We ended our Defend the Kingdom series with a look at the religions of the world. There are an estimated 4,200 different religions out there in the world, which means there are 4,200 types of believers that all think they got it right and everyone else is wrong. So, what makes Christianity the “right” religion? We couldn't look at over 4,000 different world views, but we did take a look at some of the most prominent beliefs and how they stack up next to Christianity. This is an incredibly brief snapshot of each view, just FYI, I couldn’t go much deeper than this in one Sunday…
Atheism. This worldview is the belief that there is no God. Atheists believe that you are born to live, die, and most believe that you just cease to exist with no afterlife. There is no purpose in life, other than just living - but not for any sort of higher power. This view is seen heavily in the academic world - if you go to a secular university college class that promotes evolution, there are most likely atheistic tendencies. Academically, the atheist agenda is seen as the “logical” path, whereas believing in an Intelligent Designer would be seen as “illogical.” The first week of this series, we looked at 5 C’s that prove God’s existence to reveal atheist flaws - if you haven’t read it, check it out here: (How Can You Prove That God is Real?)
Hinduism. There are a wide range of over 330 million different gods, with one main god called Brahma, who is impersonal, unknowable, and lives in everything. There are many variations of Hinduism: monistic (believes only one thing exists in this world), pantheistic (only one thing exists in the world and its divine), panentheistic (the world is a piece of god), theistic (only one god, and is separate from creation), and there are even atheistic versions of Hinduism. The one common thread through these beliefs is their religious text called Vedas. If you believe Vedas are sacred you’re Hindu, and if not you’re not. Since Brahma is everything, everyone is divine. The spiritual goal of Hinduism is to become one with Brahma. You achieve this in a variety of ways: meditation, yoga, worship of Hindu gods at Hindu temples, if you live good you will have good karma so you can reincarnate after you die higher on the social ladder (and vice versa with living poorly, reincarnating lower). You continue a life, death, reincarnation cycle until you eventually enter into Moksha (or ultimate enlightenment).
Buddhism. This religion has Hindu backgrounds. The founder of Buddhism was Siddhartha Gautama. He was born into wealth but when he was subject to poverty and suffering abandoned his luxuries to become a monk in search of peace and enlightenment. Once he reached enlightenment, he became known as Buddha, which means “enlightened one.” The ultimate spiritual goal of Buddhism is to achieve enlightenment. There are four “Noble Truths” that Buddha discovered: 1. to live is to suffer, 2. suffering is caused by worldly desires, 3. you can eliminate suffering by eliminating all attachment to worldly things, and 4. you can achieve enlightenment through an 8 fold path. The 8 fold path is making sure that you have the right 1. view, 2. intentions, 3. speech, 4. actions, 5. livelihood, 6. effort, 7. mindfulness, and 8. concentration. Buddhism also holds to karma/reincarnation, so you continue in the life, death, reincarnation cycle until you reach Nirvana (ultimate enlightenment).
Islam. Founded by Muhammad, who claimed Angel Gabriel revealed messages from God to him over a span of 23 years. Muhammad took note of those messages, and that became known as the Qur’an. Muslims, followers of Islam, summarize their beliefs in basically six points: 1. belief in one Allah (Arabic word for “God”), 2. belief in angels, 3. belief in prophets (Christian prophets, but also that Muhammad was Allah's final prophet), 4. belief in relations of Allah, 5. belief in last day of judgement, and 6. belief in predestination (that Allah predestined everything to happen). The goal of Muslims is to strive to keep the Five Pillars, which is their framework of obedience. A Muslim’s entrance into paradise after death is hinged on the Five Pillars, but even if a Muslim keeps to the Five Pillars, they are still unsure if Allah will accept them to paradise after death. In fact, Muhammad himself wrote in the Qur’an that he was unsure if Allah would even permit him to enter paradise! The Five Pillars are the following: 1. testimony of faith (believing Allah is God and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah), 2. saying five ritual prayers every day, 3. giving a certain percentage of finances to Allah every year, 4. fasting during Ramadan, and 5. if financially and physically possible to pilgrimage to Mecca (which is in Saudi Arabia).
Mormonism. Started about 200 years ago, Joseph Smith claimed that God spoke to him, saying that the churches of his time were an abomination, so Smith set out to “restore true Christianity.” Mormons believe that God has not always been the Supreme Being of the universe, but that He attained that status through righteous living and effort. Mormons read and follow four different sources of spiritual knowledge: 1. Bible (as long as it translated correctly), 2. Book of Mormon (translated by Joseph Smith, considered by him to be the “most correct” book on Earth), 3. Doctrine and Covenants (different revelations of the church), and 4. The Pearl of Great Price (“clarifies” teachings of the Bible). They believe in different levels of kingdoms for afterlife, and where you go depends on how you live and what you believe. They teach that salvation is earned from a combination of faith and good works. So what is their belief? It is a distorted, added to, loose version of Christianity. From the perspective of the Christian Bible, Mormonism distorts the nature of God, person of Christ, and means of salvation.
Christianity is a unique belief system because it is the only religion that teaches there’s nothing you can do to earn salvation. Humans are born slaves to sin and must completely rely on the grace of God to be saved. Trusting in the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Jesus is all we need, nothing more nothing less. All other regions claim we need to earn salvation - whether it is living for good karma to hopefully reach enlightenment or following the Five Pillars to maybe get accepted to paradise. I know personally, I couldn’t do it - I am totally not good enough to earn my own salvation. Not to mention, how scary it must be to live that life of always debating if you are living “good enough.” Not knowing when you die if you’ll have said enough prayers or been “good enough” is terrifying. With our God, we know that Jesus is all we need and never have to worry about doing enough good works, because we can’t earn our way to Heaven or into a relationship with God. He just loves us no matter what, just because.