Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Differences in Christianity


We hear on differences in Christianity. To many Muslims, including myself, the main religion is Christianity and then branches off to Catholics, Protestants, Church of England, etc. I could of course, be completely wrong here. Please clarify this point. Thanks in advance.

Jeff Answers:
There are many ways to answer this question. Some of the ways are simple and so I will try those.

The three biggest branches of Christianity are: Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. Catholicism and Orthodoxy are organized into gigantic Churches that have a government and a single set of teachings. Protestants are broken into many small churches with different structures and different teachings from each other.

The Church of England includes people who think they are Protestant, people who think they are Catholic, and people who think other things.

If you go to Russia or to Greece, for example, most of the Christians you will find are Orthodox, in case you haven't heard of them. If you want beautiful music and beautiful ceremony and art, you will certainly find them among the Orthodox!

Catholics and Orthodox are very close. We believe most of the same things. Catholics, though, believe that the Pope has ultimate authority over the Church, in teaching and in ruling. Orthodox reject the Pope.

The word "Catholic" means "Universal", so the "Catholic Church" means, "The Church of Every Place and Time." "Orthodox" means, "Believing the Right and True Way."

Protestants began in the 1500s with Martin Luther. They came out of Roman Catholicism. That is why they are called "Protestant," because they "protested" against the Catholic Church. Luther's main idea is that all Christian truth is in the Bible. He thought the way to get it was for each believer to read the Bible for himself.

In Protestantism, the accent is on the Individual. Everybody has a unique encounter with God, God illuminates everyone's mind directly, especially by reading the Bible. If you could express Protestant Christianity in one word, it is "Bible". All that "Church" means for Protestants is, all the believers in the world, even if they worship in different churches. Protestants say the true Church is "INVISIBLE.

In Catholicism and Orthodoxy, the accent is on the Society. We believe that the Church is a real Society, almost like a Country, but a spiritual one. It is governed by real live people, like any Society.
For Catholics and Orthodox, the Church is VISIBLE. If you could express Catholic and Orthodox Christianity in one word it is: "Church".

We believe in the Bible, too, of course. But we don't read it as individuals. We read it as a whole society. And we also believe in Tradition. That is, there are true things that are not written but that all believers accept. So, when we read the Bible, we read it in the light of what our Fathers said and wrote for two thousand years.

There are many other differences, but this is a good place to start your understanding.

Are these different branches of Christianity? Sure, you could say that. The traditional or strict answer of all three groups is: We are the only true Christians. The others have fallen into error.

Most of us still believe this in some way, but we are searching for ways to come closer together on the basis of what we share, even though the differences are important. And we have a common challenge that helps us: Secularism and Disbelief in God. This common challenge also helps us to look to other Believers in God--Muslims for example--as allies and friends.

Oftentimes, we can seem very different and the differences are real. But if a believing Christian and believing Muslim sit and talk with an atheist or someone who has thinks the whole idea of God is silly and just lives the way they want, we soon find out how close we are!

Old Testament v New Testament

What is the difference between the old testament and the new testament. What do Christians follow. If they follow the new testament (which I understand they do), why dont they follow the old testament. What do they think of the old testament, I mean in terms of authenticity.

I would really appreciate an answer on this one, because whenever I ask my Christian friends, I do not get straight answers. Also, I hope you won't cut and paste tons of text from the net.
Thanks in advance.

Jeff Answers:
Christians believe that the whole Bible, Old and New Testaments together, is the inspired Word of God. That means that God is the Primary Author, but that the human authors are also true authors. God inspired them in such a way that that person was involved in the writing, with all their history and culture, psychology, and writing styles: He didn't just sort of hypnotize them.

They believe that the Old Testament was a limited version of revelation, in preparation for Christ's coming. Christ fulfilled the Law, which was not perfect before He came.

Imagine you are a parent. You tell your young child: "Never take another child's toys. And they also have to learn not to take your toys. These are YOUR toys; those are the OTHER CHILDREN'S toys. Don't take their toys. And they won't take yours either."

Later, when the child is a bit more grown up, you may say, "You need to do more than just respect ownership. You need to learn to share your toys. It's not ENOUGH for everyone to keep to their own. You need to learn a spirit of kindness, too."

Here's one example from the New Testament. Christ teaches his disciples like this (I'm not looking up the exact quote, but it's pretty close): "Moses taught you that divorce is okay. But he let you have divorce because your hearts were hard. In the Beginning, things were not this way. If you want to be my followers, this will be the Rule: When you take a wife, the two of you become One Flesh. No one can take apart what God has joined together. Anyone who puts away his own wife and takes another commits adultery."

Another example: Christ says, "Before, you were taught that you should love your parents and those that do good to you. But I say, Love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you. If someone hits you, turn the other cheek. If someone takes your shirt, give them your cloak, too. If someone forces you to go one mile with them, go two miles freely."

You see the idea? Fulfillment of what came before; what was imperfect becomes perfect.

Of course, you didn't ask this, but the Old Testament is the Holy Writings of the Jews. Jews do not accept the New Testament at all and they do not accept Christ.

I said I would be short, but that's probably very long! It's easy to write even whole BOOKS on questions like this! And there are differences between Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox...But I tried, and if you have questions, feel free to ask.

One question everyone will have: Why don't we follow these rules better? What answer can we give, but that we are sinners? It's our shame. God forgive us.

The Catholic Church on Islam

As an opening post, I thought I would start by showing what Catholics think of Islam. I thank Jeff for sharing this note.

The Catholic Church "esteems" Muslims (means honors them and thinks they are worthy of praise.) Like us, Muslims believe in One God, Who is Merciful and All-Powerful. Like us, they acknowledge Him as Creator. Like us, they believe He speaks to men. Like us, they try to "submit" to whatever He says, even if they do not understand it. When they do that, they follow Abraham, who is the Father of Christians and Muslims both. Even though they do not understand that Jesus is God, they do revere Him as a Prophet. And they honor His Mother and acknowledge that she was ever a Virgin. Like us, they await the final judgment day. And, like us, they try to live the moral life, practicing prayer, fasting and giving alms.

Then the Council says, we have had conflict in the past, with guilt on both sides, but we should forget the past and work together for peace and freedom and the betterment of mankind.

This is the highest and most authoritative statement about Islam from the Catholic Church until this day.

The Rainbow is Here

I would first of all like to thank Jeff who has agreed to give us insight on Christianity and help us overcome the gap between the two religions.

The creation of this blog is a result of many discussions between myself, Arabian Princess, Sama Oman, and Jeff.

It is a blog of learning and understanding between Islam and Christianity.

We will try and concentrate on what puts us together, and NOT what drives apart.

This blog will have deep religious discussions, but at the same time will maintain a high level of decency between members.

We invite as many people as possible to participate.

Keep in mind that no insults or mockery will be entertained, so we will be free to delete at comment we render as racist or inappropriate, without giving any justification.

I hope you will all enjoy your time here :)