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    Nov 23, 2014

    Class 6: World Religions

    Series: Apologetics

    Category: Core Seminars, Apologetics, Evidence for Faith, False Teaching, World Religions


    World Religions

    I. Intro

    Just few minutes from here, in northwest Washington, DC, there is a statue to Mahatmas Gandhi. Gandhi was a man of large ideas who has left a large legacy. He was undoubtedly a great political leader and social philosopher. Gandhi may be most remembered as the teacher of civil disobedience, or for his role in securing the independence of the modern nation of India.

    What is the most important thing about Gandhi? What did Gandhi believe about life, humanity, and God?

    Today, in our ninth worldview and apologetics core seminar, we will be learning about how to engage with people from some of the world’s largest religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam.

    If you group together Roman Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans and Orthodox under one umbrella of “Christianity,” the next three largest religions are Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam

    CIA, 2007
     Christians 33.32% (of which Roman Catholics 16.99%, Protestants 5.78%, Orthodox 3.53%, Anglicans 1.25%),
     Muslims 21.01%,
     Hindus 13.26%,
     Buddhists 5.84%,
     other religions 11.78%
     non-religious 11.77%,
     Jews 0.23%,
     Sikhs 0.35%
     Baha'is 0.12%
     atheists 2.32%

    According to these statistics, protestant Christians compose only about 6 percent of the world population. Is it narrow-minded and bigoted for evangelical Christians to claim Jesus is the only way? Don’t all roads lead up the same mountain?

    Back to Gandhi. He was a kind, moral, and very religious man. It has been reported to have said he admired Christ, but did not care much for Christians. Surely Gandhi –a great leader and historic figure – has communed with god, or at least gained his favor. Isn’t the point to religion to be sincere and moral? After all, don’t all religions basically teach the same thing – communion with the divine and loving cooperation on earth?

    In our next few minutes together, we will not only explore the teaching of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, but we will also answer three question:
    1. Don’t All Religions Teach the Same Thing?
    2. Is Jesus The Only Way?
    3. What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

    We will find that what is far more important than even the life and legacy of a great man, is what that man believes about, and how he responds to, Jesus.

    Obviously, libraries are full of books on the world religions and philosophy we will be discussing in the next few minutes. So today’s material is no where near a comprehensive view; it’s just a brief Executive Summary.

    There are three categories for each world religion, and each of ours for today falls into one category.

    II. Categories of Religions

    (1) Monotheism – Teaches There Is One God. Monothestic religions include Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

    Christianity, Judaism, and Islam share a world view: There is One God, God Reveals Himself, and Man is Sinful. They may reach similar conclusions about morality and ethics.

    But they differ dramatically on the Authority of the Bible and the Person of Jesus Christ.

    (2) Polytheistic – Teaches There Are Many gods (Hinduism, Eastern Religions, New Age, Greeks & Egyptians, Platonists).

    Christians do and polytheists agree there is a God – and we are not him. We would also agree that humankind’s , thoughts and actions affect their standing with god.

    But polytheists’ view of authority and history are radically different, morality and ethics are somewhat all over the board, and they certainly do not recognize Jesus and the Bible.

    (3) Pantheism – All is god, god is in all (Buddhism, Classical & Zen, Animism).

    Christians hold few beliefs in common with pantheistic religions. Even our understanding and conception of God is not even really the same idea as theirs. The idea of Man being close to or reconciled to God is not even a category of their thought, for they effectively believe we are already god. Pantheists do generally have a concept of truth, but it is never finally knowable. They might recognize the Bible and Jesus are guides, but would say only use them if they are of pragmatic help to you.

    Let’s unpack one world religion in each a category with examining it from four angles:
    1. Facts
    2. Beliefs.
    3. Agreements, Disagreements.
    4. Questions.


    III. Islam -- Means “Submission to God”, and Followers are “Muslims”

    Islam is more than a system of belief. The faith provides a social and legal system and governs things like family life, law and order, ethics, dress, and cleanliness, as well as religious ritual and observance.

    There are over one billion Muslims globally, largely in the Middle East, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
    The religion was founded around 622 AD by Mohammad, who believed he was final messenger through whom Allah revealed the faith to the world. There had been earlier messengers, among them Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

    Mohammad began to teach in Mecca and later settled in Medina. By 632 AD – Mohammad and his followers had taken control of Mecca and most of the Arabian peninsula by jihad – or Holy War – a proselytizing religion from the beginning.

    God is called "Allah" but the idea of an incarnate, personal God is blasphemous and absurd. God is all powerful, he created all things & is merciful and compassionate. God is Judge, but there is no mediator.

    Man is capable of sin, but he is innately capable of pleasing God perfectly – or at least sufficiently.“Salvation” is works-based. The pleasure of Allah – are achieved by religious observance. (Five Pillars):
    1. Confession “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is the apostle of God.”
    2. Prayer Ritual 5 times a day
    3. Fasting during Ramadan (the 9th month)
    4. Almsgiving to the poor (2.5% of savings)
    5. Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in life, a rigid moral code.

    Converting to Islam requires external actions – specifically, that you repeat the confession, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.” This is to submit to all other teachings in Islam.

    Agreements, Disagreements.

     Is the Bible God’s Word? The Muslims believe it was necessary for God to give another book, the Koran.
     What is the purpose of God's revelation? Muslims believe that Islam includes both Judaism and Christianity and say that even Abraham was a Muslim. In their mind, everything is Islam. What we need to explain to the Muslim, and it is not an easy task, is that God desired to establish a personal relationship between Himself and man.
     Did Jesus really die on the cross? Islam does not teach Jesus died on the cross. There is a verse in the Koran which says, "They killed Him not, they crucified Him not, but it was likened unto them. They killed Him not knowingly, but God raised Him and God is the most merciful of merciful." In the Muslim's mind, this verse is saying that God was so merciful He could never allow a wonderful prophet such as Jesus to be crucified by His enemies the Jews.
     What About the Trinity? Muslims often say, "You Christians believe in three different gods -- God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. That is blasphemy' One cannot believe in three different gods. "
    1. How do you know if you are doing enough good deeds to receive salvation on the Day of Judgment?
    2. If what Jesus said is true?
    3. How can Christianity be part of Islam when its teachings are so different?
    Key opening: grace

    IV. Hinduism (PANTHEISTIC)


    There are about 1 billion Hindus worldwide, most of whom are in India, UK or the US. Hinduism arose 3500 years ago (1500 B.C.) after the conquering of the Indian subcontinent, but there is no clear specific founder or starting point.

    Hinduism does not offer the same insistence on being the only "truth" as other religions do and there is no eternally dominant or "correct" form of Hinduism. Nor do Hindus separate religion from other aspects of life. For Hindus, Hinduism is an inextricable part of their existence, a complete approach to life that involves social class, earning a living, family, politics, diet, etc. The culture of India is largely Hindu because of this.

    Hinduism is not a set of static beliefs but it continues to develop. It also explains history in circular, non-linear terms, with no starting and end point.


    There is no single Hindu idea of God. There is Brahman: “The Absolute,” the impersonal, all-embracing spirit, many lesser deities. You could say there is “One god, Among Many gods.”

    Hinduism is works-based, because behind Hindu practice is the belief all souls are eternal and accountable for their own actions. Karma is the debt of one’s bad actions for which one must atone, so that every soul is trapped in a cycle of birth and then death and then rebirth. Karma is not the same thing as judgment in Christianity. It is automatic and impersonal and reoccurring (gravity).

    Every Hindu wants to escape from this cycle. The quality of the next life depends on the soul's Karma-the goodness or badness of their deeds in this life. Hindus aim to live in a way that will cause each of their lives to be better than the life before.

    Their ultimate aim is escape from the cycle altogether by attaining Moksha (liberation). So when someone dies, their soul is reborn into a new body (although not necessarily a human body) – this is called Reincarnation

    Agreements, Disagreements

    • Does History Matter? The Christian view of history is extremely different –linear vs.cycle. For Christians, History has a purpose, because it has a Beginning and End. Hinduism teaches a cycle of meaninglessness.
    • What Is God Like? For Hindus, humankind is the manifestation of impersonal Brahman force, but has no individual worth. Yet Christians believe humankind is created n God's image and thus has immeasurable value to God, personally – so personally, that he would give himself to save us. Furthermore, Christians believe God is unique and apart from Creation: not simply a part of it
    • What are the consequences of our actions? We agree with Hindus that there are lasting consequences for our actions. The do not believe in the idea of sin against a Holy God; only wrong acts of ignorance that can be overcome. In our apologetics, we should be clear that Christians actually believe in a “deeper” vision of sin and consequences.
    • How Does One Become a Hindu or Christian? Christians actually agree with Hindus – that no one can be coerced to faith, and that “toleration and acceptance” are important values. But Hinduism replaces resurrection with reincarnation and both grace and faith with human works. For them, Salvation" is cycle of birth, death, rebirth. For Christian apologists, the challenge is to help them see salvation actually is eternity in heaven with a good personal God because of what Christ has done for us.
    • Who is Jesus? Hindus believe Jesus is a divine manifestation, but not more special than others. Christians believe Jesus was God Himself and we were made to have a relationship with him.

    1. Do you really believe all religions are equally true, even when they teach different things?
    2. How do you explain human nature in a way that accounts for Mother Theresa and Adolph Hitler?
    3. How do you know when you are good enough to be liberated?
    Key opening: grace

    V. Buddhism (POLYTHEISTIC)


    There are about 500 million Buddhists worldwide, predominately in China, Tibet, and East Asia.

    It is difficult to talk sensibly about Buddhism because Buddhists are dogmatic that one cannot be linguistically dogmatic about anything. But over the last 30 years Buddhism has seen growth in the West as its non-dogmatic nature, rationality, possibility of a spiritual guide, and opportunity for personal transformation have all made it attractive to post-modern society


    As a Pantheistic religion, Buddahism teaches we are all God – God is in all of us. Heard this before in pop culture? Yoda to Luke Skywalker: “Use the Force Luke, the Force is all around you, in the tree, the rock, me, and you.”

    Buddhism has no omnipotent, creator God who exists apart from this or any other universe. In fact, belief in a God of that kind is not part of Buddhism.

    Buddhists also believe in Karma – the cause and effect that traps souls in a endless cycle of birth and rebirth. But Buddhism teaches that the illusions with which human beings comfort and delude themselves, includes the illusion of material and consistency and the reliability of the senses as a means of apprehending the outside world.

    Buddhism teaches “Four Noble Truths”
    1. To live is to suffer
    2. Suffering is caused by desire (we allow ourselves to get attached to things)
    3. One can eliminate suffering by elimination desire (to accept)
    4. Desire is eliminated by following the eight-fold path

    The eight-fold Path brings us to the state known as nirvana, where all action and interaction ceases. Nirvana is a state of enlightenment and the place where personality is extinguished.

    Agreements, Disagreements

    • Who is Jesus? Buddhists would say Jesus is another teacher, leading people to Enlightenment – at best another Buddha.

    • What is the Problem of Man? Buddhists get the description of the problem half right. Christians agree that in this world there is suffering. We disagree with the second half of their description of the problem. We don't need to eliminate desire, but to desire the right things. The problem is we desire our to rule our own lives, not submit to God’s rule. They say that Desire must be eliminated. Christians say it must be transformed, so that we hunger and thirst for righteousness.

    • Who Really Is God? We need to speak with Buddhists about the fact that the God of the Bible is all-powerful, immanent and knowable, and wants to be in relationship with His people. He is not a God of only of magical powers but has a personal name and personal powers he uses for our good.


    1. Buddhism is right that there is nothing on earth that permanently exists. But what if I told you there was a world with God that would exist forever?
    2. On his death bed, Buddha said: “I remind you that all things are impermanent. I advise you to take refuge in yourselves and the teachings. Everything that is born is subject to decay. There is no external Savior, it is up to each of you to work out your own liberation.” How can a Buddhist be saved from meaninglessness?
    3. Denying desire denies the desire to enjoy friendship and family, work and play, recreation and exploration. Does a Buddhist not desire these things? Why is it so hard not to desire?
    4. Buddhism teaches that desire is the problem. Yet all humans desire things, from early childhood. Could this desire point to something, someOne we were created to desire?



    VI. Don’t All Religions Teach the Same Thing?

    After spending a few minutes contrasting Christianity with Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism you may find it hard to believe people still assert the major world religions teach the same thing – yet some do. This is nonsense.

    First, as a matter of simple observation, different religions make very different claims, and it is impossible to see how they can all be true. In fact, the nature of a truth-claim is to say one thing is true and real and valid, while another is false. Christianity teaches Jesus is the one way and that no human gets to God but through him. Hindus and Buddhists would say all religions are equal, but deny the exclusivity of Christianity’s most fundamental claim. It’s nonsense to pretend they teach the same thing. There is a world of difference
    between the smiling Buddha and the crucified Christ.

    Second, however, world religions do have some similarities on the level of morality and ethics – what it means to be good and live the good life. Yet even here you can see there is serious variance. Buddhists understand their efforts to be the most “good” when they deny pain exists, because it is a mere illusion. Yet Christians follow Jesus, a real Man, who has borne very real pain and judgment for them. Similarities in morality also dissolve upon examination. Jesus made it clear: he did not come to make bad men good, but to make dead men alive in God.
    Do all religions really teach the same thing? Nobody wants to give the same respect to a religion based on human sacrifice, fear of evil spirits or mass suicide as they do to, say, Zen Buddhism. Nobody seriously suggests that Hitler’s claims to divine revelation should be given equal treatment with those of Mohammed or Jesus. We are only tolerant up to a point, and rightly so. Differences make a difference.

    VII. Is Jesus The Only Way?
    So, is Jesus the only way to know God, to be forgiven and saved, and to enjoy eternal life with God? Yes.
     Isaiah 45:21 : "There is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me."
     John 14:6: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
    This is a hard truth for many of our friends. It is a hard truth for others to hear in a postmodern culture. Christian, we need to say this cogently, Biblically, and winsomely – but as Christian apologists, we must proclaim the Word of truth.
     As Romans 1:16 says: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”
    As Christians, what are the charges we need to be prepared to respond to, when we say Jesus is the Only Way to GOD?
    1. Claiming Jesus is the Only Way Is Arrogant
    Here we should use arguments from Jesus’ own words (John 14:6, John 17) and the words of the disciples (Acts 4:12, Romans 6, etc). We can use arguments regarding the validity of the New Testament manuscripts to point out the authenticity of the historical record. These are not our assertions.
    Furthermore, there are numerous other religions that make exclusive truth claims. Making such a claim does not prove its veracity, but neither is such a claim limited to Christianity.
    Finally, let’s return to simple logic. It's not possible for all the major world religions to be valid ways to God.
    2. Jesus Cannot Be the Only Way, Because Other Religions Would be False
    No matter what belief system you adopt, you will be saying that your system is right and that the billions of people who don't accept it are wrong. If Islam is correct, the billions of non-Muslims are wrong; if Orthodox Judiasm is correct, the billions of Gentiles are wrong. If it is correct to approve of multiple belief systems because they're all valid ways of achieving spiritual enlightenment, the billions of Christians, Jews, Muslims and others who believe in exclusive religions are intolerant and therefore wrong. You can see the logic breaks down.
    3. All That Really Matters Is That People Sincerely Seek God
    You may hear people say that sincerity is most important in religions, and the rest is mere detail'. It is those very details that make the difference. If you were to examine a counterfeit $50 note, it would look and feel very much like the real thing. You may even need special training to spot the differences. But it is those small but real differences that make one worth $50 and the other worth nothing.
    Furthermore, if sincerity were the test, virtually any delusion or ‘sincere’ mental persuasion would be legitimate.

    VIII. What About Those Who Have Never Heard The Good News of Jesus?

    Finally, what about those who have never heard of Jesus? Could they be saved? This is one question that comes up in apologetics, and sometimes is related to the question of whether Jesus really is the only way.

    Friends may raise this question as an honest intellectual query, or they may raise it as an evasive maneuver in an attempt to evade the Gospel’s claim on their life. It will be important for you to determine how to respond to them. They are accountable to God in heaven for what they do with Jesus.

    As Jesus said in John 3,
    “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

    The Bible has a lot to say about this.

    (1) All humankind is already under God’s judgment because all men and women are sinful, morally accountable to God, and must give an answer to him.
     Romans 1 teaches that God’s infinite power and deity are evident through creation.
     Romans 2: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”
     Romans 3 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
     Isaiah 40 says no one seeks God and Isaiah 53 says “we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…”
     Isaiah 64:6 says our righteousness (good life) before God is as filthy rags
     Hebrews 9:27: “It is appointed to men once to die, and after that, the judgment.”

    Humankind is condemned to God’s judgment because of 4 C’s:
    1. witness of creation
    2. the conscience within them
    3. their own culpability in Adam and Eve in the Fall
    4. and their commission of sin personally.

    (2) Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord GOD will be saved
     II Peter 3:9: ‘He is patient … not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
     Romans 5: “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
     Romans 10:13, Joel 2:32 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

    (3) Scripture is full of examples of men and women who trust God in faith with incomplete information, yet are saved
     God’s people have relationship with him because they trust him in faith.
     As Hebrews 11 makes clear, the Old Testament saints are in relationship with God because they responded trustingly to what God had revealed of himself.
     Does that mean that Jesus was unnecessary for them? Not at all. As Hebrews 11 also makes clear, Jesus was the Promised Messiah and the Perfect Sacrifice for all God’s people who would repent and believe.
     Acts 10 tells the story of Cornelius, a God-fearing centurion who God spoke through a dream, and then to Peter – who repented and believed, trusting God.
     Joshua 2 tells the story of Rahab – a pagan harlot – who trusted the God of the Israelites, and, as Hebrews 11 makes clear, it was accounted to her as faith
     II King 5 tells the story of a pagan elite, Naaman, whose life was spared because he trusted the God of Israel

    So, what about those who have never heard?
     We know all men and women who do not know Jesus as savior reside under God’s judgment.
     But we also know that God save those who call out to him in faith.
     God glorify himself and accomplish his purposes to call to himself a people from every tongue, and tribe, and nation.
    If you think it is “not fair” that some will perish under God’s judgment, you need to rethink your definition of “fair.” Friend, we do not need a holy God to be “fair” with us. We need him to be merciful. The only thing we deserve his judgment. But he has been so kind to us in Christ.

    The Bible does not answer this question directly. But why does it matter? The issue for apologetics – those of you within hearing my voice – is that you have heard the Gospel, you have given the good news of Jesus.

    If you are not a Christian, you need to know you stand under God’s judgment. But the good news is that God has made a way – through giving himself – to assuage his wrath against you. What will you do with this good news? What will you do with Jesus? You should not presume God’s forbearance, but ask for his mercy, repent and believe.

    If you think it is “not fair” that some will perish under God’s judgment, you need to rethink your definition of “fair.” Friend, we do not need a holy God to be “fair” with us. We need him to be merciful. The only thing we deserve his judgment. But he has been so kind to us in Christ.

    Christian, you are responsible for what you do with Jesus. As Romans 10 says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Are you telling your friends the good news about Jesus? Are you defending the faith and critiquing unbelief?