Evaluating different religions: 5 reasons to start your spiritual search with Christianity

pluralism.jpgI just listened to a Stand to Reason Podcast (7/12/10) where Craig Hazen outlined some provocative things to share with people who are exploring different religions.  Not only will they get people thinking, they help refute some false doctrines that Christians hold and address common objections to Christianity.  Hazen wrote a novel called Five Sacred Crossings that incorporates these themes (I’ll read it as soon as it comes out on the Kindle!).

Here are some notes from the Podcast with a few of my thoughts thrown in.  They are simple ways to encourage people to think carefully about Christianity.

1. Christianity is testable – It is open to being falsifiable.  You can research the truth claims yourself.  Christianity involves knowledge, truth claims and faith in evidence.  Many people think religions are just a matter of opinion or are the result of “blind faith,” but that is the opposite of Christianity.  Consider this passage that shows how Christianity “hangs by a thread” – i.e., if Jesus didn’t physically rise from the dead, then Christianity is wrong and you should search elsewhere:

1 Corinthians 15:12–19 (ESV)  Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

You can point them to all sorts of apologetics works (see the links to the right of this blog) or even simple things like the minimal facts approach, where nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements and 75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty:

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucifixion church leader.
  • The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others.  He converted from persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist ever, despite nearly constant challenges, persecution and ultimately dying for his faith.

The Christian view that the physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts is highly supportable and logical.

2. Salvation is free – as C.S. Lewis noted, grace is the main distinction between Christianity and all other religions / cults.  They require works to (possibly) be made right with God, but Christianity says salvation is a free gift from God.  People like free things, and it conveys a supremely important spiritual truth in an easy to understand way.  Don’t be shy about reminding people about this.

3. The Christian worldview offers a perspective that fits the way the world really is.  Look at facts of the world and see how they line of with Christianity.  Consider the issue of evil and suffering, which Eastern religions (e.g., Hinduism and Buddhism) and New Agers treat as an illusion and which atheism cannot ground (if we are nothing but chemicals in motion then there is no true universal morality, just opinions and power).

If a Holocaust survivor described how her loved ones were brutally killed, does the typical audience shrug it off as being an illusion?  Of course not.  Deep down we know there is real right and wrong and real evil.  Christianity has an explanation for that but many major worldviews do not.

Consider how Eastern philosophies like The Secret would have you tell the woman who her problem is that she didn’t ask the universe for the right things, didn’t feel the right things or wasn’t open to receiving them.

The “problem of evil” is one of the most common objections to Christianity, but it is an even larger philosophical liability for other religions and atheism.  Christianity doesn’t try to side-step evil, it thoroughly addresses it.

4. In Christianity you get to live a non-compartmentalized / holistic life – We not only get to use our minds in worshiping and interacting with God (Acts 17:11 and more), we are told to do so.  Some religions consider reasoning to be an impediment to faith.

5. Christianity has Jesus at the center – That may sound like circular logic, but consider how universally Jesus is revered – however misinterpreted – in Islam and other religions.  Buddhism and Hinduism have plenty of room for a great teacher like Jesus.  Islam specifically refers to him and claims to believe the Bible (though they believe in error that it has been seriously mistranslated).  If nearly everyone wants to make room for Jesus and He has such a dramatic impact on the world (even to the point of our calendar being based on his birth), why not start with the religion that puts him front and center?

I would add a sixth: Since Christianity claims that there is one God and after we die we face one eternal judgment (Hebrews 9:27) you should consider it first, at least over atheism and any religion with either a concept of reincarnation or with no concept of judgment.  If atheism isn’t true, then nothing eternal matters.  If “second chance” religions like Hinduism and Buddhism are true then the worst case scenario is that you lose a little ground going into your next life.

But if Christianity is true and you don’t trust in Jesus and accept God’s free gift of salvation, then you spend an eternity paying for your sins.  

Consider matters of eternity very carefully, because eternity matters.

18 thoughts on “Evaluating different religions: 5 reasons to start your spiritual search with Christianity

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Evaluating different religions: 5 reasons to start your spiritual search with Christianity « Eternity Matters -- Topsy.com

  2. salvation is NOT free. to be truly saved, you must be able to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. it is an extreme sacrifice that few people are able commit to on a daily basis. that is, to live your life with God in your heart, Jesus in your soul and the Holly Ghost guiding your actions.

    many people proclaim to be saved, and maybe they are, but their actions do not seem to support their beliefs.

    • John, how do you know whether salvation is free or not? Is that your opinion, or is it grounded in an interpretation from a reliable message from God?

      Yes, many people claim to be saved and may or may not be, and their actions don’t always support their beliefs. But that has no bearing on whether salvation is a gift vs. being earned. Good works are a response to salvation, not the price.

  3. Pingback: Quote of the Day: CS Lewis on Church Music | The Desk of the Renaissance Man

  4. “Consider the issue of evil and suffering, which Eastern religions (e.g., Hinduism and Buddhism) and New Agers treat as an illusion”

    First words out the Buddha’s mouth, essentially, in his first sermon: “There is suffering.”

    • Buddha’s reply whenever he was asked what he taught: “I teach suffering and the ending of suffering.”

      The “Four Noble Truths” — about suffering and ending suffering — are famously the framework into which he fit all his other teachings, referring back to them incessantly.

      So this post is not a responsible exercise in comparative religion, my dog. (“My dog” in the comradely sense).

      There are also a million other rivulets in the world’s religions where grace comes into play. What is prayer itself but the request for help beyond one’s own strength, one’s own works?

      To take just one example: Pure Land Buddhism, found in China, Japan, Tibet in some form; probably other places. Its doctrine says that in this age of decline of the Dharma, sentient beings are too weak to achieve nirvana themselves. Luckily, Amitabha Buddha has vowed not to enter nirvana himself until he has transported all beings to the Pure Land. So we can rely on his sacrifice for our own salvation. Sound familiar?

      Fanciful, I grant, though no more so than certain other traditions. But it has one significant advantage over Christianity — Jesus’ salvation grants eternal goodies to someone despite her selfishness and weakness; its main project is not the actual addressing of that weakness. Amitabha, meanwhile, enables people to become Bodhisattvas like him if they so choose: to spurn nirvana in order to help suffering beings, having been rendered uniquely capable (by enlightenment) of loving and helping.

      Christianity actually throws up its hands before our “sinfulness” (a fanciful category to begin with, compared to the category of suffering which we cause to our fellow beings (vs. to God)).

      Of course the fears and reflexes of human nature are profoundly recalacitrant, but one shouldn’t foreclose on their degree of malleability without deep and open-ended investigation. The very beginner’s square in this journey, as Asian religions realized early and western ones rarely have, is a quiet and spacious mind, one not ruled by violent impulses of thought after thought. Who can help but lash out sinfully amidst such cacophony? And how can you hope to see clearly anything about your own nature and possibilities, through a noisy mess of habit and preconception? Versus, say, the quiet penetration of an “unknowing,” or wordlessly cognizant, meditative mind.

    • Hi Bill,

      Looks like some big stretches were made there. Sure, I see the Genesis / John 1 ties, but those have nothing to do with Mary.

      Jesus telling John to take care of his mother doesn’t make Mary my mother, as the video states.

      Vague references to the beliefs of church fathers is a cheap trick (“My church father can beat up your church father!”). Lots of them said nothing of substance about Mary. See Eusebius’ The Church History. It has only a couple passing references to Mary, Jesus’ mother, and absolutely nothing that would even hint at a serious role for her in Christianity (that is, nothing like the veneration from the Catholic Church).

      And the proof points get almost silly: Adam calls Eve “woman” and Jesus calls Mary “woman.” And that means I’m supposed to pray to her?!

      Mary was an amazing woman and obviously a central figure to Christianity. But what the Catholic church does to her is bizarre and blasphemous.

  5. You raise some very good pints here.

    Though I do find myself wondering if salvation is completely free. It’s very true. People love free things. Free things are awesome…when there isn’t some sort of “catch” to it. By catch I mean you get this free thing, but only if you do this, this, or this, or if you meet certain criteria.

    Works may be secondary to being saved, but if your works aren’t good enough, do you still receive that gift of salvation? Or if you don’t believe all the right things or support something that goes against what the bible teaches do you still receive a gift of salvation (of course outside of believing that Jesus is God and Jesus is the only way to God; by believing all the right things I mean on possible minor issues, things that people argue about all the time)?

      • I understand you, Sombra, but I think the mistake is with Christians unexplained words, or explanation of the terms we used mostly.

        Salvation is free in a sense that it can not be earned. Unlike product that are free, they could also be earned.

        Salvation is free in a sense that one is unconditionally choose by God, called by God and saved by God, kept by God as gift of God, by God and to God.

        It is call free, because one is without work, or any merits,unconditionally accepted through God(Christ Jesus) for God, to his own glory.

        When one is drawn by God(the Father) to Christ, the rest appear/follow automatically

        Thus it is important to know the context of Free.

    • Though I do find myself wondering if salvation is completely free. It’s very true. People love free things. Free things are awesome…when there isn’t some sort of “catch” to it. By catch I mean you get this free thing, but only if you do this, this, or this, or if you meet certain criteria.

      Your are right to be skeptical of free things, but in this case it really is free. Jesus paid the debt. The “catch” is merely trusting in Jesus. Now if you trust in him and believe in him for who He really is, then of course you’ll want to live differently — and He will help you with the Holy Spirit. But you are saved in spite of the bad things you’ve done and not because of any good that you have done.

      And Jesus did teach to count the cost of following him. It could mean lost friends, income, family, persecution, etc. Again, those aren’t “payments” for your salvation, just potential worldly consequences of being a follower of Christ.

      Works may be secondary to being saved, but if your works aren’t good enough, do you still receive that gift of salvation?

      Yes, you still receive the gift of salvation and eternal life in Heaven. Your works can impact rewards in Heaven (the Bible isn’t precise about exactly what those are, but knowing Jesus we can be sure they won’t be a disappointment. Some think it could be a greater capacity for joy. Either way, you won’t be jealous of the rewards of others because there will be no sin in Heaven).

      Or if you don’t believe all the right things or support something that goes against what the bible teaches do you still receive a gift of salvation (of course outside of believing that Jesus is God and Jesus is the only way to God; by believing all the right things I mean on possible minor issues, things that people argue about all the time)?

      No one has perfect theology. The Bible even teaches how to address disputable matters, which means God knew we’d have disputable matters. The essentials are the key, as you need to trust in the real Jesus (the one of the Bible, not the one of Mormonism or the one of false teachers who deny his divinity and exclusivity).

      We all still sin, so supporting something contrary to what the Bible teaches won’t cost you your salvation — but over time we want to know God better and better through his word so we’ll think more like him and be more like Christ — Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

  6. Pingback: Craig Hazen explains why Christianity is not like other religions « Wintery Knight

  7. Pingback: Craig Hazen explains why Christianity is different from other religions | Wintery Knight

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