Saturday, March 21, 2009

So What's the Difference?

It's been a long time since I have posted anything new here. I've missed it, but stuff has a way of piling up! I'm not sure still how often I will be able to post anything new, but will try at least to be a little more regular!

I left the last post quite a while ago, but at the end, I said we would go on to exploring the differences between Christianity and other religions. Most religions are pretty straight foreword in the different beliefs and philosophies, but it is still important, I believe, to understanding the major world religions and worldviews. As non Christians, it helps to understand what it is that people of religion base their world views or thinking and beliefs on. It is a help to people who may be searching for something more than life happening without a faith or belief, but who aren't sure of what it means to follow a particular religious belief. There are so many different beliefs in the world- some have a larger following than others, some are more definite about life changes than others, some have more rules, others have strange beliefs and are more "radical" than others, so understanding differences can help a person come to a more broad understanding of what they may want to follow. For Christians, it can help develop a deeper faith in the Bible, and can also help by allowing more open conversations with people of different beliefs. I know people of other faiths are a little more open to discussion if a person has taken the time to study their beliefs and religious background. For me, religious studies and apologetics has strengthened my beliefs and shown me so many ways in which Christianity is true.

It has taught me that even among other Christian denominations, there can be huge differences in the way the Bible is interpreted, if it even is studied as the Book of God at all. It has shown me that there are many groups and religious people in the world who call themselves Christian, but by what their religion teaches, the books they teach from and their view on Scriptures, shows very little of the True meaning of being a Christ follower- a disciple of Christ, which is what the Christian "religion" is all about.

This is where I would like to start my next series- on those denominations and other groups which are or claim to be Christian.

It is NOT my intention here at all to put down, or denigrate anyone else's beliefs. It is only my purpose to share what I have learned in my years studying- the differences, and how some ideas or rules placed in those other denominations and sects are contrary to the Bible.

I will be basing much of the series on a select few books of many which I have studied from the past decade, and whenever I use a particular book- I will include the author, book and chapter.
These books have valuable resources for anyone wanting to study world religions, and many of the authors are highly respected individuals. That said, if any mis information is posted here, please let me know, and I will do my best to rectify or look into it. I want all the information to be honest and up to date, so as to not misinform anyone, but I will investigate any complaints for validity. I repeat, that I will never intentionally write anything which is misinformation or meant as a put down of anyone or their beliefs. This is only to show the differences in a Biblically based Christian life and other beliefs.

The first part of the series will focus on the differences between The Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Christianity. Most of the information for this part comes from the book So What's the Difference by Ftitz Ridenour. Again, if there is something I write here which is wrong or misleading, please (politely) post a comment and tell me~ Thank you.

I guess the best place to start first of all, is a recap of what Biblical Christianity is. This will be the basis of Christianity for all the other comparisons as well.

There are many Christians in the world- many of them my family and friends who are not Bible readers, and are quite illiterate when it comes to knowing much about the Bible. Oh, they know the main "stories" but as for the meanings and life lessons which the stories are there for - they have no clue. To be a Biblical Christian, this means that Christians look upon the Scriptures of the Bible with reverence, respect and with the knowledge that the Bible is the literal Word of God, that it is God Breathed, and the men who wrote the books were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. It means the Christian is diligently, seriously and carefully searching for the meaning of the Bible on IT'S terms- not our own to be changed whenever something written it is seeming to be out of date, not with our own time and understanding. We read the Word as we know it is God's Own Word. All throughout Christianity, there has been the need to separating the true Christian belief from other philosophies and heresies which kept on and are still creeping into the Christian body.

In the book So What's the Difference, Ridenour tells about the meaning of heresy from Webster's Dictionary. It is "an opinion held in opposition to the commonly received doctrine and tending to promote division or dissension." The common truths in the New Testament which shows the books are inspired by God, and His final Word on what Christianity really is has been subject to heresies and differences since the second century. The most commonly referred is Gnosticism. This is what many liberal Christians today believe in. There are many different denominations in Christianity- from Episcopal/Anglican, which is what I grew up in, to Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist and many others. The core belief however among all denominations are the basic doctrine that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures... He was buried... He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." 1 Corinthians 15:3,4

There is much more to Christianity than that, but this is the main doctrine, in which to compare other beliefs by. Ridenour describes this as a plumb line- which is what the Bible referes to when Amos showed the Israelites how God measures their actions according to His standards, His Word. (Amos 7:8)

So basically, Biblical Christianity is belief in the True Word of the Bible which is God Breathed- His literal Word, the reliable Word, Jesus was born of a virgin, died for the sins of the world, on the cross, He rose again on the third day, and that He is the Son of God, God come in the flesh.

Please read my earlier posts on how Christians believe in the accuracy, and truth of the Bible.

So, holding a Biblical worldview based on the absolute truth of the Bible makes me sound pretty sure of myself doesn't it? Sounds like I believe I have all the truth. Well, I don't. Only God holds all the truth because He is the only One who KNOWS all the truth perfectly. I am a Bible believing Christian, and I believe in the absolute truth of the Bible, but sometimes I am a pretty lousy Christian. I have made and will continue to make mistakes- so I am glad I have the Bible to show how accurate and reliable it is, and not only my word! It is the Word of God that I pass on to others. To teach and show Jesus. I am grateful for the knowledge through learning about other beliefs that Christianity is True- because of the Bible. My Biblical Christianity does not stand on my own word, my own actions or man made rules. It stands on faith and knowledge on the evidence proven that the Bible, is the Word of God.

Why then, if there is the Bible as our basis, are there so many differences between even just in Christendom? One reason is because the Words in the Bible have been challenged and denied by many different groups. Christ's apostles founded the Christian church within the first century, and it spread quickly despite persecution and death. The more suffering by Christians, the more the church grew. That is true even in our time as well. In places such as China and parts of Africa in which the church is hard persecuted against- Biblical Christianity is flourishing!

In the second century, the church founded by the apostles developed into the Catholic (or universal) church, and in the fourth century, persecution ended in the Roman empire because of Constantine, who became Emperor. He believed Christ helped him win the Empire and soon after, Christianity was the dominant religion throughout the empire. Because of the huge area comprised as the Roman Empire, the languages and different cultures different opinions and theological conflicts were one source of some of the splitting into different sects of the Christian faith. The main contention however was the insistence that the Church in Rome had the supreme power and authority over all Christendom. The biggest split came in 1054 when the Orthodox Church in the east split with the Roman Catholic Church in the West.

After that, the Roman Catholic Church became more powerful and added more doctrines which were not based on the Bible. The Church at that time became more corrupt as well, which finally led to the Reformation which was started by Martin Luther, a Catholic Monk. Luther intended to reform the Church by making the Bible the sole authority. The pope and other leaders rejected this and Luther was forced out.

The Reformation spread over Europe and those who "protested" against the Roman Church were come to be known as Protestants. Here within a thousand year span, Christ's church split into three major denomination. These in time split into smaller denominations.

So, how did the Gospel change into so many different views, which all call themselves Christian? Not only that, but they don't even agree on critical issues much of the time?

We need to start with the difference between the Bible believing Christian and the Roman Catholic Church- which compare the principals I already laid out on the Biblical Christian, and the Roman Catholic view being:

We'll see that next time ;-)

PS- You may be wondering what's up with the picture I posted? A wolf in sheep's clothing! We are to watch out for false teaching!

1 comment:

Heli gunner Tom said...

Dear kind sister and friend, Carolyn,
I took away many good thoughts from this post this morning, and I wish to cut and paste some of it and use it on my blog post latter!

Thank you for your evident hard work and research for this post, and know full well that you are a great encouragement to me and others.
Please remember my wife in your thoughts and prayers too.

Tom Schuckman
Jesus is Lord.