(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Joseph Ratzinger, known as Pope Benedict XVI, uses the Apostles’ Creed as a way of explaining the components of Christianity. At the center of the creed and in turn, of Christianity, is Jesus Christ, who is God made man. The name “Jesus Christ” itself explains Christ’s divine and human nature. “Jesus” is an expression of his humanity while “Christ” (from Greek Christos, anointed) describes how he is indeed the Son of God. Thus, his name is a unification of his divine and human natures.

In Christianity, the single most important event is the Resurrection. Particularly for the time period, Jesus’ death was unique among other religions. In many ancient belief systems, it was common for the believer to make a sacrifice to the gods, which was usually in the form of a slaughtered animal. However, in Christianity, it is Jesus who is making the sacrifice. Despite the sins that have been committed by human beings, Jesus, who is free from Original Sin, is the one who makes the sacrifice.

With Christ’s death, as it is explained in the Apostles’ Creed, Jesus goes down into hell or, more precisely, Sheol, and rises up into heaven. This allows for the deceased to enter heaven. Before Jesus’ death, hell and death were closely connected. According to Ratzinger, hell is loneliness. Thus, so was death. However, when Christ died, death was no longer characterized in this manner. Now that people could enter heaven, death meant being united with God and thus, Jesus.

In the context of the Apostles’ Creed, Jesus is the only one who can make the decision whether people can go to heaven, Ratzinger says. It is not only faith but also the works people do that will gain them entrance there. As he points out, serving others is a key component to the Christian life. The Christian is concerned not only with being saved but also with helping those in need.

While it is certainly important for Christians to give and serve, it is equally important for them to receive. For instance, love is not something that can be made....

(The entire section is 845 words.)

Introduction to Christianity Bibliography

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Allen, John L., Jr. Pope Benedict XVI: A Biography of Joseph Ratzinger. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000. Biography of Ratzinger up until he became pope. Also contains a list of his works.

Haas, John M., ed. Crisis of Conscience. New York: Crossroad, 1996. A group of essays centering on the issue of discerning right from wrong. Ratzinger writes the first essay, “Conscience and Truth.”

Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church as Communion. Edited by Stephan Otto Horn and Vinzenz Pfnür. Translated by Henry Taylor. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005. Group of essays and lectures dealing with various topics on the Catholic Church.