The Christian Faith

Christianity is a phenomenon widespread and hardly new to the world. There are currently 2.2 billion people counted among its adherents.[1] Equally astounding, the Christian faith traces its foundation to a time approximately 2,000 years ago, surviving and indeed thriving through over eighty generations.[2] Despite its popularity, even among nations like the United States that are imbued with the Christian worldview, there are generalities and falsehoods propagated en masse throughout populations.

As students seeking to live the Christian life fully and faithfully, we seek to draw upon profound intellectual and rich cultural traditions, while bringing in our own reason and experience, to illuminate what Christianity really means for the modern world. We want to clear the air so that you may take a refreshing, unobstructed look at the faith through diverse eyes—an experience that hopefully transforms the guise and feel of the world around you. But before we dive into the hard questions, or explore the aesthetic landscape of our drama, let us lay the groundwork and provide a contextual foundation for the Christian faith.

The Christian faith has been present in various eras of the political, theological, and cultural history of the world, ranging from the Abrahamic roots of Jewish tribalism circa 2100 BC[3] to the death of Jesus Christ circa 33 AD. Theologically, Christianity is a monotheistic religion, claiming that there exists only one deity. God, our sovereign, created ex nihilo (out of nothing) the universe[4], including both “stuff” (i.e. the matter-energy continuum) and “concepts” (e.g. mathematics and space-time).[5] Of course, this includes our solar system, the earth and the organisms that grace its surface. God created out of sheer will and creative love. He is diffusivum sui. [6]

Human beings, as a unique part of Creation, were made in God’s “image,”[7] signifying our special place as caretakers of the earth[8], intimate friends of God, and persons crowned with unique honor[9]. One way God manifests His nature in us is through our rationality. As rational creatures, we have the ability to choose a course of action; this capability is known as free will.[10] The first humans, named Adam and Eve, are recounted as created without blemish, physically or rationally, meaning they were in total alignment with God’s will for them.[11] However, God saw fit to give them a higher capacity than mundane whims. Through the auspices of the “tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” God allowed Adam and Eve to freely choose whether or not to be in constant union with Him.[12] Lured by an appeal to pride by an external tempter, the first humans chose to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’s fruit, thus separating themselves from their Creator. This action is the introduction of evil and brokenness witnessed in the world. By eating of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve chose to become masters of their morality and exposed themselves to death, warping their fundamental nature. As an effect of this cosmic choice, the distortion of truth and break in total communion with God has been passed on to the descendants of Adam and Eve, of which we all are.[13] The flaw inherited by us because of them is referred to as original sin.

God did not give up on man. He pursued His creation even after their choice against receiving the fullness of His love. Starting with Abraham, a man living during 22nd century BC from the lands of ancient Assyria,[14] God built up and nurtured a chosen people. Over the centuries, He created a sovereign land called Israel[15] which He established as the “light to the nations,”[16] giving it special authority to carry out His work as well as teach itself about faith in the midst of their fallen natures. Israel’s story exemplifies the struggles of life, the hardships of being broken people, and the strive for a greater existence free of suffering—a life where love can once again rule and man can intimately unite themselves to God. As faithful men and women (prophets, judges, and monarchs) bridged the gap between God and His nation over a long period of both trials and renaissance, it became clear that something unimaginably glorious was to happen to Israel. Prophetically, God promised that there would come someone—a descendant of their people—who would release them from the shackles of their inequities and put into place an unmanageable salvation. This mysterious man was referred to as the “messiah.”[17]

The word gospel means “good news.”[18] For the Jews it was the good news that the messiah was promised to bring. In first century Israel, at a time when the Roman Empire had taken over and subjugated the ancient nation-state,[19]there was a man, born of a poor, unlikely family, who claimed to be the messenger of this promise. After performing many miracles that fulfilled Jewish messianic prophecy and preaching to the masses and to his followers about what he declared to be God’s word (resting his rabbinical teaching on the three pillars of faith, hope, and love[20]), Jesus prophesied that he would die a horrifically violent death at the hands of his own people in cooperation with their oppressors. But, at the bewilderment of his followers, he claimed that he would rise again from the dead and reign over all things in heaven as God himself.[21] He claimed to have the long awaited gospel. Fatefully, Jesus’s claims to authority troubled the Jewish religious hierarchy and they conspired to kill him for his blasphemy of claiming to be God. After some political bending, they succeeded, paying one of Jesus’s very own followers to facilitate the arrest.

On April 3rd, A.D. 33 at around 3PM, Jesus of Nazareth was executed for treason under the authority of Roman prefect Pontius Pilate. The method of execution was crucifixion. After being scourged and derided, Jesus’s hands and feet were nailed to a wooden cross where he remained until he died. But, to the amazement and joy of his followers, he did in fact resurrect three days after his sentencing.[22],[23] He appeared to many of his companions, revealing to them the significance of what had just transpired. He charged them to share this gospel with the whole world, gifting to them his Holy Spirit to help them in their endeavors.[24]

This is the gospel that was and is to be shared: God so loved the world that He entered into our life (incarnate as Jesus) so that we may enter into His divine life.[25] God became man so that man might be like God. This means that if we have faith (accept Jesus, the Christ as sovereign and savior) and charity (cooperate with His will with the help of the Holy Spirit), we can hope for and look forward to being perfected as God’s adopted children, inheriting a spot in His heavenly kingdom for all eternity.[26] Our original sin, whose ultimate consequence is death, has no power over us anymore as Christ reveals to us the spiritual truth that our souls are immortal and that we can choose life everlasting with God, our true Father. We can live as God intended—in perfect communion (friendship) with Him and our fellow faithful compatriots. This destiny instantiates once and for all a flawless meaning and is the fulfillment of our teleos—our purpose.[27] Joyfully, we are promised bliss in this perfection forevermore.

As Christians who live in His legacy 2,000 years after Jesus walked among us, we proclaim the joy of the gospel—that not only the sin of Adam was redeemed by Christ’s death on the cross, but also the central dysfunction in our epistemologies, ethics, and empiricism. Christ claiming to be Truth, as well as one with the author of the universe, gave us an immutable foundation for our philosophy, morality and science. This is our faith, which elevates reason above the dark pit of uncertainty and meaninglessness—which seeks out Truth because Truth itself seeks us out despite our fallibility.

And while we profess a faith in all of this, we, as Christians, are still the same broken and distorted creatures as the multitudes of people born before us. We are of the same matter and of the same conscience as Jesus’s persecutors, ancient Israel’s enemies and the first humans. We are sinners needing to understand our world through a transcendent eye. We struggle with our faith, fight for the wrong causes, make imprudent decisions, get caught up in awful vices; we stumble, we fall, we bleed, we scar… Christianity is not magic. It is not intolerant hate-speech, it is not a free pass to paradise, it does not boast and it does not seek self-gain.[28] It is the death of oneself for love of another in the same way we are loved by the God who sustains our very existence—in the same way Jesus loves you while he looks down and takes his last innocent breath, for your sake, on a common criminal’s cross.

 

References 

[1] “Global Christianity – A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population.” Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project RSS. Pew Research Centers, 18 Dec. 2011. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
[2] Akin, Jimmy. “7 Clues Tell Us *precisely* When Jesus Died (the Year, Month, Day, and Hour Revealed).” National Catholic Register. National Catholic Register, 10 Apr. 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
[3] “Timeline of Christian History.” Christianity in View. Christianity in View, 22 Feb. 2016. Web. 2 Apr. 2016.
[4] Hyman, Gavin. “Augustine on the ‘Nihil’: An Interrogation.” Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory 9.1 (2008): 36-38. Web. 2 Apr. 2016.
[5] Genesis 1:1
[6] Aquinas, Summa Theologica, First Part: Question 5 (Ia.5)
[7] Genesis 1:26
[8] Genesis 2:15
[9] Psalm 8:5-7
[10] Irenaeus, Against Heresies Book IV, Chp. 37 & 39
[11] Genesis 1:31
[12] Genesis 2:9-17
[13] Romans 5:12
[14] Millard, Allan R. “Biblical Archaeology Review May/June 2001: Where Was Abraham’s Ur?” Biblical Archaeology Review May/June 2001: Where Was Abraham’s Ur? Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <http://fontes.lstc.edu/~rklein/Documents/Ur.htm>.
[15] See Exodus
[16] Isaiah 49:6
[17] “365 Messianic Prophesies.” Jews for Jesus. Jews for Jesus, 21 May 2015. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <https://jewsforjesus.org/answers/prophecy/365-messianic-prophecies>.
[18] Stendahl, Krister. “Biblical Literature – New Testament Literature.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 28 Sept. 2015. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
[19] Ben-Sasson, Haim Hillel (1976). A History of the Jewish People. Harvard University Press. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-674-39731-6. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
[20] 1 Corinthians 13:4-13
[21] See Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
[22] Maas, Anthony. “Resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 10 Apr. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12789a.htm>.
[23] Brake, Aaron. “The Minimal Facts of the Resurrection.” Please Convince Me. N.p., 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://pleaseconvinceme.com/2013/the-minimal-facts-of-the-resurrection/>.
[24] Matthew 28:16-20
[25] John 3:16
[26] Romans 3:21-26, John 14:15-31
[27] Dubray, Charles. “Teleology.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 10 Apr. 2016
[28] James 1:19-20

 

Irving Nestor is a sophomore Computer Engineering major looking for a reason not to drop out and apply to a nearby seminary. He believes in the power of dogmatic orthodoxy and looks forward to life after death where he hopes to enjoy unlimited access to chocolate while listening to Gregorian chant on repeat.

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