Thursday, March 12, 2015

Christianity and other Religions: Many roads or exclusive path?

March 2015 Synchroblog. "What do you appreciate about other religions?

A common objection to exclusive faith in Jesus Christ is "What about other religions?"   How can Christians claim to have the exclusive truth when there are so many other religions?  It's a very important question.  But the Christian really need not see all religions aside from it's own as completely false.  There may be certain slivers of truth in all major religions given the divine logos. (The knowledge of God within every person).  

“If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake.”
C.S. Lewis,
Mere Christianity

It's ironic though, when such an objection is brought up: What about other religions?  Because 9 times out of 10 when I question the person further, they haven't a clue what any other religion has to say about anything.  They can't even name the prominent ones.  They can't even describe the basic doctrines of those religions.  And they have no intention of learning more about any of them.  Some do.  Most don't.  

It's similar to a drug addict complaining about Narcotics Anonymous, and how he "prefers different options" but simply returns to drug use after the conversation.  The suggestion of different options is simply a ploy to escape an urge to real transformation and change.  

Though of course the question is also posited honestly as well.  How arrogant is it to say that Christianity alone is true?  Yet I  could also turn that statement around and said, "How arrogant is it to say that all religions are basically true?"  If we're so humble and open minded, we can't make either claim, can we?  

To me, the answer to the question is to see the uniqueness of the Christian faith.  Other religions induce good works as a means of earning passage into nirvana, heaven, etc.  But in Christianity, it is acknowledged that no one can do it on their own.  We all need Jesus Christ, the perfect one.  Other religions are man attempting to climb to heaven, in the Christian faith, God comes down to save man.  All the same, I can and do appreciate other religions, if nothing else, because they help me to realize my need for Christ. 

What do I appreciate about other religions?  Buddha said life is suffering.  That is certainly the case for those who do not know Jesus.  And even if one does know Jesus, suffering will be common and expected.  Buddha reacted against Hinduism in east Asia.  He saw "desire" itself as the problem, and sought to remove all desire from his life.  One might've asked him, "Why do you desire that?"  

Christianity is of course quite different.  Desire is not the problem in the Christian worldview.  There is a necessary division between what we ought to desire and what we ought not to desire.  The battle within the Christian is between the desires of the "flesh" and the desires of the "Spirit."  After accepting and knowing Christ, the believer struggles with bad desires and good desires, fighting to "put to death" the works of the flesh.  The believer is encouraged to have the "mind of Christ."  In so doing the believer eliminates sinful desires like lust, envy, greed, and coveting.  Yet all desire is not to be removed, instead the believer is encouraged to "desire" the things of the Spirit, love, forgiveness, truth, justice, and kindness among others.  So there are certain differences and certain similarities, and I can certainly respect a Buddhist for their devotion to moral behavior. 

One can certainly appreciate the Jewish faith as well, and the dynamic saga of the nation God raised up as his own: Israel.  Truly spell binding.  I've always been fascinated by the saga of the Jewish people over history.  From one man named Abraham it all began.  The birth of Isaac.  The banishment of Ishmael, who later founded the Arab nations.  From Isaac to Jacob, then Joseph.  Into bondage in Egypt. The story of Moses and the journey through the wilderness.  Later once again falling away and being captured and taken to Babylon.  Returning to rebuild the city after the Babylonian captivity, only to be conquered and reconquered, to the destruction of the temple by the Roman empire after the crucifixion of Christ.  The scattering of the Jews about Europe and Asia.  The holocaust in World War II, and the return of the Jews to Israel.  The battles and skirmishes between Arab nations and Israel.  It's terribly fascinating.    

Jews and Christians are brothers and sisters.  It's important to remember that.   

I can also respect and admire the secular humanist for many reasons as well.  I like secular humanists because they support charities.  I like that they support humanity and the pursuits of humanity.  They tend to appose corruption (Occupy Wallstreet) and they are quick to go after human rights violations internationally (Sex trade Industry).  The nice thing about an opposition to Christianity is it's ability to critique serious problems within the church.  The sexual abuse cases with Priests comes to mind, such an unspeakable tragedy that must be decried and dealt with.  The mistreatment of women and African Americans comes to mind.  However, it's important to bear in mind that Christians supported the abolition of slavery.  Can't forget that it was a Republican party of it's time that voted to abolish slavery while Democrats fought fiercely against it.  Many churches have oppressed women.  Many non-Christian businesses and associations have done just the same though.  We don't want to forget that a Christian organization called the Salvation Army has been a champion for women's rights for 150 years, with women having equal standing in the church to men.  Yet I appreciate the critiques of secular humanists and even militant atheists.  It helps to remind us Christians to stay humble, stay full of love, and stick close to the Bible.    

One group I have a special affection for is the honest seeker.  They ask "What is the truth?"  And they search for it.  I like that.  That was me for many years.  What is real?  Why am I?  What is the purpose in all this?  What is the meaning of life?  I love those questions.  And I love the woman or man who asks those with zeal and seeks out answers.  The seeker is a beautiful thing to behold.  

In closing, I believe firmly that Jesus Christ as revealed in the books of the Bible is the exclusive route by which humanity may have forgiveness, freedom, and peace with God.  Other religions may indicate patterns of good behavior, but without a savior, attempts to pull ourselves up by our moral bootstraps will always be doomed to failure.  Man does not need a better rule book, time and time again nations and governments have proved that.  Humanity needs a savior for our personal failings, and a Spirit within to lead us and transform us into the people we were always meant to be: children of God.  Amen, thank you for reading!