Why should seekers of the true religion start with Christianity? Let’s face it, even the most basic and fundamental beliefs of the world’s major religions have insurmountable differences that make them incompatible insofar as the claim some of you may have heard, ‘All religions are basically the same’. Christianity believes in one God, (Monotheistic), Hinduism teaches there are millions of gods, (Polytheistic), Buddhism does not believe in a god, (Atheistic). Even among the major monotheistic religions, (Christianity, Judaism, Islam). there are irreconcilable differences. Christianity believes Jesus is God, Judaism does not, and Islam believes Jesus was a great teacher and prophet. Not all can be correct, which means some are wrong.
Paul Copan authored True For You, But Not For Me and he wrote concerning the idea that all religions are basically the same, “First, people who say all religions are essentially alike haven’t studied religions very deeply; they differ dramatically. A Christian Scientist will deny the reality of evil, sin, sickness, and death. An orthodox Christian will readily acknowledge these inescapable aspects of our fallen world…If you’re a theist, you believe that a Creator exists; not so if you’re a Buddhist. As the Dalai Lama has put it, ‘Among spiritual faiths, there are many different philosophies, some just opposite to each other on certain points. Buddhists do not accept a creator; Christians base their philosophy on that theory.'”1
My wife and I recently sat down and watched a lecture by Craig Hazen on why start with Christianity if you are a true seeker of a religion. That is, if you believe in a higher power, but really not much beyond that. He gave four reasons why it would be a good idea to start with Christianity.
1. Christianity is testable.
As we explore Scripture and the claims of Christianity, we start to see some truths that could not have been known by the authors of this ancient work. For example, in Christianity we find that the universe has a beginning, time does not stretch back infinitely. Dinesh D’Souza researched this and wrote, “The Bible also asserts clearly that time is finite. By contrast, Hinduism and Buddhism posit endless cycles of time stretching into the indefinite past. The Greeks and Romans, like other cultures of antiquity, believed in the eternity of history.”2 Genesis 1:1
From the beginning, believers of Christianity encouraged others to explore the truth of what they were saying. When Paul would enter a city or town, he would head directly for the local synagogue to speak to the Jews and their leaders. When Paul and Silas were in Berea, those who were hearing their words researched the truth and many were persuaded by Paul’s words. Acts 17:11-12
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he spoke about the witnesses to the resurrection of Christ, as if to say, “come ask them yourself; don’t just take my word for it.” 1Corinthians 15:3-7
Think of Peter’s sermon in Acts chapter 2. He explained to those who witnessed the Pentecost that it was only the 3rd hour of the day and they were not drunk. After quoting the prophet Joel and what David was promised concerning one of his descendants, and what David himself said, Peter then made the bold statement that the house of Israel can know for certain that God made Jesus both Lord and Christ. How can you know something for certain? Give evidence, facts, witnesses, proof, which was just what Peter had done. Acts 2:36
Remember when John began to question if Jesus was the Christ and he sent a couple of his disciples to ask? What did Jesus do? He told them to report to John what they see and hear. To share what miracles they witness. He did not say, ‘I have performed enough miracles, if John does not believe I am the Christ by now, then forget him.’ Matthew 11:4-5 From the beginning Christianity was testable.
2. Salvation is free.
What a deal that is. How many other religions do you know that salvation, (if a religion actually offers it), is free? None. All other mainstream religions may offer a form or type of salvation, but it is works-based. That is to say, your salvation is based on your behavior. Your life’s deeds are placed on a scale and if the good outweighs the bad, your ticket it punched and you’re on your way to the better life.
Others that don’t offer salvation per say, may teach that there is not a single God, but rather a universal spirit. In Hinduism for example, you cycle through the lives of reincarnation, then salvation comes in the form of you becoming one with Brahman. Much like a single rain drop falling into a vast sea. Each new life moves into a better status if you were well behaved in your previous life. If not, then you may return as someone born into poverty, or with a physical handicap or even as an animal.
Mormonism teaches that everyone is resurrected by grace through Jesus’ death on the cross, but not salvation, that comes only by works. Examples of good works include faithfulness to the church leaders, Mormon baptism, tithing, ordination, marriage, and secret temple rituals. No eternal life without Mormon membership. You are not allowed to smoke, drink alcohol, nor any drinks with caffeine, and a two year missionary commitment is strongly encouraged.3
Islam, the world’s second largest religion, began in 610 AD when Muhammad was 40 years of age. For two years, Muhammad received messages that he concluded were from the archangel Gabriel. In 612 AD, he began to preach and his disciples wrote the revelations which were collected in the Qur’an. Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz explored various world religions; they wrote, “The Qur’an teaches that all human activities are written down by two angels. At the time of judgment, these two angels review the database on each individual. The actions of each person are weighed on a scale of absolute justice by Allah. The good deeds are balanced against the evil deeds. The way the scale tips, (to the ‘good’ side or to the ‘bad’ side), determines the person’s eternal destiny.”4
3. Christianity matches the way the world really is.
Greg Koukl gave a series of lectures at Berkeley University. He pointed out that we all know something about ourselves that we don’t want anyone else to know. It is something we don’t like to think about and can often go days, weeks, and months without giving it a second thought, but it is inescapable, and sooner or later we will have to face the truth of it. Simply put, we are all guilty. Could it be we feel guilty because we are guilty?
My wife and I, along with our pastor, attended the Thrive Apologetic Conference in Roseville a few years back. It was at this conference that Craig Hazen gave his talk, of which we have a copy. When he reached this third point, he gave a good example I will share.
Eastern religions have a word called Maya. Essentially it means reality is an illusion. The pain and suffering we experience are not real, but simply an illusion. One Hindu teacher explains it this way, “According to many schools of Hinduism, the world is an illusion, a play of the supreme consciousness of God. It is a projection of things and forms that are temporarily phenomenal and sustain the illusion of oneness and permanence. The illusion of phenomenal world is created and sustained by stand alone objects thrown together either by an act of randomness or through the deliberate choice of conscious will.”5
Imagine an old woman in her late 80’s comes into a waiting room in which you happen to be. You find out that she had survived the Holocaust, but had lost her entire family and everyone from her home village. She was taken from her village in Poland, beaten and abused in a concentration camp, but managed to survive. Then she spends years in Russia as an orphan, she is finally adopted, but her new parents treat her more like a slave than a daughter to be cherished. She was never allowed to marry, and never had any children. Her life was full of pain, suffering, hardship, and loss. What will you tell this woman? “Turn that frown upside down lady! Cheer up! Don’t you know that has all been an illusion?”
Does that fit? Would that comfort? Would that encourage those who have, or are suffering through, great loss or pain? No, it is absurd to even suggest such a thing. The Holocaust really happened and to suggest otherwise would be foolish.
Christianity tells us that life is not an illusion, that suffering, loss, and guilt are real. Christianity also tells us that we have a God who will wipe away every tear, and correct every injustice. Christianity takes life head on and treats it as it really is.
4. Jesus is at the center
Muslims think Jesus was a great prophet, though not God or the Son of God. They believe Jesus was sinless and a worker of miracles who was sent by Allah.
New Age-ers, which include bits of Hinduism, Buddhism, Native American religions and a host of Eastern religions, believe Jesus was not a savior, but a spiritual model and guru who managed to tap into some universal spiritual power that we can all access.
Christian Science does not believe Jesus was the Christ, but a man who displayed perfection. He did not die for our sins and will not ever return.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus was Michael, the Archangel. They believe He was resurrected, but in spirit only – His body was destroyed.
Hindu’s teach that Jesus was a great teacher, guru, or an avatar as an incarnation of Vishnu, (one of their gods), who is the champion of all good deeds and rules over heaven and earth.
You will be hard pressed to find a religion that does not want a piece of Jesus. What is interesting is Jesus is very exclusive. He made it quite clear that you can’t have just part of Him, but all of Him. Despite this, many still want to wave the Jesus banner over their particular flavor of religion. Look here, we recognize Jesus as a great teacher, guru, a perfect man, sinless, wise, and a worker of miracles. The problem is when you pick and choose what you like from various religions you are simply creating your own religion to suit your own standards. Standards that are subjective, not objective.
R.C. Sproul shard a story when he was in college about a professor who questioned his belief in Christ openly and in front of his class about the claim that Jesus was the only way to God. He shared, “I wanted to jump out the window or find a hole to hide in because the question put me on the horns of a dilemma. It was a terribly embarrassing situation because I knew what the New Testament said. I knew that Jesus himself had said, ‘I am the Way, The Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except by me.’ And other passages in the New Testament say, ‘There’s no other name under heaven through which man may be saved.’…So I kind of hedged a little bit and tried to whisper my answer and said, ‘Yes, I believe that Jesus is the only way.’ Well, the wrath of that teacher came on my head, and the teacher just began to lay me out and she said,’ That’s the most bigoted, narrow-minded, arrogant statement I have ever heard.’”6 What she and others often fail to realize is Christians are not the ones who make that claim, Jesus is.
1. Copan, Paul. “All Religions Are Basically The Same.” True For You But Not For Me, Bethany House Publishers, 2009, pp. 113-114
2. D’Souza, Dinesh. “A Universe With A Beginning: God And The Astronomers.” What’s So Great About Christianity, Tyndale House Publishers, 2007, pp. 124
3. General Editor Carden, Paul. “Mormonism.” Christianity Cults & Religions, Rose Publishing, 1996 pp. 2
4. Bickel, Bruce. Jantz, Stan. “Islam: It’s All About Allah” World Religions & Cults 101, Harvest House Publishers, 2002, pp. 72-73
5. V, Jayaram. “The Definition and Concept of Maya in Hinduism.” Hinduwebsite. Hinduwebsite.com, n.d. Web. 27 January 2017.
6. Sproul, R.C. “Isn’t it being narrow-minded for Christians to say Christ is the only way?” Now That’s a Good Question, Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 1996, pp. 110
Should True Seekers Start with Christianity? by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.