How did the Christian faith come into existence and why are there subgroups?
The roots of Christianity are in Judaism in Israel at the beginning of the 1st century, which was Roman at that time. The followers of the Jewish walking preacher, Jesus of Nazareth, saw in him after his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection the Son of God and the Messiah, as expected by Judaism.
Judaism and Christianity are particularly related to the first part of the Bible. The Old Testament of Christians corresponds to the Jewish holy scripture the Tanakh. Today about one-third of all people in the world belong to Christianity, 22% are Muslims and 13% are Hindus.
In the ancient world, there were five Christian patriarchates in Rome, Antioch (today’s Turkey) Constantinople (today’s Istanbul), Alexandria and Jerusalem, which were each subordinate to the archbishops and bishops. If one wanted to decide on essential teaching questions, a meeting of bishops, a council, was convened.
Within Christianity, various ecclesiastical tendencies soon arose through various political motives or geographical conditions in the Latin West and the Greek East.
In the following centuries, the so-called Eastern and Western traditions developed and finally came to break after the Council of Ephesus (431) and after the Council of Chalcedon (451). The Western tradition was further profoundly divided by the Reformation in 1517. These divisions led to several parallel church formations and new groupings:
The Eastern Tradition
The patriarchates have hardly changed until today and have had the same theology for centuries. They see themselves as part of the original church founded by Jesus Christ. The religious traditions dating back to the early Christian times are very different in the individual churches.
Roughly, one can divide the Eastern tradition into the following churches:
- Serbian Orthodox Church: The territory of the former Yugoslavia is governed by the Patriarchate in Belgrade. Most believers are Serbs.
- Greek Orthodox (Byzantine Orthodox) Church: Is the church of Greece and Cyprus. Greek Orthodox couples may divorce and marry up to three times.
- Coptic Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox Church: Believers live in Egypt, a few in Libya and the Sudan. The Coptic Church attaches great importance to youth work and its social services. Education plays a big role.
- Assyrian Church of the East: This Church of the East disintegrated in 424, before the Council of Ephesus, from the Roman Church. Today, the Russian Orthodox Church is the largest Orthodox Church.
- Eastern Catholic Church: It’s like a particular church of the Roman Catholic Church, living according to Eastern Church rites.
From about 500 AD, the doctrine developed that the Bishop of Rome has an authority directly attributed to the teaching of the Apostle Peter, thus making him the substitute Christian.
Around 1500, theologians in various places in Europe called for reforms in the Catholic Church. It was the separation of the Western Church into a Protestant tradition, which broke away from Rome and the Roman Catholic Church, which remained in Rome.
Roman Catholic tradition
The Holy Catholic Church sees itself as the wandering people under the guidance of the Pope. Around 1.1 billion believers belong to this faith worldwide. Through the first sacrament, baptism, one is admitted in the Christian community. The most important Catholic values are love, chastity, faithfulness, truth, justice, non-violence, renunciation of possession.
Protestant tradition and the subgroups
The Augustinian monk Martin Luther erected 95 theses in 1517 after several years of development. He resolutely opposed celibacy and married Katharina von Bora.
In Austria, the Protestant faith is taught according to two principles: the Augsburg Confession (A.B.) and the Helvetic Confession (H.B.).
The members of the Protestant Free Church refuse to belong to a “state church”, they are the defenders of a clear separation of church and state and deny also the financing of the church over the church tax. The Free Church expects its members of the appropriate age, a conscious entry into the church.
Doctrine is formally described by 28 points of belief, but these are not static but can be changed through a plenary assembly. They understand the human body as a divine house and pay attention to a healthy lifestyle. Many Adventists are vegetarian and also avoid alcohol and tobacco.
Apostolic communities or the New Apostolic Church go back to the revival movements, the reoccupation of the apostleship around 1825.
Neo-religious communities are groups that do not see themselves in Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant tradition, such as the Mormons, Bible Students, the Unification Church, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
However, all the confessions mentioned above, have the following doctrines in common:
- There is only one God and this one symbolizes the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
- Jesus Christ is the Son of God
- The most important thing for living as a Christian is the love of God and charity
- The Holy Bible is the spiritual guidance for Christians.
- Through the Immaculate Conception Mary gave birth to Jesus.