What is Christianity?
Suppose a non-Christian were to ask a Christian to describe his or her faith. How should the Christian respond? The Apostle Peter encourages Christians to always have an answer for those who ask about their faith (1 Peter 3:15). Christians often do not realize that Christianity can be classified into three different categories. Christianity can be classified as: 1) a theology, 2) a philosophy, and 3) a relationship. If this is the case, then it is prudent that the Christian be familiar with each one of these categories.
The Theological Characteristic
Judeo-Christianity can (and should) be classified as a religion (see James 1:27). Compared to other world religious systems—such as Islam, Judaism, and Mormonism—Christianity has a core set of beliefs (or doctrines) about the nature of God that derive from sacred texts. The scriptures that formulate Christian doctrine are the Old and New Testaments, which together compose the book commonly known as the “Holy Bible.” The sixty-six books of the Bible have been recognized by the church community as the inerrant (without error in their original form) Word of God. Moreover, the Bible is the source that reveals to humanity who the Christian God is, by disclosing his attributes, commandments, works, and will. Therefore, Christianity should be understood as a theology because it seeks to disclose to humanity the nature (i.e. the character) of God.
The Philosophical Characteristic
Christianity can also be classified as a philosophy. This is because like Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism—it provides humanity with a worldview. Stated differently, Christianity is an ideology that claims to understand how the world works. For example, Christians believe in the existence of God. Thus, Christians view the world in which they live through a “God lens,” or a “God axiom,” allowing Christians to assume God’s activity in day-to-day occurrences. Conversely, Buddhists and Hindus do not believe that a personal God exists. Thus, Buddhists and Hindus view the world in which they live through a “secular lens,” or a “secular axiom,” which causes them to assume the absence of a divine Being that works outside of them in their every day activities. Moreover, the philosophy of Confucianism also does not acknowledge God (i.e. a personal supreme being), but rather adheres to a set of philosophical principles. The principles associated with Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism also creates a certain ideology for their adherents, influencing how the disciples of these respective disciplines perceive the world in which they live. Accordingly, because Christianity is an ideology that perceives the world in a particular way, and how to live in that world, it should also be understood as a philosophy.
The Relational Characteristic
Christianity can also be classified as a personal relationship between God and mankind. This relationship that exists between God and mankind is grounded in the first chapter of Genesis. In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea, and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and over all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” This passage should be foundational for every humanitarian enterprise because it singles out and prioritizes mankind over all creation and above all the other creatures that God has made. Mankind is justified as possessing greater significance than everything else in the universe simply because mankind has been made in the image of God. Consequently, because man has been made in God’s image, he or she can have a personal relationship with his or her Creator (i.e. God).
The Uniqueness of Christianity
But someone might still want to know what makes Judeo-Christianity unique as a theology, philosophy, and as a relationship? From a theological standpoint, the Bible claims that the Judeo-Christian God is the only true God and, therefore, the Judeo-Christian God should be revered above everything else, including other gods (Ex. 20:1-6).
Moreover, from a philosophical standpoint, the biblical worldview satisfies the philosophical “tests of truth”—namely, (1) the law of non-contradiction, and (2) the law of correspondence. Regarding the law of non-contradiction, the Bible nowhere contradicts itself. There are apparent discrepancies, but it does not contradict. For example, the Bible does not teach in one place that Jesus Christ is God and in another place that Jesus Christ is not God; or that Abraham was the father of Isaac and Abraham was also not the father of Isaac. Thus, the Bible can be deemed as a reliable source because it is logically consistent. In addition, with regard to the law of correspondence, the biblical worldview corresponds (or relates) to the natural world in which we live. Biblical claims can be verified as occurring in space-time history by its documentation of people (e.g. Pontus Pilate, and Caiaphas), places (e.g. Canaan, Egypt, Israel, and Moab), natural occurrences (e.g. rain, rainbows and earthquakes), and national conquest, etc. On the other hand, if the Bible described the world in which we live as a mythological place, as often did the works of ancient Greek mystics, the Bible would fail to pass the law of correspondence because the content contained therein would no longer correspond (or relate) to the world in which we know to be real.
Finally, from a relational standpoint, what makes Judeo-Christianity so unique is that although it is true that mankind in general has a relationship with the Judeo-Christian God as their Creator, only the Christian can enjoy an intimate relationship with the Judeo-Christian God as both their Creator and as their Redeemer on the basis of sheer grace, not works!