Foundations of Identity

A Christian moral code is based on Jesus’ teaching to ‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you’ (Matthew 7:12a). Jesus himself based this on the principle of Loving God and loving humans (Luke and the Good Samaritan). Many Christians use the definitions of the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20) to help them understand concrete ethical situations.

A Christian life requires a ‘leap of faith’ which entails trusting God. Through prayer and a belief in the efficacy of prayer, a Christian hopes to come to an understanding of the way their life can become God-centred and thus, meaningful.

Christians, particularly in the post-modern world of contemporary UK, have developed many directions for an expression of their spirituality. Devotional practices developed at Taizé and Iona have shown the way that Christians can find individual and corporate expressions that suit all spiritual needs.

In the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament, God informs Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5a). This has led Christians to believe that God has a special plan for each individual, that each individual is special to God and is uniquely different from any other human. With this uniqueness of physical properties and mental processes, is the attribute of a soul (however defined, but usually attributed to the breath or ruarch of God breathed into the first man).Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God is spoken of as a personal being (cf. Moses and the Burning Bush, Jesus and his baptism) with whom it is possible to communicate in various ways. As humans are also personal beings, with personalities and the ability to communicate, so then they can communicate with God, as the creator of life and the father of humanity.

The family is the bedrock of society in the Old and New Testaments. The New Testament does not say if Jesus had a relationship which led to marriage and it is possible that Jesus, knowing the sort of danger his mission might take him into, decided upon a celibate life. Although unusual in Jewish families, it was not unique, as Jews were prepared to take a Nazarene vow which involved celibacy, and John the Baptist might have had a similar rationale. However, the moral individual in the family, and the family within society is central to the stability and uniformity of society. Equally the stability of society reflects back upon the family. Christianity has held the family in the highest regard and the ideal and love of the holy family as seen in Nativity Plays is symptomatic of this. The ideal of marriage, of bringing love to children, and the way the relationship between parents and children reflects the relationship between God and his creation, is an ideal promoted in all churches.

Christianity thus uses the model of body-mind-soul to bring out the relationship that God has established with his creation, and Christians believe that the individual is able to establish such a relationship with a living God, as well as establish a relationship with societies with whom a relationship is built.

The Old Testament is a pragmatic work and although written and edited by many authors, concentrates on life in the ‘here and now’, rather than dwelling on the life hereafter. Consequently there are very few references to an afterlife in the Old Testament (witch of Endor, Sheol) in order to concentrate on the relationship Israel has with God in historical time. In the New Testament, Paul does mention the spirit, or soul, but again, there is a greater emphasis on life as it is, rather than life as it will be. It is assumed that the life lived in accordance with the teaching of Jesus will lead to the heavenly kingdom, but Jesus’ teachings on this are ambivalent, and most commentators play down an imminent parousia, as did the early church. Therefore, Christians should be more concerned with making Jesus’ teaching relevant to this life rather than worrying too much about what happens in the next.

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