One question that we are getting with increasing frequency in our lectures concerns the logic of promoting Christianity in such a strong way as we do in our lectures. It is intellectually popular in the United States to believe that all religions have their place. The idea is that religion is good and fills a need in society, but we are egotistical and arrogant to assume that our belief in Jesus Christ is any better or contains any more truth than other religious systems. Those embracing this idea would argue that the Moslem faith is ideal for the Middle East, the Hindu faith is ideal for India, and so forth, so we have no right to push our faith on these people.
There are so many issues and errors in this kind of challenge that I am always a little frustrated as to how to answer concisely what is being presented. Certainly there is good in all faiths. Certainly we have no desire to be arrogant and egotistical in bringing Christ to other people. But the fact is that Christianity has a uniqueness and a freshness that makes it imperative that we bring Christ to the world. Those who make the suggestion that we are amiss in teaching Christ evangelistically are naive not only about the theological question of salvation, but also about the products of the various religious systems.
One of the basic concepts which Jesus gave as to how we can evaluate this kind of question is "by their fruits ye shall know them." The productivity of a religious system can be logically and intelligently investigated even without considering the man-made distortions which creep into all systems. Since all religious systems have a Bible, a set of sacred writings, or a written creed, it is easy to make comparisons of these written records and see if the writings are logical, working, productive systems or if they contain glaring errors and unworkable systems. We have a tendency to look superficially at a culture and conclude that if peace and order are present, the system is a perfect one. There are far more critical and important areas than those we see in overt operation, and we would like to consider some of these in this article. Our thesis is that Christianity is unique in that it presents a potentially perfect working system in all areas of human experience, while all other systems demonstrate enormous flaws in one or more areas. For brevity's sake, we will not detail all teachings of all major systems, but will hit the highlights.
In recent years, we have seen a great deal of attention to the issue of human rights. Most of us have been repulsed by the tragic wasting of human life in so many ways and in so many places in the world. What many people in the West do not seem to appreciate is that the issue of human rights is founded upon one's viewpoint of what man is. Modern communism is based upon the assumption that man is merely an animal and nothing more. (This was also true of the Nazi movement of World War II.) To kill a human in such a system was of no greater significance than killing an insect. In the Moslem system, the taking of life was advocated by Mohammed for religious purposes. Any doctrine which involves reincarnation can logically justify the taking or sacrificing of life, since a repeating of the life experience is believed to follow. I heard a story not long ago about an American who was visiting a family in a rural area of India. The house was near a river, and suddenly one of their children fell in the river. The American dove in and saved the child. As he pulled himself and the child out of the water, he was attacked by the family, who told him he had robbed the child of a quick trip to the next incarnation.
Our minds have a difficult time with such a system because we have lived in a culture that has been based upon the principles of Christ. Until very recently, this system has taught that man is specially created in God's image, with a purpose and objective for each life. The reincarnation concept is a positive way of dealing with death for some, but the violation of human rights that it encourages far outweighs that benefit. When we look carefully at the teachings of Christ, we see the epitome of concern for human rights. We are told that God is no respecter of persons and that we are all equal in God's sight. We see an emphasis on people, with specific commands to meet one another's needs, to live peacefully, to turn the other cheek, and to go the second mile. Jesus treated all people with dignity and respect and commanded His followers to do the same. Humility and service are foundations of civil rights. The Christian system stands out as a unique and superior system in every way.
Nearly all religious systems have developed a workable family system, but few have given the potential of the Christian system. Sexual relationships in virtually all systems outside Christianity are oriented entirely toward the male. The Koran specifically enjoins the woman to not deny her husband's sexual desire, but says nothing of her needs. The same silence is found in the Vedas and the Buddhist systems. Polygamy, which is another part of the Moslem system, totally negates the true meaning of marriage and ignores the "one flesh" concept of the Bible. Only a person who has failed to build a close and loving marriage would attempt to support a polygamous (multi-wives) or polyandrous (multi-husbands) system. Even modern sexologists in the scientific community have come to understand the necessity of a single partner in a warm, trusting, loving relationship.
Another family area in which the Bible excels is in parent-child relationships. All systems have emphasized the importance of children obeying their parents, but only the Bible emphasizes the responsibilities of parents to respect the child's needs and rights. When we read statements like "Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4) and "Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged" (Colossians 3:21), we have to realize that the logical secret to successful raising of children and a stable home is the ability to discipline and yet treat the children in such a way that they are not angered and frustrated to despair. In many Eastern religions, children are physically separated from their families during their formative years for religious purposes.
The Bible's constructive, flexible, humane guidance for all aspects of family life reflects consistency and wisdom not seen elsewhere. There is a fresh, unique approach to the most critical of human relationships.
During the past 50 years, we have seen a terrible growth in world hunger. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is population growth. It is interesting that only Christianity views the number of children a person has as inconsequential. The Bible's emphasis on counting the cost before we build the temple and placing one's life's purpose as the top priority have made having children a designed act, and sex something other than for procreation.
Even more important has been the contrast between the Bible's portrayal of man and his relationship to nature as opposed to other religious systems in this world. Pantheism, where nature is god, and man is prohibited from controlling and manipulating nature, is a very long distance from the command to "Subdue the earth and have dominion over the fish and the fowl and the beasts of the earth." With the command to subdue is the command to "take care of the Garden, to dress it and keep it." The fruits of pantheism are obvious to even the casual observer. Any environmental stress or pressing of resource limits is catastrophic. Our abundance in America is no accident. It is the fruit of following the Bible's unique perspective of man and nature. Let us hope we continue our zeal to use and control to the point of preserving and caring for what we have, and restoring what we have lost to carelessness.
The concept of how man will fare in the realm beyond death is another area in which there is an enormous contrast between the biblical concept and what we see in other religious systems. The Moslem concept portrays an existence of a physical nature and seems to offer a lesser reward for women than for men (depending upon one's interpretation of the Koran. Some scholars claim women have no reward at all). How much incentive is it to live a good life when reincarnation is the ultimate reward? Even the promise of nirvana is limited in its scope.
On the other had, the biblical portrayal is a portrayal of all the positive and best things found in all the other systems, plus more. Unity with God and full knowledge are there, but so is the fact that all are equal in God's sight, and we are all justified if we have obeyed the guide we have been given. We are not asked to be perfect--God takes care of that. Our judgment, as shown by the parable of the talents, is not based upon what we do or accomplish, but upon our response to the gospel. Grace is a fundamental theme of the biblical record, and it is glaringly absent from all other systems.
This sampling is sufficient, I hope, to show the fruit concept we started with. It has been my experience in studying with people of other faiths and of other cultures that these kinds of concepts, and others we have not mentioned, are needed before progress can be made in comprehending the gospel. The other concepts might involve what God is, the uniqueness of Christ, and similar problems. More to the point however, is the fact that a huge number of people who claim to be Christians do not appreciate what they have and how beautiful and unique a system God has given to us.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
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