According to Wikipedia, there are an estimated 4,200 different religions and spiritual traditions in the world today. These religions each derive their own set of morality, ethics, and religious laws from their distinct beliefs about the cosmos and human nature. Each one claims to be a superior way of experiencing life, and most maintain that their specific set of values came from a supernatural being, force, or power. Even though, by definition, all these religions contradict one another to a greater or lesser extent, our man-centered culture insists they’re all valid and correct, pointing to the same God. “What is true for you isn’t necessarily true for me” is the slogan for our culture. We’re taught that an extreme tolerance of all these different viewpoints is our only option.
In a sense, tolerance has become the highest of all virtues in the world today. Now, a measure of tolerance is a good thing, in the sense that no one should be oppressed because of race, religion, or cultural differences, especially in daily interactions with people who profess beliefs different from one’s own.
However, the unfortunate truth is that our culture has taken tolerance to a completely unhealthy place; we no longer must simply tolerate but are forced to accept everyone else’s belief systems, habits, and choices. We must affirm then as good, right, and just as acceptable as our own. In fact, our culture has become so tolerant that we’re completely intolerant of anyone who says that someone or some group is wrong. That’s what leads to ridiculous statements such as “We all worship the same God, just in different ways” or “All religions are the same; they’re all headed to the same destination, just taking different paths.”
However, deep down you know this doesn’t sound right. How can they all be true if they all contradict one another? If one is true, then the others have to be lies, and if they are lies, then they’re not helpful. They are not paths that lead to God but rather paths that lead to the ditches of self-righteousness and/or burnout.
This is where we, as disciples of Jesus, must step in with gentle boldness and faithfully proclaim that not all religions are equally valid or true and that Christianity is the complete opposite of all of them. Right down to its core.
I am currently doing a small study on the major world religions — Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Confucianism, Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormonism. A summary of my studies and the beliefs of each will be posted in June of this year.
As is readily apparent, even by a quick read through of what each major religion believes, all these religions have plenty of differences in their teachings and in the views of their deity, or lack thereof. However, every religion basically espouses a very similar practice when it comes to the creatures trying to figure out how to please their deity (or deities). Each one boils down to the creatures trying to get their god or gods to like them.
These religions are all about creation reaching up and trying to attain the state or quality of their ultimate beings and holding on for dear (eternal) life. Possibly, if you reach up high enough, your god will accept you. If your deity accepts and likes you, then surely he will do what you want him to, right? Everything will go your way.
However, biblical Christianity teaches the exact opposite of all these other major religions. Ultimately, there is nothing we can do — nothing that makes us good enough or nice enough. There are not enough beads in the world to count. There is no amount of money that can purchase God’s favour. There are no chants or prayers loud enough. There is no enlightenment for us apart from Christ because we’re actually born spiritually dead, and no matter what we do or don’t do, this deity will not and cannot accept us in our fallen human nature. “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (Ephesians 2:1-2). Dead people have no ability to get God to like them.
Therefore, unlike all other religions, Christianity teaches that we don’t have to try to reach up to God. We don’t have to work really hard to get God to like us, because our great God already loves us. Instead of reaching up to Him, God Himself reached down to us. He took on the form and nature of His creation in the person of Jesus, without ceasing to be God, and then died a substitutionary, sacrificial death to atone for the sins of His own creation.
After this sacrificial death, Jesus was raised to life in order to demonstrate that He was God and that His death was sufficient payment for the sin of mankind.
Jesus doesn’t merely point us to the way of eternal life, but He Himself is the way to eternal life. Faith in Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for sin is the only requirement of Christianity. There is no level of spiritual enlightenment we must attain or number of good works we must perform in order to be accepted by God. He has already done everything necessary for us to be redeemed and offered salvation through faith in Jesus. In other words, mankind can be saved by good works … not just ours. Rather, it is the good work of Jesus on our behalf. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Father is very fond of us. That is the exact opposite of every other religion in the world! Besides Christianity, found in the New Testament, no other system of belief teaches how great the Father’s love is for us. It is beautiful. It is perfect. It is life changing.
Christianity, therefore, is unique. And, it is not a religion, it is a relationship — a personal love relationship with the Living God.