John 5:39: Search the scriptures (KJAV) (ereunao graphe)
We think you might find it refreshing that we have no intention of pushing you toward any specific attitudes or positions. We also have no intention of trying to get you to like or dislike any specific group or Denomination or Faith. (We DO hope that you will pursue SOME Faith and some method of Worshipping God!) Our intent is only to present you with enough accurate, unbiased information such that you can make your own thoughtful conclusion about any particular subject. If you have questions, concerns, doubts, skepticism, you're probably in the right place to get actual information on which to form your own conclusions. We have tried hard NOT to include opinions or unsupported logic. Our attitude is that YOU must find your own conclusions (as long as you have accurate information to work with) and it is not our place to try to drag you anywhere!
A concept that we have tried to keep in mind in assembling BELIEVE is:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for men. (Col.3: 23)
Several of the most important topics have presentations that extend
over 100 screenfuls of text! The presentation of the
Roman Catholic Church is more
than 30 screens in length. The one on God
is about 150 screens in length. The one
on The Childhood of Jesus is
nearly 500 screens in length! Even a generally unfamiliar subject
like Supralapsarianism is about
five screens in length, with several links to other BELIEVE pages
that are closely related to that subject. Some of the more obscure
subjects are covered in just one or two screens.|
There is certainly a multitude of Christian and other religious sites on the Internet. Many of them are informative, but they seem to generally present only their own view of whatever subjects they discuss. That might be valuable, but it can often cause an incomplete understanding of those subjects. How can a student of Christianity or any other religion truly understand any subject if he/she only has access to one narrow viewpoint?
Our Non-Denominational Christian Church thinks that is wrong. How could a person develop a solid foundation for Faith if incomplete or inaccurate or distorted information is all that is available? Our approach is to try to imagine how Jesus might have presented religious information. Would He have only presented some facts that supported a point He wanted to make? We doubt it! Would He have presented any statement that He did not truly believe to be true, or that was otherwise incomplete or inaccurate or misleading? We doubt it! We think that He would have patiently sat down with anyone who had questions and He would have helped each person to fully understand the answers to those questions.
Well, we have a disadvantage here! We are not Jesus! We do not have His Knowledge and Understanding! So, we just try the best we can to supply the most accurate, understandable and complete information we can, on each of these many subjects. That is basically the core reason for the BELIEVE Religious Information Source web-site. We try to not express opinions but only present the facts and all of the generally accepted attitudes on each subject.
BELIEVE has two parallel home pages, one with the subjects listed alphabetically and the other with more central subjects at the start of the list. (The alphabetical list is to the right, and a link above it can get you to the other list.) These articles were written by many world-renowned scholars in their specific subjects. We felt that such scholars were the best available authorities in each of the many subjects. We are very aware that there have probably been millions of articles written by religious scholars over the centuries, and we have only been able (so far) to review a tiny fraction of them. That means that this BELIEVE site should forever be a work-in-progress, and it will hopefully forever get better and better! We sometimes say that in another thirty years, BELIEVE might start to resemble something that the Lord might be Pleased with!
In the process of selecting the 7,500+ articles that are currently included in BELIEVE, we examined over 50,000 articles that we did not include. If an article seemed biased or incomplete or not solidly based on accepted scholastic standards, we did not include it. It is our hope that the remaining articles are useful to the visitors to this site.
Whether your interest is casual curiosity or deep philosophical research, BELIEVE should certainly be helpful. Many of the subject presentations start with a General level presentation of the subject, which is often followed by a very comprehensive Advanced presentation for student and Ministry research. Actual Scripture from the Bible are generally not included, but many thousands of Scriptural references are included, as are extensive bibliographies (for most of the articles) for even further study.
Have you ever been a little unclear when your Minister refers to sanctification in a sermon? Or ultradispensationalism? Or Baptism? Or infralapsarianism? Or Salvation? Well, most Ministers aren't going to even mention two of these very important aspects of Christian Faith in their Sermons! But they would if they could! Or maybe you wanted to learn more about your friend's Methodism? Or about Amish beliefs? Or the history of The Lord's Prayer? Have you ever been curious about just how our modern beliefs in Jesus got refined to where they are today? Or you wanted deeper understanding of any of hundreds of other interesting religious topics?
These are some reasons where you may want to browse through BELIEVE!
As mentioned above, we have gone to considerable effort to eliminate bias from this collection of articles. It is reasonable for most authors to be enthusiastic for their subject, but if an author showed such an extreme attitude that possible distortion of facts might happen, WE LEFT SUCH AN ARTICLE OUT! BELIEVE is meant as an information source which has the most "level playing field" possible, so that readers can count on getting useful and fair and accurate information. There is only one substantial bias that was NOT removed, that against Satanists, Atheists, and similar groups. We considered including some of their own information, to balance some of the negative comments that some of our included authors make, but we decided that we did NOT want to encourage or publicize or support the activities or beliefs of such groups.
If you get the impression that any particular presentation in this library shows substantial bias for or against any group or belief system, please let us know by an E-mail message or a postal letter. We hope to forever improve BELIEVE, and you can help!
People regularly send in manuscripts and essays which they hope to have added to our BELIEVE site. Unfortunately, most of them cannot be used here. One characteristic we insist on is that ALL perspectives on a subject or issue be equally and fairly discussed, as is the case in any credible scholarly work. When most people feel motivated to write an essay, it is because they have very strong feelings regarding one particular viewpoint on the subject. In many places, there is nothing wrong with that, in "promoting" that particular perspective. It is even often a great way of encouraging people to accept that particular belief. But BELIEVE is meant to present ALL perspectives as equally as is possible, and so "sales pitches" for any one position are not generally desirable here. In many cases, such an essay could be fairly easily expanded to include the opposing viewpoints. There have been many wonderful manuscripts sent in, which could have been used with such a modification, but not otherwise.
The individual web-page presentations are all designed to display properly on any home computer. They are hopefully also compatible with the obsolete computers and browsers which Missionaries often have to use. (The files are each made absolutely as small as they can be so that such Missionaries can have shorter Internet access times and expenses.) BELIEVE doesn't contain banners or other images that might interfere with such use.
If someone thoroughly studied the entire contents of BELIEVE (equivalent to over 3,000 pages of typewritten text, over 10,000 screenfuls) and also the Bible, the resultant religious knowledge would be very close to that of a Divinity Degree from a Seminary! We realize that most people aren't going to use it that thoroughly! But if you keep the downloadable BELIEVE program on your computer's hard drive, or keep a bookmark for this web-site in your browser, its information will be rapidly accessible, faster than you could find it in a reference book!
The way both subject lists are set up encourages browsing. You or your kids might have 15 minutes available one day. You COULD play some computer game! But if BELIEVE is there, you might just as well decide to learn a little about Arminianism or about Evangelicalism. You don't need to commit a huge block of time to it (but you could!)
Even very devout Christians will probably find many unfamiliar terms in the list at right. Many Protestant Christians do not realize that many things like the above mentioned Arminianism probably contributed (in one way or another) in a substantial way in the development of the beliefs of the Church they attend! Very few Christians seem to know that nearly all modern Christian Churches are Semi-Sabbatarian!
We have recently added foreign language translations of all of BELIEVE. It is our hope that the French version might assist Missionary efforts in many of the countries in Africa where French is a primary language. Similarly, we hope that the Spanish and Portuguese versions might be of help to Missionaries in South America. And we hope that, as Chinese people learn about the "outside world", some of them may find value in either Chinese version.
If you know of anyone that could
benefit from those versions, here are links:
The above languages should display properly with most modern computers, without having to add any additional fonts. If your computer is older, you may need to use Windows Control panel/ Add/Remove Programs/Windows Setup/Multilanguage Support, to be able to properly see the Russian or Polish pages.
These languages may require you to download Microsoft fonts to see the presentations properly. For Japanese, the file is ie_ja.exe (2.6 Mb) (an expanded MS Gothic font); for mainland (or Simplified( Chinese, the file is ie_zhc.exe (2.6 Mb) (MS Hei and MS Song fonts); for Taiwan (Traditional, or Big5) Chinese, the file is ie3lpktw.exe (4.1 Mb) (MingLiu Font); from the Microsoft web-site. If you do a web-search for that file name, you can find it quickly.
These following files do NOT include separate files for each subject presentation, as they depend on common automatic computer language translation. They have a common problem of only translating a certain number of words at the start of a file and not translating the later parts of long presentations.
These are computerized, automated translations of the English language pages of BELIEVE, so they are nowhere near perfect. But, hopefully, they will allow the many BELIEVE pages to be available and useful to many more people. We also hope that volunteers will "clean up" any especially poor automated translation of a page!
Other reasons for the existence of BELIEVE are:
BELIEVE was first placed on the Internet in the Spring of 1997. Since then, there have been an amazing number of visitors to our site! It seems that most web-sites quickly brag about how much traffic comes to a site. Considering the content of this site, we feel that would be the wrong attitude. Large numbers are essentially irrelevant! Our interest is (hopefully!) always in each single visitor, with our efforts being to aid that person to better understand the Lord and religion and Christianity. If a person is able to get closer to a point of better committing to God (and Jesus), then our efforts are successful! So, as far as we are concerned, we have had ONE visitor, YOU! And, since you are important to God and Jesus, you are very important to us. We think that's the attitude Jesus would want us to have!
Also, we realize that you might be interested in knowing more about the organization that created and operates BELIEVE. Our Church, A Christ Walk Church is a relatively normal Protestant Christian Church. Our Statement of Faith is very similar to that of most Protestant Churches, although it might be more thoroughly presented! The most noticeable difference between our Church and other Protestant Churches is our special focus on always trying to figure out what Jesus might have said or done in each situation, and then act and speak appropriately. Basically, the result of this is that our Church seems to have much less dogma than many other Churches. Instead of applying any rigid formulation of response, we believe it is better to understand and respond to each situation of life individually. This statement should make the entire existence of BELIEVE a lot more logical, because it really fits in with the concept. Each visitor is an individual, unlike anyone else. It is our belief that if we provide sufficient accurate information, each visitor and his/her indwelling Holy Spirit will then be able to Discern the Truth for that person. We have noticed that recently, bumperstickers are beginning to appear with "WWJD" (What Would Jesus Do?) on them. We find that wonderful, very similar to what our Church has always tried to do and Teach.
We are certainly not perfect, and neither is BELIEVE. In this vein, it probably makes sense for us to admit to a significant 'bias' that we know we have! BELIEVE currently does NOT contain a presentation on "Collection Plate" or "Donation" or "Mammon" because we are not sure we could "fairly" present such a topic. We have somewhat unusual attitudes toward that subject!
Shortly after the Editor of BELIEVE was Saved (at age 19), he was on vacation and attended a Church in Florida. "New" Christians are all especially enthusiastic, and that was true in this case. However, during an hour and a half Service, the Minister passed the Collection Plate FIVE times! They each were for reasonably valid reasons: the normal Collection; a collection to repair the Church parking lot and driveway; a collection for a building project toward having a Sunday School; a collection for a guest Minister; and a collection for a Christian music group that played during the Service. However, collectively, the experience was offensive to the Editor. Without being able to put a finger on exactly what was wrong, it just seemed like something was different from the way Jesus might have wanted it to be.
As a consequence of that experience, the Editor, and BELIEVE, have an intense attitude about keeping religious experience and learning as far as possible from money matters. Clearly, each Church MUST pay mortgages and utility bills and the staff's wages, so money must necessarily be present in the operation of each Church. But we have all seen examples where something has gone wrong and Ministry flies around in personal Learjets and rides around in chauffeured limousines. I guess our attitude is that we wish that the hour or two that we each share in the Lord's House each week, could be entirely focused on religious ideas, and that people would make their Offerings to their Churches without having to be "prodded" by the existence of a Collection Plate! But that's not realistic! We just hope that each Church uses good judgment (and consults their Holy Spirit!) regarding all subjects associated with money, in or out.
We see this as a pretty significant bias, and so we didn't feel we could fairly present a page on the subject! There are many reasons why your local Church NEEDS the funds from the Collection, so please be generous to them.
We have recently become aware of yet ANOTHER potential bias we might have!
We receive enormous amounts of e-mail, and some of it is critical mail from other Protestant Clergy members. In general, such mail attacks us for submitting our visitors to "wolves" (Matt 7:15; Acts 20:29). Their position is that we should intensely and exclusively present OUR perspectives and beliefs on the many subjects included in BELIEVE, and we should NOT include "alternate" perspectives at all! They believe that we introduce the possibility of confusion in our visitors by presenting various (seemingly credible) approaches on subjects that are centrally important to Faith. They believe that we commit outright sacrilege by openly presenting Catholic and Orthodox and other beliefs!
Well, they might be right about that, so we cannot defend our actions directly to them! They often also tell us that we are destined for Hell as a result of this aspect of BELIEVE! We hope that they are wrong about that!
We also receive a lot of mail applauding us for our "Ecumenical" approach!
We tend to think that neither is quite accurate, but for an apparently unusual reason! BELIEVE was created and is presented by our non-Denominational Protestant Christian Church, which is named A Christ Walk Church. This appears to be important in this area. Our Church has a special emphasis on Christian behavior along with all the standard Christian Teachings. We feel that Jesus demonstrated and discussed many "proper behaviors" in addition to the words of His Teachings. As a consequence of this, our Church sees specific importance in the END RESULT of Christian Ministry, basically, the condition of the hearts of those who listen. In our view, virtually the ONLY essential question at the end is "Is your heart Devoutly committed to the Lord?" We believe that that is the single question Jesus would be interested in, at the point someone is at the Gates of Heaven. We see that as logical, and our Ministry sees ALL Ministry in that light. Of course, we want to believe that our methods of Teaching are valid, but we recognize that there might be many other ways a person's heart might be brought to Devotion in the Lord.
Of course, he might be right! We have no absolute way of proving him wrong! And, if Jesus really DOES run Heaven where many strict "rules of admission" are applied, then, yes, most of us will be "out of luck" in happening to have chosen the "wrong" Church to attend.
We see two major problems in that situation. First, it seems to imply that Jesus is rather "legalistic" in who is allowed into Heaven, and we know from when He was with us that He was violently against the Jews for being legalistic in applying the "Law" of the Old Testament (example: Luke 13:14). Second, and, we think, even more importantly, is another implication regarding Jesus. We all believe that Jesus IS Love and Compassion, essentially the very definition of the words! So, our Church, with its special focus on behavioral issues, asks "Would a Compassionate Jesus participate in a Heaven where extremely Devout people who spent a lifetime committed to Him would be denied entry to Heaven?" Our emphatic response is that He wouldn't and couldn't.
Yes, we Teach the Two Protestant Sacraments, and we Teach that Good Works spring FROM Christian Faith rather than being necessary to it, and we Baptize and have the other common beliefs of many Protestant Churches. But we think it would be very arrogant (therefore, non-Christian) to claim that WE alone knew how to prepare individuals for the Presence of the Lord. Therefore, we openly applaud ALL Churches that attempt to prepare the hearts of their followers for profound Devotion to the Lord, even when they follow methods which we might not agree with.
We do not have ANY good explanation as to how the Lord deals with this diversity in Heaven, only that, because of His Compassion, He does! So, a Devout Catholic, who was Taught a central importance in doing Good Works as a condition for Salvation (which we Protestants think is very wrong!) would still be welcomed with a Smile into Heaven, whether or not we understand why! Any other result would seem to imply a Lord whose Compassion is not what we want to believe it is.
Our conclusion from all this is that, prior to committing one's life to the Lord, a person may freely visit various Houses of Worship. Consider the deeper meaning of Baptism. Who did you intend to affect by being Baptized? We hope it was not for friends or family or a Church leadership. Our hope is that you (possibly even privately) became Saved (actually, we see that as being Baptized by the Spirit), committed to the Lord, and then were publicly (water) Baptized for only one purpose: To tell the Lord, "I am Yours, and I will forever demonstrate my Devotion to You by strictly following the Rites and beliefs of THIS (your) Church." As of that moment, each believer has the strict responsibility to follow THAT Church. You have essentially told the Lord "Judge me by THIS standard." There is NO leeway. No room for interpretation on your part! If you happened to have chosen a Church that requires you to ask "How high?" when it tells you to jump, then you MUST, not for the Church, but to keep demonstrating to the Lord your total Obedience to Him. Just because a Church down the block does not require jumping, you have NO room to complain, and just better get good at jumping! Your Personal Promise to the Lord is on the line!
From the moment you are Baptized, IN A SPECIFIC CHURCH, then ONLY that Church's Christian Rites and beliefs have real meaning for you. Hopefully, your Church has valid beliefs and Rites. Beliefs and procedures in some other Church may be VERY different, and they may even seem incompatible with what you must follow. FOR YOU, it is irrelevant what the Christians in those other Churches must do. However, you should encourage them to be very Devout in their following of their own Church's Rites and beliefs. At the moment they were Baptized in those Churches, they made their own solemn Promise to the Lord to forever demonstrate their Faith to Him. (The exception to this are clearly aberrant groups that claim to be Churches.)
So, that is our concept, and our ONLY defense to those attackers who criticize us for being in league with the wolves! Many have directly implied that we might as well buy shovels now, as we will spend Eternity stoking the furnaces in Hell! And, again, we have no absolute way of knowing or proving that they are wrong, except our Faith in what WE believe the Lord to be, and that He IS Love and Compassion.
These few paragraphs might sound like a "commercial" on our part. They are not intended as such. But, we have received a number of such criticisms, and felt it necessary to allow readers to know both about the criticisms and our reasons for BELIEVE being the very "open" form that it is. In the event that this represents a 'bias' we felt you should know about it!
One final comment about the "confusion" we might be causing and / or the "wolves" business: Another central belief of our Church is that the Holy Spirit is RIGHT THERE with EVERY visitor to BELIEVE, whether Christian, Seeker, or skeptic. Our belief is that that Holy Spirit will give guidance to each individual visitor, regarding the discernment of Truth. Therefore, we believe that, when we present various Christian scholars' broadly accepted views on our many subjects, the Holy Spirit will lead each visitor in finding the "correct" one for that person. This is why we don't have reservations about presenting positions that our Church happens to not agree with, and why we feel we can present such views fairly and honestly. And, as a responsibility to Jesus, we feel we are REQUIRED to do so!
So, if you should find anything in BELIEVE that appears to disagree with the Teachings of your Church, we recommend relying on those Teachings first, but possibly asking informed questions at the right time and in the right place. They probably have EXCELLENT reasons for their beliefs and Teachings!
Now, whether our approach represents an "Ecumenical" perspective, we do not know. The result is similar, of a tolerance and acceptance of other Churches, but we see it as being for a rather different reason than most Ecumenical efforts are initiated. And we don't see need for "conformance" to some common set of beliefs, but rather a recognition that the Lord Smiles on ALL of the diversity of Christian approaches. We acknowledge that God's Plan for us is far beyond our capability to completely understand.
Our impression is that Churches generally concentrate on the specific "means" toward becoming a Christian and we tend to concentrate more on the "end" of actually BEING a Devout Christian. We don't see that it means we disagree, but just that we do not see cause to argue among Churches in how they each accomplish it! Actually, we tend to see value in WHATEVER a Church feels it needs to do to prepare the hearts of its Congregation members, so we are actually a fan of (nearly) all of them!
We have a page with additional comments on our "simple" Christian Church and beliefs.
BELIEVE also includes thorough and fair presentations of all of the other major belief systems of the world. Again thinking of how Jesus might treat such subjects, we think that He would be open and honest, having Faith that Christianity can "hold its own" when honest and complete information is available about all options. We do not think that He would have been "secretive" in avoiding discussing other religions and their good and bad points. Therefore, we try to follow His lead in BELIEVE. We put those subjects down at the bottom of the list, separate from the Christian subjects.
You probably consider yourself to be one of the "children of God", don't you? More than that, a child of the One, True God, Whom Abraham worshipped and who communicated with Moses to provide us with what we commonly call the Ten Commandments? There are a LOT of people who would make those statements! Protestant Christians carefully study the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) to learn how to Worship Him. Catholic Christians use a combination of the Bible and Traditions to do the same. Jews use only the Old Testament, which they call the Torah, in order to know how to Worship God. Muslims use a combination of that same Old Testament, which they call Taurah, along with their Koran, to learn how to Worship the very same God, Whom they call Allah. All of these people consider themselves to be "children of God", the One God of Abraham. Interesting?
Actually, we suspect that many Christians will be amazed to find that Muslims' Holy Koran tells the stories of Adam and Abraham and Israel and Moses and many others on whom our Faith is based. It seems that few Christians realize that their Allah is One and the Same God as Who the Jews call YHWH (Yahweh, or Jehovah) and Whom we Christians call Father. Certainly, their stories have differences from our Bible, but the many similarities are something to consider! Again, we know that Jesus would be absolutely confident that Christians would not have their Faith weakened by learning about such things, but it might assist all of us to learn to get along better together.
On this point, the Koran and Islam hold Jesus in very high esteem, considering Him a Prophet, and even expecting Him to some day Return! It is our suspicion that Muhammad (the initiator of Islam) misunderstood the Christian concept of the Trinity. At several places in their Koran, there are statements that clearly indicate that Muhammad thought that Christians considered Jesus to be a SECOND God, and he aggressively defended the First Commandment statement that there is One God (which all Muslims repeat every day). It is our suspicion, that if Muhammad had fully understood the concept of the Trinity (One God), he would have realized that the One God had walked the earth six hundred years earlier as Jesus! With that adjustment, Christianity and Islam become surprisingly similar in basic beliefs!
Their belief system seems to have a number of errors in it regarding Christianity, such as the impression that the Christian Trinity is Father, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary! (Koran Sura 5.116) This is interesting, since Muslims believe that every word of the Koran is precisely accurate because it came directly from God (Allah) to Muhammad. Our point is that it is not nearly as "foreign" as many people think.
While we're on this tangent, we'd like to ask Christian readers why Muslims insist on facing Mecca for all their prayers! Do you know? It's because of a single thing, a building in Mecca, called the Kaaba. Muslims believe that Abraham (yup, OUR Abraham!) built the Kaaba, and they recognize Abraham as being the very first "true" believer, because he was willing to sacrifice his own son for the Lord. We find that interesting! Each person is free to interpret such things however they wish!
If this interests you, we have created a small presentation which is absolutely compatible with all Christian beliefs and is also completely compatible with all Muslim beliefs. It is at: Compatibility.
Obviously, these comments do not include the militant terrorist Muslims, who have grave errors in their understanding of their own Islam. They don't seem to be aware of the surprisingly peaceful tone of what Islam actually tries to teach. They seem to ignore the many times where their Koran emphasizes brotherhood with Jews and Christians, as brother "believers of the Book (the Torah, the first five Books of the Bible)". It is very sad that the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims are painted to seem so evil by the actions of a small number of extremely dangerous people. It is certainly true that we think that Muslims have many incorrect ideas and beliefs, particularly regarding Jesus, Mary and Christians. But it is interesting to note the many similarities, too.
Most of the BELIEVE entries are included in a downloadable package file. Click Here to download the BELIEVE Program.
You may also want to visit A Christ Walk Church, our Church's fully-functional, non-denominational Church presentation and Service on the Internet. The environment is meant to be as similar as possible to that in a conventional Church. There are weekly Services. Sounds and music are intended to be part of the experience, which will be meant to encourage singing along. After the Service, you could join the Pastor and others in the congregation in a (chat room) discussion group, to have a casual conversation about that week's topic or anything else on your mind. Private conversation is also firstname.lastname@example.org
Information about the Editor of BELIEVE.
The BELIEVE Home Page address:
Subject listListed Alphabetically
( Cont - Cul )
book of corinthians
catholic ecumenical councils
orthodox ecumenical councils
council of basel
council of chalcedon
council of constance
councils of constantinople
council of ephesus
council of ferrara-florence
councils of lyons
council of nicaea
council of trent
first vatican council
second vatican council
council of vienne
covenant of works
covenant of grace
jesus on the cross
stations of the cross