As I mentioned before, I have been looking at questions that various atheist sites have published. Some of them, actually many of them, are written with Christians in mind and distributed for the purpose of tripping them up and showing them how foolish it is to believe in God, let alone that Jesus is the son of God.
To answer the questions, “How can you tell false and true religions apart?”, and “Where do false religions come from?”, I want to share some insights by Greg Koukl. In an apologetics course, he goes into great detail explaining the different ways our culture views truth, and how it applies to morality and religions.
For example, if I told you I think Twix is the best tasting candy bar on the market, some of you might agree, but others might say they prefer Snickers, Milky Way, Butterfinger, or Three Musketeers. We all understand that the truth of the statement, “I think Twix is the best tasting candy bar on the market”, is a subjective truth. In other words, it is based on the subject, me, and it is my opinion. No one would have a problem with that because we all have different tastes, or opinions, on flavors, colors, etc. Now if I said, “The Twix candy bar is a cure for diabetes”, many of you would have an issue with that, and rightly so. Most, if not all, of you would ask, “How do you know it is a cure for diabetes?” or “What evidence do you have that Twix cures diabetes?” We would then discuss the problem, share our experience, and investigate the truth of the statement. The truth of that statement is objective, or an objective truth. The object is not ‘me’, but, if Twix is a cure for diabetes. Two ways to view truth, subjective or objective. One is more of an opinion, and the other is a true or false statement. Greg Koukl explained it this way: “Subjective Truth is always “neither true or false”, while objective truth is always “either true or false”. He compared subjective truths to ice cream, and objective truths to insulin. Simply put, subjective truths are like ice cream; it does not matter what others think. We all have our own opinions on ice cream, candy bars, movies, books, etc. If I said that Dryers Vanilla Caramel was delicious, once again, no one would have a problem with that. But objective truths are either true or false, it works or it does not work, so if I said that Dryers Vanilla Caramel would cure the common cold, we would look at that statement one of two ways. Dryers Vanilla Caramel ice cream would cure the common cold, or Dryers Vanilla Caramel would not cure the common cold. Once you understand the differences between subjective truth, (opinion), and objective truth, (true or false), then you can begin to see how our culture has applied subjective truth to morality and religions. Our culture views religions as subjective truth. What is true for you may not be true for me. You like Buddhism, I like Christianity, but it does not stop there; some take a little bit of each religion and create their own, just like mixing up different flavors of ice cream. In a small part, this answers the question of where some false religions come from. If you think about it from a subjective view, you can see why so many think it is absurd to say their religion is the ONLY correct religion. It would be as if I told you that chocolate ice cream should be banned, and only Dryers Vanilla Caramel should be sold in the stores. You would think I had gone nuts.
So looking back at the question, many don’t think there is such a thing as true or false religions, but simply a flavor that you prefer. Once you can convince someone that the question of religion is objective and not subjective, then you can deal with the actual question of true and false religions, but until they see it is objective, and not a subjective truth, your answers will not seem reasonable, or even sensible, to the non-Christian. I should add also, a key to finding true religions would be to look at their source of authority. Jesus Christ is our ultimate authority as revealed in the Bible, and our Bible is our final authority on areas of behavior, thoughts, and judgment for our Christian faith. The Bible is our guide to objective truths. Cults and other false religions will not allow the Bible to have the final say on various topics of human conduct and behavior. In Jesus Among Other Gods, Ravi Zacharias points out what makes Eastern religions so popular: “Eastern religions make it possible for young people to be religious without having an absolute God to answer to. They can see God as a deity who doesn’t put a fence around them, but allows them to roam free, without boundaries on their passions and desires.” He also says, “Eastern religions are much more in tune with popular media and the arts.”
Islam says Jesus was a great prophet, but not the son of God. Hindu’s think there are millions of gods, atheists don’t believe in any god, Buddhists think everything is god. Christianity says Jesus is the son of God and there is only one God. They all can’t be correct. Jesus is either the son of God or he is not the son of God. There is either no God, one God, or more than one God. They can’t all be correct, and you can’t take a little bit of each of those statements to create a fourth choice. How do you tell which one is correct? Investigate the truth claims of the various religions and research the evidence that supports them. You will find the evidence for the truth of Christianity is significant. I would recommend two books that were written by men who were former atheists, but then investigated Christianity for the purpose of debunking it. Lee Strobel’s, The Case for a Creator, and Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace. Both would be a good start for someone just beginning their investigation. Two other books that I would recommend, but go into greater depth, are I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, and The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller. I have read them all this past year, and each in their own way offer evidence for the skeptic or unbeliever.