The central teachings of traditional Christianity are that Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; that his life on earth, his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven are proof of God's love for humanity and God's forgiveness of human sins; and that by faith in Jesus one may attain salvation and eternal life (see creed). This teaching is embodied in the Bible, specifically in the New Testament, but Christians accept also the Old Testament as sacred and authoritative Scripture.
Christian ethics derive to a large extent from the Jewish tradition as presented in the Old Testament, particularly the Ten Commandments, but with some difference of interpretation based on the practice and teachings of Jesus. Christianity may be further generally defined in terms of its practice of corporate worship and rites that usually include the use of sacraments and that are usually conducted by trained clergy within organized churches. There are, however, many different forms of worship, many interpretations of the role of the organized clergy, and many variations in polity and church organization within Christianity.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.