by Dr Steve Kumar
Many people approach religion the way they approach food: “I like it because it satisfies my need.” “If it feels good do it.” “Try it and you will like it.” Religion is not a matter of food or feeling. We must not see religion as being in the line of a cafeteria picking a principle in one religion and value system from another. For example: Taking a carrot from Islam, a tomato from Judaism, a potato from Buddhism, some garlic from Hinduism, and trying to cook up a religious soup.
In a world of many religions the idea of a multi-religious soup appears attractive, but before we whet our spiritual appetite, remember that there are no religious cooks who have such a recipe. Whatever is being cooked and served by religious syncretists falls short of our need. Religious questions are too valuable to reduce to the level of human taste.
Religion is not like food–it is not a matter of taste but a matter of truth. It is not a matter of feeling but of facts. It is not how it makes you feel but whether it is true. It may sound impressive to say, “I believe because I have a burning in the heart,” or because “I have a shiver in my liver.” Feelings do not validate a belief.
1. ALL RELIGIONS ARE DIFFERENT
No truth is as dangerous as half truth:
- Humanism is atheistic.
- Tribal religion is polytheistic.
- Hinduism is pantheistic.
- Buddhism is agnostic.
- Islam is unitarian.
- Judaism is monotheistic.
- Christianity is trinitarian
He who says all religions are the same knows very little about religions. R.C. Sproul states, “That Jesus claimed to be God and Mohammed claimed to be a prophet is an essential difference. That Buddha was an atheist and Christ a theist is an essential difference. That Confucius died and Christ resurrected is an essential difference. That Jim Jones advocated suicide while Jesus preached patient endurance is a radical difference. That most religions teach salvation by good works while Christianity teaches salvation by grace is an essential difference. That Christianity features an atonement and a mediator who reconciles and redeems is an essential difference. That some men worship idols while others worship a transcendent God is an essential difference. The worship of Yahweh is a far cry from the worship of a cow.
Only the non-religious say all religions are the same. The World’s religions differ on:
- Who is God;
- What is the nature of the problem?
- What is the nature of man?
- What is sin?
- What is salvation?
- What is the ultimate destiny of life?
- How do we solve the human problem?
For the Moslem, Mohammed is a prophet of God, for the Buddhist, Buddha is the path to Nirvana, and for the Hindu, Brahman is the invisible essence. But for the Christian Jesus Christ is not only the revelation of God but God himself.
2. ALL RELIGIONS CONTRADICT ONE ANOTHER
As we study world’s religions we discover that they are not only different but that they are contradictory. World religions give a confusing view of life and reality. A leading historian, after studying the World’s religions to determine what they have in common came to the following conclusion: belief in God–if there is a God, and life is worth living–sometimes.
The question is that if all religions are from God why do they all disagree? Why is there so much confusion? I agree with G. Bailey, “If all religions lead to God, how is it most of them, having been given a thousand years at least, haven’t yet arrived?” To say all religions are the same is: Not logical, not factual, and not honest.
What is the evidence that all religions are one? How do we know all religions are one? What is the basis for this belief? I spoke to a lady who said she believed in all religions. So I asked her, “Do you believe the Christian message that Jesus is God?” She said, “no.” She actually rejects Christianity but gives the impression that she is broad-minded. There is nothing like comparative religion to make a person comparatively religious! To reconcile the basic teachings of Jesus with those of Buddha would require the skill of a magician.
3. ONLY ONE RELIGION CAN BE TRUE
How can all religions be one when they contradict each other? Religious relativism which accepts all religions as equally true commits intellectual suicide. Where all views are right the word “right” loses all possible meaning. “Right” has meaning only in the context of wrong (true and false, positive versus negative, yes and no). When everything is right nothing can be wrong. When nothing can be wrong, nothing is right.
Ultimately religious relativism leads to the death of all religions. When a religion cannot be tested or falsified nothing true can be affirmed about that religion. Hence statements like, “All religions are true” are empty phrases which have no logical or empirical basis. One cannot hold to this view and be a serious thinker.
In a country of many religions we must respect the rights and the freedom of others to hold their view. Tolerance is a virtue which we must prize highly, but we must not, in the name of tolerance, compromise the truth by regarding all views as equally true. A world where two opposing or contradictory views are right is cosmic madness. Honesty and respect must dominate our search for truth but unity must never be achieved at the expense of truth. Truth would often require that we agree to disagree but one should always do so in love.
If all religions contradict one another there can be only two logical choices: either all of them are false, or only one of them can be true. The French philosopher Pascal was right: “I see a number of religions in conflict, and therefore all false, except one.”
Christianity is different from all other religions. There is no faith like the Christian faith. Billy Graham says it rightly, “There are many religions in the world, but only one Christianity, for only Christianity has a God who gave Himself for mankind. World religions attempt to reach up to God; Christianity Is God reaching down to man.” In world religions we have man’s answer to man’s problems but in Christianity we have God’s answer to man’s problems. Christianity is the story of the God who searches for man.
C.S. Lewis, the former atheist, expresses my conviction, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” Religion is man’s search for God; man’s effort to find God, Christianity is God’s solution to man’s dilemma. In religion man asks the questions but in Christianity man finds the answers.
Christianity says man is sick. Man has a problem–look around–look at the hatred, prejudice, murder, injustice, cruelty, greed, selfishness, envy. What will change human nature? Not education and not moral teaching but only the power of God. There is only one cure for the world’s sickness and that is the Gospel which is really God’s medicine for a sick world.
1. REMARKABLY UNIQUE?
What is so remarkable about the Christian faith? Why believe the Christian faith? What Is so special about it? Hinduism has the techniques of Yoga, Buddhism has the Eight-fold Path, Islam has the Five Pillars, Judaism has the Torah but Christianity offers a resurrected Saviour.
Christianity is remarkably different from all other religions. Take Buddha out of Buddhism and we will still have Buddhism; take Krishna out of Hinduism and we will still have Hinduism; take Mohammed out of Islam and we will still have Islam; take Confucius out of Confucianism and we will still have Confucianism, but take Christ out of Christianity and we will eliminate Christianity.
Christianity is not a system of ideas or speculations of a certain philosophy or a principle of ethics, but Christianity is a focus on a Person. The good news is that God has personally come to visit us in the unique historical space-time event of Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1 & 14 NIV)
I will never forget the occasion when I was asked to speak at the University of Calgary with James Erwin, the American astronaut who walked on the moon. The most moving statement he shared on that occasion was that, “The greatest event in history was not when man walked on the moon but when God walked on this earth.” That is the greatest event!
Christianity is not essentially a religion about God but a relationship with God. What we need is not just religion but reality. In all other religions the leaders pointed a way to God but Jesus pointed to Himself as God.
2. RELIABLY TRUE?
There is much evidence for the Christian faith. But the greatest evidence is the resurrection of Christ. There are three major facts which prove the resurrection:
A. The Empty Tomb
(i) The Jews never denied it.
(ii) The Roman guards saw it.
(iii) Six of Jesus disciples saw it.
(iv) Peter proclaimed it to 3000 people who could have refuted it.
According to D.H.Van Daalen, “It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds. Those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.” There are many reputable scholars who accept that the tomb was empty.
B. The Appearances of Christ
The facts demonstrate that on several occasions different individuals and groups saw Jesus alive after His death. He was seen not only by believers but also by sceptics, unbelievers and even His enemies. On one occasion He was seen by more than 500 people.
C. The Origin of the Christian Faith
The origin of the church proves the resurrection. What gave birth to the church? How did the church come about? Why did the church come into being? All the scholars agree that Christianity came into being because the disciples believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead.
Professor Moule of Cambridge University says, “The origin of Christianity must remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the resurrection.” If the resurrection is true then we don’t have to speculate on the meaning of life. We have something concrete on which to base our trust and hope.
3. RELEVANT FOR ME?
Is the Christian faith relevant to me? How relevant is it in the context of my 21st Century lifestyle and existence? How does Christ handle the great questions of life here and now?
If Christianity is true then it must be relevant. Christ answers the question of history; He offers a solution to the problem of sin; He removes the burden of guilt; He releases us from the fear of death; He changes despair into hope and He provides power to live a victorious life with God.
Confucius saw the evil of life and said, “Duty!” Buddha saw the misery of man and said, “Meditate!” Mohammed saw the cruelty of life and said, “Fatalism!” Krishna saw the suffering of life and said, “Karma!” Jesus saw the agony of life and said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”
Christianity is not a set of views, not a system of ideas but a change of heart. It is a vital and dynamic relationship with a living Christ. As disciples of Christ we can affirm that without Christ we cannot live and with Him we cannot die.