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Cross

Christianity
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

What Christians Believe

Christians' beliefs are summarized in a creed (statement of Faith) called Nicene Creed. We will explain some key beliefs of Christians below.

Concerning God the Father

Christians believe in God the Father, Who is without beginning, indescribable, incomprehensible, Who is beyond every created essence, Whose essence is known only to Himself, to His Son and the Holy Spirit. No one has seen Him.

God the Father never became the likeness of any material form nor was He ever incarnate.  Jesus said, "No man hath seen God at any time; the Only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him," (John 1:18) and "Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He Who is of God, He hath seen the Father" (John 6:46).

Christians further believe that God is the cause of all things as well as the end purpose of all things. From Him all visible and invisible creatures have their beginning and there was a time when they did not exist. He created the universe out of absolutely nothing. The earth too had a beginning and man was created by God's love. The creation of man and of the universe was not out of necessity. Creation is the work of the free and unconditional will of the Creator. 

The creature's love is not one which gives Him satisfaction. God has no need to be satisfied. He needs nothing. God's love cannot be compared to human love, even as His other attributes such as paternity, justice, goodness cannot be compared to their human counterparts. God's love is a love which constitutes a mystery unfathomable to man's reason or intellect. God has no "emotions" which might create passion, suffering, need or necessity in Him. Nevertheless, although the nature of divine love remains incomprehensible and inexplicable to human reason, this love is real and genuine.

Holy Trinity

Christians believe in the One, Holy, Indivisible, Consubstantial, Life-Creating and Most Holy Trinity. In the Trinity are three persons, that of the Father, that of the Son and that of the Holy Spirit. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not three masks of a single person. None of the persons is alienated from the others, but each has the fullness of the Three together.

The Incarnation

Most Christians believe that from the moment of His conception in the virginal womb, Jesus Christ was one person, yet having two natures. From His conception, He was God and Man before birth, during birth and after birth. (Some Christians believe that when Jesus was on the earth, he was only a man. In other words, the divine and human natures were quite distinct and separate.)

While the two natures that came into the true union were different, yet He became one Christ, the only Begotten Son. This is a Mystery that surpasses any description or explanation.

St. Cyril of Alexandria

Holy Virgin Mary received the fire of the Godhead in Herself without being consumed by it. She gave of Her own blood and of Her own flesh to the Incarnate Word and that She fed Him with Her own milk.

Jesus Christ was, in His Godhead, begotten of the Father outside of time without assistance of a father. He is without mother in His divinity, and without father in His manhood.

Through the Incarnation, Virgin Mary became truly the Theotokos -- the Mother of God -- in time. She was a Virgin before, during and after birth.

Creation

Christians believe that matter is not co-eternal with the Creator. There was a time when it did not exist, and that it was created out of nothing and in time by the will and the Word of God. 

Matter was created good by God. Sin and corruption entered because of man, who was established initially as the ruler of the material world.

Christians believe that creation will be purified by the fire of the Last Judgment at the moment of the glorious Advent of our Savior Jesus Christ and that it will be restored and regenerated and that it will constitute a New Creation, according to the promise of the Lord: 

"Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21.5). "New heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness" (II Peter 3:13).

Immortality

Only God is eternal and immortal by nature and in essence. The angels and the souls of men are immortal only because God bestows this immortality upon them by grace. If if were not for the immortality which God bestows by His divine will, neither the angels nor the souls of men would be immortal of themselves.

Men's souls have no pre-existence. The how of the soul's birth, as well as separation from the body at the moment of the latter's biological death that it might be reunited to the body when the dead are raised at the Second and glorious Coming of our Savior is a mystery which has not been revealed to us.

Man and Sin

God created man neither mortal nor immortal, but capable of choosing between two states. Man's bad choice and ill use of his free will caused his nature to be defiled by sin and become mortal. 

Human nature's defilement and alienation from God are caused by sin which entered into the world through a single man, Adam. The sacrament of baptism  liberates us from the effects of sin and enables us to "work" for our salvation. Unfortunately, even after our Baptism our nature preserve our weakness. Baptism makes us eligible for the Divine adoption. The actual adoption only happens at the glorious coming of Lord Jesus Christ.

Man and His Free Will

This is an area where different denominations of Christians disagree.

Some believe that man "works" for his salvation. Salvation is not imposed upon him in spite of himself. Some believe in predestination. (All the events in history are predetermined by God.)  Some teaches that salvation is obtained solely by the endeavors of human will.

Salvation is synergetic, that is, man co-operates in the work of his salvation. God does not take upon Himself the role which belongs to man; likewise, man can attain to nothing by his own efforts alone, neither by his virtue, nor by observing the commandments, nor by a good disposition. None of these things have any value for salvation except in the contest of Divine Grace, for salvation can not be purchased.

Man's labors and the keeping of the commandments only demonstrate his will and resolve to be with God, his desire and love for God. Man cannot accomplish his part of co-operation in his salvation by his own power, however small this part may be, and he must entreat God to grant him the strength and grace necessary to accomplish it. If he perceives that he does not even wish his own salvation, he must ask to receive this desire from God "Who gives to all men and disregards none." 

Thus, grace is granted only to those who are worthy of it.

Faith and Works

This compliments our beliefs about salvation and grace.

Man's natural virtue -- whatever its degree -- cannot save a man and bring him to eternal life. The Scriptures teach: "All our righteousness is like unto a menstrual rag" (Isaiah 64:6). The fulfillment of the works of the Law does not permit us to demand or to merit something from God. Not only do we have no merits or supererogatory works, but Jesus Christ enjoins us that when we have fulfilled all the works of the Law, we should esteem ourselves as nothing but "unprofitable servants" (Luke 17:10). Without Jesus Christ, a man's personal virtue, his repute, his personal value, his work, his talents and his faculties matter but little; they matter only insofar as they test his devotion and faith in God. 

Christians' faith in Jesus Christ is not an abstraction but rather a communion with Him. This communion fills them with the power of the Holy Spirit and their faith becomes a fertile reality which engenders good works in them as the Scriptures attest "which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).

Thus, according to the Apostles, faith engenders true works; and true works, which are the fruit of the Holy Spirit, bear witness and prove the existence of a true faith. Since faith is neither abstract nor sterile, it is impossible to dissociate it from good works. 

Faith is a gift of God, and a man relying on his own efforts, his own piety, or his own spirituality, cannot of himself possess this faith. Yet faith is not imposed: to those who desire it, God grants it, not because of a fatalistic predestination, but because of His Divine foreknowledge and His disposition to co-operate with man's free will. 

One of the attributes of faith is the "lack of curiosity." It is neither works nor faith, but only the Living God Who saves us.

Theotokos

The exact role of Virgin Mary is also an area different denominations of Christians do not agree on. 

Orthodox Christians and Catholics believe that the nature of Virgin Mary is identical to our own. After Her free and conscious acceptance of the plan of salvation offered to man by God, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Her and the power of the Most High covered Her, and "at the voice of the Archangel, the Master of all became incarnate in Her." Lord Jesus Christ, the New Adam, partook of our nature in all things save sin, through the Theotokos, the New Eve. 

By this birth, the nature of fallen man, the nature of Adam, which bore the wounds of sin, of degeneration, and of corruption, was restored to its former beauty, and now it partakes of the Divine nature. Man's nature, restored and regenerated by grace, surpasses Adam's state of innocence previous to the fall, since, "God became man so that man could become God." 

Theotokos represented all humanity when she accepted the salvation offered Her by God. Thus, God is the Savior of the Most Holy Virgin as well and She is saved by the same grace whereby all those who are redeemed are saved. She is the Mother of all the faithful of the Church, of Which She also is a part.

Holy Scriptures

All the Scriptures are inspired by God. St. John Chrysostom says, "It is impossible for a man to be saved if he does not read the Scriptures." The Holy Scripture was written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is solely through the Holy Spirit that we can read and understand It.

According to Apostle Paul, the written and oral Traditions are of equal value; for it is not the means of transmission that saves us, but the authenticity of the content of what has been transmitted to us. Furthermore, the teaching of the Old Testament as well as that of the New Testament were transmitted orally to God's people before they were written down. Therefore, the Holy Scriptures themselves are a part of Holy Tradition which is a unified whole and we must accept it as a whole, and not choose bits and parts according to our private opinions or interpretations. 

Church

The Church of Jesus Christ is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, and that It was instituted by God through the power of the Holy Spirit and by revelation. The Church is instituted by God and is a tree which is rooted in the Heavens. We receive nourishment of its fruits, although the planting remains supernatural.  

One can not dissociate Jesus Christ from His Church, which is His Body. St. Cyprian of Carthage stated that the man who does not have the Church for his Mother cannot have God as his Father, and that outside the Church there is no salvation. Outside of the Church there is no true Baptism, nor any other Mystery.

Life After Death

Christian beliefs about one's destination after death vary greatly depending on which denomination of church they belong to.

Many conservative Protestant Christians believe that people are born and remain sinful; they will end up being eternally punished in Hell unless they are "saved" by trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Roman Catholics also believe that salvation comes from God. But they believe that it is channeled through church sacraments to sinful but repentant persons. Most people, at death, enter Purgatory, which is a type of temporary Hell; a few go directly to Heaven; others go permanently to Hell.

Religious liberals generally interpret hell symbolically, not as an actual place. They reject the concept of a loving God creating a place of eternal torment for the vast majority of humans.

Orthodox Christians believe in the existence of eternal life. They also believe in the Second Coming of Jesus. This is the glorious return of the Lord when He shall come to judge the living and the dead, and render to each man according to the works that he did while living in the body. On the second coming, Jesus will establish the Kingdom of His righteousness. 

Christians look forward for the resurrection of the dead when they will be resurrected in the body. they further believe that both the Kingdom of God and Hell shall be eternal. 

Both the righteous and the sinners who are departed now enjoy a foretaste of their final destiny, but that each man shall receive the entirety of what he deserves only at the Last Judgement. God loves not only those who dwell in Paradise, but also those who are in Hell; in Hell, however, the Divine love constitutes a cause of suffering for the wicked. This is not due to God's love but to their own wickedness, which resents this love and experiences it as a torment. 

In his Epistle to the Hebrews, St. Paul states, "and these all (i.e., all the saints), having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, since God has provided some better thing for us, so that they without us should not be made perfect" (Heb. 14:40). Therefore, all the saints await this resurrection of their bodies and the commencement of Paradise in its perfect and complete sense, as St. Paul declares in the Acts of the Apostles, "I believe all things which are written in the law and in the prophets, and have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust" (Acts 24:14-15).  

Paradise and Hell will be twofold in nature, spiritual and physical. At present, because the body is still in the grave, both the reward and the punishment are spiritual. Hades is the place of the souls of the dead and Hell is the place of everlasting spiritual and physical torment. Hell has not yet commenced. Hell shall be eternal. On His second coming, Christ shall say unto those on the left, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41).

See Also: The Nicene Creed

Adapted From: I Believe...: A Short Exposition of Orthodox Doctrine

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