1. Are All Religions The Same?Related Media
One of the most basic claims of Christianity is that Jesus is the only way for salvation. Jesus Himself declared this very clearly, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). This was the message that the apostles preached; “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And, “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43). The Apostle Paul in one of his letters writes, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Timothy 2:5).
John in his letter writes, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). Paul makes a very strong statement, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:8-9).
But how many people accept this truth today? If not, why not? I remember a story from a collection of moral stories in Sanskrit. A Hindu Brahmin priest is returning home after buying a goat kid to offer as a sacrifice to his family deity. He is passing through a jungle area and is spotted by three cheaters. The cheaters do not want to harm the priest; their only intention is to get the goat. So, they devise a scheme. As the priest is merrily walking along on the jungle trail, holding the goat kid on his shoulders, one of the cheaters comes to him and tells, “Shame on you! You are a priest. A holy man! Are you not ashamed to carry this dog on your shoulder?” To which the priest replied, “Are you blind? Do you not see? This is not a dog, this is a goat kid!” The cheater shakes his shoulders and quietly walks away.
As the priest is walking along, now looking at the goat on his shoulder, wondering what the fellow told him, another cheater comes along and tells him the same thing. This time the priest looks at the kid and hesitantly responds, “No. This is not a dog. Is it? No, this is a goat”. The cheater shrugs his shoulders and walks away. Now the priest is really wondering. Repeatedly looking at the goat and not sure what he is carrying. And then the third cheater shows up telling him the same thing. Before anyone can see him in this defiled condition, the priest quickly throws away the dog, no, the kid, and runs away.
The moral of the story is: When a lie is repeated several times, it does not become a truth; but it does become easily acceptable and convincing. Today we live in a pluralistic, polytheistic, agnostic or atheistic culture and have been bombarded with all the lies from all the directions so the very truth of God and His Word is questioned not only by people of other religions, but by some of the very people who are known by the name of Christ. We hear that all the roads lead to the same place. All religions are just different ways to reach God. One God, but people choose to worship Him in their own different ways. You can believe in anything as long as you are sincere.
But if this was true Jesus was the greatest liar and the Bible the most deceiving book! The basic question is; do all the world religions teach the same thing? Do all religions have the same concept of God and worship the same God? Just a cursory observation will tell us otherwise. Let us consider few theological points and do some comparison.
Theology: The Concept Of God
Every religion differs as to what they think about God. There are some religions, like Buddhism and Confucianism that are agnostic. They do not either reject the existence of God or accept it. Then there are some who are atheistic, like Jainism, who outright rejects the existence of God.
Religions that do accept the existence of God do not have the same concept of God. Hinduism, for example, one of the major world regions, has a concept of God who is so impersonal, unknowable, and indescribable so that they have invented many gods and deities, many of whom are nature gods, like fire, rivers, trees, or animal gods. God of Islam is a capricious God who is ready to zap unbelievers.
Contrast this with the concept of God in the Bible. A personal God who is interested in the world affairs, who loves the people of the world and who orders the events of the world and moves the history according to His plans and purposes to bring the humanity in closer relationship with Himself. A God who has revealed Himself and so can be known, can have personal relationship with Him.
Anthropology: The Concept Of Man
One of the major aspects of any religion is their concept of man, who is man, where did he come from. Hinduism, for example, puts man and animal on the same line. in the theory of reincarnation a human being in this life may be born as an animal in another life and also the other way around; an animal in this life can be born as a human being in other life. But it provides no explanation how the cycle of incarnation began, when and how man came into existence in the first place.
You can see how Hindu concept of man matches with Darwin’s theory of evolution, human being evolving from an inanimate cell. How this leads into devaluation of human life. How that comes into real practices like abortion, euthanasia and survival of the fittest that leads to horrible results like genocide carried out by Hitler and others.
Darwin deserves far more credit than we give him. We usually think of him in reference to creation vs. evolution. But basically what he has done is put man in the same line of animals. Let me give you a couple of examples. Garrett Matthias story was featured in May 2019 issue of The Reader’s Digest. He died of rare brain cancer at the age of five. A very smart kid. Before death he wrote his own eulogy.
He writes, “My favorite hero is: Batman…and Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, and Cyborg… When I die I am going to be a gorilla. I want to be burned (like when Thor’s mommy died) and made into a tree so I can live in it when I’m gorilla”.
What a sad story! The best hope a dying five year old has is to come back as a gorilla. Gives you a picture of the family he grew up in. Gives you picture of the culture in which our children and grandchildren are growing up.
Another example. We get Our Daily Bread in our email inbox every morning. On May 21, 2019 devotion this was cited. “In 2005, the London zoo introduced a four-day exhibit: ‘Humans in Their Natural Environment.’ The human ‘captives’ were chosen through online contest. To help visitors understand the humans, the zoo workers created a sign detailing their diet, habitat, and threats. According to the zoo’s spokesperson, the goal of the exhibit was to downplay the uniqueness of human beings. One participant in the exhibit seemed to agree: ‘When they see humans as animals, here, it kind of reminds them that we are not that special’”.
The way the trend is going today, I would not be surprised if in few short years all the zoos in all the countries follow this example and the distinction between humans and animals is erased, and no surprise, the West would be in the lead.
If we are not different from animals, we would live like animals. Actually, we would live worse than animals. Animals do not go against nature in their lifestyle, we humans do. And the Bible says so, as Isaiah noted God’s complaint, “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:2-3).
On the one hand, man is not any better than an animal. On the other, The New Age movements like Transcendental Meditation and Yoga put emphasis on inner personal resources. They emphasize that man is the master of himself and that he can master the whole universe. Yoga, for example, although it begins with physical exercises has as its ultimate aim first to master one’s own inner resources and then to master the whole universe. Ultimately one can play himself as god. Eastern cults have gained a strong hold on the Western society because they offer false hope and give permission to live your life your own way without having to obey God.
Contrast this Bible gives the balanced view of man. Only human being is created in the image of God. In the Book of Genesis in the creation account, when God created the animals and birds and trees and plants, fish and sea creatures, in every case it is noted, God created them “after their own kind” (Genesis 1:11-25; those words used ten times). But when it came to the creation of man, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:16). Every other living thing was created “after its own kind”. Only human being is crated after God’s kind.
Being created in the image of God separates human being from any and every other living being. Only human being, because created in the image of God has soul, has conscious, has the concept of good and evil, and has eternal life. Man created in the image of God is over and above every other created thing.
Psalm Eight describes:
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? You have made him a little lower than God and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (NIV)
No other religion puts such a high value on the human life. Man before God is nothing; but man under God is everything. Man is over and above all and every created thing, only lower than God. Jesus described the value of human being, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26). That is why the Bible allows capital punishment, life for life, there is no other even exchange.
Hamartiology: The Concept Of Sin And Evil
No other religion has a clear concept of evil; how it came into the world and how it will end. Good and evil are considered coeternal; good can overcome the evil for some time, but is not able to do it completely and forever. That necessitates the repeated incarnations of Hinduism.
No other religion has the concept of inherent sinfulness of man, the moral depravity of man. The concept of morality is comparative; I am okay as long as I am not as bad as the other people. Person can always find someone who is living worst kind of moral life than himself and feel good about him. There is no standard of morality, or the standard of mortality is different for each person.
This provides a false sense of basic goodness of human being. The general idea is I am good enough, I am not bad. One of greatest hurdles that prevent people from coming to realization of the need of a savior is their assumed goodness.
The Bible, on the other hand, clearly spells out how sin entered into mankind and how the evil took control not only of the human heart but the whole creation was tainted by the evil. It is not the environmental pollution, but the moral pollution that creates all the major problems we face in the world today. There will be time when the evil will be completely and permanently taken care of; the evil will be destroyed and the good will prevail. The world is not what it was basically created to be, and cannot be until the evil is ultimately taken care of. And there certainly will be time when God will finally take care of it and we will live happily ever after.
Soteriology: The Concept Of Salvation
The concept of salvation is different in different religions. Not all religions believe in life after death. The Sadducees of Jesus’ time, for example, did not believe in afterlife.
The Hindu concept of reincarnation means endless life cycle from birth to death to birth. “Moksha” is the traditional Sanskrit term for release or liberation from the endless cycle of deaths and rebirths which is the supreme goal of human strivings. Reflecting the diversity of Hinduism, liberation can be attained in a variety of ways, from performance of certain rituals to highly disciplined forms of yoga, or by self enlightenment. In Moksha the individual Atman (soul) is believed to merge into the cosmic Brahma. A traditional image is that of a drop of water that, when dropped into the ocean loses its individuality and becomes one with the sea, or a spark of fire put back into the fire.
Buddha accepted the basic Hindu doctrines of reincarnation and karma, as well as the notion that the ultimate goal of the religious life is to escape the cycle of death and rebirth. Nirvana literally means extinction, and it refers to the extinction of all craving, an extinction that allows one to become liberated.
In Sikhism it’s been a matter of great debate amongst the Sikhs about Sikhism’s belief in afterlife. Many believe that Sikhism endorses the afterlife and the concept of reward and punishment, but a large number of Sikhs believe otherwise.
Most religions do not have the concept of eternal punishment. It has been argued that God is a loving God and cannot send anyone to eternal punishment.
All religions, except Christianity, are based on work salvation. Since there is no concept of inherent sin and the moral depravity of human being, morality is relative, works are weighed as good works versus bad works, and if the good works outweigh the bad, the person is a step ahead. Person is bound in the reward and punishment of good and bad Karmas (works) and there is nothing outside him that can help him.
That is where the Biblical concept of grace comes into picture. Because sin has taken control of the human nature, man is not able to save himself. And so not by works, but only by the grace of God a person can be released from the bondage of sin and its eternal consequences. Those who come into the relationship with God through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross will live in the presence of God for eternity. And those outside that relationship will suffer endless time in hell.
Eschatology: How Everything Will End
The general concept, as can be seen from the concepts of sin, evil and salvation, is cyclical; everything keeps going into never ending cycle. Evil and good coexist and there is no ultimate end of the evil. The Hindu concept of the four ages, for example, is a repeated and endless cycle. It begins with the age of truth and then it progresses into downward spiral into more and more evil and at the end of the fourth age the world is destroyed and then it begins again with the age of the truth. In the same way human birth, death and rebirth cycle never ends, trapping human being in endless cycle with no hope of escape.
Solomon expresses this idea very vividly:
What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new.” It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them (Ecclesiastes 1:3-10, NIV)
Although Solomon is speaking here about life on earth, under the sun, the same cycle goes on forever and there is no end, no way out.
On the other hand the Bible presents linear history; history moving from one point to the other point and bringing everything to the end as desired by God. It began with the creation, the Fall, God’s plan of salvation and will end when the current evil world system is destroyed and God’s Kingdom begins which will never end and people of God who have come into the relationship with God through Jesus will happily live with Him forever. No other world religion gives us this happy ending!
So, we do not believe any of the lies we are bombarded by all around us. We believe the Bible as inerrant and inspired Word of God. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). Or, as Solomon said, “Every Word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Proverb 30:5). The psalmist says similar thing, “And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6).
And this Bible presents the unique unparallel claims of Jesus as the only Savior, no other way to receive salvation but through the grace of God on the basis of person’s coming into the relationship with Christ.
So, it is obvious that all religions are not the same. They do not all worship God and do not worship the same God. They do not all strive to reach the same destination. Each religion has a different concept of God, nature of man and his need of salvation, ways of salvation and the result of salvation and how the present world system will end.
There may be some similarities in all religions: for example, all religions teach goodness, serving others, living a moral life devoid of greed and malice. But these are only superficial similarities. It is believed that there is a common thread among all the religions. But when it comes to stating more precisely just what that common thread is, conversations usually become vague or contradictory. They all offer major theological and metaphysical concepts that are radically different from each other. “All religions are the same”, is a statement of ignorance and a complete lie that we hear so often that it has become acceptable.
Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship; relationship with the personal loving God. There is life after death. The soul that is born shall never die. Salvation is to come into a relationship with this God through Jesus Christ and to live eternally in the presence of God. Man is not able to save himself from eternal death. God loved mankind so much that He Himself provided the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. Christ is the only way - there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
So, what? How does all this relate to me personally? The very first thing, of course, is to accept the truth. You have to think logically and come to the conclusion that what the Bible says has to be true. If Jesus said there is no other way to come into the relationship with God, to receive eternal life of blissful existence, except through Him, we have to accept that as a true statement and so if that is true then come to trust Him who said that.
Secondly, if I have come to accept this truth and have come into relationship with Jesus, I need to continue growing in this truth, to be grounded in this truth so not only I am not deceived by the lies I hear all around me, but am able to defend it with full conviction. As Peter told, “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). The goal of every believer’s life is continued growth in the knowledge of God through daily personal study of the Word of God with a purpose of becoming more like Christ which would be evidenced in daily life.
Third, guard the truth. Do not let the lies you hear rob you of your confidence in the truth. Occasional doubt is normal and we all have moments like that. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his doubt, but gently provided him the proof. It was only Thomas, however, among the disciples that called Jesus Lord and God. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you- guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Timothy 1:14). And, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).
Four, share the truth. Seek opportunities to share the truth with as many people as you can. When someone says all religions are the same, just ask him to name two religions and let him tell what both those religions think about God, and some of the other points mentioned above. People have just heard the lie; they have not thought through it, have not really considered it carefully.
Finally, live by the truth. If we claim to know the truth, we have to live by the truth. Peter writes, “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peer 3:11-12). John writes, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
John ends his First Epistle by these words: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols”. This statement kind of seems out of place. But one of the Hebrew words for idol literally means a lie. So, in a sense he is saying, guard yourselves from all the lies you hear. Do not let anyone defraud you of your precious goat!
There is just one way for you all to come;
There is just one road that will lead you home;
There is just one gate to the realms of day—
The blessèd Jesus is the only way.
Jesus is the way—the only way;
Lovingly He calleth, thus the Scriptures say,
Whosoever will, let Him come today—
The blessèd Jesus is the only way!
There is just one fount—there is just one cross—
There is just one help for the sinner’s loss;
There is just one hope—all in all to me—
O blessèd Jesus, it is none but Thee!
Arthur J. Hodge (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1843)