Christianity (Encyclopedia of Science and Religion)
Christians were first called "Christians," according to Acts 11: 26, at Antioch in 40 to 44 C.E. A Christian is one who accepts Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah (or in Greek, the Christ), the Anointed One of Godhe one who shows and makes present in history God's nature and purpose for creation.
Normally Christians believe in one creator God, threefold in being (Father, Son, and Spirit). The Son is the Logos or Wisdom of God, the archetype of all creation, who was incarnate in Jesus, reconciling an estranged creation to the divine being through Jesus' death and resurrection. The Spirit, the creative energy of God, is known in the fellowship of the Church, which mediates the presence of the risen Christ to the world. Christians believe that human beings have turned away from the love of God to selfish desire (are "in sin"), but God wills that all should turn back to God, and in Christ calls them and empowers them to return. At the end of history, Christ will be disclosed in glory, and all who have not finally rejected God will receive the gift of eternal life in the presence of God. The "gospel," or good news, is that God forgives sin and offers eternal life to all through Christ.
Christianity has expanded from a small Jewish messianic sect to become the largest religion in the world, with an estimated two billion adherents. It has taken many forms, and there are well over a thousand Christian denominations. Some denominations think of themselves as "Biblical Christians," meaning that they take the Bible as the basis of faith, and often interpret the historical records, including accounts of miracles and of the coming end of the world, as literally as possible. Such groups sometimes find themselves in conflict with the claims of science, most obviously over the age of the universe, the origin of human life, and the probable end of the world.
The mainstream denominationsspecially Roman Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran and Anglicanre not committed to biblical literalism. It has become standard to interpret the Genesis accounts and teachings about the end of the world as myths, the purpose of which is to teach the dependence of all things on God, and the final destiny of the universe as lying in union with (or final separation from) God. More radical movements seek to reconstruct Christian faith in terms of personal commitment to agapistic love (to the kingdom of God, seen as a moral community), or of apprehension of the Transcendent, as it is disclosed in Jesus. Nevertheless, belief in God as creator is usually affirmed, and Jesus is seen as a unique instance of God's action in the world, from whose life, death, and resurrection the church originates, as the way of reconciling the world to God. The experimental sciences have flourished in this intellectual environment, since it affirms the rational intelligibility of the universe, as created by a wise God, and gives humans the responsibility for having "dominion" over, or care for, the creation.
See also CHRISTIANITY, ANGLICAN, ISSUES IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION; CHRISTIANITY, EVANGELICAL, ISSUES IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION; CHRISTIANITY, LUTHERAN, ISSUES IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION; CHRISTIANITY, ORTHODOX, ISSUES IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION; CHRISTIANITY, PENTECOSTALISM, ISUSES IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION; CHRISTIANITY, RADICAL REFORMED, ISSUES IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION; CHRISTIANITY, REFORMED, ISSUES IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION; CHRISTIANITY, ROMAN CATHOLIC, ISSUES IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION; SCIENCE AND RELIGION, HISTORY OF FIELD
McManners, John, ed. The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Ward, Keith. Christianity: A Short Introduction. Oxford: Oneworld Press, 2000.