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This article is about the religious people known as Christians; for the 1980s British music group, see The Christians.
For other uses of the term Christian, see Christian (disambiguation).
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History of Christianity
Ecumenical councils
Great Schism

The Trinity
God the Father
Christ the Son
The Holy Spirit

The Bible
Old Testament
New Testament
The Gospels
Ten Commandments
Sermon on the Mount

Christian theology
Salvation · Grace
Christian worship

Christian Church
Orthodox Christianity

Christian denominations
Christian movements
Christian ecumenism

As a noun, Christian is an appellation and moniker deriving from the appellation Christ, which many people associate exclusively with Jesus of Nazareth. The first known usage of this term can be found in the New Testament of the Bible, in Acts 11:26. The term was first used to derogate those known or perceived to be disciples of Christ.

As an adjective, the term may describe an object associated with Christianity. For many this also means to be a member or adherent of one of the organized religious denominations of Christianity. The term Christian means "belonging to Christ" and is derived from the Greek noun Χριστός Khristós which means "anointed one," which is itself a translation of the Hebrew word Moshiach (Hebrew: משיח, also written "Messiah"), (and in Arabic it is pronounced Maseeh مسيح). According to the New Testament, those who followed Jesus as his disciples were first called Christians by those who did not share their faith, in the city of Antioch. Xian or Xtian is another word used to describe Christians and is similar to using Xmas in place of Christmas; the X or Xt used as a contraction for "Christ" ("X" resembles the Greek letter Χ (Chi), the first letter of "Christ" in Greek (Χριστός [Christos]).

The term "Christian" is used by various groups with diverse beliefs to describe themselves. Some groups, such as Born Again Christians and others, use a very strict definition of "Christian". They believe to be Christian one must agree with the doctrines and creeds begun in 325 CE which they believe elucidate the essentials of the Christian faith. Other groups, particularly those classified as Restorationist reject these creeds as the doctrines of men; however because of their belief in Christ as the Savior of mankind they claim to be Christian.

Many Christians are grouped into ecclesial communities called denominations which are separated by the nuances of their respective theologies. The liturgical denominations, including Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy, Roman and Eastern Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism, along with many constituent components of the reformed traditions of Presbyterianism, Methodism, Moravianism, et al., teach that the title Christian is honorificly bestowed upon those who have received the sacrament of Baptism, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Most of these groups advocate infant baptism, or paedobaptist (beside that of adult converts).

Others who refer to themselves as Christian only require that one believes in Jesus as the Son of God to claim the term Christian. Yet other Christian denominations require a formal commitment to become a member such as baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, such as with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Baptism for the LDS church is done once an individual has achieved an age of accountability, held to be the age of eight years, or when an individual joins the church as a convert. Other denominations (The Church of Christ, International Churches of Christ, and the Independent Christian Churches) teach that the definition of a Christian is someone who has been baptized as a repenting adult “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”– (Matthew 28:19). For them, adult baptism is the transition from non-Christian to Christian. These varying definitions arise from different biblical interpretations and differences regarding the authority of scripture in context with tradition.

A small but significant minority of ecclesiastical groups are often referred to as Christian whose creeds consider Jesus to be theologically significant but not God. Movements along these lines include Jehovah's Witnesses.



Early times

Church is taken by some to refer to a single, universal community, although others contend that the doctrine of the universal church was not established until later. The doctrine of the universal, visible church was made explicit in the Apostles' Creed, while the less common Protestant notion of the universal, invisible church is not laid out explicitly until the Reformation. The universal church traditions generally espouse that the Church includes all who are baptized into her common faith, including the doctrines of the trinity, forgiveness of sins through the sacrificial action of Christ, and the resurrection of the body. These teachings are expressed in liturgy with the celebration of sacraments, visible signs of grace. They are passed down as the deposit of faith.

Some minority traditions of Christianity have maintained that the word translated "church" in scripture most often properly refers to local bodies or assemblies. "Church" is a transliteration of the Greek word "κυριακον", meaning Lord's house, which in English translations is substituted for the word εκκλησία, meaning assembly or congregation, which is the word that actually appears in the Greek texts. Before Christian appropriation of the term, it was used to describe purposeful gatherings, including the assemblies of many Greek city states. Christians of this stripe maintain that a centralizing impulse in the church, present from the early days of the church through the rise of Constantine, represented a departure from true Christianity. They therefore reject the authority of the Nicene Creed or the Apostles' Creed.

The First Millennium

Christian spirituality blossomed in the Roman Empire between A.D. 100 and 300 in spite of official efforts to suppress it. Sometime around A.D. 200, one leader, Tertullian, is quoted as saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed [of the Church]” to account for this phenomenon. In A.D. 313, the "Edict of Milan" ended official persecution, and under the Emperor Constantine, Christians acquired powerful political influence, the results of which are controversial to this day.

Christians developed hierarchical structures to lead the visible Church over the course of many centuries. The leaders of their clergy

From the early formation of the Church until the Great Schism in 1054 AD, virtually all Christians subsisted within one Church as one visible organization, led locally by bishops, and regionally by patriarchs. However, minor divisions occurred over differences in doctrine as early as the Council of Chalcedon, and continued through the progression of ecumenical councils.

Medieval times

In Medieval Europe, the Roman Catholic Church was at its peak of Apostolic flourishment and spirituality. Not only was the Church and its organizations extremely devoted to Christianity, piously spreading the word of God through missionaries and established monastaries in many countries but through its dominant spiritual influence that eventually rivalled the political power of most Monarchs for support of the population. The majority of people of this age devoted their lives to God and it showed by the donations of land, money, and possesions to the church. In time, this made the Pope an important figure in the life of the continent.

This wealth often expressed itself in the building of beautiful cathedrals which showed their great devotion and adoration to God. The Church's monasteries were seats of learning and study which evolved into modern universities. They also provided the first hospitals for the care of the sick.

Modern times

The history of the Christian faith in modern times must be studied movement by movement, such is its diversity. In the West, the Protestant Reformation led to a separation of faith from science and profoundly conditioned the relationship between church and state, thus bringing to Christianity the idea of self-interpretation and the denouncement of visible unity. Intellectual pressure from the Enlightenment led to a religious reaction in the North American colonies — called the Great Awakening — to which Protestant North American Christians owe much of their pattern of practice.

Widespread Christian missions, founded by all segments of Christianity in response to the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20, have created today's situation in which Christians are to be found in almost every part of the world.

Some Christians devote themselves to active participation in prophetic communication and miraculous healing, as represented in the early church and the pre-Christ prophets. They are categorized as Charismatic or Pentecostal, but can be found in all denominations.

Other movements within contemporary Christendom include the emergent church, fundamentalism, return to orthodoxy, messianic Judaism, liberalism, and the home church movement.

Certain Christians attempt to obey only God and reject other authorities such as the church or state, believing this to be the true teaching of Jesus. They promote nonviolence and are known as Christian anarchists. Famous author Leo Tolstoy was a notable Christian anarchist, and wrote The Kingdom of God is Within You [1] in 1894 to explain his beliefs.

The life of a Christian is still characterized by faith in the figure of Jesus as represented in the New Testament. Sacraments aside, the concept of grace is still uniquely Christian: the idea, or as some call it a mystery, that spiritual wholeness comes only as a result of a gift.

Christian people

Some famous Christian teachers include Paul of Tarsus, Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Augustine of Hippo, Athanasius of Alexandria, Saint Patrick, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon and C.S. Lewis.

Contemporary teachers include the Reverend Billy Graham, Charles Stanley, Myles Munroe, and Perry Stone.

Many Presidents of the United States have been described as Christian, although many more devout than others, and several of the last 25 years or so have been born again Christians such as Jimmy Carter. For further details see: List of U.S. Presidential religious affiliations

In the United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and current British Prime Minister Tony Blair are Christians. So is former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela. Many United States and western world politicians publicly profess to be Christians, as do many popular sports, media and music figures. Christians are also represented in various forms of music.

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