Working with Evangelical Clients Part 2

Basic Christian Beliefs

This is part 2 of my blog series on the CEU course I’m developing titled

Working with Evangelical Clients: Basic Beliefs, Denominations and Counseling Techniques to Use

For part 1 Click Here

3 Branches of Christianity

Christian cross with red robe

You will hear me report a phrase similar to this often: this section is by no means exhaustive nor a perfect description of Basic Christian Beliefs.  As mentioned briefly before, there are 3 major branches of Christianity: Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant.  These all differ in several ways.  However, there are some basic Christian beliefs that all three share.  I am going to do my best to make this as bare bones and agreeable between these 3 as possible.  Due to my own personal Protestant beliefs it may slant more that way, but I’m attempting to be as historical and unbiased as possible. With these warnings aside, let’s jump into some basics.

sign that says sin on it

Sin



At the core of Christianity is sin.  Sin doesn’t have one agreed upon definition.  John Stott in his book “Basic Christianity” describes sin in a positive and negative manner.  On the positive side sin is active.  It is actively engaging in wrongdoing.  In 1 John 3:4 the apostle John says “ Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. ESV”  The other aspect of sin is falling short.  Romans 3:23 states “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Historical Christianity generally has had a negative view towards human nature in part due to the belief in sin.  As the Romans 3:23 passage mentioned, this sin is not relegated to a few bad apples.  Sin can be an individual act but more so Christianity beliefs all are marred by sin.  There are no perfect men. 

There is a concept known as “original sin.”  This phrase was initially coined by Augustine of Hippo in the 4th century AD.  While there has been debate on this doctrine it is largely believed in all three major branches of Christianity.  The concept of original sin is that all are born into sin. Meaning, we are not born even with a chance to live a perfect life. In this view sin entered the world during the creation account in the book of Genesis.  In this account, the first two created beings, Adam and Eve, were living in a sin free world in the Garden of Eden.  Adam and Eve were given only one rule in the Garden of Eden.  This rule was to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Later, a serpent in the garden (who some say is Satan or the devil) helps trick Eve into eating from this tree.  Eve and then Adam both eat from the tree.  It is at this point that “original sin” occurred.  The Augustine belief is that this sin not only affected Adam and Eve, but all human creation after this time. No one is capable of living a sin free life.

Most everyone has heard of the ten commandments.  These were given to the Israelites and were the basis of how to conduct themselves.  We will briefly list these out.

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make idols
  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
  10. You shall not covet. 

Despite being given these commandments the Israelites failed to keep them.  They had to offer burnt sacrifices in order to seek forgiveness. 

There is much more ground to cover in the Old Testament that both Christians and Jews would agree on (and disagree on.)  However, let’s skip ahead to the New Testament and discuss the central character of the Christian faith, Jesus.  So who is Jesus? Jesus is presented as the Son of God.  However, he is also presented as God himself.  This is part of the Trinity which we will discuss later.  Remember how I mentioned that all have sinned and the Israelites offered sacrifices for this sin?  This is where the Jewish and Christian faith separate.  Jews deny the divinity of Jesus and Christians worship the divinity of Jesus.  

Jesus Christ is Lord

Christians believe that Jesus was born of a virgin Mary.  Most of historical Christianity maintains a literal virgin birth of Mary while others dispute this.  However, despite Jesus being born of Mary Christians believe that Jesus again is the Son of God himself and not of Mary or her husband Joseph.  Despite this, the Christian belief is that Jesus was all God and all man.  So despite being divine he had earthly flesh and experienced life on earth as a man.

Remember how I talked about the concept of original sin?  Well despite Jesus being a man, the Christian faith believes he lived a sinless life.  No other man before or after him has been or will be able to accomplish this.  Despite his sinless life he was put to death on the cross.  Christians believe this death was a substitute for sin.  Thus for Christians there was no more need for sacrifice as Jesus provided the only sacrifice needed. 

Christians believe that having faith that Jesus died on the cross leads to salvation.  While the main forms of Christianity, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant have some differing views on salvation, all agree that faith in Christ is essential. Not only do Christians believe Christ died on the cross, they believe he rose from the dead on the 3rd day.  This is what is known as the resurrection. The belief here is that despite his death, he defeated death through the resurrection.

Christians believe that life continues after death with those being saved going to heaven and those not saved going to hell.  There is debate among the major branches of Christianity, separate denominations and individual believers over whether these are literal places or not.  

bible open on walking path

Bible is God’s Inspired Word

All of historical Christianity believes that the bible is God’s inspired word. There is debate of what is considered canon or not.  Protestants have 66 books in the bible, Catholics have 73 and Orthodox have 81.  While these are different numbers, the Protestant 66 books are all included in both the Catholic and Orthodox scriptures.  All of the New Testament books are the same in all 3 as well.

We touched on this earlier, but the concept of Trinity is extremely important in all of Christianity.  This can get quite complicated and there are some differing views on this but this is the main point.  There are three persons in the God-head: God the father, God the son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.  All three of these persons are God individually but it is still one God.  If you are not familiar with this concept it can be quite confusing.  But Christianity believes in only one God while recognizing that God has three distinct persons.  Again, not all three branches completely agree on how this works but they do all agree in the Trinity. 

I have barely scratched the surface of even basic Christian beliefs.  However, the point of this is to cover the highlights and also show the conformity of the beliefs within the 3 major branches of Christianity.  Next I will discuss the Reformation which is the formation of Protestant beliefs.  Thus I will not be discussing much more on Catholic or Orthodox beliefs.  If you would like to know more about these beliefs I have some sources on Catholic and Orthodox sites if you would like to know more. 

https://www.catholic.com/
https://www.oca.org/

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