There are many religions around the world, some based on The Bible, an all powerful God and the life of Jesus Christ and others based on other teachings or in some cases, who just follow the teachings of a person who they believe has or had the insight and wisdom to write their own set of beliefs (that may or may not include any theology at all). Christian religions, while having similar (but not identical) beliefs, have a variety of different ways they practice their beliefs. From the first century to now many Christian religions have changed and modified their practices to include a range of practices and processes that are not found in The Bible (on which they base their beliefs). This has let to a divergence and in some cases a dilution of the original important messages of the Bible and in some cases a defence of their "brand" of beliefs that in not true to the Christian ethos.
Through history it has also been true that individuals and authorities have inappropriately used the name of "Christianity" to inflict terrible and deplorable acts against other religions, individuals and nations. These acts have done little to reflect the true message of Jesus Christ and cannot be excused. These acts are based in the desire for power, over an individual or group of individuals.
In recent times there has also been a movement amongst, commentators, academics and philosophers, against Christianity by taking the position that religion is the realm of the "stupid" and "uneducated". The suggestion is that anyone who is educated can not accept faith in an unseen God or in book written over such a long period by so many different authors. This secular humanism (where real faith is encouraged to be in oneself and humanity) is growing in popularity for several reasons, including its appeal to those who are seeking a faith in life of self-determination, without guilt and/or the responsibilities that comes with belief in a higher power. If this position was true then religions would not have memberships with a high number of well educated members.
Recognising a False Christian Religion
As many religions claim to be "Christian", there are some ways we can compare these religions with the original churches of the first century AD to see if they have been influenced in a negative way by the people that follow them, perhaps for their own purposes. Be suspicious of "Christian" religious that:
- Claim to be speaking for God and having His authority
- Claims to have the ability to forgive sin on behalf of God e.g. the 10 commandments (Exodus 20 verses 3-17)
- Act in a way that is contradictory to Christian principles
- Claims that beliefs must change with public opinion
- Uses a text other than The Holy Bible as the “authority”
- Makes a profit that benefits an individual or individuals, personally
- Claims to have and control the Holy Spirit gifts
- Solicits payments for salvation or healing, often disguised of “gifts”
- Has an organisational hierarchy that has power and status over others in the organisation
- Give power or reverence to inanimate objects
- Impose rules that are not Bible based/ specific
The unfortunate truth is that the reason Christian religions sometimes fail to live up to expectations of living the principles they claim to believe in, is the human factor. Whenever people try to use religion as a way to have power over others or to better there own status, the community at large will quickly see the hypocrisy. Disappointingly, blame is placed on Christianity rather than the individuals or organisations that misuse of the Christian ethic. The true test of any religion is that they do what they preach.
There is no doubt that Christian principles have a significant impact on the ethics of our society, our laws and our sense of social propriety. While some may argue that our ethics are innate in every human being, history does not bear this out. In its purest form, Christianity and its principles, would be a perfect societal structure.
So, the bottom line...what can Christianity offer you now and eternally? For some the concept of eternal life is quite abstract and for others certainty about the future is the prime reason for searching for hope in faith. What is on offer in this short time we have, we call life?
- A sense of purpose in the world and with your life
- True happiness and fulfilment
- The support and fellowship of a worldwide community
- Peace, when all around is chaos
- An environment to create happier and long lasting relationships and marriages
- A safe and inspirational environment for children as they develop their character for life
Eternally, belief and baptism into Jesus Christ can offer real certainty about you and your families future. Knowing that there is more to our existence than the few short years we have provides the hope and comfort we need to deal with the troubles and challenges of this life.