Term Paper: Compare and Contrast Two Specific Characteristics That Are Evident in Christianity and Islam

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Christianity/Islam

Christianity And Islam:

religious foundations and the significance of jesus christ

Currently in the United States, the largest consensus religion is Christianity which includes all Christian denominations, Roman Catholicism and several fringe groups, such as Christian Scientists and Seventh-Day Adventists. In essence, all of these denominations share a core belief system which centers primarily on the person, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, Christians "are those people who are defined religiously by their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior according to the tenets found in the New Testament" (Brown, 1969, 45), and through the action and influence of the Holy Spirit, Christians believe that the words of the Bible become the word of God for the believer via God's direct and personal communication to each individual.

For all Christians, the Holy Bible is the sole authority for their religious faith and practice; however, certain Christian denominations rely on creeds or confessions of faith, yet such creeds are always "subordinate to that of the Bible and any such creed is valid only if it is an accurate representation of what the Bible teaches," meaning that all creeds are secondary to the authority of the Holy Bible (Peters, 1990, 78).

Christians also believe that salvation is a gift from God, being an effect of grace. In general, there is nothing that a true believer can do to earn salvation; conversely, there is nothing that a true believer (or non-believer) need to do to earn salvation because "God has made it a gift of his grace in and through Jesus Christ" (Al-Moghamis, 2002, 178).

As found in many other religious denominations and faiths, particularly in Islam, all believers must adhere to certain rituals. For Christians, baptism and the Lord's Supper or communion are the only two acts that Jesus told his disciples to carry on after his death, at least according to the present understanding of the New Testament. Among most Christians, these are the only rites of the church that are recognized as sacraments which Robert Livingston defines as "rites such as baptism and the Lord's Supper, both of which are outward and visible signs ordained by Jesus Christ that create inward and spiritual blessings" (2004, 198). A second important aspect of Christianity is the importance of preaching. In almost all churches, the pulpit occupies a very prominent place (especially in Catholic churches) and is considered as the focal point for sermons.

As compared to Islam, Christianity in the United States over the last several decades has been restructured via changes that involve "new modes of religious identification, new distinctions in the web of religious interaction and alterations related to moral obligation that define religious communities" (Ikhlas, 1993, 214). Nonetheless, there are many distinguishing features of Christianity that are shared by all believers, especially in regard to the teachings and practices of Jesus Christ.

For Baptists, one of the most important of these features is the act of baptism which symbolizes spiritual regeneration and the burial of former life and the resurrection to the new life in Jesus Christ. Also, the Lord's Supper is believed to be a remembrance of Jesus' last supper with his disciples and a memorial of his sacrificial death on the cross. Like baptism, this is not considered as a sacrament by Baptists, for the elements of bread and wine (i.e. bread symbolizing the body of Christ and wine his blood) remain simply as symbols.

Also, Baptists do not believe that Jesus is present spiritually or symbolically in these two elements. For Methodists, baptism is a rite of incorporation into the community of faith and like Baptists, believe that this ritual symbolizes the new life of Jesus Christ upon being resurrected from the dead following his crucifixion. However, most Methodists believe that Christ is symbolically present to the faithful in the elements of bread and wine.

Unlike Baptists and Methodist Christians, Lutherans are a creedal denomination, for they believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God and contains God's full revelation to mankind. Thus, it is the only source of true Christian teaching and the only rule of Christian faith and life. Lutherans teach that both the law and the gospel are necessary and that the gospel as spelled out in the New Testament "assures the repentant sinner of God's forgiveness in Jesus Christ" (Brown, 1969, 214).

Also, preaching and the sacraments are both very important in Lutheran worship. The altar, a symbol of Christ's presence in the sacrament, and the pulpit which symbolizes God's presence through preaching, are equally important. As to communion, Lutherans truly believe that the risen Christ is present in the elements of bread and wine. This teaching is often referred to as the "Real Presence," meaning that this refers to what Jesus Christ promised at the Last Supper.

Two additional Christian denominations that apply the teachings of Jesus Chris to their everyday spiritual and religious lives is the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church or Disciples of Christ. The first generally follows the format of the Apostles Creed that contains sections on God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The second grew out of "the restoration movement in American Christianity" and includes the following -- "All people have the capacity and the responsibility to either accept or reject God's offer of salvation in Jesus Christ," meaning that there is no predetermination or predestination. While God is always thought of as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Disciples of Christ do not refer to this as the Trinity. As to communion which they prefer to call the Lord's Supper, this is only seen as a memorial to Jesus Christ.

In essence, as Eldon G. Ernst relates, Christianity concerns "a passion for spiritual freedom, not only in faith and order but also in piety and worship. Every believer must personally experience divine grace through Jesus Christ. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are likewise mandatory with a minimum of liturgical formality." Also, at the center of Christian worship and faith lies the Holy Bible "which through the guidance of the spirit is expected to provide sufficient resource for understanding and practicing the Christian faith" (Livingston, 2004, 184).

Islam is the third of the major Semitic monotheistic religion, along with Christianity and Judaism. As a definition, Semitic refers to "the people and religions of Middle Eastern origin and focuses on the belief in and worship of only one God who is believed to be personal, righteous and holy." Those who follow Islam are known as Muslims or "one who submits to Allah," much like Christians who submit to the teachings of Jesus Christ (Al-Moghamus, 2002, 163).

The story of Islam begins with the prophet Mohammad whom Muslims believe is the "Seal of the Prophets," being the last and final prophet in a long line sent by Allah (comparable to Jehovah in the Hebrew faith) to bring God's truth to mankind." As a prophet, Muhammad was nothing more than an enlightened human being whom Allah chose to spread his message to mankind. Thus, the Christian identification of Jesus Christ as the Son of God is blasphemous to Muslims, due to believing that "making a human being God's equal does not recognize the incomparable greatness and oneness of Allah" (Ikhlas, 1993, 278). In other words, Muslims do not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God but merely a prophet like Muhammad.

Much like the Holy Bible in Christianity, the sacred scripture of Islam is known as the Quran or the Holy Quran (Koran) and the reading and citing of this text is also mandatory in devotional prayer. Similarly, the core beliefs of Islam from which all other sects have arose, pertains to the "oneness and unity of Allah (i.e. God) and the prophethood of Muhammad (i.e. Jesus Christ). However, "there are no distinct denominations in Islam as in Christianity; instead, there are two subgroups, the Sunni and the Shia," both of which share a nucleus of beliefs (Brown, 1969, 261).

There are seven basic beliefs which all Muslim share regardless of being Sunni or Shia. First of all, Muslims believe in the angels of Allah, spiritual beings whose role is to serve Allah, much like angels mentioned in the New Testament sent to serve the needs of Jesus; second, Muslims believe in all the books of Allah, including the sacred writings of Judaism and Christianity, all culminating in the Quran.

Third, all Muslims believe in all of the prophets of Allah, such as Abraham, Moses, King David, John the Baptist and Jesus Christ (i.e. Jesus as a prophet rather than the Son of God). Fourth, all Muslims believe that Mohammad, as the messenger of Allah, is the last and final prophet, meaning that "Allah has entrusted him with the prophecy that completes and corrects all of the prophets from the past" (Peters, 1990, 231).

Fifth, those of the Islamic faith also believe in life after death, for the Quran provides descriptions of paradise (heaven)… [END OF PREVIEW]

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