A Bewildering DiversityIf the measure of the truth of a religion is based on the number of believers, Christianity must be the one true faith. For approximately 1.7 billion people in the world today are Christians. No other religion comes close to this figure. (The next largest religion, Islam, has about 900 million adherents.) Christianity is the dominant religion in almost all countries in the West: more than 90% of Latin Americans and more than 80% of Europeans and North Americans are Christians. In Africa, the religion claims almost half the continent (with the other half being Muslim). In Asia, close to 10% profess belief. Christianity, by any reckoning, is an awesome institution.
However it is by no means a homogeneous religion. In almost every country where Christianity has a substantial following, you will find not one single “Christian” church but a bewildering assortment of churches. One would almost certainly see Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Lutheran and Baptist churches among these. Each of these, as we will see, have different methods of worship and different theologies or beliefs. The form of worship can vary from the extremely boisterous tongue-speaking Pentecostals, through the staid prayers and hymn singing Catholics, to the prayerful silence of the Quakers.
The theologies too vary considerably, one example is the Christian position on the divinity of Jesus. While most Christian Churches preach that Jesus was actually the incarnation of God on Earth, some, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus was not God but an incarnation of the Archangel Michael! We will look into these in more detail later in this chapter. It should be mentioned that within most of these groups which share generally similar theologies, there are further subdivisions. These subdivisions, which are formed mainly due to administrative or political (but sometimes also theological) differences, are called denominations. The number of Christian denominations is simply perplexing; according to the World Christian Encyclopedia there are over 20,800 Christian denominations!
References1 Hoffman, The World's Almanac: p 610
2 Hilliard, How Men Worship: pp161,167
3 Barret, World Christian Encyclopedia: p792
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