Religion – All Roads Lead To Rome
A Jew, a Baptist and an Anglican were discussing how they worked out their tithe each week. The Anglican said that he drew a square on the ground, threw the money up in the air and anything that landed in the square he gave to God. The Baptist was much the same, but being freer in his thinking he would throw the money in the air and whatever landed outside the square he gave to God. The Jew said they were both mad. He would stand in the square and throw the money in the air… and whatever God caught God kept.
What Does a Christian Believe?
- We believe in one God – the Father the Almighty – creator and sustainer.
- We believe in one Lord – Jesus Christ – truly God, truly man who died for our sins and is alive and coming back to judge of all.
- We believe in the Holy Spirit who is one with the Father and the Son and has been sent by both Father and Son to call us to life and to speak through the prophets.
One God, three persons. Equal yet different – the Father did not die on the cross, the Son did create the universe, the Holy Spirit points to the Son and caused the Scriptures to be written.
What do people you know say about religion?
Plenty of people think that all religions are the same – if they think about it at all. All religions are simply different expressions of one truth. Especially in western thinking, no religion has an exclusive claim to the truth. So Christians and Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’is, Shintoists and Atheists all believe the same thing – and we should just get on with peace and harmony.
Is that true? Are all religions the same?
Have a think – maybe talk to some people.
- Write down all the religions you can think of and just one thing you’re pretty sure those religions believe.
- What do people you know world think of organised religion?
The reality is most people have no idea what religions teach – only what the tv tells them. We can actually see that pretty clearly – western Buddhism looks almost nothing like Eastern Buddhism – and western Buddhism tends to be a caricature of what Buddhists seem to believe on TV. In many cases Western Buddhism looks like a spiritual capitalism.
Anyway – it’s true to the outside observer that religions can look remarkably similar to each other. Christians, Jews and Muslims all worship one God – Monotheism – one God. So people say… isn’t it the same God just with different names? We see the Muslims praying. We see Jews praying – what’s the difference? Obviously there are extreme Muslims who obviously aren’t following God’s plans. And the Jews aren’t exactly innocent, but then neither were the Christians in years gone by. Are they all just pointing to the same God?
What about the other religions? There are 5 main types of belief – including monotheism.
- Hinduism and Buddhism say that there is no God. You become one with the universe by self sacrifice.
- Tribal and folk religions are called Polytheism – many gods and spirits.
- Ying and Yang – Taoism – the dualistic religions – good and evil in balance.
- Atheism is the belief there is no god – so Marxism, Communism and secular humanism. If you go to the secular universities in Australia you will come under the influence of secular humanism.
Most religions are dropping in numbers, especially in the Western world. There are a couple of exceptions, though they probably aren’t the ones you think. But spirituality is on the rise. There is a hunger in many people to find ways to deal with life – religion and capitalism can’t help. Many people who turned to Eastern religions in the 60’s and 70’s are now turning to new age spiritualism – new in that it’s been around for about 6000 years. Spirituality in the modern western world is very much like jelly – it wobbles all over the place and can be any shape you like. People mean by ‘spirituality’ whatever they want. They include devil worship, tarot cards, crystals, meditation, yoga, vegetarianism, self actualisation – whatever that is. It’s all about following your “inner spiritual path”. In Sydney each year there is a “Body Mind and Spirit Festival” – more than ½ million visitors each year. There was a “blessed medallion” on ebay a few years back that was ‘guaranteed’ to bring the wearer good luck and spiritual peace. It sold for almost $2000. There is no lack of desire for the “spiritual” aspect of life.
In fact what is happening is that an old form of religion is reviving – multi-spirituality – people wanting to determine their own spiritual path to peace and happiness. Spirituality comes from whatever pursuit you choose – as long as you are faithful to that god/spiritual path then you are spiritual.
Do all these paths get to the same God? Are all religions the same?
The thing is – as soon as you start investigating you can see that religions have statements of faith that are in direct opposition to each other. And oddly – for most religions that’s ok by them. Moderate Muslims – not the fundamentalists – they believe that Christians, Jews and Muslims all worship the same god – but the Jews and the Christians just need to learn the true name of God. The Bahia religion expects you to worship how you want and to whom you want when you go to a Bahia temple. I visited one once – it felt evil to me – and I’m not that sort of person who gets those sensations. Hindus and Buddhists don’t really care who you worship as long as you are seeking a right path. [P] Are they all the same?
No! And we know because of the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ.
What’s Different About Christianity?
I could do the old one liner – Christianity’s not a religion. It’s a relationship. That’s true enough but it’s only a starting place. Jesus and responding to Jesus is what makes Christianity different.
1 John 4:9-10 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
- John reminds us that Jesus’ birth, life, teaching, death and resurrection are historical events, not mythical. We have good evidence for all of them, including the resurrection. Without Jesus there would be no Christianity – unlike all other religions which are about teaching and practice. It’s what you do and learn and how you act that will determine your future. We are focussed on Jesus’ death and resurrection and his act of salvation.
1 Cor 15:17 “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”
This is unique to Christianity. Second…
John 1:14-15 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
- What’s different is we received the one and only Son of God. God became flesh and dwelt with us. Jesus was God incarnate – the word of the week – use it in conversation. It means that he wasn’t simply a representative, or even an image of God, like a statue come to life. Jesus was God in the flesh – dwelling in person on earth.
John 14:9 “Jesus answered: … Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
- All religions – even atheism – claim that mankind has a problem. All of them claim that the solution is human effort. Even Catholicism claims this. Jesus declares that our problem is far worse – we are spiritually dead – and unless we accept his life for ours and start living through him then we will remain dead.
Romans 6:23 “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- All religions claim we become one with god/universe etc by our own effort. It’s the great Aussie lie! She’ll be right! God and I are mates. But that is patently untrue. God has a zero tolerance policy with sin. He declared the punishment for sin is death and separation from him for eternity.
Habakkuk 1:13 “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.”
God is 100% Holy. His holiness and love are not demonstrated as the world wants them to be in leniency. He demonstrated his love for us by sending his Son to pay the price of our sin.
- The kicker is this. Salvation does not come by moral hard work – it is a free gift.
Romans 1:17a “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last…”
Do you know what you lose when you try to make salvation dependant on us rather than God?
The more my salvation depends on me the less I will be sure because I know myself. I know where I fail. That’s why Hinduism is so cruel. You are reincarnated into a body that reflects your previous life. Make even little mistakes and you come back as a slug, or a cat. That’s why cows are sacred – there goes Auntie Bessie. That’s cruel – no hope, no assurance.
God offers us hope based on His character not ours – on his holiness. Because God loves us he sent his son – it’s not that we loved God. As we come to understand that there is no way that we can live up to God’s standards – as we come to release that we only have hope by entrusting Jesus with our lives – then we will come to understand the assurance we have in Christ. Our salvation depends on Him who chose us rather than me being good.
Do All Roads Lead To Rome?
The Bible answers our question.
Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
As the team would say on MythBusters – this myth is busted. We could do a lengthy comparative religions study – interesting but meaningless really except in understanding that Christianity is incredibly different. There is pretty much no similarity between the claims of Christianity and those of all other religions. There is no way to match up the claims of Christianity and the other religions.
It all comes down to this – the character of Jesus and the reality of his death and resurrection. That’s what we need to help people understand – the Bible makes clear claims based entirely on Jesus Christ.
Talking It Up
When we are talking to people who want to argue that all religions are the same we want to do two things.
- We really want to pray. Obvious – Yes! The first thing that comes to mind? Maybe not! Whenever we are talking to people about Jesus we really want to be asking God to help us speak the truth in love, and for the Holy Spirit to make it clear to them. Without the Holy Spirit opening their eyes they will remain dead.
- We want to focus entirely on Jesus and especially his death and resurrection. We want as best we can to answer their question, or complaints, but we also want to turn it as quickly as we can to Jesus – because the thing they have to deal with is that Jesus died and rose for them – if it’s true then they have to accept or reject knowing the claim Jesus is making on them and the consequences.
True safety – true faith – true life – true assurance rests in Jesus alone – he alone can save us from sin and death – he alone offers us hope that can never fade an inheritance that can never be destroyed. No other religion offers what Christ does.