As a history teacher, I think about ways to make the most complex and confusing story we know, human history, more understandable to college students. Last year, I think, I tried to put the main doctrines of Christianity on a Power Point in a way that most who have called themselves Christians throughout the centuries could agree on. This was for my lecture on the beginnings of Christianity. Since all traditional Christians say that their beliefs go back to the first century, I thought that it made sense to capture what they could agree on while also trying to be faithful to what the earliest Christians believed so that it wasn’t just watered down. I said that traditional Christians would generally agree with these statements, although they would interpret and explain them differently.
This year, I’m thinking about giving out a sheet with the basics that we would return to in the later parts of the course, as we look at the post-apostolic church in the ancient world, the Orthodox Church, the medieval Catholic church, and the different Protestant groups. This would give the students an opportunity to explain how the different churches would explain these Christian basics.
So the reason that I put them up here is to ask you this: what do you think of this list of four basic Christian statements? Do they need to be modified? What am I missing? Keep in mind that I am trying to reflect what we know about the earliest Christians without adding on the layers of interpretation that (necessarily) had to take place afterwards. But maybe you think that’s a goofy way to approach it, and I would appreciate your constructive criticism too.
Here they are:
- Jesus is the promised Messiah of Israel and incarnate Son of God
- Faith in Jesus’ Lordship, death, and resurrection led to forgiveness of sins and eternal life
- Believers were baptized into the church and expected to live holy lives
- Jesus would return to judge the earth
I can think of some ways to improve them just by reviewing them again, but I will leave them as is to get your responses. Thanks!