Break out the Holy Rollers jackets: today’s learnalittle post is Christianity.
Christianity is a monotheistic religion that most centers on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the belief that he is the Son of God, humanity’s savior, and – in the majority of denominations – God as part of a Holy Trinity, along with God the Father, the God of Judaism; and the Holy Spirit, a divine force through which God acts and inspires. Christians don’t see this Trinity as three separate gods, but one God with three distinct yet unified natures.
There are three major Christian branches today: Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. The first major divide came with 1054’s East-West Schism, over disagreements concerning the nature of the Holy Spirit and whether or not the Pope, leader of the Church, had universal jurisdiction over it’s doctrine and practice. The result was two distinct sects: the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The RCC is led by the Pope in the Vatican, and practiced the same way all over the world. Conversely, the EOC lacks a Pope-like leader, and represents many geographically and nationally distinct churches (Greek, Russian, Romanian, etc.), unified by one theology.
Note that there is a difference between the EOC and the Oriental Orthodox Church, despite their similar names. The OOC separated from the Church in 451, and consists of six independent churches (Coptic, Syriac, Ethiopian, etc.) that operate in communion with each other. Despite their long-standing separation, there have been periodic talks of Catholic and Orthodox reunification.
In 1517 Germany, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the doors of a Wittenberg church. The document criticized several RCC doctrines and practices, including the use of indulgences: donations in exchange for one’s salvation or the salvation of a deceased loved one. Without intending to, Luther effectively began Protestantism, the third major branch of Christianity. Apart from Lutherans, other major original Protestant groups include Calvinists, who believe that all events – including who receives heavenly salvation – is predestined by God; and Anabaptists, who practiced adult baptism and rebaptism, and withdrew from civil government and armed service.
Additionally, the Church of England – or Anglican Church – officially separated from the ROC in 1534. This schism gained government support after the Pope denied the annulment of King Henry VIII’s first marriage. Henry allowed little change to the actual function of the church during his reign, creating suspicions that England broke away mainly for his right to divorce (or execute) his wives. The story has since been retold in many dramatizations, with a range of creative license.
Modern Protestantism includes scores of denominations – Methodists to Mennonites, Episcopalians to Evangelicals, and Congregationalist to Christian Scientists – with variation in practice even within one group.
Despite the many different forms of Christianity, most Christians agree that Jesus calls us to be kind and take care of one another. No matter what part of the world you’re from or what exactly you believe, hopefully, that’s a message we can all support in our own way.