Christianity is a monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recounted in the Gospels. Christians believe Jesus to be the son of God and referred to as the Messiah, and called formally as Jesus, the Christ or Jesus Christ. With an estimated 2.1 billion adherents in 2001, Christianity is the world's largest religion.
Christianity began in the 1st century AD as a Jewish sect, and therefore shares many religious texts and early history with Judaism — specifically, the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament (see Judeo-Christian). Like Judaism, Christianity is considered an Abrahamic religion.
|The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints|
- 1 Denominations of Christianity
- 2 Beliefs
- 3 Differences in beliefs
- 4 Worship and practices
- 5 History and origins
- 6 Persecution
- 7 Controversies
- 8 See also
Denominations of Christianity
Within Christianity, there are numerous distinct traditions, denominations, and church bodies, many with various doctrinal differences related to culture and place. The 2001 edition of World Christian Encyclopedia estimates that there are 33,830 Christian denominations. Since the Reformation, Christianity is usually represented as being divided into three main branches:
- Roman Catholicism: The Roman Catholic Church, the largest single body, which includes several Eastern Catholic communities and totals more than 1 billion baptized members. (Not part of the Catholic Church but closely related are certain smaller communities, e.g., the Old-Catholics.)
- Eastern Christianity: Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Eastern Orthodox Churches (including Western Orthodox churches which preserve Latin practices while accepting Orthodox theology), with a combined membership of more than 300 million baptized members.
- Protestantism: Numerous denominations and groups such as Anglicans, Lutherans, Reformed, Evangelical, Charismatic, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Nazarenes, Anabaptists, and Pentecostals. The oldest of these separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century Protestant Reformation, followed in many cases by further divisions. Some Protestants identify themselves simply as Christian, or born-again Christian. Others, particularly among Anglicans and in Neo-Lutheranism, identify themselves as being "both Catholic and Protestant". Worldwide total ranges from 592 to 650 million.
Other Christian denominations and churches which distance themselves from the above classifications and some of their major beliefs claim around 275 million members. These include African indigenous churches with up to 110 million members (estimates vary widely), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also called Mormons) with more than 12 million members, Jehovah's Witnesses with approximately 6.6 million members.
In addition to official denominations, break-away sects, orthodox movements within denominations and sects, heretical movements, there are also a wide variety of extra-church groups associated with Christianity.
Within Christianity there exists a significant diversity of beliefs. Nevertheless, certain doctrines have come to characterize the mainstream of Christian theology.
Christianity adopted from Judaism a belief in the existence of a single God (YHWH) who created the universe and has divine power over it. The understanding of God is modified and expanded in the light of other Christian beliefs about the divinity of Christ and the nature of God as a Holy Trinity, which in brief considers that the three persons of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) together form a single substance of God. Some attempts at understanding the nature of God and the interrelationship of his attributes have led some Christians, according to their critics, toward an implicit tritheism, though Christians have explicitly denied holding such a view of God. All Christian creeds affirm that there is only one God (e.g., Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, and Chalcedonian Creed).
The title Messiah comes from the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (mashiakh) meaning the anointed one, for which the Greek translation is Χριστος (Christos), the source of the English word Christ.
Christians identify Jesus as the Messiah. This view holds that Jesus' coming was the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy and the inauguration of God's Kingdom. Jesus was anointed as ruler and saviour not only of the Jewish people, but of all humankind.
Jesus as God and Man
Most Christians believe that Jesus is "true God and true man" (or fully divine and fully human). Jesus is believed to have become fully human in all respects, including mortality, and to have suffered the pains and temptations of mortal man, yet without having sinned. From being true God he was capable of breaking the bonds of death and rising up again through what is known as the resurrection. The Chalcedonian Creed (which is not accepted by the Oriental Orthodox Churches) defined this as Christ having "two natures in one person", a doctrine known to theologians as hypostatic union (see Christology).
Most Christians believe that God is one single eternal being who exists as three distinct, eternal, and indivisible persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost). Most Christians believe the three persons of the Trinity together form a single substance of God.
Most Christians believe that salvation from "sin and death" is available through belief in the person and work of Jesus as savior and Lord. Because God is just, he cannot simply ignore or turn a blind eye to the world's sin, otherwise, He wouldn't be holy. The penalty for sin HAS to be paid in order for a just God to satisfy his just nature. However, God is also merciful. How does a merciful God satisfy his just nature yet retain His mercy? Well, rather than demanding that we pay for our own sins, God chose His very own Son to pay that penalty for us. Thus, by sending His Son, Jesus, as an atoning sacrifice, God satisfied His 2 natures: completely just and completely merciful. Jesus made an atoning sacrifice, by dying on the cross, and thereby paid for the sins of mankind. Which is why Christians point out that salvation through Jesus is an unearned gift from God. We didn't do anything to deserve His mercy and favour. God chose to give it to us out of his immense love for us. A right response to this free gift of salvation is to repent, turn to God and acknowledge Him as your personal Lord and Saviour. Furthermore, the free gifts don't stop there. Once you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Saviour, you also get the pleasure of being in relationship with God and being adopted into His family. We can now approach God with confidence because we are sons of God and heirs with Christ! To learn more about becoming a Christian, I recommend reading the gospel of Mark (in the bible). It will be the best read ever.
Crucifixion and Resurrection
Most Christians believe that Jesus died on the Cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven after appearing to his apostles, and about five hundred other people. This large group of witnesses has contributed to pro-resurrection arguments.
Most Christians believe in the General Resurrection, in which all people who have ever lived will rise from the dead at the end of time, to be judged by Christ when He returns to fulfill the rest of Messianic prophecy.
Christian views of the afterlife generally involve heaven and hell. These realms are thought to be eternal, however, the word and its perfect equivalent "eternal" occurs only once in both the Old Testament and New Testament, in describing the time of the Kingdom of God will exist. Catholicism includes with these the transitory realm of purgatory whose denizens, dying in a state of sin but nonetheless assured of salvation, reside for a period of time to undergo purification before entering into heaven. There is, however, some debate on this point within Eastern Christianity.
Traditional Christian theology teaches there will be a General Resurrection, with the soul continuing consciousness after death until the resurrection of the physical body and the Last Judgement. A minority believe that only the righteous will be resurrected, and that the unrighteous will be annihilated.
Differences in beliefs
The Nicene Creed, originally formulated at the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, was ratified as the universal creed of Christendom by the Council of Ephesus in 431. Eastern Orthodox Christians do not include the Filioque clause, which the Roman Catholic church added later.
Central Christian beliefs put forth in the Nicene Creed include:
- The Trinity;
- Jesus is both God and man;
- Salvation is available through the person, life and death of Jesus Christ;
- The virgin birth, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and Second Coming of Jesus;
- One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;
- The forgiveness of sins through baptism;
- The resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgement by Christ.
The Nicene Creed directly addresses beliefs the council deemed as heretical, primarily Arianism, which denied that the Father and the Son were "of one being" (ὁμοὐσιος), but also earlier heresies like Gnosticism.
Most Protestant churches follow the Roman Catholic church in accepting Nicene doctrine.
Authority and different parts of the Bible
Most Christian churches regard the Bible, including the Old Testament and the New Testament as authoritative. Differences exist in the canons of the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches — primarily their treatment of the Deuterocanonical books used by Catholic and Orthodox Churches but rejected by Protestants as Apocrypha. This issue affects doctrines only indirectly.
The New Church or Swedenborgian view of which scripture is to be included in canon is distinctly different from every other Christian institution. The belief held is that some of the books of the Bible have a continuous internal sense or correspondence, while others do not. Those which are seen to have direct correspondence with spiritual truth are viewed as the Word of God, the remaining are then seen as useful books for the Church, some of which are flawed in their understanding, such as the epistles of Paul.
Most Christians regard the Gospels, which tell of the life and teachings of Jesus, as central. Ornamental books of the four gospels are sometimes used in church liturgies. The "gospel" means the "good news" of the Christian message, which Christians regularly disseminate to others. This may include missionary work as well as the translation and distribution of Bibles, as practiced by Gideons International, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Jehovah's Witnesses and others.
Though Christians largely agree on the content of the Bible, no such consensus exists on the crucial matter of its interpretation, or exegesis, an issue which dates to ancient times.
The earliest schools of Biblical interpretation were the Alexandrine, and the Antiochene. Alexandrine interpretation, exemplified by Origen, tended to read Scripture allegorically, while Antiochene interpretation insisted on the literal sense, holding that other meanings (called theoria) could only accepted if based on the literal meaning.
Traditional Catholic and Orthodox interpretation admits four senses of Scripture. The literal sense is the plain meaning (which would still take account of figures of speech), so that a reference to David means the historical figure. The allegorical or typological sense teaches Christian doctrine, so that a reference to David may mean Christ. The tropological or moral sense contains ethical teaching, and the anagogical or eschatological sense teaches about the Last Things. The meanings derived from the three non-literal senses may also be stated literally elsewhere.
Protestantism rejects the elevation of other senses to the same level as the literal, although typology remains fairly common in Protestant interpretation.
Other books held sacred
Some Christians hold additional writings to be inspired scripture. The Latter Day Saints hold three additional books to be the inspired word of God: The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price and revelations given to the prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Other works considered sacred but not held to be scripture are the works of Ellen G. White for the Seventh-day Adventists. "Christian Scientists" regard Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy as an inspired interpretive work which places her, for her followers, in the same rank as Luther or Calvin for theirs. Members of the New Church, better known as Swedenborgians, believe the Lord has revealed Himself in what they call the Word of the Second Coming, which is thought to be the Lord's revelation of all those things which He promised to reveal in His Second Advent.
After the time of Jesus, Christian Gnostics were very active and maintained several additional books of scripture outside of what was later to become canon; two examples are The Gospel of Thomas, and The Gospel of Judas.
Nonetheless, the majority of Christians hold only the Bible to be 'sacred'. The elevation of other writings to the same level as orthodox scriptures forms a major divergence between some groups and mainstream Christians.
Worship and practices
Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican believers describe Christian worship in terms of the seven sacraments. These include baptism, confirmation or Chrismation, the Eucharist (communion), penance and reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and matrimony.
Many Protestant groups, following Martin Luther, recognize the sacramental nature of baptism and communion, but not usually the other five in the same way. Anabaptist and Brethren groups would add feet washing. Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Holiness Churches emphasize "gifts of the Spirit" such as spiritual healing, prophecy, exorcism, and speaking in tongues. These emphases are used not as "sacraments" but as means of worship and ministry. The Quakers deny the entire concept of sacraments. Nevertheless, their "testimonies" affirming peace, integrity, equality, and simplicity are affirmed as integral parts of the Quaker belief structure.
In general, Protestants tend to view Christian rituals in terms of commemoration apart from mystery. Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Old-Catholic and many Anglican and Lutheran Christians hold the commemoration and mystery of rituals together, seeing no contradiction between them.
Virtually all Christian traditions affirm that Christian practice should include acts of personal piety such as prayer, Bible reading, and attempting to live a moral lifestyle. This lifestyle includes not only obedience to the Ten Commandments, as interpreted by Christ (as in the Sermon on the Mount), but also love for one's neighbour in both attitude and action — whether friend or enemy, Christian or non-Christian. This love is commanded by Christ and, according to him, is next only in importance to love toward God; it includes obedience to such injunctions as "feed the hungry" and "shelter the homeless", both informally and formally. Christianity teaches that it is impossible for people to completely reform themselves, but that moral and spiritual progress can only occur with God's help through the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells within all faithful believers. Christians believe that by sharing in Christ's life, death, and resurrection, they die with him to sin and can be resurrected with him to new life.
Weekly worship services
Justin Martyr (First Apology, chapter LXVII) describes a second-century church service thus:
- And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.
Justin's description, which applies to some extent to most church services today, alludes to the following components:
- Scripture readings drawn from the Old Testament, one of the Gospels, or an Epistle. Often these are arranged systematically around an annual cycle, using a book called a lectionary.
- A sermon. In ancient times this followed the scripture readings; today this may occur later in the service, although in liturgical churches the sermon still often follows the readings.
- The Eucharist (also called Holy Communion, or the Lord's Supper)—a ritual in which small amounts of bread and wine or grape juice are consecrated and then consumed. Some Christians say these represent the body and blood of Christ, whereas Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Lutherans and most Anglicans say that they become or are the body and blood of Christ (the doctrine of the Real Presence). Churches in the "liturgical" family (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and some Anglican) see this as the main part of the service, while some Protestants may celebrate it less frequently. In many cases there are restrictions on who may partake, concerning which visitors should apprise themselves. For example, only Roman Catholics free from unconfessed mortal sin may receive Communion, though in practice it is rare for the Eucharist to be denied to anyone.
- A "collection" or "offering" in which the people are asked to contribute money. One common method is to pass around a collection plate. Christians traditionally use these monies not only for upkeep for the church, but also for charitable work of various types.
Several variations or exceptions exist. Sometimes these are due to special events, such as baptisms or weddings which are incorporated into the service. In many churches today, children and youth will be excused from the main service in order to attend Sunday school. Many denominations depart from this general pattern in a more fundamental way. For example, the Seventh-day Adventists meet on Saturday (the biblical Sabbath), not Sunday, the day of Christ's resurrection. Charismatic or Pentecostal congregations may be spontaneously moved by the Holy Spirit rather than follow a formal order of service. At a Quaker meeting, participants sit quietly until moved by the Holy Spirit to speak.
In some denominations (mainly liturgical ones) the service is led by a priest. In others (mainly among Protestants) there is a minister, preacher, or pastor. Still others may lack formal leaders, either in principle or by local necessity. In addition, there are "high" church services, characterized by greater solemnity and ritual, and "low" services, at which a more casual atmosphere prevails even if the service in question is liturgical in nature.
In Orthodox churches the congregation traditionally stands throughout the liturgy (although allowances are made for human weakness). Many Protestant churches follow a pattern in which participants stand to sing, kneel to pray, and sit to listen (to the sermon). Roman Catholics tend to do the same, though standing for formal prayer is more common. Others services are less programmed and may be quite lively and spontaneous. Music is usually incorporated and often involves a choir and/or organ. Some churches use only a cappella music, either on principle (many Churches of Christ object to the use of musical instruments in worship) or by tradition (as in Orthodoxy).
In many nondenominational Christian churches, as well as many Protestant denominations, there is usually a worship music portion of the service that precedes the sermon or message. This usually consists of the singing of hymns, praise and worship music or psalms. Many churches believe that worship is important to usher in the Presence of God for the rest of the service.
A recent trend is the growth of "convergence worship", which combines liturgy with spontaneity. This sort of worship is often a result of the influence of charismatic renewal within Churches which are traditionally liturgical. Convergence worship has spawned at least one new denomination, the Charismatic Episcopal Church.
Catholics, Eastern Christians, and about half of the Protestants follow a liturgical calendar with various holidays. These calendars include feast days (where special worship services are held, to mark a special anniversary) as well as days of fasting. Typically, a feast will be found preceded by a traditional fast. The best-known fasting period is Lent.
Even Christians who do not follow a liturgical tradition can generally be found celebrating Christmas and Easter, despite some disagreement as to dates. A few churches object to the recognition of special holidays and may object to the apparent pagan origins of Christmas and Easter.
The best-known Christian symbol is the cross, of which many varieties exist. Several denominations tend to favor distinctive crosses: the crucifix for Catholics, the crux orthodoxa for Orthodox, and the unadorned cross for Protestants. However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule. Other Christian symbols include the ichthys ("fish") symbol or, in ancient times, an anchor, as well as the chi-rho. In a modern Roman alphabet, the Chi-Rho appears like a large P with an X overlaid on the lower stem. They are the Greek initials of Jesus' name, and the symbol is the one that is said to have appeared to Constantine prior to converting to Christianity (see History and origins section below).
History and origins
1. Christianity began within the Jewish religion among the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Under the leadership of the Apostles Peter and Paul, it welcomed Gentiles, and gradually separated from Pharisaic Judaism. Some Jewish Christians rejected this approach and developed into various sects of their own, while others were joined with Gentile Christians in the development of the church; within both groups there existed great diversity of belief. Professor Bentley Layton writes, "the lack of uniformity in ancient Christian scripture in the early period is very striking, and it points to the substantial diversity within the Christian religion." A church hierarchy seems to have developed by the time of the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim 3, Titus 1) and was certainly formalized by the 4th century.)
Christianity spread across the Mediterranean Basin, enduring persecution by the Roman Emperors. As Christianity expanded beyond Palestine, it also came into increased contact with Hellenistic culture; Greek philosophy, especially Neoplatonism, became a significant influence on Christian thought through theologians such as Origen. Scholars differ on the extent to which the developing Christian faith adopted identifiably pagan beliefs.
Theological diversity led to disputes about the correct interpretation of Christian teaching and to conflict within and between the local churches. Church authorities (bishops and local synods) condemned some theologians as heretics and defined orthodoxy (Greek: the right view) in contrast to heresy (wrong choice). The most notable heretics were Christian Gnostics. Other early sects deemed heretical included Marcionism, Ebionitism and Montanism. Such disputes, especially in the field of Christology, intensified after the religion's legalization, leading to internal strife and to clearer dogmatic definitions through ecumenical councils, beginning with the Council of Nicaea in 325.
Early in the 4th century, the Emperor Constantine the Great legalized Christianity, giving the church a privileged place in society, and in 391 Theodosius I established Nicene Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. From Constantine onwards, the history of Christianity becomes difficult to untangle from the history of Europe (see also Christendom). The Church took over many of the political and cultural roles of the pagan Roman institutions, especially in Europe. The Emperors, seeking unity through the new religion, frequently took part in Church matters, sometimes in concord with the bishops but also against them. Imperial authorities acted to suppress the old pagan cults and groups deemed heretical by the Church, most notably, Arians. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that "various penal laws were enacted by the Christian emperors against heretics as being guilty of crime against the State. In both the Theodosian and Justinian codes they were styled infamous persons ... In some particularly aggravated cases sentence of death was pronounced upon heretics, though seldom executed in the time of the Christian emperors of Rome."
Various forms of Christian monasticism developed, with the organization of the first monastic communities being attributed to the hermit St Anthony of Egypt around 300. The monastic life spread to many parts of the Christian empire during the 4th and 5th centuries, as many felt that the Christian moral and spiritual life was compromised by the change from a persecuted minority cult to an established majority religion, and sought to regain the purity of early faith by fleeing society.
The Christian Church of the Roman Empire divided into the Latin-speaking west, centered in Rome, and the Greek-speaking east, centered in Constantinople. (There were also significant communities in Egypt and Syria.) Outside the Empire, Christianity was adopted in Armenia, Caucasian Iberia (now Georgia), Ethiopia, Persia, India, and among the Celtic tribes. During the Migration Period, various Germanic peoples adopted Christianity; at first Arianism was widespread (as among Goths and Vandals), but later Roman Catholicism prevailed, beginning with the Franks. The Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe generally adopted Orthodox Christianity, as in the Baptism of Kievan Rus' (988) in Rus' (present-day Russia and Ukraine). Cultural differences and disciplinary disputes finally resulted in the Great Schism (conventionally dated to 1054), which formally divided Christendom into the Catholic west and the Orthodox east.
From the 7th century, Christianity was challenged by Islam, which quickly conquered the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Spain. Numerous military struggles followed, including the Crusades, the Spanish Reconquista and the eventual conquest of the Byzantine Empire and southeastern Europe by the Turks.
Western Christianity in the Middle Ages was characterized by cooperation and conflict between the secular rulers and the Church under the Pope, and by the development of scholastic theology and philosophy. Later, increasing discontent with corruption and immorality among the clergy resulted in attempts to reform Church and society. The Roman Catholic Church managed to renew itself at the Council of Trent (1545–1563), but only after Martin Luther published his 95 theses in 1517. This was one of the key events of the Protestant Reformation which led to the emergence of Christian denominations. During the following centuries, competition between Catholicism and Protestantism became deeply entangled with political struggles among European states, while many Orthodox Christians found themselves living under Muslim rulers.
Partly from missionary zeal, but also under the impetus of colonial expansion by the European powers, Christianity spread to the Americas, Oceania, East Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. As the European Enlightenment took hold, Christianity was confronted with the discoveries of science (including the heliocentric model and the theory of evolution), and with the development of biblical criticism (linked to the development of Christian Fundamentalism) and modern political ideologies such as Liberalism, Nationalism and Socialism. In the 19th and 20th centuries, important developments have included the rise of Ecumenism and the Charismatic Movement.
- Main articles: Persecution of Christians, Historical persecution by Christians
Christians have frequently suffered from persecution. During the first three centuries of its existence, Christianity was regarded with suspicion and frequently persecuted in the Roman Empire. Adherence to Christianity was declared illegal, and, especially in the 3rd century, the government demanded that their subjects (the Jews only excepted) sacrifice to the Emperor as a divinity — a practice that Christianity (along with Judaism) rejected. Persecution in the Roman Empire ended with the Edict of Milan, but it persisted or even intensified in other places, such as Sassanid Persia, and under Islam.
Christians have also been perpetrators of persecution, which has been directed against members of other religions and also against other Christians. Christian mobs, sometimes with the government support, have destroyed pagan temples and oppressed adherents of paganism (such as the philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria, who was murdered by a Christian mob). Jewish communities have periodically suffered violence at Christian hands. Christian governments have suppressed or persecuted dissenting Christian denominations, and denominational strife has sometimes escalated into religious wars and inquisitions. Witch hunts, carried out by secular authorities or popular mobs, were a frequent phenomenon in parts of early modern Europe and, to a lesser degree, North America. The degree to which these acts are supported by formal Christian doctrine and scripture is a topic of much debate.
There was some persecution of Christians after the French Revolution during the attempted Dechristianisation of France. State restrictions on Christian practices today are generally associated with those authoritarian governments which either support a majority religion other than Christianity (as in Muslim states), or tolerate only churches under government supervision, sometimes while officially promoting state atheism (as in North Korea). For example, the People's Republic of China allows only government-regulated churches and has regularly suppressed house churches or underground Catholics. The public practice of Christianity is outlawed in Saudi Arabia. On a smaller scale, Greek and Russian governmental restrictions on non-Orthodox religious activity occur today.
Some people cite anti-abortion violence in the United States and the ongoing "troubles" in Northern Ireland as examples of "persecution by Christians", despite the frequent condemnation of such activities by the vast majority of Christians.  Complaints of discrimination have also been made of and by Christians in various other contexts.
There are many controversies surrounding Christianity as to its influences and history.
- Some claim that Jesus of Nazareth may not ever have existed, arguing a lack of sources outside the New Testament and sometimes alleged similarities with pre-Christian cult figures (see Jesus-Myth). This view has not found general acceptance among historians or Bible scholars (see Historicity of Jesus).
- Various mystery religions at the time of Christianity's founding had similar themes of a god who was killed, was raised from the dead, and initiates shared in the god's death and his immortality through his resurrection.
- Some argue that because the role of Jesus is similar to that of various mythological figures said to have died and risen again, these may have been the inspiration for Christianity. E. A. Wallis Budge compared Christianity to the cult of Osiris, who he said was born mortal, murdered, and reborn as an underworld god equal to Ra (whom he considered the monotheistic God of Egypt). He also drew analogies between the Ancient Egyptian belief in Resurrection (which gave rise to the practice of mummification) and the Christian belief. Budge argued that the Egyptians may have been the best prepared for Christianity by such beliefs. Conversely, the Coptic Church claims that the tale of Osiris, and similar parallels, was given by God to the pharaohs to prepare people for the coming of Jesus.
- Jews believe that followers of Christianity misinterpret passages from the Old Testament, or Tanakh. For example, adherents to Judaism believe that the reference to the coming Messiah in Daniel 9:25 was actually a reference to King Cyrus.
- Many Muslims believe that the Christian Trinity is incompatible with monotheism, even if it is not necessarily tritheistic.
- Missionary work has sometimes been considered a form of cultural imperialism, depending on the motivation and attitude of the missionary.
- Christian attitudes towards followers of other religions have varied. In some cases, Christians have committed acts of violence against followers of other religions or denominations of Christianity, with or without the approval of church authorities. Well known instances of such violence in European history include the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Thirty Years War and pogroms. Armed violence between Christians and non-Christians occurs in several areas of the modern world, as well as between followers of different Christian denominations such as The Troubles in Northern Ireland.