What Do Christians Believe?


Who is Jesus?

Do Christians believe that everything the Bible says is without error?

While many Christians do believe that the Bible is without error — if interpreted properly — many others are careful to clarify that no book of the Bible is meant to be a scientific document, and not all passages are meant to be historical. Some parts are meant to be interpreted within the historical context of the time period. However, Christians do not always agree about how the Bible should be interpreted.

We are well aware that the Bible did not supernaturally drop down out of the sky. On the contrary, we know that the books of the New Testament were not formally chosen until hundreds of years after they were written and that different branches of Christianity accept different books as canon for the Old Testament. Even so, this was not a haphazard process. Books and letters for the New Testament were chosen based on the strength of the evidence that they were legitimately handed down from the earliest leaders of the Church, the Apostles, men who knew Jesus on earth and were therefore primary sources.

The majority of Christians believe, however, that these Scriptures are inspired by God and therefore are authoritative, trustworthy, and inerrant in what they affirm about God and doctrine and "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness...." [2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)].

Not all passages in the Bible are meant to be taken literally — though some certainly are. Which passages are and aren't are often a matter of debate, even among Christians.

Do Christians believe in three Gods?

No, Christianity is a monotheistic religion. Christians hold to the doctrine of the Trinity, which is that there is only one God, but who consists of three distinct “persons” — the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. This doctrine is by no means simple, and in fact it wasn't written specifically about in the Bible and wasn't formalized until the 4th century. But Christians do not believe that the three-person-ness of God means that there are three gods.

One way of thinking about it is this: If an Author were to write a book and then write Himself into that book as a character, the Author would simultaneously be a character in the story as well as the narrator. This is essentially how most Christians think about the relationship between God the Father and Jesus, the Son. (The Holy Spirit adds a whole other dimension to this.)

Do Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead historically and bodily?

Most assuredly yes! This is perhaps the most important belief in all of Christianity. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep [died]. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. [1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 12-20 (NIV)]

Do Christians believe that good people go to heaven and that bad people go to hell?

No. Actually, the Bible states that there are no "good" people. Christianity is very clear in stating that not a single person has ever lived a perfect life except for Jesus, who was God in flesh. Modern social psychology has rather clearly shown that "good" people can do some surprisingly bad things. Not one of us is flawless.

But there is hope. What Christianity does believe is that a time will come when evil and death and pain will be defeated forever and that some will live in a world in which all is set right again. Those who will be a part of this new Kingdom are those who have put their trust and hope in Jesus, believing that His sacrifice on the cross for them paid a debt that they could never pay themselves.

Christians believe that what ultimately matters is not what we have done but what Jesus did for us. Christians believe that the "good life" is not about what people do to appease God. Rather, it is about believing in what Jesus did in his life, death, and resurrection that makes it possible for us to enjoy the "good life" here and eternal life forever with God.

But Christians still believe there is a hell? How could a loving God send people to a place of torment?

This question is complicated by the fact that, where English tends to have one word "hell", the Bible uses four separate words. Theologians, scholars, and Christians are not in full agreement as to what these four different terms refer to. Further complicating matters is that many people have an idea of hell influenced far more by medieval ideas than Biblical ones. But Christians do agree that there will be a time of judgment, even if they are not in agreement as to what the end result of that judgment will be. But doesn't true justice demand that evil be judged? How can the world have peace if evil is still present?

If you go to church every Sunday, are you a Christian?

Not necessarily. Again, Christianity is not about what you do but about belief — the kind of belief in Jesus that translates into actions that would please Him. Yes, that belief should most certainly change the way you live, but church attendance is no guarantee about what you believe.

While the New Testament letters affirm the importance of gathering together with other Christians regularly, it is a genuine and active faith in Jesus that makes one a Christian.

If your parents are Christians, are you a Christian?

Not necessarily. Whether one is a Christian depends on what one believes; it is not a matter of heredity.

Do you have to be a Republican to be a Christian?

Not at all. In our fellowship, we have Socialists, Liberals, Democrats, Libertarians, Conservatives, Republicans, and some who couldn't care less about politics. Just because we agree that Jesus rose from the dead does not mean that we agree about how a country should be run!

Is Christianity compatible with science?

Certainly. Many of us are in the hard sciences. (In fact, at this time, it may be the majority of us.) While some Christians believe that God created the world in six literal 24-hour days, there are plenty of us who believe in evolution. Some of us even study evolutionary biology! Where we all agree is that, however the universe came to be, God is ultimately responsible.

Do Christians hate gays and lesbians?

No true Christian is supposed to hate anyone. Those who do are an embarassment to the Christian faith. One of Jesus' greatest commandments is that we should love our neighbor (which includes everyone) as ourselves.

We do believe that there are behavioral standards for how God wants us to live our lives, (although many Christians may disagree about what those standards should entail). At the same time, we humbly acknowledge that not a single one of us has ever lived up to that standard.


You might also want to read what the early Church said about what Christians believe: The Nicene Creed
Updated: 2011.03.21:16:07