15.11.06

With so many religions, how can yours be right?

Here is an excerpt from a previous online discussion I was involved with:

Most people reading this (in the UK) will have a version of Christianity ... from Ma and Pa. Not many will be Zen Bhuddist, for example. But the Zens also get it from their parents. In the words of the old graffito "Religion, like life, is a sexually transmitted disease". Statistically, never mind any otherwise, it's pretty unlikely that we just happen to be hearing about the one true religion from our own mum and dad.

Next, as e.g. Jacob Bronowski pointed out, there is a wide range of religions on offer, each with definite claims to their being the only true one. Obviously, even on their own terms, all but one of them must wrong. Statistically (again) therefore, it's highly unlikely any one of them is right. Logically, you have to reject the lot.


So this is the question I want to examine next: Does the presence of a plethora of other religions invalidate the claims of Christ? Is Christianity just another religion? And, If there is only one path to God, how can we be so sure we have found it? Is there more to faith than just a "geographic lottery" as the above writer would suggest?

First, lets examine this from a purely logical point of view. If you are presented with a set of mutually exclusive statements (about anything) there are only two logical alternatives: either they are all wrong, or only one is correct.

[This is the fallacy in modern "political correctness" about religions. The only way they can all be of equal merit is if they are all equally wrong! This is nothing more than atheism dressed up in the guise of religious "tolerance". Being tolerant of other people irrespective of their beliefs is a good thing (just so we are clear on that!) but the pretence that everyone's opinion is equally valid is pure nonsense!]

However, the logic that the more alternatives there are the less likely that one will be correct is totally wrong. If anything it is the other way round. If a statement (about anything) is true, then it remains equally true regardless of how many false statements are made in opposition.

So if Christianity is true, if what Jesus claimed about himself and recorded in the Gospels is accurate, then it is not affected one jot by the presence of other religions. Christianity stands or falls in the claims made by the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth.

So what did Jesus claim? Well the first thing to note is that Jesus was not keen on religion and religious types. The last thing Jesus came to do was to institute "just another religion". If his mission had been as banal and inconsequential as that, they would never have crucified him! What he came to do was to restore relationship with God. (If you are confused what the difference between religion and relationship with God is, let me point you to a couple of excellent articles my friends Ricky and Mark have recently posted on the subject.)

Next, Jesus did not claim to have one of may ways to know God. He claimed the one and only way. More than that, unlike every other religious leader, he did not just claim to know that way, he claimed to be the way.

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:16)

This faith in Jesus is passed on, not by family tradition, or by church attendance, but as each one individually accepts the claims of Christ and surrenders their life to him. The fact that your mum and dad believe in Jesus means nothing if you do not choose to bow the knee to him yourself.

Finally, there is no geographic boundary to the Gospel. Jesus gave clear instructions that his disciples were to take it to the people of every nation, tribe and tongue.

How do we know that we have found the truth? We know because the Gospels, other historic evidence, and millions of transformed lives all over the world proclaim: Christ is risen indeed!

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31)

16 comments:

Mark H said...

Regarding the gospel being the only way, I was recently struck by Jesus' prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. As He wrestled with his human frailty at the prospect of going to the Cross, Jesus calls out to God The Father "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me" (Matthew 26).

If it is POSSIBLE. In other words: if there is ANY other way; if they could find their own way back to You without me; if they could pay the price of their own downfall themselves; if they could form a religion and come to you on their own merit; if anybody else could pay for their plight; if you could simply turn a blind eye to their debt; if there is any other way than this?

And of course, there isn't. So He CHOSE to go to the Cross for you and for me. So that we could come back into relationship with God.

"if righteousness [being in right relationship with God] comes through the Law [our own efforts] then Christ died needlessly."
Galatians 2:21

Akinola Akinyede said...

Good piece Chris.

Christianity is not contending for religious supremacy nor is it in a battle for political correctness.

But offers the ONLY way to rescue and save humanity from the wages of sin, eternal condemnation, damnation and the impending wrath of God. Through the precious blood of Christ Jesus.

moody said...

Very nice article. It is true that Christianity is not a popularity contest because many of its principals are not popular in our modern world. One example is patience. "But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." This verse in James declares that to be pefect, and to have all of your needs fulfilled, you must be patient. However, in our McDonald's generation, it is hard to get anyone to be patient, and to wait on the Lord. The Apostle I am under makes reference to Burger King's slogan, "Have it your way" often. Our God is not a have it your way God, there is but one way to repair the relationship between man and God that Adam damaged when he fell, and that is Christ. Look at what Christ told Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again (from above), he cannot see the Kingdom of God." To be reborn is to be regenerated, or re-gened into the family of God. Death of the Old man and a re-birth of a new creature in Christ is the only way, and it is nice that some people still believe. On a recent episode of Larry King Live, Joel Osteen was asked by King if there was any way into heaven without receiving Christ. I was ready for a firm answer from Osteen, but he gave the disappointing answer of I do not know. He leads thousands of people, and he does not know? As I said, Christianity is not easy or popular, but it is the only way. A friend of mine told me the other day that she believed that Jesus would convince God (he is at the right hand of our father making intercessions...) to allow devout Jews and Muslims into Heaven because of their degree of devoutness (if that is a word). Why would she believe that? Because it is easier than believing the Truth, you must be born again. Thank you for the Blog, and I hope I am not butting in.

Steven Carr said...

Why does the Good Shepherd allow there to be so many lost sheep in the world?

Does God not care about Muslims or Jews? Why did he allow them to be deceived?

Doesn't a Good Shepherd not put his flock back on the right trail?

MOODY
'Joel Osteen was asked by King if there was any way into heaven without receiving Christ. '

CARR
When exactly do aborted babies receive Christ? Is it in the first trimester or in the second trimester?

Or do all people receieve Christ as babies?

Anonymous said...

Steven, an aborted baby has never sinned, and a good shepherd can call a lost sheep, but if it hides and refuses to come to his voice, it will be lost to a wolf. We have free will, it is a choice to receive Christ, and it must be a personal decision, I cannot make it for someone else, and I cannot make someone else make it for themselves.

Steven Carr said...

MOODY
'Steven, an aborted baby has never sinned, and a good shepherd can call a lost sheep, but if it hides and refuses to come to his voice, it will be lost to a wolf.'

CARR
I don't think of heard of sheep hiding. I guess God doesn't know much about what a shepherd does. A real shepherd does not say his sheep are hiding.

Do Muslim children who die before the age of 3 have a chance to hear God's voice?

Do Muslims refuse to come to God's voice? Many say they are sincerely trying to hear God's voice.

Perhaps God should speak louder to them.

Interesting that Christians now say that there will be people in Heaven who never sinned, but never chose to believe in Jesus.

But , of course, Christianity does not teach that aborted babies have never sinned?

Don't Christians read the Bible? (I know they refuse to listen to it, whenever it contradicts them)

Psalm 51: 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Psalm 58:3 'Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.'

The Bible says that some babies are wicked at birth. How though can a new born baby be wicked, or make a decision to follow Christianity, especially if he was born in Iran?

Mark H said...

I'm not convinced that the "an aborted baby has never sinned" line of thought is good? But I could be wrong?

Am I correct in thinking that Romans teaches us that all have sinned and that sin is spiritual, not physical? (which Jesus also made clear in the sermon on the mount). We are not sinners because we sin. We are sinners because of what you might call "spiritual DNA" passed down from Adam. When we sin it merely confirms to us this condition - and hence the Law was given to reveal this to us.

Is a foetus already in rebellion against God, or is it enjoying a right relationship with Him until ... when, exactly?

Isn't our response to the gospel spiritual? Faith comes by hearing, which is "rhema", the voice of Holy Spirit. So it doesn't matter the condition of our bodies, we can still hear? And regardless of the condition of our physical bodies, we can still respond in our spirit?

I also think many have debated at what point a body becomes inhabited with a consciousness, i.e. a soul. I suspect that the Bible answers this question, but I confess that I don't know where off-hand. Anybody?

I trust God, but there are some things that we just don't know while on the earth. Is this one of them?

Of course, children are very, very dear to us, so it's understandable that people get emotional if this question can't be answered. But if it can't be answered directly, then that doesn't make it unfair, nor does it detract from the nature of God revealed to us and in whom we continue to place our trust.

Thoughts folks?

Mark H said...

Crossed over with you there Steve. We were both composing a comment at the same time!

:-D

Chris HH said...

I think the issue of Original Sin is one for another day, but anyway:

Original sin corrupts; actual sin separates.

Adam's (original) sin means that, "There is something wrong with human nature." We are incapable of choosing right and pleasing God without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. In this sense we are sinful (of a sinful inclination) at birth.

However, the Bible is equally clear that each will be judged "according to what he has done." God judges people for their own sin, not Adam's. But because of the corruption that is in every human heart due to Adam's sin, there is no one who will be able to stand on the basis of their own works. All will inevitably fall short of the glory of God.

The only means of salvation from our sins is through accepting the work of Christ that has already been done on our behalf.

Because it is actual sin that separates us, and because of the nature of God: It is my conviction that unborn and very young children that die will be saved. Because God desires that none should perish, and because they have committed no actual sin, there is nothing to conflict with his justice and holiness if he shows mercy on them.

Otherwise the words of Jesus, "It would have been better for him if he had never been born", and passages such as 1Ki 14:12-13, make no sense.

Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

Mark H said...

I'm gonna go and wrestle with that. The reason I wrestle with it is that I need some convincing that (some?) unborn and very young children don't engage in actual sin. We like to think of babies as sinless, but I honestly wonder if the sentiment is justified? Consider Jacob and Esau fighting in their mother's womb. Does a baby form judgements from the moment it's born? Or even before? Does it forgive the mid-wife who is a little rough with the forceps? Why do we have to teach children how to behave correctly? Who taught them to be naughty?

None of this detracted from me trusting God with my own babies, and of course I love them dearly. But sometimes I think we're sentimental about their spiritual condition and we easily get drawn into that line of reasoning when asked about the subject. It's right that we're very emotional and protective of them, but ...

So. I'll wrestle. And if you can help me some more then please do fire away. I suspect the answer is more spiritual than we can imagine?

(And, yes, it would have been nice if Original Sin came up in a different post, but Steven had other ideas ... :-)

Richard Bentall said...

Chris, I'm a bit behind on the commments but wish to give some help in identifing sin


In our society, sin is hardly mentioned as we go about our daily activities, with the exception of attending various religious meetings, and many of these would not dare to mention such a concept as sin. Instead of facing evil, people would rather excuse it, deny it or try to "understand" it.
However, if we are going to please God, we must know what sin is and how It has impacted our lives. To know this is to know why we need to be saved.
first lets start with an illustration of what sin is
God Is Morally Perfect - Has No Sin: 1 John 1:5

And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
People Have Chosen To Sin James 1:13
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
1:14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
1:15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
How can we know what sin is? Shall we take a poll? Shall we define it for ourselves? Shall we allow each family or each communictyt to define it in whatever way they see best.
Since Sin relates to how we treat God and since He is the one we disrespect and disobey, then it is God alone who has the right to tell us what sin is. And, it is for us to acknowledge the reality of sin in our own lives and humbly submit ourselves to Him to avoid the consequences of our sins.
1)Sin Is Missing The Mark - Failing To Meet the Perfect Divine Standard Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
2)Sin Is Lawlessness - Going Beyond God's Law 1 John 3:4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
3)Sin Is Doing What Is Unjust - Not Right 1 John 5:17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not {leading} to death. Sin Is Failing To Do What Is Good James 4:17 Therefore, to one who knows {the} right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Richard

Anonymous said...

Good points all around. I have to agree with the fact that maybe emotion dictated my answer that aborted babies have not sinned, but I can find no clear answer. Are they damned from birth, or from the time Adam fell? It is a very good question, and this is one facet of Christianity that many try to use against Christians; the fact that we do not have all of the answers. However, if you question those posing these questions, often times we find that no one person has all of the answers, and their goal is to cause us doubt, not to get answers. I was wondering, on the cross, when Jesus frogave the thief(ADAM), was original sin forgiven? Does that exempt babies until they knowingly sin? At what age do children know right from wrong? Jesus REMEMBERED, or put back together, Adam, but what of the rest of humanity? More of those "we will have to ask God himself" questions. In any event, I am very happy to see discussions such as these occurring, it is very encouraging.

Steven Carr said...

CHRIS
'Because it is actual sin that separates us, and because of the nature of God: It is my conviction that unborn and very young children that die will be saved. Because God desires that none should perish, and because they have committed no actual sin, there is nothing to conflict with his justice and holiness if he shows mercy on them.'

CARR
Why did God order the Amalekite infants to be killed when they had committed no actual sin?

Steven Carr said...

CHRIS
But because of the corruption that is in every human heart due to Adam's sin, there is no one who will be able to stand on the basis of their own works. All will inevitably fall short of the glory of God.

LUKE
1:6 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly.

CARR
What does 'blamelessly' mean? Does it mean they should be blamed?

If you obey all the Lord's commandments blamelessly, when do you sin?

Chris HH said...

Steven:
Regarding the Amalekites. That's a good question. When God judges a whole nation, and uses another nation to execute his judgement, it raises big questions. This is the question that the prophet Habakkuk struggled with as he directly questioned the Lord. [If you have questions about God, it's always best to go direct to him]

Since part of God's anger against the Amalekites was that they practiced ritual sacrifice of their children, it shows that his wrath was against the nation as a whole not against the children.

thinkingman said...

"However, the logic that the more alternatives there are the less likely that one will be correct is totally wrong. If anything it is the other way round. If a statement (about anything) is true, then it remains equally true regardless of how many false statements are made in opposition"

1. What qualities would you look for in the correct statement?

2. Can you declare a statement to be correct without examining and comparing all available alternatives?