Under this section of the web site we will look at the core beliefs of Christianity, as well as the essential beliefs of the other major world religions: We will look at how Christianity compares with other religions such as Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, New Age (which as form of religion), and other Western religions such as Mormonism. Finally, we will consider common objections, how to address them, and the case for Christ. First, let’s consider the early “creeds” of Christianity – the earliest statements of faith of the followers of Jesus.
“The Apostles Creed”: Core Beliefs of Early Christianity
The Apostles’ Creed remains the most popular statement of the articles of Christian faith which are generally acceptable to most Christian denominations that are creedal. It is widely used by a number of Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes, most visibly by liturgical Churches of Western Christian tradition, including the Latin Church of the Catholic Church, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and Western Rite Orthodoxy. It is also used by Presbyterians, Methodists, and Congregationalists.
This particular creed was developed between the 2nd and 9th centuries. Its central doctrines are those of the Trinity and God the Creator. Each of the doctrines found in this creed can be traced to statements current in the apostolic period. The creed was apparently used as a summary of Christian doctrine for baptismal candidates in the churches of Rome. (Wikipedia).
The Text of the Apostles Creed:
“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
Let’s review the main points of the Apostles Creed:
- A belief in one almighty God, who is the Father. This in contrast to Hinduism, which teaches that there are many gods; and Buddhism, which teaches that there is no almighty God. Either there is an almighty God who created all things, or there isn’t. The weight of evidence from all of creation, and supported by
science and observations, points to the existence of an all-powerful, almighty Creator.
- The creed stresses that this one, almighty God created the heavens and the earth (ie., all things, the cosmos). This is In contrast to eastern religions, which maintain that the universe has always existed. The best evidence from science 3supports the notion that all matter, space, and time originated 13.7 billion years ago, in a singularity (AKA “the big bang”). The evidence does not support a “steady state” theory of the universe, or an expanding/collapsing universe.
- A belief in Jesus Christ as the “only” Son of God. It is important to note that the creed stresses that Jesus is God’s only Son, and our Lord. Believers are all children of God, but there is only one, unique Son of God – the eternal Son of God, the Second person of the Trinity, the Word “that became flesh” (see John 1).
- A belief that Jesus the anointed, God’s one and only Son, was conceived by the Holy Spirit. This maintains that the birth of Jesus as a supernatural event – that He was born as a consequence of an action of God’s Holy Spirit (not of human origin).
- Born of the virgin Mary. This was important to maintain, as Jesus did not inherit the “sin nature” of man (which had been passed down since the time of Adam). Jesus was the “first born” of a new creation. The church believed the prophecy of Isaiah, that indeed Jesus was born of a virgin.
- That Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. Islam tries to maintain that Jesus did not die on the cross. Some skeptics try to make the point that Jesus was only wounded, and slept in the tomb until He awoke. But the early church held fast to the facts – that He was crucified, died and was buried.
- He descent into hell,The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “By the expression ‘He descended into Hell’, the Apostles’ Creed confesses that Jesus did really die and through his death for us conquered death and the devil ‘who has the power of death’ (Hebrews 2:14). In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened Heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him.”
- And then He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. This is one of the fundamental beliefs of a Christian – that Christ arose from the dead, and that because of this, one day every believing Christian will also rise to new life. There is a lot of hard evidence for the resurrection of Christ – the empty tomb, the radically changed lives of the Apostles, the
- The holiness of the catholic or “universal” Church (the word “Catholic” simply meant universal in the early days of the church) This is a belief that Jesus has established HIs church, and that it is His spiritual body on earth – doing His will, carrying out His commands. When Peter has answered Jesus that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus answered him: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
- That there is a communion of saints. A statement that there is a fellowship between believers, a communion where the “cells” of His body come together to enjoy sharing, supporting, and interacting with one another. Jesus said that “where two or more are gathered in my Name, I am in the midst of them”.
- Christ will come again in His second coming. The creed affirms that Jesus will be coming again, as He is recorded as stating in the Gospels, and in the letters of the New Testament. This is the “blessed hope” of every Christian – to see the appearing of Jesus coming again to receive His saints, to pronounce judgement on an end-times world that has gone terribly wrong, and to bring in His everlasting Kingdom.
- There will be a Day of Judgement and salvation of the faithful. This is foretold in the Old Testament, as well and in the New Testament. Christians look forward to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and their gathering together unto Him. Believers will be saved from God’s judgement upon the earth due to their faith and trust in Christ. Those that have rejected God and His Christ, the Lord Jesus, will face God’s judgement.
>> Listen to a popular song about “The Creed”: https://youtu.be/X-m9sRRN9MA
The Creed is Refined: The Nicene Creed
Alternative Beliefs Arise and Threaten the Early Church
During the time of the Apostles, and after their demise, attacks against the core beliefs of the Church began to arise. The core doctrines thus had to be documented, and so the four Gospels were written, along with the letters of Paul, Jude, James, and Peter. These documents were circulating among the early church during the 1st and 2nd centuries, and eventually became what we now know as the “New Testament”.
At this same time, however, leaders both within the Church, as well as from outside the body, began to draw after themselves followers. They also began promoting false doctrines that were in direct opposition to the Apostles teachings.
The Nicene Creed (325 AD) Underscores the Core Beliefs of Christians
The Nicene Creed is called Nicene /ˈnaɪsiːn/ because it was originally adopted in the city of Nicaea (present day Iznik, Turkey) by the First Council of Nicaea in 325. The purpose of a creed is to provide a doctrinal statement of correct belief, or Orthodoxy. The creeds of Christianity have been drawn up at times of conflict about doctrine: acceptance or rejection of a creed served to distinguish believers and deniers of a particular doctrine or set of doctrines.
The Nicene Creed was adopted in the face of the Arian controversy. Arius, a Libyan presbyter in Alexandria, had declared that although the Son was divine, he was a created being and therefore not co-essential with the Father, and “there was when he was not,” This made Jesus less than the Father, which posed soteriological challenges for the nascent doctrine of the Trinity. Arius’s teaching provoked a serious crisis.
The Text of the Nicene Creed:
The Nicene Creed of 325 explicitly affirms the co-essential divinity of the Son, applying to him the term “consubstantial“. The Apostles’ Creed makes no explicit statements about the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit, but, in the view of many who use it, the doctrine is implicit in it.
“I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
Compare the Core Beliefs of Today’s Church
Below are the core beliefs of Saddleback Church. Notice how closely they align with the core beliefs of the early church as listed in the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed above:
- God is the creator and ruler of the universe. He has eternally existed in three persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three are co-equal and are one God.
- Genesis 1:1, 26, 27; 3:22; Psalm 90:2; Matthew 28:19; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Corinthians 13:14
- Man is made in the spiritual image of God, to be like him in character. He is the supreme object of God’s creation. Although man has tremendous potential for good, he is marred by an attitude of disobedience toward God called “sin.” This attitude separates man from God.
- Genesis 1:27; Psalm 8:3-6; Isaiah 53:6a; Romans 3:23; Isaiah 59:1, 2
- Man was created to exist forever. He will either exist eternally separated from God by sin or in union with God through forgiveness and salvation. To be eternally separated from God is hell. To be eternally in union with him is eternal life. Heaven and hell are places of eternal existence.
- John 3:16; 1 John 2:25; 1 John 5:11-13; Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15; Matthew 25:31-46
About Jesus Christ
- Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. He is co-equal with the Father. Jesus lived a sinless human life and offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all men by dying on a cross. He arose from the dead after three days to demonstrate His power over sin and death. He ascended to heaven’s glory and will return again to earth to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
- Matthew 1:22, 23; Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-5, 14:10-30; Hebrews 4:14, 15; 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4; Romans 1:3, 4; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Timothy 6:14, 15; Titus 2:13
- Salvation is a gift from God to man. Man can never make up for his sin by self-improvement or good works – only by trusting in Jesus Christ as God’s offer of forgiveness can man be saved from sin’s penalty. Eternal life begins the moment one receives Jesus Christ into his life by faith.
- Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8, 9; John 14:6, 1:12; Titus 3:5; Galatians 3:26; Romans 5:1
About Eternal Security
- Because God gives man eternal life through Jesus Christ, the believer is secure in salvation for eternity. Salvation is maintained by the grace and power of God, not by the self-effort of the Christian.
- John 10:29; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 7:25; 10:10, 14; 1 Peter 1:3-5
About The Holy Spirit
- The Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and the Son as God. He is present in the world to make men aware of their need for Jesus Christ. He also lives in every Christian from the moment of salvation. He provides the Christian with power for living, understanding of spiritual truth, and guidance in doing what is right. The Christian seeks to live under his control daily.
- 2 Corinthians 3:17; John 16:7-13, 14:16, 17; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 2:12, 3:16; Ephesians 1:13; Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 5:1
About The Bible
- The Bible is God’s written word to all men. It was written by human authors, under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is the supreme source of truth for Christian beliefs and living. Because it is inspired by God, it is truth without any mixture of error.
- 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21; 2 Timothy 1:13; Psalm 119:105,160, 12:6; Proverbs 30:5
- Baptism by immersion symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and is your public declaration that you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Baptism does not save you, but shows the world that you have already been saved. And while baptism is not required for salvation, it is a biblical command and demonstrates your love and obedience to Christ.
- Colossians 2:12; Acts 2:41; Ephesians 2: 8-9; Matthew 28:19-20
- Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, is an ordinance given to all believers by Jesus Christ to remember his sacrifice for us and to symbolize the new covenant. The elements of bread and wine or juice are symbols of Christ’s broken body and shed blood. Communion is not a means of salvation. Rather, it is a testament of a believer’s faith in the atoning work of the cross.
- Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:19,20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29
Where Are You in Your Relationship with the Lord?
The truth is that we are all created to be in relationship with our maker. We all have a “God-sized” hole in
our hearts – a hole that we try to fill with all sorts of things – possessions, success, money, sex, etc. But in the end none of this truly satisfies. And no other religious figure can bring you into a personal relationship with the LORD – because as it is written, “there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved”.
None of these things will bring you into a relationship with your Creator – the One who has loved you from all eternity and created you to have a personal relationship with Him. In reality there is only thing that can fill this void: Jesus. Why? Because He is UNIQUE – only Jesus bridges the gap between Man and Maker.
Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? If you do, then you have everything to look forward to – in this life, and in the life to come. Peace with God, joy in your daily life, fulfillment of God’s purpose while here on earth, and life eternal. You were made for a purpose, and your daily walk with Jesus will help you come to realize His purpose in your life and fulfill it. If you don’t have a relationship with your Creator, you can! Give Jesus a chance! Don’t put it off. Allow Him to come into your life and make you “a new creation”! You have nothing to loose everything to gain. Here is a link to Billy Graham’s web site that can show you how you can invite Jesus into your life and be the creation He has always intended you to be …
Take Me to Steps to Peace With God ==> http://www.billygraham.org/SH_StepsToPeace.asp