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Christianity and other religions documents Christianity's relationship with other world religions, and the differences and similarities.
Evangelical Christians believe that religious pluralism is heresy and contradicts the Bible. [ clarification needed ]Some Christians have argued that religious pluralism is an invalid or self-contradictory concept. Maximal forms of religious pluralism claim that all religions are equally true, or that one religion can be true for some and another for others. Some, but by no means all, Christians hold such pluralism to be logically impossible. Roman Catholicism believes that while it is the fullest and most complete revelation of God to Man, other Christian denominations have also received genuine revelation from God, although partial and incomplete.
Although Calvinists believe God and the truth of God cannot be plural, they also believe that those civil ordinances of man which restrain man from evil and encourage toward good, are ordinances of God (regardless of the religion, or lack of it, of those who wield that power). Christians are obligated to be at peace with all men, as far as it is up to them, and to submit to governments for the Lord's sake, and to pray for enemies.
Calvinism is not pacifistic and Calvinists have been involved in religious wars, notably the French Wars of Religion and the English Civil War. Some of the first parts of modern Europe to practice religious tolerance had Calvinistic populations, notably the Netherlands.
In recent years, some Christian groups have become more open to religious pluralism; this has led to many cases of reconciliation between Christians and people of other faiths. The liberalization of many Seminaries and theological institutions, particularly in regards to the rejection of the notion that the Bible is an infallible document, has led to a much more human-centered and secular movement within Mainline Christian denominations, particularly in the United States. Some Mainline churches no longer hold to exclusivist views on salvation.
In recent years there has been much to note in the way of reconciliation between some Christian groups and the Jewish people. Many modern day Christians, including many Catholics and some liberal Protestants, have developed a view of the New Testament as an extended covenant; they believe that Jews are still in a valid relationship with God, and that Jews can avoid damnation and earn a heavenly reward. For these Christians, the New Testament extended God's original covenant to cover non-Jews. The article Christian–Jewish reconciliation deals with this issue in detail.
Multiple smaller Christian groups in the US and Canada have come into being over the last 40 years, such as "Christians for Israel". Their website says that they exist in order to "expand Christian-Jewish dialogue in the broadest sense in order to improve the relationship between Christians and Jews, but also between Church and Synagogue, emphasizing Christian repentance, the purging of anti-Jewish preliminary attitudes and the false 'Replacement' theology rampant throughout Christian teachings."
A number of large Christian groups, including the Catholic Church and several large Protestant churches, have publicly declared that they will no longer proselytize Jews.
Other Modern Christian views, including some conservative Protestants, reject the idea of the New Testament as an extended covenant, and retain the classical Christian view as described earlier.
For the Catholic Church, there has been a move at reconciliation not only with Judaism, but also Islam. The Second Vatican Council states that salvation includes others who acknowledge the same creator, and explicitly lists Muslims among those (using the term Mohammedans, which was the word commonly used among non-Muslims at the time). The official Catholic position is therefore that Jews, Muslims and Christians (including churches outside of Rome's authority) all acknowledge the same God, though Jews and Muslims have not yet received the gospel while other churches are generally considered deviant to a greater or lesser degree.
The most prominent event in the way of dialogue between religions has arguably been the 1986 Peace Prayer in Assisi to which Pope John Paul II, against considerable resistance also from within the Roman Catholic church, invited representatives of all world religions. John Paul II’s remarks regarding Christian denominations were found in his Ut unum sint address. This initiative was taken up by the Community of Sant'Egidio, who, with the support of John Paul II, organized yearly peace meetings of religious representatives. These meetings, consisting of round tables on different issues and of a common time of prayer has done much to further understanding and friendship between religious leaders and to further concrete peace initiatives. In order to avoid the reproaches of syncretism that were leveled at the 1986 Assisi meeting where the representatives of all religions held one common prayer, the follow-up meetings saw the representatives of the different religions pray in different places according to their respective traditions.
The question of whether traditional Chinese ancestor veneration, consists of worshipping a God or veneration of a saint was important to the Roman Catholic church during the Chinese Rites controversy of the early 18th century. This dispute was between the Dominicans who argued that Confucianism and Chinese folk religion was worship, and therefore incompatible with Catholicism, and the Jesuit who argued the reverse. The pope ultimately ruled in favor of the Dominicans, a decision which greatly reduced the role of Catholic missionaries in China. However, this decision was partially reversed by Pope Pius XII in 1939; after this, Chinese customs were no longer considered superstition or idolatry, but a way of honoring esteemed relatives (not entirely dissimilar to the Catholic practice of praying for the dead).
Sikhs also believe in one God and follow the Ten Sikh Gurus, unlike Christians who believe in one Almighty God made up of three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Known as the Trinity). However, there is no heaven or hell in the Sikh religion.[ citation needed ]
The relationship between Christianity and Judaism has been strained. In the past, Christians were often taught that "the Jews" killed Christ, for which "murder" they bear a collective guilt (an interpretation which most major denominations now reject). Jews meanwhile have tended to associate Christianity with various pogroms, or in better times, with the dangers of assimilation. Anti-Semitism has a long history in Christianity (see Christianity and anti-Semitism), and indeed is far from dead (for example, in contemporary Russia). However, since the Holocaust, much dialogue aimed at Christian–Jewish reconciliation has taken place, and relations have greatly improved. Today, many conservative evangelicals support Christian Zionism, much to the irritation of Arab Christians, based partly on the Millennialist belief that the modern state of Israel represents the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.
The phenomenon of Messianic Judaism has become something of an irritant to Jewish / Christian relations[ citation needed ]. Messianic Jews—who generally seek to combine a Jewish identity with the recognition of Jesus—are rejected by mainstream Jewish groups[ citation needed ], who dismiss Messianic Judaism as little more than Christianity with Jewish undertones.
The Jewish conception of the messiah (משיח mashiach in Hebrew) holds certain similarities to that of Christians, yet there are substantial differences. According to Jews, the Hebrew Scriptures contain a small number of prophecies concerning a future descendant of King David, who will be anointed (Hebrew: moshiach) as the Jewish people's new leader and will establish the throne of David in Jerusalem forever. In the Jewish view, this fully human and mortal leader will rebuild the land of Israel and restore the Davidic Kingdom. This subject is covered in the section on Jewish eschatology. Some Christians have a different understanding of the term messiah, and believe that Jesus is the messiah referred to in the Old Testament prophecies; that the kingdom in these prophecies was to be a heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one; and that Jesus' words and actions in the New Testament provide evidence of his identity as messiah and that the remainder of messianic prophecy will be fulfilled in the Second Coming. Other Christians acknowledge the Jewish definition of messiah, and hold that Jesus fulfills this, being 'fully man' (in addition to being 'fully God'), and believe that the Second Coming will establish the Kingdom of God on earth, where Jesus, as messiah and descendant from David, will reign from Jerusalem.
Islam shares a number of beliefs with Christianity. They share similar views on judgment, heaven, hell, spirits, angels, and a future resurrection. Jesus is acknowledged and respected by Muslims as a great prophet. However, while Islam relegates Jesus to a lesser status than God — "in the company of those nearest to God" in the Qur'an, mainstream (Trinitarian) Christianity teaches without question that Jesus is God the Son, one of the three Hypostases (common English: persons) of Christianity's Trinity, divinely co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
The religions both share a belief in the virgin birth of Jesus, his miracles and healings, and that he ascended bodily into heaven. However, Jesus is not accepted as the son by Muslims, who strictly maintain that he was a human being who was loved by God and exalted by God to ranks of the most righteous. They believe in God as a single entity, not as the Trinity accepted by the vast majority of Christians. Neither do Muslims accept Jesus' crucifixion. Since Muslims believe only in the worship of a strictly monotheistic God who never assumed human flesh, they do not accept the use of icons, and see this as shirk (idolatry). Muslim influence played a part in the initiation of iconoclasm and their conquests caused the iconoclasm in the Byzantine Empire. For the same reason, they do not worship or pray to Muhammad, Jesus, or any other prophets; only to God.
Adherents of Islam have historically referred to themselves, Jews, and Christians (among others) as People of the Book since they all base their religion on books that are considered to have a divine origin. Christians however neither recognize the Qur'an as a genuine book of divine revelation, nor agree with its assessment of Jesus as a mere prophet, on par with Muhammad, nor for that matter accept that Muhammad was a genuine prophet.
Muslims, for their part, believe that parts of the Gospels, Torah and Jewish prophetic books have been forgotten, misinterpreted, or distorted by their followers. Based on that perspective, Muslims view the Qur'an as correcting the errors of Christianity. For example, Muslims reject belief in the Trinity, or any other expression of the divinity of Jesus, as incompatible with monotheism.
Not surprisingly, the two faiths have often experienced controversy and conflict (an example being the Crusades). At the same time, much fruitful dialogue has occurred as well. The writings of Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas frequently cite those of the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, as well as Muslim thinker Averroes ('Ibn-Rushd).
On May 6, 2001 Pope John Paul II, the first pope to pray in a mosque, delivered an address at Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, saying: "It is important that Muslims and Christians continue to explore philosophical and theological questions together, in order to come to a more objective and comprehensive knowledge of each other's religious beliefs. Better mutual understanding will surely lead, at the practical level, to a new way of presenting our two religions not in opposition, as has happened too often in the past, but in partnership for the good of the human family." This Mosque of Damascus is famous for containing the head of John the Baptist.
Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity differ on fundamental beliefs on heaven, hell and reincarnation, to name a few. From the Hindu perspective, heaven (Sanskrit svarga ) and hell ( Naraka ) are temporary places, where every soul has to live, either for the good deeds done or for their sins committed.
There also exist significant similarities in Christian and Hindu theology, most notably in that both religions present a trinitarian view of God. The Holy Trinity of Christianity, consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is sometimes seen as roughly analogous to the Trimurti of Hinduism, whose members -- Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva—are seen as the three principal manifestations of Brahman, or Godhead.
Christian-Hindu relations are a mixed affair. On one hand, Hinduism's natural tendency has been to recognize the divine basis of various other religions, and to revere their founders and saintly practitioners. In Western countries, Vedanta has influenced some Christian thinkers, while others in the anti-cult movement have reacted against the activities of immigrant gurus and their followers. (See also: Pierre Johanns, Abhishiktananda, Bede Griffiths, Dalit theology.)
The Christian Ashram Movement, a movement within Christianity in India, embraces Vedanta and the teachings of the East, attempting to combine the Christian faith with the Hindu ashram model and Christian monasticism with the Hindu sannyasa tradition.
In the 19th century, some scholars began to perceive similarities between Buddhist and Christian practices, e.g. in 1878 T.W. Rhys Davids wrote that the earliest missionaries to Tibet observed that similarities have been seen since the first known contact.In 1880 Ernest De Bunsen made similar observations in that with the exception of the death of Jesus on the cross, and of the Christian doctrine of atonement, the most ancient Buddhist records had similarities with the Christian traditions.
Buddhism and Protestantism came into political conflict in 19th century Sri Lanka and in Tibet c. 1904 (the Francis Younghusband Expedition). Various events have cooperated to introduce various strains of Buddhist theology and meditation to several generations of Western spiritual seekers (including some Catholic religious). Relations are generally good between both religions, except perhaps in South Korea where Christians have damaged Buddhist temples and engaged in other forms of Christian extremism.The Russian republic of Kalmykia recognizes both Tibetan/Lamaist Buddhism and Russian Orthodoxy as its official religions.
Many scholars believe the eschatology of Judaism and possibly the idea of monotheism originated in Zoroastrianism, and may have been transferred to Judaism during the Babylonian captivity, thus eventually influencing Christian theology. Bible scholar P.R. Ackroyd states: "the whole eschatological scheme, however, of the Last Judgment, rewards and punishments, etc., within which immortality is achieved, is manifestly Zoroastrian in origin and inspiration." However, the theory is questioned by other mainstream historians and scholars. The Oxford History of the Biblical World states "There is little if any effect of Zoroastrian elements on Judaism in the Persian period." . Nevertheless, scholars such as Soloman Nigosian contend, in regarding the similar ideas of Zoroaster and later Jewish writers, that "the ideas were indigenous to Iran...it is hardly conceivable that some of the characteristic ideas and practices in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam came into being without Zoroastrian influence." The new faith (Zoroastrianism) emerged in larger Persian empires. " Zoroastrianism reflected the cosmopolitan society of the empires". During this time Zoroastrianism profoundly effected the beliefs and values of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam ("Traditions & Encounters: A brief global History", Jerry H. Bentley. pg. 93). It is also possible that Zoroastrianism and later Jewish theology came from a common source.
For more on this theory, see Jewish history, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism.
In the Younger Avesta, three divinities of the Zoroastrian pantheon are repeatedly identified as ahuric, meaning that each, as Ahura, act together in both representing and protecting Asha, or the divine truth governing the universe. These three are Ahura Mazda, Mithra and Burz, and hence known as the "Ahuric triad." Similarities with the Christian Trinity can be seen between Ahura Mazda and God the Father, Mithra and Christ the Logos, as well as between Burz and the Holy Spirit, both of which are associated symbolically with water. Both Zoroastrianism and Christianity consider themselves to be monotheistic, but like all other monotheisms they have highlighted certain aspects or energies of the divine to emphasize, and these are not meant to be interpreted as separate divinities. In both religions there are guardian angels, or fravashi, which are considered to be created beings and are distinct from the Energies of God or divine emanations. The Zoroastrian term yazata, however, has variously been interpreted as meaning emanations or "sparks" of the divine, or as being roughly synonymous with the term "angels." There have been various theories on the possible relationship between these aspects of Zoroastrianism and ideas of divine emanation in esoteric Christianity, Jewish Kabbalah, Islamic mysticism (Sufism), and other religious systems, such as Gnosticism, Yazidism, and the Druze, among others.
There are many parallels between Mithraism, the religion of Sol Invictus, and Christianity. Aurelian is believed to have established the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Day of the Birth of Sol Invictus) as an annual festival[ citation needed ] held on the day when the sun's daily declination visibly starts rising again after the winter solstice, namely on December 25; the birth of the central figure was thus celebrated on the day which Christians later used to celebrate Jesus' birth (having always celebrated this at Epiphany). Other similarities include the stories of Christ and Mithra as children being visited by shepherds, the trinity, and the immortal soul[ citation needed ]. Sunday itself was imposed as the official day of rest by Constantine, who referred to it as the Day of the venerable Sun[ citation needed ]. (Although Christians worshiped on Sunday from at least 150 years before Constantine)
The earliest attestation of Mithraism is Plutarch's record of it being practised in 68BC by Cilician pirates, the first mithraists.Tertullian, a Christian writer who lived between the 2nd and 3rd centuries, admitted there was a strong similarity between the practises of the two faiths:
Justin Martyr, an earlier 2nd century Church Father, agreed that the similarities existed, claiming that Mithraism had copied the Eucharist.Justin argued that the devil had invented Mithraism to mock Christianity. Christian apologist Ronald H. Nash stated:
The Bahá'í Faith believes that there is one God who sends divine messengers to guide humanity throughout time, which is called Progressive revelation (Bahá'í)—and is different from the Christian belief of Progressive revelation (Christian). They believe in the divine knowledge and essence of Jesus, among other messengers such as Muhammad, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, and others. Interpretations vary, but the Bahá'í Faith is sometimes considered an Abrahamic faith. The followers of the Bahá'í Faith believe in God, as do Christians, and recognize Jesus' teachings, but they have different views of the Trinity and divinity of Jesus. The Bahá'í view of prophets is that although they have both human and divine characteristics, they are not themselves God, but rather "divine manifestations." They also see the Trinity as symbolic where Jesus and the Holy Spirit are polished mirrors that reflect the pure light from God. Although Bahá'ís affirm the Bible as sacred scripture, they do not consider the Bible to be wholly authentic as Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, affirmed that "The Bible is not wholly authentic, and in this respect not to be compared with the Qur’án, and should be wholly subordinated to the authentic Sayings of Bahá’u’lláh."
Bahá'ís share some views with Christianity regarding moral and immoral behavior. Bahá'ís condemn polygamy, premarital sex, and homosexual acts while treating everyone, including homosexuals, with love, respect, and dignity. (See Homosexuality and Bahá'í Faith.)
Hubbard described Scientology as "the Western Anglicized continuance of many earlier forms of wisdom."Hubbard includes the teachings of Jesus among belief systems cited as these "earlier forms of wisdom". Jesus is recognized in Scientology as part of its "religious heritage", though "is seen as only one of many good teachers".
In the 2008 book Vintage Jesus: Timeless Answers to Timely Questions, authors Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears write: "According to Scientology, Jesus is an "implant" forced upon a Thetan about a million years ago",and Jack Huberman writes in 101 People Who Are Really Screwing America that in Scientology Jesus is seen as having been "implanted in humanity's collective memory", by the character Xenu from Scientology space opera.
The spread of Christianity has been international, in some cases entirely displacing the religions and altering the customs encountered among those people to whom it has come. This centuries-long process has been met with violent opposition at times, and likewise the spread of Christianity has in some cases been carried out with martial force. The relationship of Christianity to other faiths is encumbered to some extent by this history, with modern Christians, particularly in the West, expressing embarrassment over the violence in Christianity's past.
Converting adherents of other religions is widely accepted within Christianity. Many Christian organizations believe that they have a duty to make converts among every people. In recent years, ecumenism and dialogue between different religions has been endorsed by many official representatives of the Christian churches, as a way of effecting reconciliation between Christian people and people of other faiths, leading to many cases of reconciliation. In some cases, this endorsement is accompanied by a complete disavowal of all proselytizing efforts under the banner of religious pluralism.
This is specially marked by the inauguration, or installation, of Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu from Uganda, on November 29, 2005. Dr Sentamu is the first black African archbishop of the Church of England. He is also the first archbishop to beat bongo drums in the cathedral at his own inauguration. The newspaper Guardian, which dedicated its double middle page of the following day to a full picture of the grinning archbishop in full apparel at the porch of the cathedral, says that: "Dr Sentamu's sermon was a stern lecture to the Church of England to grow out of being a 'judgmental and moralising' congregation of 'pew-fillers, sermon-taters, Bible readers, even born-again believers and Spirit-filled charismatics' and go out to make friends in the world. 'We have lost the joy and power that makes real disciples and we've become consumers of religion, not disciples of Jesus-Christ', he said. 'Christians, go and make friends among Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, agnostics, atheists, not for the purpose of converting them to your beliefs but for friendship, understanding, listening, hearing.' His remarks were greeted with applause, not with silence as the order of the service instructed."
A special case is the issue of Christian–Jewish reconciliation, in which significant reconciliation has been reached.
Christian converts have often carried some of their previous customs to their new faith. This on occasion has led to syncretisms, that are often not accepted by mainstream Christians:
Christianity is rooted in Second Temple Judaism, but the two religions diverged in the first centuries of the Christian Era. Christianity emphasizes correct belief, focusing on the New Covenant as mediated through Jesus Christ, as recorded in the New Testament. Judaism places emphasis on correct conduct, focusing on the Mosaic covenant, as recorded in the Torah and Talmud.
In Abrahamic religions, the Holy Spirit is an aspect or agent of God, by means of which people become His messenger or servant. The term is also used to describe aspects of other religions and belief structures.
In Abrahamic religions, a messiah or messias is a saviour or liberator of a group of people. The concepts of moshiach, messianism, and of a Messianic Age originated in Judaism, and in the Hebrew Bible; a moshiach (messiah) is a king or High Priest traditionally anointed with holy anointing oil. Messiahs were not exclusively Jewish: the Book of Isaiah refers to Cyrus the Great, king of the Achaemenid Empire, as a messiah for his decree to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple.
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing of some form of truth or knowledge through communication with a deity or other supernatural entity or entities.
Jews for Jesus is a non-profit Messianic Jewish organization that seeks to proselytize Jews towards the belief that Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Jewish people. Jews for Jesus is not considered a Jewish organization by any Jewish authorities.
Messianic Judaism is a modern syncretic religious movement that combines Christianity—most importantly, the belief that Jesus is the Jewish messiah—with elements of Judaism and Jewish tradition. It emerged in the 1960s and 1970s.
Religious pluralism is a set of religious world views that hold that one's religion is not the sole and exclusive source of truth, and thus recognizes that some level of truth and value exists in other religions. As such, religious pluralism goes beyond religious tolerance, which is the condition of peaceful existence between adherents of different religions or religious denominations.
Comparative religion is the branch of the study of religions concerned with the systematic comparison of the doctrines and practices of the world's religions. In general the comparative study of religion yields a deeper understanding of the fundamental philosophical concerns of religion such as ethics, metaphysics, and the nature and forms of salvation. Studying such material facilitates a broadened and more sophisticated understanding of human beliefs and practices regarding the sacred, numinous, spiritual, and divine.
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Proselytism is the act or fact of religious conversion, and it also includes actions which invite it. The word proselytize is derived from the Greek language prefix προσ- and the verb ἔρχομαι in the form of προσήλυτος. Historically in the Koine Greek Septuagint and New Testament, the word proselyte denoted a Gentile who was considering conversion to Judaism. Though the word proselytism originally referred to Judaism, it now refers to the attempt of any religion or religious individuals to convert people to their beliefs, or any attempt to convert people to a different point of view, religious or not. Proselytism is illegal in some countries. However, the right to convert to another religion and to manifest religion is enshrined in Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The term is generally understood as pejorative, by contrast with evangelism which is viewed as a term of approval. The World Council of Churches has indicated that, used pejoratively, proselytism refers to attempts at conversion by 'unjust means that violate the conscience of the human person', such as by coercion or bribery.
The argument from inconsistent revelations, also known as the avoiding the wrong hell problem, is an argument against the existence of God. It asserts that it is unlikely that God exists because many theologians and faithful adherents have produced conflicting and mutually exclusive revelations. The argument states that since a person not privy to revelation must either accept it or reject it based solely upon the authority of its proponent, and there is no way for a mere mortal to resolve these conflicting claims by investigation, it is prudent to reserve one's judgment.
The religious perspectives on Jesus vary among world religions. Jesus' teachings and the retelling of his life story have significantly influenced the course of human history, and have directly or indirectly affected the lives of billions of people, even non-Christians. He is the most influential person to have ever lived, finding a significant place in numerous cultural contexts.
Among followers of Judaism, Jesus is viewed as having been the most influential and, consequently, the most damaging of all false prophets. However, since the traditional Jewish belief is that the messiah has not yet come and the Messianic Age is not yet present, the total rejection of Jesus as either messiah or deity has never been a central issue for Judaism.
Messianism is the belief in the advent of a messiah who acts as the savior or liberator of a group of people. Messianism originated as an Abrahamic religious belief, but other religions have messianism-related concepts. Religions with a messiah concept include Zoroastrianism (Saoshyant), Judaism, Buddhism (Maitreya), Hinduism (Kalki), Taoism, and Bábism.
Jewish Christians were the followers of a Jewish religious sect that emerged in Judea during the late Second Temple period (first-century). The sect integrated the belief of Jesus as the prophesied Messiah and his teachings into the Jewish faith, including the observance of the Jewish law. Jewish Christianity is the foundation of Early Christianity, which later developed into Christianity. Christianity started with Jewish eschatological expectations, and it developed into the veneration of a deified Jesus after his earthly ministry, his crucifixion, and the post-crucifixion experiences of his followers.
Over the centuries of Islamic history, Muslim rulers, Islamic scholars, and ordinary Muslims have held many different attitudes towards other religions. Attitudes have varied according to time, place and circumstance.
Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Baháʼí Faith are called Abrahamic religions because they all accept the tradition of the God that revealed himself to Abraham. The theological traditions of all Abrahamic religions are thus to some extent influenced by the depiction of the God of Israel in the Hebrew Bible, and by the story of Abraham, acclaimed as the Father of monotheism in the history of Judaism.
The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as Abrahamism, are a group of Semitic-originated religious communities of faith that claim descent from the Judaism of the ancient Israelites and the worship of the God of Abraham. The Abrahamic religions are monotheistic, with the term deriving from the patriarch Abraham.
This is a glossary of terms used in Christianity.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to theology: