It always amazes me how the Lord introduces a new topic for my thought and study, then the next day, also provides follow-up material.
Two days ago I was listening to a YouTube video by Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, when he made an interesting opening statement before answering the question: Are all religions the same?
This was his statement:
“We often hear that all religions are the same, but this is not true. They are superficially the same, but they are fundamentally different.”
To read an article by Ravi in Christian Today explains his views further, though briefly, click here.
I was then surprised when yesterday afternoon when reading and came upon a couple of pages in the latest book by Philip Yancey, “Vanishing Grace – What ever happened to the good news?” which expands on the same topic, in an interesting and factual way.
The following extract is taken from Vanishing Grace, pages 169-171.
“When the Willow Creek Community Church did a survey they found that some in their congregation, and especially their post-Christian friends, believed that all world religions are essentially the same. If their doctrines are similar and point in the same direction, why is it important to choose the ‘right’ one? In response to the survey, the church invited a learned representative from each of the major faiths to a service. A Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Jew and a Christian sat together on the platform and answered questions from the moderator Bill Hybels. I will condense some of the main points.
What is your understanding of God?
Hindu: God was All-consciousness, before creation, and out of his playtime he created the universe. So God in one form is the creation, and also to put life into it he entered the creation, countless times. Indeed, anyone can attain Godhood status by following the rules set out.
Buddhist: We focus not on God or gods, but on the teachings of Gautama Buddha who lived in the fifth century BC. We strive, like the Buddha, to become enlightened human beings, who serve out of compassion and try to end suffering in the world.
Muslim: God is a mercy-giver. He is peace. He is the first and last. He is the owner of the Day of judgement. He is the owner of the universe. He is the guide. He is the light. He is the Mercy.
Jew: I would suspect everyone here would recognise the God of Judaism through Judaism’s daughter religions, Christianity and Islam, both of which have patterned their own theology after the mother religion, Judaism.
Christian: God is all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present. God is spirit and exists eternally in three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Also, God is personal, which means He invites me to get to know him and to grow in a deep, loving relationship with him.
What do you think of Jesus Christ? According to your tradition, who was Jesus of Nazareth?
Hindu: This world is God’s drama. He created so many religions, and he wanted variety for his own pleasure. When Jesus Christ came and Christianity came about, this was God manifesting himself in Jesus Christ. We have tolerance for all the gods, and we tell everyone to go and pray to your god, if you have that belief, and continue what you are doing.
Buddhist: Jesus was a human being, a wise and compassionate human being who was concerned for the suffering of humanity. And the Buddhist tradition would also recognise the perspective that Jesus is the son of God, though not the only way to God.
Muslim: We believe in the prophets of God, which include Jesus, peace be upon him. But we do not believe he died on the cross. The Koran says he was not killed or crucified. He has been lifted by God and will be coming back to guide all mankind according to Islam.
Jew: As for the pre-eminence of Jesus over any other religion’s central figure, we leave that up to anybody to decide for themselves. We have our Bible and our prophets, and they have their Bible and their prophets, and we let it go at that.
Christian: Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God, fully human and fully God, without sin, the only one worthy or qualified to forgive sin. He proved he was God when he was resurrected, and he also proved that he could defeat death and forgive sin.
One final question: What about the life after this life? If you were to die after this service, what would happen?
Hindu: The Hindus believe in reincarnation, a continuation of life. Before my birth, there must have been thousands of births before. Based on my actions and my next birth, I might go into a lower creature, or I might elevate myself, at least until I reach the state of full consciousness.
Buddhist: Afterlife is problematic. If enlightenment has occurred before death then there is complete liberation, or complete nirvana, which cannot be described or explained. It is neither eternal consciousness or annihilation. It is not in our intellectual capacity to comprehend it.
Muslim: Every human being has a reserved seat in heaven and in hell. The angels will ask you what happened in your life, who was your God, who was your prophet, what was your religion, what was your book. So at the moment of death, those who are going to heaven will be shown their reserved place in hell – and what happened by the grace of God that they were saved from going to that hell – then they will be sent to heaven. Otherwise, people will be shown the other way. We all have to be prepared.
Jew: Rabbis have said that the quality of your life after death depends on the character of your life on earth. ‘The righteous among all the nations of the world have a share in the world-to come.’
Christian: The soul will live for ever in eternity, and the choices that we make here and now will determine our eternal destiny. If we choose to ignore God or reject God, or to ignore the separation [sin] problem, we will spend an eternity separated from Got, and that place is called hell. On the other hand, if we choose to solve the separation problem God’s way by receiving Jesus Christ into our lives, and allowing him to forgive our sins and bridge the gap, we will spend an eternity with God in heaven.”
Philip Yancey sums it up on page 174 saying:
“As the New Testament itself admits, Jesus is at once the capstone of creation and also the greatest stumbling block for nonbelievers. All those on the Willow Creek panel agreed that Jesus represents a point of common ground: an esteemed rabbi to the Jew, a god to the Hindu, an enlightened one to the Buddhist, a great prophet to the Muslim.
Even to the New Age guru, Jesus is the pinnacle of God-consciousness. At the same time, Jesus is the divider. None but Christians see him as a member of the Godhead on an exclusive mission to repair the broken world.”
Blessings in Christ,
~ Angus MacKillop