One God – Many Churches
I have always found it confusing and strange that one religion can have seemingly endless different variations, but giving it more thought I guess it isn’t surprising at all. Roughly a third of the world’s population follows some form of Christianity, around 2.6 billion people. It is a global religion encompassing a diverse range of cultures which all have different histories and perspectives. It is also very old being founded sometime in the 1st Century AD. Given this it is hardly surprising that differences have arisen between different groups.
As far as I can work out there are three major groups of Christians: Orthodox (0.28 billion), Catholic (1.35 billion) and Protestant (0.96 billion). They split at different points in history, see my basic schematic below inspired by BBC Bitesize, I don’t know why they pulled apart, but I will be looking into it. These are then split further based on more nuanced interpretations of the Bible and the weight that is placed on different aspects of the teachings and writings contained therein. There is a comprehensive (but not necessarily exhaustive) list available via Wikipedia.
What do all Christian’s believe?
In my experience all Christians believe that there is one God, whom we should honour above all things. We believe that Jesus was the Son of God born from the virgin Mary and that he came to fulfil God’s law written in the Old Testament. We believe that through his crucifixion and resurrection he took the burden for our sins and opened the possibility for us to have a right relationship with God. This right relationship comes about through following and believing wholly in Jesus Christ and dedicating our lives to following his teachings. We believe that there will be an eternal life after our physical life ends where we will join God in heaven.
The Nicene creed, written in the 4th Century at the council of Nicea, is a unifying statement of what is held to be true by the whole church. It was originally written in Greek and was used to teach the central beliefs of Christianity to a growing community. Many Christians recite the Nicene creed during their worship, particularly at Eastertime. It is accepted as authoritative by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and many Protestant churches.
My Thoughts on the Nicene Creed
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is,
seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
I am a scientist and understand and accept the scientific theories (ideas that have been backed up with rigorous data collection and physical proof) of evolutionary biology. I also accept the Big Bang however I do not believe that science or any human mind will be able to fully comprehend or explain and then prove an answer to all of life’s questions. I agree wholeheartedly with this first paragraph.
The second paragraph is a summary of how God became flesh and sent his own son to die for us. It does seem to have a few redundant passages as we have already stated that God made all things. I think the triplet “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God” is significant. They really wanted people to know and accept that Jesus wasn’t made in the usual way but is a part of God made into a human being. In fact, over half the paragraph is a description of how Jesus was both man and God.
The final paragraph used to really get my back up because of my own ignorance. The part explaining the Holy Spirit I am completely down for. The Holy Spirit has been with me as a tangible force many times helping me to feel completely present with God. I took Umbridge at the phrase:
“We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church”
I confused catholic for Roman Catholic and apostolic for Apostolic Church. These words do not refer to the denominations, the names for the denominations came from these words. The word catholic means “universal” and the “apostolic” means we believe that the church began with the apostles at Pentecost. I agree with both of those statements.
A Modern Creed
I think the Nicene creed does a great job of summarising what all Christians hold to be true, but I think the language is outdated making it open to misinterpretation and inaccessible to many people. It was written and agreed by men, not by God or the Apostles and should reflect the language and time it is currently being used in. Here is my attempt at a modern creed, it is written from a white European perspective so would need adapting for different cultures but:
The Almighty who made everything.
Not just what we can see and understand but also all the things we cannot see or understand.
The Holy Spirit the giver of life,
Who spoke through the prophets.
Jesus Christ, The only Son of God.
Not created through sex but made from God.
When Jesus was born from the virgin Mary
God was made man.
Jesus was crucified to save us,
He died and was buried,
In agreement with the Old Testament,
he rose on the third day,
He went up to heaven where he is seated
at God’s right hand.
Jesus will return to judge all of God’s creation and his kingdom will have no end.
We worship God the Almighty, The Son and the Holy Spirit together.
We believe in a universal church planted by Jesus Christ and founded in his Apostles.
We acknowledge one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
We look towards the resurrection of the dead and eternal life in the world to come.
This was a very long post and, I think, potentially radical in some respects. My hope is that it has stimulated or challenged some of your own thoughts and ideas. I have said it in other posts, and I will say it here. I am a new Christian raised in the UK. I am ignorant of many things and am constantly looking to learn. I welcome your comments and emails.
Here are links to articles that I found extremely useful when writing this post. They were all working and accessible at time of publication.