Beliefs That Hold Us Together
Updated: Apr 19, 2019
People have always been aware of their differences with others, whether it’s ethnicity, or social status, or education, or religious beliefs, and so on. But, that awareness of differences seems to be heightened in recent times. Yet, what holds us together is far stronger than the forces that seek to divide us. Sadly, many conversations between Christians, even in the same faith community, often gravitate to arguing their differences. And, the more they talk, the more division may emerge.
We really have far more in common with
one another than we have differences.
So, I’d like to start my blogging by focusing on what we Christians hold in common, rather than on our differences. These common threads hold us together against a world that is increasingly hostile to Christian values.
Approximately one-third of the world’s population call themselves “Christians.” And, when we reflect upon it, we find that we really have far more in common with one another than we have differences. To help in that reflection, I’ve summarized below, ten belief principles that all Christian traditions are in general agreement on.
1. God is the Almighty Creator
The very first line in the Bible reads: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” [Genesis 1:1]. This is a foundational principle of the Christian faith. The universe is far too intricate, too well-designed to have come about through accident. Creation was clearly planned by a transcendent being, who we collectively call “God.” Therefore, each one of us matters, we each have purpose in being. There is an inherent sense of dignity and worth in every life.
Each one of us matters, we each have purpose in being.
2. The Bible is the inspired Word of God
Christians hold that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Through it, God has revealed Himself and our relationship to Him and to one another. Most recognize that God did not literally dictate the biblical passages. While some may differ over how to interpret various biblical passages, most accept that God’s “message to His people” is conveyed through the words of the original inspired authors, using those authors’ manners of expression, imagery and cultural terminologies. An important role of the Holy Spirit is to guide the process of Scripture interpretation throughout history. As St. Peter put it: “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the Holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God” [2 Peter 1:20-21].
“For where two or three are gathered together
in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
3. Jesus, the Son of God, is Central to our Faith
All Christians agree that central to their faith is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. At one point in His public ministry, Jesus said to His disciples: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” [Matthew 18:20]. Christians take that promise intensely personal. As God, Jesus continues to be involved in the human joys and trials of His followers and, if we are open to it, He will guide and transform our lives.
“if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain.”
4. Jesus Died on a Cross, was Buried and on the Third Day Rose from the Dead
The death, burial and Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of the Christian faith. As St. Paul put it: “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain” [1 Corinthians 15:17]. Every Christian holds to the belief that the salvation of mankind would be only a hoped-for illusion unless Jesus is risen. The conviction that Jesus rose from the dead, as He foretold, led many thousands of believers to suffer martyrdom rather than to deny that fact.
5. The Holy Spirit is “God with us.”
What we admit into our souls ultimately determines what we become. When God, the Holy Spirit, is in us we become far more than we could ever be on our own. At the Last Supper, Jesus said to His disciples: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” [John 14:26]. While Christians may debate the full nature of the Holy Spirit, all agree that the whisper of the Holy Spirit will guide them in their thoughts and deeds if they will only listen intently.
There are no words that enable us to satisfactorily
describe the “three yet one” nature of God.
6. We believe in but are Unable to Adequately Describe the Trinity
Just before His ascension into heaven, Jesus said to His disciples: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28:19]. This is the clearest expression in the Bible of the trinitarian nature of God: one God in three distinct persons. The problem with our trying to describe the Trinity is that there are no situations in our human existence when “three” and “one” can refer to the same thing. So, there are no words that enable us to satisfactorily describe the “three yet one” nature of God. For this reason, the Catholic Church, for example, concluded after many attempts that we would never reach a commonly-accepted description of the three-yet-one nature of God, primarily because of this limitation of human logic [cf. Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, 1870, Chap 4].
7. Prayer is Our Lifeline to God
All Christian denominations profess that one’s life of faith is undeniably strengthened through prayer. Meditating on our relationship with God enhances our lives in a way that no other discipline can. The Gospels tell us, in a number pf places, that Jesus often withdrew by Himself to a quiet place to pray [e.g. Matthew 14:18]. All of us need to regularly take time to rest and reflect on our God. We cannot enjoy the love of God if we do not regularly converse with Him. It’s only in God’s presence that we find true peace.
“by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not from you; it is the gift of God.
8. We are all Called to Discipleship and we all Need God’s Grace
A foundational belief of all Christians is the necessity of grace. God loves us so much that, through His grace, He empowers us to do His will. As St. Paul put it: “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God” [Ephesians 2:8]. Our response to grace is to live in a love and thanksgiving relationship with God. It’s what we do because God loves us. As St. John put it: “We love because he first loved us” [1 John 4:19].
9. The Sacraments are Divinely-consecrated Actions
A foundational belief of mainline Christians is that there are certain church-community actions that were divinely consecrated to bring down God’s grace in abundance each time those actions, or rites, are celebrated. They are called “sacrament,” which means consecrated. There are differences over which such actions are sacraments but there is the common belief that they are actions that Christ ordained for us to celebrate. Through those celebrations, He comes to us in very special ways, in the fullness of measure.
10 . There is Life After Death
Every Christian holds that Jesus promised that, since He was raised from the dead, we also will be raised from the dead [cf. John 14:3]. Beyond this life, there is eternal life in the glorious presence of God, if we accept His freely-given offer of salvation [2 Corinthians 5:1]. But, there is damnation for those who reject salvation [Matthew 25:32-33].
Since He was raised from the dead, we
also will be raised from the dead.
I’m confident that if you speak more to those around you about what you hold in common, you will begin to feel closer to them, less at odds. This doesn’t deny that there may be matters of faith on which you disagree, but remember that what holds us together is far stronger than the forces that seek to divide us.
‘Till next time.
Dcn. Bob Evans
April 3, 2019
Genesis 1:1; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Matthew 18:20; 1 Corinthians 15:17; John 14:26; Matthew 28:19; Matthew 14:18; Ephesians 2:8; 1 John 4:19; John 14:3; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Matthew 25:32-33