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A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, a monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and interpreted by Christians to have been prophesied in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a Christian as “one who professes belief in Jesus as Christ or follows the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus; one who lives according to the teachings of Jesus.”
A wide range of beliefs and practices is found across the world among those who call themselves Christian. A 2007 survey in the United States identified the following five typical categories:
1. Active Christians: Committed to attending church, Bible reading, and sharing their faith that salvation comes through Jesus Christ.
2. Professing Christians: Also committed to “accepting Christ as Savior and Lord” as the key to being a Christian, but focus on personal relationships with God and Jesus more than on church, Bible reading or sharing faith.
3. Liturgical Christians: High level of spiritual activity, mainly expressed by attending and recognising the authority of the church, and by serving in it or in the community.
4. Private Christians: Believe in God and in doing good things, but not within a church context. In the American survey, this was the largest and youngest segment.
5. Cultural Christians: Do not view Jesus as essential to salvation. They are the least likely to align their beliefs or practices with biblical teachings, or attend church. They favor a universal theology that sees many ways to God.
Other countries may not show the same variety, especially where there is active persecution of Christians.
People who have a distinct heritage and come to believe in Jesus may also identify themselves differently. Messianic Jews believe that they are a sect of Judaism and that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and the Divine Savior. They seek to live in obedience to the Hebrew Scriptures, including the Torah and Halakha.
The term Rice Christians refers to people who convert to Christianity for survival.