A Basic Course in Christianity

God the Creator

Christians believe in the existence of a supernatural being known as "God" (English), "Yahweh"(Hebrew pronounciation), "YHVH" (written Hebrew), "Jehovah" (English adaptation of the Hebrew), "Deus" (Latin) or "The LORD" (all caps indicates translation of the Hebrew "YHVH" in English Bibles".

Christians believe that God created the Universe. Most believe in a literal seven days of Creation which occured about 5,000 years ago, although many Christians disagree over the age and manner of Creation and believe that when all the evidence is clarified, the Biblical account and scientific account will be in harmony. These Christians believe that the seven days of Creation may be a poetic form, or believe that the scientific evidence for an old Earth has serious systematic flaws.

Christians believe that God is separate from His Creation. God is everywhere and is standing beside you and is also found in a grove of trees, but he is not part of the room, or trees, or rocks, or people. God can be found in a church, a grove of trees, beside a waterfall, in a meadow, or even in a car on a busy 6-lane highway or in your office. But He is not a grove of trees, or a waterfall, or the sun. God created the Universe - He is NOT the Universe.

Christians believe that God has always existed, and created Time. God created "Nature", and natural laws such as E=mc2. He also created natural laws for human behavior such as "murder is wrong", and "eating sweets is bad for you".

Christians believe that God created Man. Most believe that this was done on one specific day, but other Christians believe that this could have been a poetic form, and that Man could have evolved under God's direction.

God also created a race of creatures known as "angels". Angels are seen as messengers of God, and as a group of powerful, godly man-like creatures who carry on a hidden war behind the scenes.

The enemies of the angels are the "fallen angels", led by Lucifer, alias Satan, "the devil", or "the deceiver". Satan was the most powerful and brilliant of the angels, but rebelled against God. He took one-third of the angels with him to be his army. Satan wars continually against God and the good angels to destroy mankind. It is clear from the Bible that God is totally in control and allows this warfare to continue only for His own purposes, being able to stomp Satan whenever God desires.

The Fall of Man

Christians believe that there was a couple named Adam and Eve. Most Christians believe that these were the first man and woman. Adam and Eve were placed in a beautiful garden, the "Garden of Eden", where life was easy and fruit trees were abundant. God made one rule - Don't eat from one particular tree.

Satan visited Eve in the guise of a snake and deceived her into eating from that particular tree and talking Adam into also eating from the tree.

Adam and Eve were punished for their rebellion by being kicked out of the garden. Adam was forced to work; Eve was forced to bear children. The snake was forced to crawl on his stomach and eat dirt.

Now this sounds like a neat myth to most non-Christians. Most Christians believe it to be literally true, although many Christians point out that it is at least symbolic of the rebellion of men against God.

Christians point out that all men are naturally in rebellion against God. Rather than recognize that there is a Being who is terribly more powerful than ourselves to whom we owe our existance, we choose to ignore Him or deny Him. We come up with many explanations in an attempt to justify ourselves.

In the last hundred years or so, three common explanations have been used to avoid facing the ramifications of the existance of God.

Man and Sin

Sin is a Christian concept. It is an offense toward God. Just as criminal activity is the breaking of the laws of the state - an offense to the state - Sin is an offense toward God. It is breaking of the natural laws of human behavior which God created. The first sin was Adam and Eve's disobediance in the Garden of Eden.

Christians believe that every person sins. The "short version" of God's laws are the Ten Commandments.

  1. You will have no other gods before Me.
  2. Your will not worship carved images.
  3. You will not take the name of the LORD lightly. ("in vain")
  4. Keep the Sabbath day holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother.
  6. You will not murder.
  7. You will not commit adultery.
  8. You will not steal
  9. You will not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You will not covet your neighbor's possessions.

Their Meaning

Notice the first four commandments. Collectively, they say "Treat God as unique and very, very special". Have you ever used the name of the LORD in an unholy way? If so, you've broken Commandment Three. Have you ever worked on the Sabbath? Then you've broken Commandment Four. Have you treated a sports event, a job-related goal, or a special present as more important than prayer or attending church? Then you've broken Commandment One. Have you ever worshipped a sculpture? This one is not so common in Western countries today, but it is the core of Commandment Two.

Commandment Five - Have you ever been disrespectful to your father or your mother?

Jump to Commandment Ten - Notice that coveting (wanting very badly) your neighbor's possessions is breaking this Commandment. You don't have to actually take anything. God's Standards include your thought processes as well as your overt actions. In the Book of Matthew (5:27), Jesus further explains this by pointing out that whoever looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery (Commandment Seven) in his heart. This is how high God's Standards of Behaviour are!

So now look at the other Commandments:

Commandment Six: Ever hated someone enough to wish they were dead? You've broken this commandment.

Commandment Eight - Have you ever taken home a pencil from work? Ever drank your college roommate's soda without asking? "Borrowed" some cosmetics?

Commandment Nine - Ever exaggerated your little sister's actions when the two of you did something wrong? Ever slanted a story to make yourself look better and another look worse? Have you ever lied? Any of these will break the Commandment.

And so we see that everyone has sinned.

God and Sin

Christians believe that God is perfect. He cannot tolerate inperfections, and thus cannot tolerate sin. He will not associate someone who is breaking His laws. So how do we, who have all sinned, approach God?

God gave the Law to the Jews through the prophet Moses. They repeatedly broke the Law, and were punished for it. Those people who tried to keep the Law generally sacrificed animals as instructed to pay a fine for breaking the Law, animals being the standard of value in ancient Palestine, much as money is the standard of value today.

Jesus

In approximately 4 BC, a man was born in Bethlehem, a small town close to Jerusalem in what is today Israel and the West Bank. This man was named "Yeshua", which was latinized to "Jesus". He was a brilliant child, and grew up to be a religious teacher. For three years, around 30 A.D. he taught to a thousands of people in the region of the Sea of Galilee in what is today Northern Israel and the Golan Heights area of Syria and Jordan. He had twelve particular students, known today as the 12 Disciples.

In the reign of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governer of Judea, Jesus was set upon by the Jewish authorities, delivered to the Roman occupiers, and killed by crucifiction. The crime of which He was accused? Declaring Himself to be God, which was perfectly true. His defense? He IS God.

There is no doubt today among the historical and archeological communities about the existance of Jesus. Neither is there any doubt about the basic accuracy of the four eyewitness accounts of the Life of Jesus, which we know today as the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Thus, the story presented in the four Gospels accounts starts with a certain fundamental accuracy.

The Teachings of Jesus

Jesus taught many things. The core of what He taught was:

The Bible

The Bible is a collection of some sixty books written over a period of more than 1500 years. The first two-thirds is the collection of Hebrew scriptures still in use by modern Jews. This is known by Christians as the Old Testament, and constitutes significant background material about the Jewish nation, as well as many prophecies concerning a Messiah who would come later to rescue the Jewish nation and all people from bondage. The Old Testament narrative ends about 400 B.C. Key portions were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Scrolls which dates from about 100 BC found in the late 1940's near the Dead Sea.

The last third is a collection of books known as the New Testament. The New Testament books were written between 40 and 90 A.D. by men who knew Jesus personally. The first four books are historical narratives of the Life of Jesus. The 5th book (Acts) is a narrative of the actions of the Disciples and a key player named Paul, who received a direct vision from Jesus about three years after the crucifiction. Most of the remaining New Testament are letters sent to various churches or groups dealing with how Christians should live, should organize, and understand the events of Jesus' life. The final book (Revelation) is a prediction of the events of the far future when Jesus returns.

The Church

Christians meet at a building known as a church. The Church also refers to the collection of Christian believers. Christians argue among themselves over matters of worship style and minor doctrinal points. For example, what type of music is appropriate for a worship service, should the leader be dressed in robes, a business suit, or in blue jeans, should a person be baptized before taking communion, or after. Should baptism be by sprinkling, or by total immersion? Should young children be baptized? Should women wear pants, dresses, or both?

When groups of churches that believe similar things about these peripheral matters associate, the association is known as a denomination.

Most Christians meet twice a week - the main service on Sunday morning, and a mid-week Bible study on Wednesday or Thursday evening. Many churches also hold services at other times. A few churches have Saturday services unstead of Sunday services.

Why did Jesus Have to Die?

Jesus died as a substitutionary sacrifice for us. By His Death, all of our sin fines were paid for all time. By Belief in Him, we can now approach God.

How do I find out more about Christianity?

Visit a Church on Sunday morning. Non-Christians who are respectful are always welcome. Here's how to visit: