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Christianity seems to be one big category with a long list of denominations. To my knowledge, there is no "Christian language" in the same way as in Islam (Arabic) or Judaism (Hebrew) or Hinduism (Sanskrit). I have noticed that some Christians do recite verses from the Bible, but they do so in the vernacular language rather than some obscure or archaic liturgical language that is typically the language of the scriptures. For Christianity, I would probably expect that Christians would recite the verses in koine Greek and biblical Aramaic. Nope, more often than not, they recite in the vernacular. Are there any specific rules at all in any denomination of Christianity?

  • Rules about prayer, meditation, and devotion (when to pray, how to pray, how many times to pray per day, where to pray, in which direction to pray)
  • Rules about diet and fasting (when to eat, how to eat, how many times to eat, where to eat, what to eat and what not to eat)
  • Rules about pilgrimages (which sites are holy, how to behave on the holy site, whom to meet on the holy site, what to expect on the holy site, how to pay respects on the holy site)
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This is very broad. Some part of it belongs to your previous question How does Christianity work with all the biblical covenants? –  Mawia Jul 13 '13 at 5:38
    
Yes. Quite a few denominations have rules. Do you want an overview of some rules from a single denomination to illustrate the point? Or, are you trying to nail down some rules that apply to all Christians? –  svidgen Jul 13 '13 at 18:49
    
Can you give me an example? I figure that talking about Christianity is a lot like talking about Hinduism: there are so many variants of Christianity that Christianity is not a monolithic religion. –  Anonymous Jul 13 '13 at 19:20

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The actual question is :

Are there any specific rules at all in any denomination of Christianity?

I am Roman Catholic and can answer for my denomination.

Rules about prayer, meditation, and devotion ...

The laity are expected to attend Mass each Sunday and on other specified Holy Days of Obligation, and to faithfully pray and meditate the various elements of the mass.

We are expected to pray "regularly", but the specific meaning of regularly is left to the person and priest to determine.

We are expected to make the Sacrament of Penance (aka confession) when we know we are in a state of sin.

Catholics eligible to receive Communion are expected to do so during the Easter season, which is the time between Easter and Pentecost.

Rules about diet and fasting ..

We are expected to not eat or drink an hour before receiving Communion. We are expected to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and to abstain from Meat on the Fridays in between, called "Lent". There are no specific rules regarding diet and fasting the remainder of the year, although gluttony is a sin.

Rules about pilgrimages ...

None that I am aware of. Some would call the "Easter Duty", meaning the duty to receive communion during the Easter season, similar to a pilgrimage.

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But what about the Canterbury Tales and the pilgrims going to St. Thomas Becket's Shrine? Do you go to a holy shrine or any holy site like Jerusalem or Antioch? –  Anonymous Jul 14 '13 at 3:37

Rom 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Rom 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Bible based Christianity is an orthodox religion rather than orthopraxic. (Here is a second reference to the same ideal) We care more about what we believe than what actions we perform. Romans 10 makes no reference to having to act perfectly. Muslims and Jews are orthopraxic they have specific rituals which they must perform. We have no Bible based rules about prayer, diet or pilgrimages. We do have orthopraxic requirements which we are given in the word. Church attendance Hebrews 10:25,Giving Luke 6:38,Dress 1 Peter 3,Moral behavior Mark 12:30 Gal 5,Constant prayer 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and the like. To be admitted into Christianity you must all repent and confess Christ as King and Friend then follow the Bible but there are no other requirements. (Rom 10:9)

That said Catholicism isn't Bible based but tradition based and they have rituals which they are required to perform in certain ways. Catholicism is more orthopraxic.

As an aside to explain why we do not speak Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew: Bible Greek and Hebrew are studied in our religion and we do place special emphasis on Jesus calling out in Aramaic Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani and the Talitha cumi earlier in the gospels but other than that we do not study Aramaic. Bible Greek is a dead language one can only guess how the words were originally spoken and Hebrew while tied to its ancient form has died and been resurrected so the odds that their pronunciations of the original language being 100% is unlikely. (Latin being just as dead as Bible Greek) Both Bible Greek and Hebrew were languages commonly spoken by the people during the majority of their usage in the Bible it in that same spirit we use the languages common to our vernacular.

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I'm not sure with your quote "Latin being just as dead as Bible Greek" –  Mawia Jul 13 '13 at 5:41
    
@Mawia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extinct_language –  caseyr547 Jul 13 '13 at 6:14

As broad as it may appear, here is how we can summarize it.

Matthew 22:35-40 (NIV)

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Christians should live their every day life by following two simple commandments,

  1. Love your God with all your soul and with all your mind
  2. Love others as yourself

Our customs/rituals on how we show our love to God may vary but they all fall under the same command. Christians should practically demonstrate God's love to others.

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So, in that sense, Christianity is an extremely malleable religion that anyone can get their hands on and manipulate it to their own style and preference of worship. –  Anonymous Jul 13 '13 at 14:40
    
Kind of. As long as you don't miss the target (Jesus Christ) and the doctrine of salvation, style doesn't matter. –  Mawia Jul 13 '13 at 14:46

Perhaps it is because of this confusion that you describe that your title and body do not really seem to match. I will try to clear up this confusion and answer your underlying question.

The question seems to be: "Why are Christians not more concerned with ritual and seem so divided on what they should do as Christians? Why are they so different from the Jews and Muslims?"

First, the reason there are so many denominations is because of the vast differences in opinions on what those rules are. Why there are so many opinions in Christianity is more of a History/Sociology question.

The Reformation, which brought around the pull from Catholicism and the advent of Protestantism, was also somewhat accompanied by the advent of modern democracy. The first was a pull from the "king" of religion and the second was a pull from the king of the nation. Both occurred in Christian dominated countries. Both are largely responsible for forging the concept that personal opinion is just as valuable as the sovereign's. The effect in Christianity is similar to the effect in politics: numerous opinions and little to no unity.

The question of Christianity having a "sacred" language is that it does. It is Latin. It wasn't until John Wycliffe (1500's) that the Bible was made publicly available in other languages (most notably was English). Before then, Latin was the official language of Christendom, which was widely ruled by Catholicism and the Pope. Why Latin was used so heavily by the Catholic Church is really another question. Also, why Greek or Aramaic is not used today a a bit of another question, however, today, because of the vast number of manuscripts found to date, many scholars actually do turn to the Greek regularly for answers.

But then, why would the average "John Christian" not learn Greek so he could readily turn to it? That is because Christianity is the religion for all. The general message is that all may come as they are and be saved. Many argue that all the Scripture teaches is that you are completely willing to follow God.

First comes faith; then comes practice.

17 ... faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

...

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. James 2 NIV

The verse in James, whose meaning is much argued, describes a clear sequence: Faith brings deeds which brings righteousness. The message is that when you fully submit your life to God and "believe" Him your actions will then follow and be righteous.

But why then does everyone not do the same righteous things, like pray the same way, eat the same foods, and make the same pilgrimages? Well, there are a few reasons I could give but they are all speculation on certain Christian's faith or the nature of God. That would be more of a philosophical discussion.

Everything that a Christian should do is summed up in a single verse. No Christian can neglect this verse, and, likewise, I have never heard of a denomination that would not agree with its first sentence:

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Cor 10 NIV

This should, and usually is, the prime thought of every Christian when they do something. They ask "Am I glorifying God right now?"

Christianity is about you coming to God as you are; after that, God, when you are willing, transforms your person into one capable of righteousness. It is not about your people coming to God, as in Judaism, and it is not about the world submitting to God, as in Islam.

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This being said, Mawia made a good answer that fits well with mine. –  fredsbend Jul 13 '13 at 16:53
    
Are you sure Latin is used universally as a liturgical language, even in the Eastern Orthodox churches? –  Anonymous Jul 13 '13 at 18:05
    
@Anonymous Latin is not used universally only in the catholic church nor is it considered sacred by all -1 for that factual inaccuracy –  caseyr547 Jul 13 '13 at 18:30
    
@Caseyr547 Perhaps I should have been more clear that I was referring to the time before the Reformation. I have made an edit. –  fredsbend Jul 13 '13 at 19:25
    
@fredsbend the Greek Orthodox church never accepted Latin so this is still inaccurate: ""sacred" language is that it does. It is Latin." –  caseyr547 Jul 13 '13 at 20:09

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