- This article is about the religious people known as Christians. For other uses, see Christian (disambiguation).
The term Christian means "belonging to Christ" and is derived from the Greek noun Χριστός Khristós which means "anointed one," which is itself a translation of the Hebrew word Moshiach (Hebrew: משיח, also written "Messiah"), (and in Arabic it is pronounced Maseeh مسيح). Christian is primarily an adjective, describing an object associated with Christianity, but is also frequently used as noun in the same sense (ie, a person associated with Christianity). According to the New Testament, those who followed Jesus as his disciples were first called Christians by those who did not share their faith, in the city of Antioch.
"Christian" was at first a derogatory term meaning "Christ-like ones" related to persecution, but early Christians were taught by their leaders to bear that name proudly. Previously, they had no specific name for their faith, and so they simply referred to it as "the way". Their spirituality spread especially during the so-called Pax Romana. Although they included every culture, nationality and occupation found in the Roman Empire, ancient Christians held together in close-knit communities. The term “Church” is taken by some to refer to a single, universal community, although others contend that the doctrine of the universal church was not established until later. The doctrine of the universal, visible church is first made explicit in the Apostle's creed, while the common Protestant notion of the universal, invisible church is not laid out explicitly until the Reformation. The universal church traditions generally believe that the Church included all who held to her common teaching including the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body. These teachings were acted out in worship, taking the form of Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. They were passed down though catechisms based on creeds such as the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.
Some minority traditions of Christianity have maintained that the word translated "church" in scripture most often properly refers to local bodies or assemblies. "Church" is a transliteration of the Greek word "κυριακον", meaning Lord's house, which in English translations is substituted for the word ἐκκλησία, meaning assembly or congregation, which is the word that actually appears in the Greek texts. Before Christ's appropriation of the term, it was used to describe purposeful gatherings, including the assemblies of Greek democracy. Christians of this stripe maintain that a centralizing impulse in the church, present from the early days of the church through the rise of Constantine, represented a departure from true Christianity. They therefore reject the authority of the Nicene Creed, and often question the Apostles' Creed as well.
Christian spirituality blossomed in the Roman Empire between A.D. 100 and 300 in spite of official efforts to suppress it. Sometime around A.D. 200, one leader, Tertullian, is quoted as saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed [of the Church]” to account for this phenomenon. In A.D. 313, the "Edict of Milan" ended official persecution, and under the Emperor Constantine, Christians acquired powerful political influence, the results of which are controversial to this day.
In Medieval Western Europe, the Roman Catholic Church was a very powerful institution which was more important than most smaller states. Not only was the church and its organizations extremely wealthy, owning extensive properties in many countries but through its dominant spiritual influence, it rivalled the political power of most Monarchs for support of the population. This made the Pope an important figure in the life of the continent.
This wealth often expressed itself in the building of beautiful cathedrals and supporting great artists. The church's monasteries were seats of learning and study which evolved into modern universities. They also provided the first hospitals for the care of the sick.
Later Medieval times
The power and prestige of the Church led to increasing separation between Christians and their leaders. The Middle Ages eventually saw the emergence of a professional clergy. The Great Schism was the result of a dispute over the organization of the clergy and the role of the Pope, leading to the division of the Church into "Orthodox" and "Catholic".
Medieval times saw the emergence of the sacraments, and Christian life centered around these religious acts that conferred God's grace. Christian spirituality was based in the spiritual nourishment of the sacrament, and in the application of faith to demands of daily existence. The goal of medieval Christianity was unity among people and with God as mediated through the Church. But the power to confer sacraments and otherwise control spiritual things fell under the sole jurisdiction of the clergy and as such was open to abuse. The resulting corruption led to the reformation, and the further division of the Christians into Protestant and Catholic.
The history of the Christian faith in modern times must be studied movement by movement, such is its diversity. In the West The Enlightenment led to a separation of faith from science and profoundly conditioned the relationship between church and state. Intellectual pressure from the Enlightenment led to a religious reaction in the North American colonies — the so-called Great Awakening to which Protestant North American Christians owe much of their pattern of practice.
Widespread Christian missions by Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox created today's situation in which Christians are to be found in almost every part of the world.
Today many modern Christians still live their lives in relation to a community of faith, usually a local church. These churches stand in a variety of traditions as a result of of history. Renewal is a process that restores an organization to its original purposes or values. New Christian denominations and other organizations are usually the result of renewal movements that seek to bring back some aspect of the Christian faith.
The life of a Christian is still characterized by faith in the figure of Jesus as represented in the New Testament. Sacraments aside, the concept of grace is still uniquely Christian: the idea, or as some call it a mystery, that spiritual wholeness comes only as a result of a gift.
Some famous Christian teachers include Paul of Tarsus, Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Augustine of Hippo, Athanasius of Alexandria, Saint Patrick, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, and C.S. Lewis.
Many famous people, ancient and modern have professed Christianity. One of the most prominent Christians of recent times was the late Pope John Paul II, leader of the Catholic Church. Modern professed Christians include U. S. Senator John Kerry, Former U. S. President Bill Clinton, Former U. S. President Jimmy Carter, U. S. President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela. Most American and western politicians publicly profess to be Christians, as do many popular sports, media and music figures.
- What is a Christian? <-This refers to only one denomination's view of Christianity. It is blatantly anti-catholic.