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Essay: Christianity's Core Beliefs
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Written September 2003

 Christianity is the worlds largest religion.  According to the Adherents.com, Christianity has over two billion adherents, it is followed in size by Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, in descending order (Adherents 2002).  It is almost unbelievable that so many people are actual followers of Christ, particularly when Jesus Himself said that His followers would be relatively small in number compared with the worlds population: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matt. 7:13-14 NIV).  Then again in Luke 13:24 Jesus said, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to."  With the words of Jesus in mind, we need to discover exactly what are the requirements for someone to be called a Christian, in other words, what are the core beliefs of Christianity?

Since the founding of Christianity some 2000 years ago, it has been the most abused and misunderstood religion to ever exist.  Those who have claimed to be followers of this religion have perpetrated some of the most horrendous crimes known to mankind.  Over the centuries, men have supposedly set up governments on the principles of Christianity, yet these same men, the leaders of these governments, murdered, tortured, stole, and warred, without true love for their fellow man, all in the name of God.  Could it be that perhaps some of these Christians were not really Christians at all?

As we look at what true Christians believe, lets compare these beliefs with those of false Christians.  I will discuss a couple of so-called Christian denominations that I feel are not following the true Jesus Christ of the Bible.  This way, we can attempt to come to a conclusion as to what the core biblical beliefs of the Bible are and whether or not there are actually two billion Christians today. 

There are over 1000 Christian denominations in the United States and over 33,800 Christian denomination worldwide, the largest of which is the Roman Catholic church.  According to Spiritual World,  there are over 1.03 billion Catholics worldwide; with numbers this large, we would hope that the basic tenets of Roman Catholicism would be biblical.  Lets look briefly at Roman Catholic beliefs to see if they, in fact, do agree with the Bible, Gods word for man (Spiritual World 2001).

Roman Catholicism may be the oldest continual Christian denomination around today, but does seniority necessarily mean correctness?  In this case, no.  The Catholic church has steadily moved further away from sound biblical doctrine over the centuries until now it more closely resembles paganism instead of Christianity.  Some of the errant beliefs include:

        You are saved by faith plus works.  A Catholic will tell you that he has no absolute assurance of salvation, it all depends on a multitude of factors.  But the Bible is clear in Ephesians 2:8-9, and many other places, that you are saved by faith, not works.

        Catholics will also tell you that they must obey all the commandments in order to be saved, but Galatians 3:10 says that All who rely on observing the law are under a curse.

        Salvation is a process from baptism through purgatory.  Yet once again in Ephesians, we are told that salvation occurs at the moment you believe the Gospel (Eph. 1:13).

        They say that Purgatory purifies sin, but the true Christian knows that it is Jesus who purifies sin (Heb. 1:3).

        Catholics have been taught that they are condemned if they claim, with any assurance,  to be saved, but the apostle John tells us that we can know for sure we are saved (1 John 5:13).

        The sacrifice of Jesus continues every day in daily Mass, but in John 19:30, we learn that the sacrifice of Jesus is finished.

The above examples were taken from the web site Proclaiming the Gospel and are just a very small sampling of the errors of Roman Catholicism. 

The next Christian denomination to take a look at is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as Mormons.  At one time, Mormonism was the fastest growing denomination in the world, and also that over one-half of its members were Christians coming from other denominations.  Some of the erroneous beliefs of this Christian denomination are:

        Mormonism teaches that the Bible was never completed and that the Book of Mormon, plus two other books, are equal to, and even greater than, the Bible.  But true Christians know that the Bible was complete as soon as John put down his pen after writing the Book of Revelation (Rev. 22:18-19).

        Contrary to the Bible, Mormon believe in many gods, they even believe that the God of the Bible was once a man, just as we are, on some distance earth, and rose to godhood.  The Bible makes it clear that God has been around forever and is unchanging, He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Heb. 13:8).

        Mormons teach that Jesus is the brother of Lucifer and all the angels, and that god, the ex-man, came to earth and physically had sex with Mary to produce a body for Jesus, the angel.  Also that Jesus was married to the sisters, Mary and Martha, and to Mary Magdalene.  The Bible, however, nowhere says that Jesus married, but it does say that Jesus is God, one of the Trinity, not a created angel (Matt. 16:16; 26:63-64).

        Salvation comes through Jesus, Joseph Smith, and water baptism, plus, those who miss it in this world will have another chance in the next.  This is in direct conflict with John 14:6 where Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

So Mormonism, another large Christian denomination, really isn't so Christian after all (Discernment 1997).

Culture plays a big role in the belief system of a person: to play drums or not, to sit on a pew in a building or outside on the grass, to worship at 10 o'clock in the morning or 8 o'clock at night, or should tribal Christians wear western clothes or grass shirts.  These are side issues that should never prevent one from coming to Christ nor cause division in the church.  The core beliefs of Christianity, though, are intercultural, no matter where or when a person lives, they must believe on these things in order to be saved. 

So, what are the core beliefs of Christianity?  What does one need to believe in order to be a true follower of Christ?  The list is not really long, it contains only four item, but without a committed belief in every one of these beliefs, one can never be a true Christian.  True Christians believe:

1.     The Holy Bible is the Inspired Word of God, it is Gods primary means of revealing His plan for mankind (Matt. 5:18; I Thess. 2:13; II Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 4:12; I Pet. 1:24-25; II Pet. 1:20-21; Rev. 22:18-19).

2.     There is one God, eternally existing in three persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - who are identical in essence, equal in power and glory, and possess precisely the same attributes and perfections (Matt. 28:19; Luke 3:22; II Cor. 13:14).

3.     Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God and that He became a man while, at the same time, remaining to be God (John 1:1-5, 14,18); He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin (Luke 1:34,35);  He remained perfect and sinless throughout His human life (II Cor. 5:21); He redeemed sinful man by voluntarily giving Himself as a sinless substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, He then rose from the grave and ascended to the right hand of God where He intercedes on behalf of the saints (Luke 24:46-47; Rom. 3:24-26;  8:34).

4.     Salvation is the gift of Gods grace given to all who believe in Jesus, as He is portrayed in the Bible; It is solely the work of God and His finished work on the cross and cannot be gained by good works (Rom. 1:16; 9:16; Eph. 1:7; 2:4-9; Titus 2:11; 3:5-7); All who put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (a lot of people forget the and Lord part) have been forgiven and saved from their sins and declared righteous before God, and have been born into the family of God by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:36; 5:24; Acts 16:30-31; II Cor. 5:21; I John 5:1); In order to be saved, sinners must be born again, which is to become a new creation in Christ Jesus - it occurs the instant a person believes on and receives the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (John 1:12-13; 3:3-15; II Cor. 5:17).

Jesus said it the best when he told Nicodemus, the Pharisee, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3).  But, what does it mean to be born again?  We can look to Peter for an explanation:

"For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good" (I Pet. 1:23, 2:1-3).

There is one more item I need to bring up; although it is not a core belief in the same vain as the others, it is extremely important.  Once a person comes to be a Christian, they must hold onto those core beliefs to remain a Christian.  Contrary to the Calvinistic view of salvation, the Bible clearly teaches that salvation can be lost and that a person, who was once saved, can indeed lose that salvation and end up going to hell.  See Matt. 5:13; 22:1-14; 25:14-30; Luke 14:34; John 8:24, 31, 51, 15:5-7; Rom. 1:21-32; 2:7-8; 8:12-14; I Cor. 10:12; 15:1-2; Col. 1:22-23; I Tim. 4:16; II Tim. 2:5; 11-13; Heb. 3:6, 14; 6:4-6; 10:26-29; Jas. 5:19-20; II Pet. 1:8-11; 2:20; 3:17; I John 1:6-7; 2:24; 5:14-16; II John 8-9; Rev. 2:5; 3:5, 21.

Not every person who claims to be a Christian, really is.  Are there really two billion Christians today?  No, most of the people alive today will not make it to heaven.  The road is narrow and the gate small that leads to heaven and only a few will enter it.  The core beliefs of Christianity are few, but they are precise - they are God-breathed, not man-made.

Bibliography

Adherents.com. Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents.  2000. Retrieved September 19, 2003, from  http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html

Biblical Discernment Ministries. Mormonism - Christian or Cult? 1997. Retrieved September 19, 2003, from http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Cults/mormon.htm

New International Version Study Bible. 1995. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Proclaiming the Gospel. Are Catholics Deceived? 2002. Retrieved September 19, 2003, from http://www.pro-gospel.org/articles/deceived.php

Spiritual World. How Many Christians Are There? 2001. Retrieved September 19, 2003, from http://www.spiritualworld.org/christianity/how_many.htm