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Wednesday, April 19, 2017


We live in a "diversity" world, where everything is viewed as "equal". We claim "equal rights" and "equal pay" and "racial equality" and "all genders are equal". We believe that all religions are equal, too. And, as a consequence (just like in the use of the vague "equality of the sexes" concept), people often believe that all religions are equally valid. Now, this can be easily demonstrated as false. That is, without accepting any of the truth claims of any religion, you can simply take their truth claims, lay them side by side, and see that they contradict each other (and often themselves). Thus, it is not logically possible to conclude that all religions are equally valid. So, are they all equal?

In America, for a large part, we allow equal existence to all religions. In that sense, they're "equal". You're free to have your religion, whatever it may be. (Just don't ask me to believe it.) It's part of our Bill of Rights. This does not require, however, that all religions be considered equal in content or in concept. Some have tried to boil it all down, saying that all religions are, at their core, the same in that they are all about the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of Man. I would argue that it's too much of a distillation to conclude this. And we're still stuck with competing truth claims. Ultimately, if multiple religions claim "Ours is the only way", then they might all be wrong, but they cannot all be right. And, yet, here I am, standing in the midst of Christianity saying, "Here is the way; walk in it." Why? What makes Christianity different than all those other religions?

On the surface, of course, it's easy. Christianity is different because, well, Christianity is true and the rest aren't. But that's not a satisfactory answer. Is there, for instance, a difference between the Judeo-Christian "God" and the "Allah" of Islam? Aren't these the same? Don't we have commonality? As it turns out, when you really take a look, you'll find that Christianity truly is unique among religions. And, no, God and Allah are not the same. (One of the absolutely unique things about Christianity is the doctrine of the Trinity, the "three-in-one", which Islam denies and, therefore, which sets their "Allah" as radically different than our God.)

The most obvious difference between Christianity and every other religion is the Resurrection. The claim that the founder of Christianity -- Christ -- was executed and came back to life is, shall we say, unusual, but the fact of the empty tomb and the other surrounding data is unique. No other religion claims such a thing. No founder of any older religion is alive today. The Resurrected Christ is the pivotal point of the Christian faith (1 Cor 15:3-8; 1 Cor 15:12-19) and the singular proof of our faith. Nowhere else will you find this event of a person, born of a virgin, living a sinless life, being executed all in perfect accordance with centuries-old prophesies, coming back to life unaided as predicted. Just doesn't happen anywhere else.

One glaring difference between Christianity and every other religion out there is salvation by works. Whether it's one of the popular "Nones" -- they don't have any formal religion but are "spiritual" -- all the way to the devout Buddhist or Hindu, you will find they all agree on this one point -- you get to "a better place" in the end by being good. At least, by being more good than bad. Works. Christianity alone subscribes to salvation by imputation. All others hold to "saved by works" as opposed to the Christian claim, "saved through faith apart from works" (Rom 3:28). While everyone else is trying to be "good enough", Christianity teaches salvation by the assigned righteousness of Christ. "What must I do to be saved?" all religions ask. Christianity alone says, "There's nothing you can actually do. You must simply place your trust in the death, resurrection, and life of Christ. End of story." So prevalent is this notion of "saved by works" in the human thinking that some Christians (probably a lot) will usher it out the front door and then smuggle it in the back door. "Yes, yes, we're saved by faith ... but no bad people will go to heaven." The fact that so many see Christianity as another "good works religion" tells me that Christians often miss this vital point. Christianity is the only religion that sees good works as a result rather than a cause.

Christianity differs radically from every other religion in its relationship with God. You will hear it said, "Christianity is not a religion; it's a relationship." While this isn't strictly true ("Religion" is defined as "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power." Pretty sure that Christians wouldn't say "We don't believe in or worship a supernatural being."), it points to a primary difference. In all other religions, if there is an actual deity (in some there isn't), that deity is "out there". It is "somewhere else". In Christianity alone we believe we have an actual relationship with the Divine. We have the Spirit residing in us (Eze 36:27; 1 Cor 6:19; 2 Tim 1:14). We are animated and motivated by God's working in us (Phil 2:13). We actually become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). This relationship is unique.

There are, of course, a host of other unique aspects. Many religions, for instance, have their own Scriptures, but none are as well documented and attested to as the Bible is. Lots of religions claim miracles, but none so remarkable or supportable as Christianity. There is the impact that Christianity has had over against all other religions. Christianity has produced massive change in our world. Modern science owes its existence to the Christian worldview. Much of modern ethics are shaped by a Christian worldview, including monogamy and marital fidelity, compassion and mercy, and a work ethic. The first book that was printed was a Bible. Mass education was instituted so people could read their Bibles. Christianity was the first to challenge gender roles when Christ appeared first to Mary Magdalene and the value of children when Jesus said, "Let the children come to Me." (Matt 19:14) Christianity has produced charitable organizations and hospitals as part of its "love your neighbor as yourself" mantra. There is the quite unusual rooting of the faith in history rather than mere "faith". From Creation to Israel, from the Jews to the Gentiles, from Adam to the Second Adam, from the God of the Old Testament to the God Incarnate of the New, ours is an historical religion deeply connected to historical events. Just to name a few.

It cannot be true that all religions are equally valid since all religions contradict each other. It is true that there are many religions, and most of them bear the same basic "markings" -- be good and you'll be fine. In the particulars they may differ, but they're largely the same. And, yes, it is true that many within Christendom hold positions differing from Christianity. These produced the Crusades, allowed slavery in America, and argue for racism on a biblical basis ... and they're wrong. Christianity stands alone in its truth claims. Jesus said, "No man comes to the Father but by Me" (John 14:6), declaring Christianity as the exclusive means of getting to God. There are many fundamental components of Christianity that make it completely unique. Now, it could theoretically still be true that Christianity is wrong, but what cannot be true is that it bears equal validity as any other religion. Either it is the one, true religion or it is not true at all. Of course, given the massive body of Apologia, that which defends the faith, and that singular component, the relationship of the believer to God Himself, I have little doubt as to the truth of Christianity. It is, truly, unique among religions.