Christianity is a global religion encompassing billions of followers throughout the world. It has been present and directly affecting history for over two thousand years. Today, it is the largest religion in the world, the followers of which can be found in all regions. Christian faith is an important determinant of the way its worshippers live their lives and interact with each other and the outside world. Although the religion has transformed significantly since its formation with many denominations spawning, central aspects have remained notwithstanding the passage of time. Understanding the essence of Christianity and the nuances of its beliefs is essential in ascertaining the strengths and weaknesses of this religion.
Christian worldview has its origins in old Abrahamic traditions, which also lay the foundation for Islam and Judaism. As Wilson has written, “the roots of Christianity run deep into Hebrew soil” (14). The central aspect of all such religions is the monotheistic nature of God, whose words are spread via his prophets. Judaism is the oldest religion of all three, which presupposes the existence of numerous patriarchs who could promote God’s message. Christianity grew out of Judaism, which refused to acknowledge the New Testament as a sacred scripture. Furthermore, the essence of Christianity revolves around the worship of one Prophet who is God in human form – a concept contradicting the basics of Judaism. The necessity to establish the centrality of one prophet has led to the formation of Christianity as a separate religion.
The specific person perceived as the founder of Christianity is Jesus Christ. Numerous theological interpretations have obscured the historic comprehension of his personal life, as stories involving Jesus have supernatural elements. The general perception portrays Jesus as “the “servant” of God who would suffer for the sake of humanity” (Brodd et al. 423). A product of immaculate conception, Christ is believed to have performed miracles that proved the existence of God and propagated his teachings. The most defining moment of Christ’s story is crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. The revival showcased him as the long-awaited Messiah whose message should be spread further. Thus, Christianity gained first followers whose number would eventually outgrow all other religions.
The primary beliefs of Christianity revolve around the inherent sinful nature of all humans. Christians believe that each person is born a sinner and should strive to achieve salvation, which is possible due to the benevolent nature of God and God’s love for all humanity (Brodd et al. 431). Achieving salvation requires wholehearted devotion to the Christian faith over the course of one’s life, or as Valentine notes “salvation was ultimately by virtuous living” (218). Faith itself is exercised via numerous practices that may vary among denominations. The first practice is baptism, which is usually performed on children signifying initiation of people into the religion. Prayer is the most common practice seen as a way followers can communicate with God. Overall, all important events of life, such as marriage, confession, and burials, should also follow a specific set of rules.
Origin of Humanity
In Christianity, the origin of mankind is attributed entirely to the workings of God. The supreme being is simultaneously the creator of the universe and the deity preserving the current state of existence. God in Christianity is transcendent, which means that the deity is not affected by the limitations of the material world, since he exists outside of the universe’s substance. However, God is also present in the universe, which allows him to sustain and become involved in physical affairs. People are not able to comprehend the complex nature of God’s perfection consisting of his omnipotence, and omnipresence. An essential attribute of Christianity is God’s benevolence and love for all living things.
God’s goodness is important in understanding the discrepancy between the perfection of God’s design and the current fallibility of the creation. The world is not perfect, since death, pain, and suffering are present. However, God is not responsible for these negative aspects of existence. An essential tenant of Christian faith is the belief that “God created humankind in his image” (Brodd et al. 428). The exact nature of God’s image is debated, yet it is agreed that all human beings are capable of loving God. Regardless, of the potential individual differences, the ability to love God is a connecting element, which allows humans to live the way God intended them to live.
The specific creation of mankind is intrinsically related to the story of Adam and Eve. The Christian narrative portrays them as first human beings created directly by God who placed them in a paradise known as Eden. They lived in harmony with God until showing disobedience, which resulted in the appearance of evil. As Adam and Eve were exiled from the paradise, humanity became separated from God. Mankind gained a new meaning for its existence – to restore the divine relationship with God by achieving salvation. However, the separation also meant greater exposure to evil and sins in the material world. Unable to find the proper way to live their lives, human beings require guidance, which was meant possible due to the arrival of Christ.
Jesus Christ is a complex figure, since his essence consists of both human and divine nature. Christian conception of God’s trinity allows comprehending the dual nature of Jesus. God has three hypostases – the Father, representing God’s role as the creator of the universe, the Holy Spirit responsible for God’s presence in the universe, and the Son who represents humanity. Jesus is the vessel through which God’s design was communicated to people (Brodd et al. 428). Having seen Christ’s resurrection, humans have received the confirmation that God exists. The subsequent spread of Christian faith is the process of raising mankind’s spiritual awareness of the possibility and importance of salvation and the restoration of the original relationship between God and humanity.
Followers of Christianity believe in the afterlife, which follows death. The relationship between God and humanity is conceptualized as Kingdom of God, which is “the redemptive reign of God dynamically active to establish his rule among men” (Willis 48). Christians believe that all dead people will be resurrected and will face judgement. This event will transpire after the prophesized Second Coming of Jesus who will perform the judgement. People’s actions over the course of their lives will be scrutinized, which will form the basis for their subsequent place in the afterlife. As a result, the mortal life is a small fraction of the eternal life that will transpire after the Final Judgement. Generally, the result of the judgment will determine to which realm a soul will travel.
The first realm of afterlife is heaven, which is the restoration of God’s relationship with humans. Different interpretations exists regarding its essence ranging from an actual place to a spiritual state (Brodd et al. 436). In any case, ascension to heaven is equated with achieving bliss due to the loving presence of God. The proximity to God is enabled by the belief that heaven is also the place where God himself resides. In essence, it is a perfect place where no pain, suffering, disease, or death exist. The heaven is presented as a great reward for the righteous followers of Christianity. The Christian reason for living in accordance with Christ’s teachings lies in the hope of reaching the heaven.
The second realm is the purgatory, which is an intermediate state between life and heaven. As is the case with heaven, there are different interpretations of the essence of purgatory. For instance, Roman Catholic narrative sees the purgatory as satisfaction for sins that God has already forgiven. A common image of the purgatory involves a cleansing fire that purges souls of the remaining sins (Brodd et al. 437). The Orthodox Christianity views the purgatory as the state of waiting, during which souls need prayer from the living. Meanwhile, the Protestant church rejects the concept altogether due to the lack of evidence in scriptures. Overall, the purgatory is perceived as a chance for souls to enter heaven.
The third realm is hell, which is the punishment for sins. Once again, there is no consensus on what hell actually means. The most common conception pictures hell as a physical place with actual fires. At the same time, it is also possible to imagine hell as a state of eternal mental suffering. However, it is important to understand that God does not send a soul to hell as a punishment (Brodd et al. 437). Instead, Christians believe that hell is a self-imposed punishment for refusing to live according to Christ’s teachings. However, it is agreed that hell represents punishment for sins.
Pain and Suffering
In Christianity, the current state of state of existence is different from God’s original design due to the presence of evil. In it its most general sense, evil is understood as the absence of good. Pain and suffering are expressions of evil, which showcase the world’s imperfection. Explanations of the origin of evil range from the workings of the devil to the corruption of mankind (Brodd et al. 428). In all cases, evil cannot emanate from God since he is the origin of good. Even though the supernatural nature of evil is considered by Christianity, the responsibility to resist and avoid sins is placed on human beings who are equally capable of goodness and evil.
The supernatural explanation involves the presence of the devil, who is the personification of evil. Devil is a fallen angel who rebelled against God and was exiled. However, before his fall, the Devil or Satan was one of God’s favorite angels. The rebellion had transpired before the material world was created. This explanation implies that evil is the result of the devil’s actions who is jealous of God and wants to become as powerful as he is. However, it is also possible to conceive of evil as the necessary contrast to good. Without understanding what evil consists of, it would be impossible for human beings to value goodness.
The second explanation attributes the root of evil to the disobedience of the first humans. The story of Adam’s and Eve’s residence in the paradise revolves around the condition that they would not eat from the tree, which contains knowledge of good and evil. The appearance of the devil accentuates the temptation, which overcomes Eve and Adam. Knowledge of evil also leads to Adam and Eve experiencing pain and shame. As a punishment for violating the condition, God banishes them from the paradise, thus beginning the concept of humans’ original sin (Brodd et al. 428). As a result, human hubris and inability to resist temptation are also framed as the origin of evil.
Regardless of the origin of evil, the task of distinguishing between good and evil is placed on human beings who are capable of sins as well as benevolence. The most appropriate way to ascertain the nature of a certain action is to analyze its intention. Christians believe that the all humans are capable of loving God. Therefore, asking oneself whether the action is done out of love for God or selfish gain will provide the needed insight. The less virtues a person pursues, the less good is made, which leads to the increase in evil, which is the absence of good. Altogether, Christianity advocates for the importance of intention as an indicator of good and evil.
Overall, Christianity is a strong religion with a comprehensive explanation of the universe, which has notable contradictions. The first strength of Christianity is the clear statement of the purpose of human beings – achieving salvation through love for God. This prospect provides existential guidance to the followers of this faith. The second strength of Christianity is the presentation of afterlife, which enthuses the followers to live righteous lives. The concepts of heaven, the purgatory and hell as results of the Final Judgement provide value for people’s actions and morality in mortal life. Understanding the consequences of a sinful life allows people to regulate their behavior themselves.
The third strength of Christianity is the use of concept of trinity. Different hypostases of God allow people to perceive him as simultaneously supreme and close to humanity. Christianity avoids the problem of mankind’s inability to associate themselves with a overpowered deity by portraying one of God’s incarnations as a human. The involvement of Jesus Christ creates a clear point of reference – he is the only recognized prophet of God, thus avoiding the potential contradiction between many prophets, which is possible in Judaism. Despite being a powerful entity himself, Christ is a surprisingly relatable figure who dies himself on a cross. The easier people can connect with the founder, the more they are likely to adopt the religion.
The main weakness of Christianity is its inability to adequately explain the existence of evil. It is repeatedly stated that God is an omnipotent, omnipresent and benevolent, which implies that he is aware that evil exists, can eliminate evil, and is willing to do so due to his kind nature. Yet, God allows evil to exist notwithstanding its incompatibility with his original perfect design. This contradiction forces people to seek alternative explanations or assume that God is not as powerful, all-knowing, and kind-natured as he is presented.
The second problem with Christianity is the abundance of interpretations. Multiple denominations have their own understanding of the role, image, and existence of numerous important concepts, such as the purgatory, punishment for sins, and other ideas that can be expressed differently. The lack of consensus may lead to hesitancy among the Christians in the righteousness of their churches. A religion that is not able of ensuring the certainty of its followers can lose support and devotion necessary for theological success.
Brodd, Jeffrey, et al. Invitation to World Religions. Oxford University Press, 2019.
Valentine, Gilbert M. “Learning and Unlearning: A Context for Important Developments in the Seventh-day Adventist Understanding of the Trinity, 1888–1898.” Andrews University Seminary Studies, vol. 55, no. 2, 2017, pp. 213-236.
Willis, Wendell. Kingdom of God in 20th-Century Interpretation. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2020.
Wilson, Marvin R. Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2021.