Introducing World Religions

A Christian Engagement

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8. Christianity

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe the demographic changes of world Christianity in the twentieth century and discuss the theological, cultural, and social implications of these massive changes. For instance, how will this southward shift reshape our understanding of God?
  2. How was Christianity continuous and discontinuous with other ancient Near Eastern religious traditions?
  3. What were the social and cultural conditions that allowed Christianity to spread so rapidly inside and outside of the Roman Empire?
  4. Describe Christian orthodoxy, how it was agreed upon, and why the parameters of Christian orthodoxy are crucial to understanding Christianity today.
  5. The Council of Jerusalem was a crucial moment of Christian self-understanding, particularly in the way that church leaders (i.e., Peter and Paul) discussed the relationship between Jewish and gentile traditions. Discuss the reasons why the Council of Jerusalem was significant for both the early church and its growth as Christianity expanded outside the Roman Empire.
  6. What was gnosticism? Do you see any residues of gnosticism in the church today?
  7. Discuss the Patristic Fathers (e.g., Justin Martyr, Origen) and how their beliefs shaped early Christianity. Do you find yourself resonating with one or more in terms of theological perspective? What features of their work do you find compelling?
  8. Christianity affirms the translation of its scripture, the Bible. By doing so, a kind of democratization of scripture takes place, where any literate person can have access to God’s Word. What are the positive and negative features of this democratization of scripture?
  9. There appear to be countless churches: Methodist, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Pentecostal, and so on. Do you affirm the existence of one universal church (ecumenism)? If so, what are the implications of ecumenism for Christian fellowship across ecclesiastical or cultural boundaries? Can you identify markers of unity among all the churches?
  10. Of the various modern movements of Christianity, which expression of Christianity is most unusual to you and which one do you find most appealing. Why? Discuss the similarities and differences of the various modern expressions of Christianity.