologians, especially in regard to the relationship among the three persons of the Trinity. Along with two brothers, Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, he is known as one of the Cappadocian Fathers. Gregory is honored as a saint in both Eastern and Western Christianity. In the Roman Catholic Church he is among the Doctors of the Church; in Eastern Orthodoxy and the Eastern Catholic Churches he is revered as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs along with Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom.

Selected image

The First Vision of Joseph Smith
Credit: User:COGDEN

The First Vision (also called the grove experience) refers to a vision that Joseph Smith said he received in the spring of 1820, in a wooded area in Manchester, New York, which his followers call the Sacred Grove.

Did you know...

....that ecclesiastical Latin remains the official language of the Roman Catholic Church and is thus also the official language of Vatican City?
....that although raised as a Christian, C. S. Lewis spent most of his youth being an atheist until discussions with close friends such as J. R. R. Tolkien gradually persuaded him to reconvert?
...that The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come, a Christian allegorical novel written in 1675 by John Bunyan while imprisoned in England, is regarded as one of the greatest classics of literature and has been widely translated into more than 100 languages other than its original English text?
...that the Amish are a denomination of Anabaptists, found primarily in the United States and Canada, who do not vote, join the military, pay or draw Social Security, or accept any form of assistance from the government?

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