Christianity - Model Answers


Christianity - Model Answers (June 2005)

1.(a) Describe what is said and done at the baptism of an infant. [8]

In the baptism of an infant the child is brought to the church by its parents. The priest or deacon asks the parents what name they have chosen for the child. The child is too young to understand the vows being made so the godparents make vows on the child’s behalf, promising that the child will be brought up in the Christian faith. The priest or deacon may read passages from the Bible which help to explain the meaning of the sacrament. The priest may then bless the water which is going to be used in the ceremony. He then asks those present to renew their faith. The priest or deacon then asks the parents to bring their child to the font. He then pours water over the child’s forehead three times using the words, ‘I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen’. Water represents the cleansing of sin and the beginning of the new Christian life. The child is then wrapped in a white gown as a symbol of being clothed in Christ. The child is then anointed with the oil of chrism as a sign of Christ’s priesthood and kingship. The godfather is then invited by the priest to light a baptismal candle from the paschal candle next to the font as a sign of the new light of Christ now present in the child’s life. The priest concludes the ceremony with the Our Father and a final blessing for the parents and all present.

(b) Explain the meaning and importance of baptism for Christians. [7]

Baptism is the rite of initiation into the Church. Christians believe that at baptism the candidate is ritually washed clean of sin. Catholics believe that at baptism the stain of original sin (i.e. the sin inherited through Adam’s disobedience) is removed and the person becomes ‘in Christ’. This belief in original sin lead to the practice of infant baptism as Christians became concerned about where un-baptized babies went if they died. Some Christians think that only believers who are old enough to make their own decision should be baptised. During a believers’ baptism the candidate might make a personal public declaration of faith about how they became a Christian. Baptists and Pentecostals believe that this declaration is an important stage in a believer’s new Christian life.

(c) ‘Bringing up children in the Christian faith is a difficult task.’

Do you agree? Give reasons to support your answer and show that you have thought about different points of view [5]

   I agree bringing up children in the Christian faith is a difficult task today. The Christian faith can appear to be irrelevant for young people today. The Christian faith might be meaningful to very young children but once a young person reaches puberty they start to question their upbringing and their belief in God. Parents often find it difficult to encourage their children to attend church with them.

Young people often find going to church boring. Some Churches try to encourage young people to go to Church by having special youth services with music, dance and drama that appeal to young people. Places like Taize in France are also very popular with young people. Youth clubs run by churches are also still very popular.

Some young people find living by Jesus’ teaching too demanding. They also find the Church too authoritarian. Some argue that this is just natural and many young people return to their Christian faith when they are older.

2.(a) Describe how Christians celebrate Good Friday and Easter Sunday. [8]

   Good Friday is the most solemn day of the Church’s calendar. On this day Christians remember Jesus’ passion and death on the cross. Quite often Christians of all denominations re-enact Jesus’ final hours by publically carrying a cross through the town as an ecumenical witness to their faith. Church services take place in the afternoon where an account of Jesus’ passion is read. In the Catholic Church this is usually followed by an act of veneration of the cross where the congregation is invited to kiss the feet of a crucifix. Catholics may also have a Stations of the Cross service reflecting on Jesus’ final journey to his execution and death. Hot Cross buns are a popular way of celebrating Good Friday.

Easter Sunday is probably the most important day in the Church year. Christians remember Jesus resurrection. For some Christians Easter Sunday begins the evening before in a vigil service. In this service the congregation meets outside the church. In a ceremony the Pascal candle is lit as a reminder of the light of Christ and the victory of life over death. The priest enters the church hold the candle high and may sing ‘Lumen Christi’ to which the congregation replies, ‘ Deo gracias’. As this happens the congregation files back into the church lighting their candle off the Pascal candle. Eventually the whole church is filled with light. Easter eggs are a popular symbol at Easter. The shell represents Jesus’ tomb which contains new life. Christians may also send each other Easter cards.

 (b) Explain what Christians believe about the Trinity according to the Apostles’ Creed. [7]

   The Apostles’ Creed does not specifically use the term ‘Trinity’. However Christian belief in the Trinity can be deduced from the three part structure of the creed. Each part deals with each person of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christians understand God the Father as creator of all things (heaven and earth). This reflects the first chapter of the Bible where God creates the world and everything in it in six days. The second part deals with Jesus who is described as ‘his only son, our Lord’. The name Jesus actually means ‘God’s saviour’. The term Lord is important as it was used by Jewish translators of the Hebrew scriptures for the tetragrammaton (YHWH). It was also used by Roman writers to address Caesar who demanded being treated as a god. The creed places Jesus in history as having been put to death by Pontius Pilate. The last part of the creed deals with the Holy Spirit whom Christians believe continues to be active in the Church today. Originally creeds were used at baptismal services. The Apostles’ Creed’s three-part structure reflects Jesus’ commission to his disciples to baptise in ‘the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit’. Some commentators point to the singular ‘name’ in stead of names as early belief in the triune nature of God.

 (c) ‘Pentecost (Whitsun) should be as important for Christians as Easter.’

Do you agree? Give reasons to support your answer and show that you have thought about different points of view [5]

   Whitsun is a very important date in the Christian calendar. It remembers the day of Pentecost when the Apostles were praying in the upper room and received the Holy Spirit. They were able to speak in tongues and preach the Gospel message with confidence. Sometimes the Church refers to Pentecost as the birthday of the Church. Without the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ message would never have spread outside of Jerusalem.

However, Christians tend to keep Easter as the most important festival. Easter marks the end of Lent. It remembers the day on which Jesus rose from the dead. Christians believe this is central to their faith as it is mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed. Jesus’ death and resurrection are central to Christianity’s belief in salvation. They believe that by dying on the cross Jesus forgave people their sins. They believe that by rising from the dead Jesus conquered death, giving eternal life to all those who believe.

On the whole I disagree with the statement that Whitsun should be as important for Christians as Easter. I personally think that Easter is more important than Whitsun because if it wasn’t for Jesus’ death and resurrection there would be no Pentecost.

3.(a) Give an account of the teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about forgiveness. [8]

   In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gives his followers some very clear guidelines about forgiveness. Jesus tells his follower that if they are worshipping in front of the altar and then remember they hold a grudge towards someone there, they must seek reconciliation before they make their offering. Likewise, in the Our Father Jesus tells his followers that they must forgive other people who have offended them as they will not be forgiven themselves by God if they do not:

‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.’

Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness is important to his teaching as a whole. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells his followers that they are not to act out of revenge. They are told not to follow the principle of ‘an eye for an eye’. Likewise, their love should not be limited to only their friends but should also include their enemies.

 (b) Explain the importance of the two great commandments (Mark 12:28-34) for Christians. [7]

   The two great commandments are to love God and love neighbour. The first part is taken from the Jewish Shema (Deut 6:4-6) which affirmed Jewish belief in one God and was used daily by devout Jews. The second part is taken from Lev 19:18. In total there were 613 laws in the Torah. Jesus claims that these two commandments are the greatest because they summarise the entire law. This can be illustrated using the Ten Commandments. The first three commandments deal with the love of God - i.e. Worship God alone, Don’t take the name of God in vain and Keep the Sabbath Holy. The remainder commandments deal with love of neighbour – i.e. Honour your parents, Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal…etc. In giving these two commandments Jesus simplifies the law of Moses for his followers. For Jesus what is important is keeping the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law.

 (c) ‘It is impossible to live by Christian teachings.’

Do you agree? Give reasons to support your answer and show that you have thought about different points of view [5]

   In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught that his standard was higher than the old law. This might make some people think that being a Christian is hard. It certainly seems impossible not to be angry with someone or have lustful thoughts as Jesus insists that this is the same as committing murder or adultery.

However, Christians argue that at the centre of the Gospel message is the belief that God loves everyone and forgives people their faults if they are willing to repent and change their ways. Many Christians see their faith as a journey in which they experience success and failure along the way. They believe that their journey is made easier by praying and asking God’s help as in the Lord’s Prayer where it says “…and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”

I disagree with this statement that it is impossible to live by Christian teaching. I believe that it is normal for Christians to experience both success and failure in trying to follow Jesus’ teaching. It is important to remember that Jesus himself said that the reason why he came was to save sinners and not to condemn them.

4.(a) Describe how some Christians celebrate the Eucharist. [8]

   In the Anglican Church the congregation may follow a service from the Book of Common Prayer which is very similar to the Roman Catholic mass. The service begins with a greeting and a general confession of sin. After this the Gloria may be said or sung. The young children in the congregation may then be lead out for Sunday School. There then follows two reading from the Bible. The congregation stands for the Gospel. There is usually a sermon based on the Gospel reading. The congregation then recite the Nicene Creed followed by prayers of intercession. The Ministry of the Sacrament begins with a sign of peace. The bread and wine are brought to the front of the church and a collection is taken. During the Eucharistic prayers the minister recalls the events of Jesus’ Last Supper. Anglicans believe the Eucharist is remembrance of the Last Supper. Some members of the congregation may assist the priest and ministers to distribute the bread and the wine. After communion there is a formal prayer of dismissal. The priest and the ministers usually go to the back of the Church to meet the congregation as they leave.

 (b) Explain how a minister might strengthen the life of a Christian community. [7]

   Christian ministers often talk about having a calling from God. They feel called to serve others within their community. This calling, or vocation, means that they have great faith. They are therefore in a position to help others in their faith whether this means instruction, encouragement or pastoral care.

In the Roman Catholic Church priests take a vow of celibacy. Not being married means that they can be more focused on their pastoral ministry. One of the most public aspects of a priest’s job is to administer the sacraments. He is required to say mass and make himself available to hear confessions. Sometimes he might be urgently required to anoint the sick.

A priest, vicar or minister is often a focal point for the community they serve. This may include helping to raise funds or attending parish events. Members of their congregation often feel they can approach their minister and ask for advice. Ministers are there in times of crisis for example when there is bereavement in a family. Ministers are also there when couples want to get married. They might assist in instructing them prior to the wedding as well as officiating ceremony.

 (c) ‘It does not matter if a Christian minister is male or female.’

Do you agree? Give reasons to support your answer and show that you have thought about different points of view [5]

   I agree with this statement. It does not really matter if a minister is male or female. Today women are able to a variety of jobs that were traditionally only done by men. Today there are equal opportunities laws which ensure that women and men have equal access to jobs. Employers cannot discriminate against a person on grounds of his or her gender.

On the other hand, some Christian traditions believe that only men can be ministers. In the Catholic and Orthodox church only men can be ordained to the priesthood. They argue that a priest represents Christ when he administers the sacraments. They point out that Christ was a man and therefore those who represent him should only be men. They also argue that Jesus chose twelve apostles who where all men.

Those who argue that women should be allowed to be ordained priests argue the fact that Jesus and his apostles were all men is irrelevant. They say that Jesus was living in a time when it would have been impossible for women to be leaders. They claim that times have changed and if Jesus was preaching now he would chose both men and women.

5.(a) Describe a Christian place of pilgrimage and what pilgrims do there. [8]

   Lourdes is located in the Pyrenees in Southern France. It attracts thousands of pilgrims very year. The site was founded after a series of visions of the Virgin Mary to a 14 year old girl called Bernadette Soubirous. In one of the visions she was told to dig. As she dug a spring came up out of the ground.

Today pilgrims still come to Lourdes to drink and bathe in the waters. Pilgrims fill up flasks of water to take home. Some pilgrims go into the specially built baths to fully immerse themselves in the water. Lourdes is a popular destination for people who are sick. There are many recorded miracles of people who claim to have been healed at Lourdes. The sick are made to feel part of the whole atmosphere of Lourdes. Male helpers are called ‘brancardiers, female helpers are called ‘handmaids’.

Prayer is an important aspect of Lourdes. Some pilgrims pray using their rosary beads. Some pilgrims prefer to follow the Stations of the Cross above the grotto. There are many opportunities to go to mass at Lourdes. There are also many priests on hand to hear confessions. In the evening there is a special torchlight procession in front of the Basilica. The pilgrims process carrying candles while they sing hymns in honour of Mary the mother of Jesus.

 (b) Explain the ways in which going on a pilgrimage might affect the lives of Christians. [7]

   Going on a pilgrimage may affect a Christian in many ways. Places of pilgrimage are places which are closely associated with the believer’s faith. Going on a pilgrimage may help to strengthen a believer’s faith. For example many Christians go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Here they are able to see sights mentioned in the Bible. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land would help to bring the Bible alive. Many Catholic pilgrims go to Lourdes in France which has a long standing tradition of healings. Pilgrims who go to Lourdes may not be healed physically but come away feeling their lives have been spiritually touched. Pilgrimages are often a time to spend in prayer and reflection. Catholics often attend mass and try and go to confession. This might have a profound spiritual effect upon their lives in which they feel closer to God. Pilgrimages are a time to strengthen ones faith by mixing with people who share your faith. Mixing with like-minded people gives a great sense of camaraderie. A pilgrim may return from a pilgrimage a changed person. The experience may stay with them for the rest of their lives. It might affect them in their everyday lives by thinking about their experience.

 (c) ‘Pilgrimage is not important.’

Do you agree? Give reasons to support your answer and show that you have thought about different points of view. You must refer to Christianity in your answer. [5]

   Unlike in Islam where pilgrimage (Hajj) is one of the central beliefs of their faith, there is no equivalent belief in Christianity. This might lead one to believe that pilgrimage is not important in the Christian tradition.

However, many Christians believe that pilgrimages are very important to their faith. They believe that by going on a pilgrimage their spiritual life is enhanced. In the Catholic Church parishes often organize pilgrimages to Lourdes, Rome or the Holy Land. Lourdes is a popular destination especially for the sick and the disabled. Rome has always been popular for Catholics as it is the spiritual headquarters of the Catholic Church. Going to a place like the Holy Land might help strengthen a person’s faith by visiting sites closely associated with events from the Bible.

Some people might think that going on a pilgrimage is a waste of time and money. They argue that the money spent on a pilgrimage might be better spent on works of charity.

On the whole I think that the experience of going on a pilgrimage can be very beneficial for the Christian as it can help to sustain an individuals faith and expand their experience of their faith.