Faith, the Church, and some tricky Questions
What do Christians believe?
Christians, like Jews and Muslims believe in one creator God, who casres deeply about the universe and all its inhabitants
So how are the faiths different?
Unlike Jews and Muslims, Christians believe that God, who transcends time and space came to our world in Jesus Christ, and that he was more than just a good teacher. He was God’s son. And Jesus overcame evil by giving his life on the cross, forgiving his torturers, and rising from the dead three days later.
What’s the Church of England?
Many people say the Church of England was born in the 16th century because the Pope wouldn’t give Henry VIII a divorce. That’s part of the story. But there’s more.
At that time lots of Christians felt the Roman Catholic church needed to change. For example, they thought the Bible should be written and delivered in languages other than Latin. They thought priests should be allowed to get married. And they thought ordinary Christians should have more influence in church life.
So what happened?
So the Church of England became a sort of ‘modernised’ church, no longer under the authority of the Pope, but in many ways similar to what it had been before.
England is split into Parishes and everyone has the right to be baptised (christened), married, and buried in their Parish church. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not state funded, but operates as a charity, relying on gifts and grants.
Westerfield, Tuddenham and Witnesham
Nowadays country parishes are often joined together in a group called a Benefice, who share the same priest/vicar. And that’s what we’ve done in Westerfield, Tuddenham and Witnesham. Thanks to some creative timetabling, and the support of our ministry team, we have a service in each of our three churches every Sunday.
What’s the Church for?
Worship: we don’t worship God because we have to, or because we’re afraid of what God might do if we don’t. We worship God because we fully believe he deserves our respect and love
Teaching: in church we read passages from the Bible, and the sermon is used to comment on those passages and explain how they relate to life in the 21st century. This helps us learn from each other and develop new understandings.
Fellowship: we’re a community of people who support and strengthen each other. An important part of Christian teaching is having compassion for others, and so the Church gives support to those in need, and tries to promote social justice to the rest of society.
Can’t I be a Christian in private?
Of course you can believe in God, have faith in Jesus Christ, and be led and guided by the Holy Spirit without coming to church!
But coming to church regularly is valuable because it tops up your faith and helps you stay close to God.
Other people have claimed to be gods. Why do Christians believe that Jesus really was God’s son?
There are several good reasons. Firstly he taught the path of self denial and caring for others, and followed those teachings himself. As a result he was executed by the Romans. This is hardly what you’d expect from a person claiming to be the ruler of the universe – unless he was telling the truth.
Secondly, he was clearly not a construct of people’s expectations. The Jewish people had prophecies about a Messiah, but they were expecting an earthly ruler who would kick out the Romans and make Israel great again. Jesus wasn’t what they expected. And yet, without once commanding an army or any material wealth, Jesus became the most influential person in recorded history.
Finally Jesus rose from the dead shortly after his execution, and appeared to hundreds of his followers before returning to God.
Whether or not you believe this depends on how much weight you give to eye witness accounts, and how to much to Jesus’ continuing, influence on history through the people who had known him.
So what did Jesus teach?
Jesus taught that the universe and everything in it is the work of a purposive, loving God. And he didn’t come to form a new religion, but to reinforce and improve people’s existing relationships with God. His main commandments were to worship God, and to care for other people.
He said that God has very high standards – but that God understands that we usually can’t live up to them, and loves us nonetheless. God is always willing to forgive, and let us make a clean start, as long as we keep trying.
Where does the Bible come in?
The Bible is the record of humanity’s gradually increasing knowledge of God, culminating in the Gospels – four accounts by different writers of the life of Jesus.
Is every word in the Bible true, e.g. was Earth created in seven days?
Some Christians think so, but this isn’t a common view in mainstream churches. Christians believe that the Bible was inspired by God. But different parts of it were written for different audiences, and not all of it’s meant to be taken literally. Christians take the teachings of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, very seriously indeed.
Is Christianity compatible with science?
Yes. It must be, because science is a self-correcting method of finding truths about the Universe, and we believe that Christianity is one of these truths. As a general principle, science tells us ‘what’ and ‘how’, and religion tells us ‘why’.
What about life after death?
Christians believe that human consciousness doesn’t cease when we die. We don’t know what Heaven’s actually like; it’s probably something well beyond our current capacity for understanding. We believe we’ll have a permanent existence in the presence of God, in a form fuller and richer than our current physical one.