Christianity is an integrated belief system that responds to the enduring questions of human existence through its teachings and encouragement of correct ethical behaviour. The teachings of Saint Paul, which are expressed through sexual ethical teachings and behaviour as well as the practice of baptism are the main vehicle through which this is achieved. Through the integration of these teachings and practices, adherents are provided with a ‘distinctive answer to the enduring questions of human existence’, which includes how to achieve ones earthly mission, love of God and neighbour, and how to attain the ultimate happiness, salvation and eternal life. The ways in which Christianity is an integrated belief system assists adherents to love authentically, in order to achieve salvation through the ‘Kingdom of God’ on earth and to achieve ‘Heaven’ in the afterlife. The letters of Saint Paul are used by all adherents as a form of ethical guidance, however, interpretations and applications differ among Christian denominations.
Through Saint Paul’s scripture he encouraged adherents to respond to the questions of human existence. It is difficult to underestimate Paul’s role in Christianity’s development in being an integrated belief system and his role in encouraging adherents to be ‘loving’. Through his apologetical work, he teaches Christian adherents how to be loving, attain salvation and ultimately understand the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Specifically, in 1st Corinthians 13:4, St Paul rejuvenates the commandment of love set by Jesus which demonstrates that ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’ Paul specifically expressed the importance of Love on answering the enduring questions of human existence as ‘agape’, meaning self-love and the ‘highest form or Love and charity’. He specifically expressed agape through his letters, basing them on love originating from God. In doing so, he expressed what it means to fulfil Jesus’s commandment of love, which leads to a ‘distinctive answer to the answer of Human existence’, as it provided a framework for how Christians should love one another. The words of Paul of Tarsus on love is continually revitalized in modern times as it is often used as a reading in marriage ceremonies for Christians. This understanding has made a significant impact upon the ethical expression among Christian communities as it has greatly contributed to Christianity becoming a loving and sharing community where all adherents are expected to envision Jesus as a life model. Through understanding the meaning of love, Christian adherents are able to fulfil the golden rule of Christianity, ‘Do not do unto others what you do not want them to do unto you’. This addressed all aspects such as kindness, patience, and eternal love, evident through “Love your neighbour as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbour”. Through his scripture he taught that through showing love, adherents would have the ability to have a ‘distinctive answer to the enduring questions of human existence’. Paul formulated Christian doctrines, specifically salvation through Jesus Christ and how his death was a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Through his scripture he describes salvation as being a gift which is given to adherents from a loving God, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us”, Romans 5:8. This impacts adherents as they are able to understand the doctrine of salvation by faith through which Christ should lead them to be loving towards each other, leading them to humility and life after death. Paul’s preaching of salvation through faith and through God’s grace, has led to the expansion of Christianity through the salvation of new believers. Paul has made Christianity accessible to all, regardless of who they are “Jew or Gentile, male or female”. Christ intends this gift of salvation for all who are willing to accept it, “he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them”, 2 Corinthians 5:15. Salvation is evident through the sacrament of baptism as it removes original sin, gives sanctifying grace and initiates the adherent to the church, which allows adherents to find a purpose and vocation in life. Particularly, Protestants believe salvation to be a one time event, whereas Catholics see salvation as a lifelong journey and process with their Faith. Another key aspect of Paul’s theology is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul begins in 1 Corinthians 15 stating that Jesus died and was raised from the dead for the salvation of man, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”. Salvation is not possible for adherents to achieve without Jesus’ death and resurrection, and those who were preaching this, preached the truth. Through belief in Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection, all adherents will be resurrected and have a purpose, vocation and life after death, as through this Paul provided adherents with hope which enables them to firmly believe in God and Christianity as an integrated belief system. Paul states further that when a believer is raised unto the resurrection of Jesus, there will be a new body and immortality. Therefore, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, adherents are able to understand their purpose in life and life after death, as well as all the ‘enduring questions of human existence’. Therefore, through Saint Paul’s teachings on love, salvation and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he provided adherents with ‘distinctive answers’ and a purpose in life allowing the religion to be an integrated belief system.
Through sexual ethical teachings, adherents have the ability to respond to the ‘enduring questions of human existence’. The sexual ethics of Christianity are predominantly found in the bible as well as highlighted in the letters of Saint Paul. Ethical teachings regarding sexual ethics are frameworks which guide adherents in making informed decisions about sexual ethical issues such as premarital sex, homosexuality, contraception and adultery. The teachings on sexual ethics assists Christians to love authentically in order to achieve the ‘Kingdom of God’ on earth and ultimately achieving ‘heaven’. By Christian adherents following their beliefs attained in the bible and other religious sources such as the 10 commandments and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, they are able to attain salvation, which is to achieve eternal life and attain the kingdom of God. In Christianity, God designed sex to be within a marriage of one man and one woman to provide physical, emotional and spiritual bonding. This is evident in, ‘Marriage is to be held in honour among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled, for fornicators and adulterers God will judge’, Hebrews 13:4. Adherents are able to acknowledge thoughts on pre-marital sex through Saint Paul’s scripture, ‘Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?… for it is written the two will become one flesh’, 1 Corinthians 6:15-17. This further elaborates on the wrong doing of engaging in premarital sex as when a Christian adherent engages in pre-marital sex the holy spirit will condemn them of Sin. The Bible promotes complete Chastity and abstinence which can also be evident through, ‘for it is better to marry then to burn with passion’, 1 Corinthians 7:8-9. Hence, in order for adherents to achieve salvation, they must follow what God has set in place for them. Furthermore, following the act of abstinence ‘provides a distinctive answer to the enduring questions of human existence’ as they are provided with regulations which help adherents achieve one’s earthly mission, love of God and neighbour, and how to attain the ultimate happiness, salvation and eternal life. Saint Paul’s views are an interdiction against premarital sex as he underlines the need for men and women to be pure of Satan’s influence by becoming married before becoming sexually active. In 1 Corinthians 7:1, “‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.’ His exhortations to purity are seen by some Christians as a prohibition against premarital sex. Majority of Christian denominations such as the Catholic and orthodox adherents, believe that they cannot inherit the Kingdom of God nor attain salvation if they act upon pre-marital sex, quoting less explicit references to purity as evidence that Christians should retain a high level of sexual morality, however the both churches acknowledge human mistake and view chastity as a gradual process. However, specifically the Mainline Protestants state that marriage is the ideal location for sexual activity, however they accept the individuals own decisions as to their sexual whereabouts. Marriage is a covenantal sacrament which is a recognised union between a man and a woman who establish rights and obligations within another. A sexual ethical issue linked with a married couple is adultery, ‘He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it, destroys himself’, Proverbs 6:32. This ultimately expresses the wrongful and immoral issue of committing adultery as it undermines the model for Christian life, not allowing the adherent to successfully respond to the questions of human existence as they find themselves lost in their fait. It acts like a guideline, proving what should be done outside of a marriage, evident through the 10 commandments, ‘one shall not commit Adultery’. Paul also had a profound impact on sexual ethics within Christianity. He warned in his letters, 1 Corinthians 6:18, ‘stray from sexual immorality’, as he needed to reinforce and from Christian teachings. Also, through 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, ‘do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deveined! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes…. None of these will inherit the kingdom of God.’ Which stressed that a variety of wrongdoers won’t inherit God’s Kingdom or ultimately attain salvation, nor will they understand their purpose of a Christian follower if they participate in what is deemed immoral. There is a uniform acceptance within Christianity as all Christian denominations believe that adultery is immoral, prohibiting the act of adultery, teaching the adherents how they must not act upon adultery in order not to be condemned for their sins. This proves that Christianity is an integrated belief system as adherents are provided with guidelines regarding the sexual ethical issue of adultery, which answers the profound questions of sin and life after death for them. Therefore, sexual ethical teaching of the wrongdoing of premarital sex and adultery provides adherents with the ‘distinctive answers’ to the ultimate purpose, salvation and life after death.
Baptism is the sacramental rite that emits an individual into the Christian church thus making it a practical expression of attaining the Kingdom of God and salvation. Through baptism, the adherent enters into a special relationship with God, whereby they are given the purpose to commit to their baptismal promise and live out the faith in their lives, drawing them closer to God, hence aiming to achieve salvation with God. It is the ritual of purification which involves either the complete submergence of an individual into holy water or the symbolic sprinkling of the individual with holy water, which can link to Christian beliefs about salvation and how Jesus through his death and resurrection allowed adherents to be free from sin. Holy Water is poured three times with the words ‘I baptise you in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’, through this Baptism reinforces the belief in the Holy Trinity and the role played by the Holy Spirit. Baptism allows the adherent to receive the Holy Spirit, through the sign of the cross which in its entirety evokes a connection to all persons of the Trinity. Similarly, Saint Paul is a model for baptism as he taught and implemented it into his own life, developing an understanding that baptism is essential in living an authentic life full of love and faith. This is evident through, ‘for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.’ Galatians 3:27-29. Christians seek to follow the example of the Baptism of Jesus and to follow his instructions as evident in Mathew 28:19, ‘therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’, which outlines how baptism is the way to discipleship, as baptism is the calling of one to be God’s followers and children. Baptism acts as a rite of passage for the individual into the faith, which means that through receiving the sacrament, they are willing and committed to follow the role model that is Jesus Christ. Baptism is a model of Christ’s own death and resurrection and allows adherents to have a part in the salvific act, but most importantly it shows that Christianity is living and functional, a living dynamic religion as it has been. This is evident in, ‘we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead…we too might walk in newness of life’, Romans 6:4. The ritual leads adherents to the ultimate purpose and allows them to attain salvation and through this it is evident that Christianity is an integrated belief system. The symbolism of the water in the Baptismal ceremony, expressed through affusion, immersion or aspersion, is a large contributor to the centrality of the Baptismal rite. The symbolism of the water represents the belief in God as the creator as in Genesis’s account of creation and the water of chaos, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ Genesis 1. The water also represents the new life that a baptized person receives. They are reminded of the rebirth in water and Spirit in John’s Gospel whereby Jesus said, “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit” John 3:5. The cross is a universal symbol of Christianity, the priest making the sign of the cross over the individuals head during baptism invokes God’s protection and asks for entrance into the body for the Christian church. Orthodox denominations which practice immersion, allow the participating adherent to experience their own ‘resurrection’ and thus connect with their belief in Christ and his death and resurrection. In the catholic and orthodox church infant baptism is practiced, while in protestant churches believers’ baptism (baptism of adults) is performed. Therefore, similar to sexual ethics, through the ritual of baptism Christianity is an integrated belief system, as it guides adherents to leading a life of authentic love and allows them attain salvation.
In summation, Christianity is an integrated belief system that responds to the enduring questions of human existence through its teachings and encouragement of correct ethical behaviour. Saint Pauls teachings on love, salvation and the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ shapes Christian sexual ethics and baptism. All in which once integrated with one another allow for a ‘distinctive answer to the ensuring questions of human existence and explicitly assist adherents throughout their life. Hence, sexual ethics and baptism are practical ways in facilitating adherents in achieving salvation and eternal life.