This article reminded me of a book I read years ago called “The Universe Next Door.” This book compared Christianity with the other most popular religions of the world. Each other religion required much effort on the part of man, and even then, with so much striving, you had no assurance or peace. These false religions are like climbing a ladder to God….a very high and difficult ladder. Christianity is like climbing a ladder but having a Savior climb down the ladder to you. It’s all about the Savior and what he has done for us, rather than our works we do trying desperately to please Him. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did. ~Anne
Almost every four year liberal arts college has at least one comparative religions course. These courses are meant to touch the surface of each major religion and illustrate the basic differences or similarities. Are these courses effective, or should we say, are they even honest?
If your view of religion is like most people, you think that religion is a list of do’s and dont’s or a set of rules, laws or other directives that should be guiding your behavior. What is taught in comparative religion courses is based on this simple premise.
New Testament Christianity is thrown into this generalized heap usually by people who are not Christians and have no understanding of what Christ stands for. You might say I am making an excuse for them, but I am not. The result of this assumption can produce the greatest loss any man could ever endure.
If rules and ordinances are what makes a real religion then New Testament Christianity would barely make it into the list. It has only two outward or ceremonial ordinances and neither of them can produce salvation. They are water baptism and the communion or breaking of bread.
What Jesus said was that he came to give men life (John 10:10), not another religion. Thank God he knew we already had enough of them. Here is one of the major differences between Christianity and every religion that came before or after it. When God sent his Son into the world to die for our sins, then resurrect him from the dead he was in effect saying, knock it off! He doesn’t require our feeble attempts to placate him with our endless religious hokey pokey.
Essentially God was saying, stop trying to please me with those things you dream up and I will show you who I am and exactly what I want. What small child can possibly think of the best way to please his Dad? No child should have to decide what that is; a decent father sets the parameters and makes them known to his children. He already loves them because they are his, why would he require them to perform to make him love them more.
That real Christianity is not a religion but a way of life is given more credence by another little known fact. The Bible uses the word “religion” only five times and only once is it given a definition. That definition (James 1:27) offers no list of do’s and don’ts, no nine fold path, no Mosaic burdens and no stifling ceremonial ordinances. No one could give the New Testament a serious read and say Christ started a new religion. What he started was a way to deal with our sins, both now and for all eternity.
Most religions are like doors that keep men out until they have done the work, performed the rituals, jumped through the hoops, cleaned up their act or something even harder than all that. Jesus who said he was the door (John 10:7) has become the passage into Gods presence both now and for eternity. He requires repentance and then a dedication to Him and his words but, and I do mean but, he never sets up any religious rules, codes, or requirements. There are no ceremonies, liturgies, or imaginary scales in the sky that are there to measure your goods and bads on a daily basis.
God said there are no other Gods; he alone made all there is including us. He isn’t jealous of other Gods, there aren’t any other Gods. He revealed himself through the patriarchs and prophets and finally through his Son. The history of man is cluttered with mans feeble and mistaken attempts to create God or a whole pantheistic slew of them from his own imagination or worse, with the help of the God of this world. (Satan) God has provided a clearer and far more approachable path to take the nonsense and guesswork out of it. But alas, mans propensity for religion is second only to his propensity for sin.
We would rather build shrines and cathedrals; we would prefer a set of rules and regulations rather than accepting a free gift from God. He offers the gift quite apart from any thing we could dream up; hey that’s why it is called a gift. Picture Peter, James and John looking at what most of will never see until the second coming of Christ. Jesus magnificently transfigured before them in a glowing radiance.
Instead of standing in awe or quietly gazing and listening perhaps to learn something, instead they decide to build a shrine or a “Tabernacle” (Mt. 17:4) Jesus doesn’t reply to Peter who suggested the tabernacle but God the Father does. In one short reply God sums up the matter of shrines, tabernacles, laws, codes ceremonies, liturgies and all the other religious notions of men. He said…”This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” Mt. 17:4b
That some of the religions that are compared in a comparative religions course are ancient and perhaps predate Christianity is often the argument for their veracity. The Bible says that God winked at mans former idolatries but after he sent his Son, those excuses would no longer stand. That man has held onto religions that do not lead to God for so long is only proof of our penchant for idolatry. Lots of things are ancient, that says nothing about their usefulness. Why should religion be any different?
Before Mohammed died he said some truth had been revealed to him. Before Buddha died he exclaimed that he was still searching for the truth. Jesus said quite clearly that he was the truth, John 14:6. The last time I checked the shortest distance between two points was still a straight line. I prefer the straight line when it comes to my entire future don’t you.
Jesus is the straight line to God and as far as putting him along side others in a comparative religions course, there is little hope of making comparisons with one who sets the definition of incomparable.