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.”

WHY CHRISTIANITY?

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.

by Dr Steve Kumar

What is the greatest truth that the human mind can conceive? Philosophers, scientists and psychologists have written millions of words on the subject and yet our hearts long for something deeper. What about the ideas scientists proclaim? The concepts philosophers propose? The presuppositions psychologists promote? The notions sociologists provide? As humans we desperately struggle to find answers to our searching questions. As valuable as these ideas may be, they are not the greatest truth.

Is there a truth that transcends all human conceptions? Is there a reality beyond our finite perception? Where can we discover the truth that will set us free from the darkness of our uncertainties? Christianity affirms that there it such a truth, and if it is true, it is the greatest truth for our searching hearts. The great philosopher and chairman of The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Mortimer Adler, after testing and debating Christianity for nearly seventy years, became a Christian. His intellectual journey brought him to this remarkable conclusion, “I believe Christianity is the only logical, consistent faith in the world.” There Is nothing more tragic in existence than to devote one’s life to a belief system, which is ultimately false. Imagine spending a lifetime climbing a ladder and when you reach the top discover, that it is leaning against the wrong wall.

The greatest truth could only come from the greatest Mind. In Christianity we discover the essence of God’s greatest truth in a world where people struggle to find meaning, hope, purpose and reality. Unlike any other ideologies or religions, Christianity provides a unique message. It’s uniqueness is found in four essential truths.

I. THE GREATEST FACT

Christianity is centred on the fact of Jesus Christ. It is not an empty dream or wild speculation but a faith grounded in historical evidence. Unlike religions of the world, which major on the teaching of their’ founders, Christianity primarily focuses on the actions of the founder. Just as the brilliance of the sun the brightness of the moon, our Lord Jesus Christ outshines all other personalities of history. This is indeed an amazing fact of history. He lived a perfect life. His friends and his enemies all acknowledge that He never did a single wrong. His incredible life influenced education, the establishment of many universities including Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and Princeton. He inspired great scientists, such as Isaac Newton, Johannes Keppler, Robert Boyle, Michael Faraday, Louis Agassiz, Louis Pasteur and others. His existence provided the inspiration for the foundation of western democracy. His love and compassion moved many to establish hospitals and social services around the world. The famous sceptic Renan once proclaimed, “Among the sons of man there is none born who is greater than Jesus.” Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French mathematician observing the life of Jesus made this remarkable statement. “Apart from Jesus Christ we know not what our life is, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves.” The famous Lord Byron asserted, “If ever God was man or man was God, Jesus was both.”

2. THE GREATEST NEWS

The greatest news of the greatest faith is that God came to redeem us from our sin, evil, hatred, bitterness, darkness demons and death. The religions of mankind insist that our solution Is a matter of good works. They teach that our redemption is based on human efforts. But the good news of Christ is that God came in person not just to reform mankind but to redeem mankind. Christianity is not a religion of rituals and customs, but the power of God to redeem sinners going the way of destruction. In John 1:12 this apostle declares, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed In His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” The apostle Paul declares in 2 Cor. 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone the new has come.”

3. THE GREATEST GOOD

What is the greatest good? Is it health? Is it pleasure? Is it freedom? Is it beauty? Is it power? Is it success? Or is it culture? As precious as these are to us, they are incomparable with the greatest good we discover in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed the greatest good is to know the grace of God, to enjoy his fellowship, to experience his forgiveness and to receive his favour. There is nothing more tragic than to miss the real meaning and purpose of life, which God designed for his people.

Life poses many challenges. No one passes through life without facing basic needs. Our human hearts struggle to fill the empty void. The famous agnostic writer Clarence Darrow proclaims, “I’ll tell you what human life is: It is. an unpleasant interruption of nothingness.” Within the human heart there is a longing for something deeper, something beyond what material substance can provide. This quest for reality, is often described as a quest for significance, meaning, happiness or genuine fulfilment . The search for reality is an undeniable fact of human existence. We all struggle in our quest for the ultimate. The famous atheistic philosopher Bertrand Russell states, “The centre of me is always an eternally terrible pain searching for something beyond what the world contains, something transfixed and infinite. . . . I do not think it is to be found–but the love of it is my life.”

Augustine, the great Christian thinker understood the human need when He said, “Our hearts are made for Thee, O Lord, and they are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” The French mathematician and scientist Blaise Pascal came to the right conclusion when he wrote, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in our hearts which only God can fill.” The famous tennis player Boris Becker confirms this truth. Becker attempted suicide due to a sense of hopelessness and emptiness. Although he was famous and successful, something was missing in his life. He said, “I had won Wimbledon twice before, once as the youngest player. I had all the material possessions I needed: money, cars, women, everything. I know that this is a cliché. It’s the old song of the movie and pop stars, who commit suicide. They have everything, and yet they are so unhappy. I had no inner peace.” Inside the heart of every person in the world there is a large empty hole that only God can fill. Professor C.S. Lewis, a former atheist from Oxford University, was insightful on this matter when he declared, “If within my heart I find a desire for something which nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

In stark contrast to the darkness and the despair of the world, in Christ we find a peace and a joy which passes all understanding. Jesus came to fill our emptiness. He came to give comfort in place of sorrow (John 14:27), pardon in place of guilt, love in place of hate, companionship in place of loneliness (Matthew 28:20), certainty in place of anxiety, peace in place of stress (Romans 5:1), hope in place of despair, life in place of death (John 10:10), heaven In place of hell (John 14:1-4).

4. THE GREATEST HOPE

The beauty of the Christian faith is the remarkable hope, which it provides for our troubled soul. The world hopes for the best but Jesus offers the best. The death of hope logically leads to hope for death. Looking at our world Woody Allen once said, “More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroad, one path leads to destruction, the other path leads to hopelessness. Let us pray that we might have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Some years ago they buried an atheist who was elegantly dressed. Later they put a tombstone on the top of his grave. Someone came and wrote on the tombstone the following words, “Here lies an atheist all dressed up but nowhere to go.”

A young man, who was suffering from AIDS, came in for his regular treatment, but this time he had to face a new doctor. The medical specialist casually said, “You know, don’t you, that you won’t live out the year.” The young man deeply shaken by the doctor’s comment, stopped at the desk of the nurse and wept saying, “That man took away my hope.” “I guess he did,” she answered. “Maybe it’s time to find another one.”

Christ came to give an eternal hope which no one can remove or match. He says, “I have come that they may have life end have it to the full” (John 10:10). The Christian hope is not based on vanity but reality. Our only hope is the hope that Christ came to give. He conquered death by coming back to life.

He is the only person who can bring hope to a world in despair. Christianity makes the amazing claim that of all the persons of history Jesus Christ alone conquered man’s greatest enemy–death. The followers of other religions do not believe that their founders were resurrected but this is not the case in Christianity. According to the primary documents the tomb of Jesus was empty on the third day. This was the major reason for the birth of Christianity. What brought faith and hope to the disillusioned disciples? This event turned the doubtful and disappointed disciples into brave and exuberant disciples who willingly died for their faith. The resurrection event gave the disciples the best reason to follow their master. The logic is that if Jesus Christ overcame death and demonstrated that He is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) then humanity’s only hope is found in Him. C.S. Lewis understood the logic of this truth when he affirmed that Jesus Christ, “has forced open a door that had been locked since the death of the first man.” He has indeed fought and defeated death. In the light of this reality, as Lewis notes, “a new chapter in cosmic history has opened.” In Christ we exchange a hopeless end for an endless hope. It is for this reason that Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

End Notes

1. See F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (London: Inter-Varsity Fellowship, 1968).
2. Quoted In Richard MacKenna, God for Nothing (London: Souvenir Press, 1984), p.56.
3. Augustine, Confessions, Book 1, Chapter 1.
4. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Clarendon: Fontana, 1970), p.118.
5. C. S. LEWIS, Miracles (London: Bles, 1947, 1973).