This is a good, basic, overview of the Christian religion. The course begins with a few lessons centered on the Bible. This makes sense as the Bible is the key sacred document of the Christian faith. What makes it more interesting is the differences between the Old Testament among the three major groupings of Christendom (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) and yet there is no differences when it comes to the New Testament.
The Christian religion began as a sect or cult of Judaism. Jesus, the founder, was a Jew. About 90 percent of the first generation of followers was of Jewish origin. The study of this founding is similar to many other cults that ultimately become "main-stream." The elements of this are: 1) A charismatic founder and leader; 2) A strong core of followers in the beginning; 3) Some authoritative source (prophecy, holy writings, and miracles); 4) Tension or division already existing in the religion system; 5) People seeking a new way of hope.
The early Christian sect met these conditions and then some. Unlike many other religions or cults where there are some skepticism about the claims of the leaders, the New Testament record and other historical records support the authenticity of Jesus and His followers. There are too many coincident between the Old Testament prophecies concerning the promised Messiah and the accounts of Jesus Christ. There are those who are skeptical of the miraculous conception and virgin birth of Jesus Christ. How else could a "son of god" be explained? Miracles are an important part of the Jesus story.
The New Testament was a product of the first generation of the church leadership. It is believed that all the 27 documents were originated within a period between 45AD – 100 AD. The early church did not consider writings after this period to be part of the canon. Key is the understanding of the apostolic doctrine developed by the apostles who were appointed by Christ. They could hold each other accountable in the writings and thus keep consistency in their message of the Gospels, the instructions to the churches (the epistles) and a consistent hope (Revelation).
The key mission of the church was to reveal God who forgives sin through the Son and keeps the people in His kingdom by way of the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that all are born in sin. Sin has a penalty – death. The person who comes to believe in the Gospel message – Jesus Christ dying as the substitute for every person who believes, was buried and resurrected from the dead – is forgiven of sin. The Christian then is encouraged to live a life that is consistent with the Gospel message and be a messenger of the forgiving message of peace to all he or she meets.
With the growth of the church there came organization, ritual, and sacraments. What was a simple fellowship meeting for learning, a love meal, and scattering to tell others became a formalized institution. This primitive religion, as it grew, needed a group of leaders. They would be called bishops (who replaced the apostles), priests, and deacons. Bishops became the pastoral leaders of the many congregations within a city or region. They also served as missionaries taking teams of priests with them to establish new congregations. Priests, or pastors, would serve local groups alongside the deacons who provides the practical, administrative support.
The rituals of worship grew out of the Jewish synagogue system with the reading of scriptures, the prayers, singing the hymns, reciting litanies, and teaching or preaching. The sacraments were those rituals that were designated to symbolize a special grace. There is an internal debate over what constitutes a sacrament or ordinance. Protestant and Baptist groups support baptism and the Lord's Supper. Catholic and Orthodox have up to seven sacraments.
The instructor believes, and I disagree, that denominations developed in the 16thth century. The Celtic church developed independently from the 4th century until the 8th century. The first major split was between the eastern and western factions of the church in the 10 century when it was absorbed into the Catholic Church.
The last few chapters of this course were a history lesson. I would prefer an expansion on ministry and highlight the mission work of the church instead. ULC has an excellent Master of Christian History Part I that covers this well.
I do recommend this course for those who are unfamiliar with the Christian Religion. It is a good basic overview.
The ULC, run by Rev. Long, has created a chaplaincy program to help train our ministers. We also have a huge catalog of Universal Life Church materials. I've been ordained with the Universal Life Church for many years and it's Seminary since the beginning and have loved watching the continual growth of the seminary.