We live in an age of relativism. It is popular in our culture to suggest that no one religious system is the answer to man’s problems and that all religious teachings have something good to say. Attacks on Christianity and the Bible are increasingly acrimonious, especially on those of us who attempt to follow what the Bible says and who maintain that it is the one and only true path to God.

Jesus Christ is an easy target for those who follow relativism. John 1:1–14 makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is God and that He came to earth and dwelt among mankind. Verse 14 says very clearly, “The Word [Jesus] was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” In John 14:6 Jesus tells us clearly that He is the only path to God, ”I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father but by me.”  In 2 Timothy 3:16 –17 the Bible is portrayed as all a person needs for instruction in living: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God … that the man [or woman] of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and anti-Christian activists view such statements as arrogant, empty claims of superiority. They would have us believe that all religious systems are equal and all contain some elements of truth and wisdom. They claim that all religious systems, including the Bible, also contain massive amounts of error.

It is not difficult to see why relativism has been accepted by so many people. All of the major religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and many forms of Buddhism claim to be the only true path to God, or at least to perfection. Only the Bahá’í and some modern cult systems view all religious systems as equally valid. It is also a fact that many religious teachings made in the name of Christianity both now and in the  past have been false. (Who can forget the Branch Davidians, Jim Jones, and Marshall Applewhite?) It is also of interest that all religious systems have some positive things that they teach that are beneficial. The Hindu Vedas certainly have some wonderful concepts of man’s responsibility to take care of the environment in which he lives. The Koran has a marvelous sense of controlling the environment in which one lives so that immorality does not occur.  Buddha understood how to reduce conflict between one another and live at peace. Seeing elements of truth and wisdom in the writings of a religious system may lead someone to feel that everything taught by that religion must have similar credibility. That is simply not true. 

Another misunderstanding prevalent among those who promote relativism is that the actions of members of a religion demonstrate the truth or error of that religious system. I have frequently seen Americans in other countries conducting themselves in rude, abusive, and even illegal ways. It has always disturbed me to see the local people in a situation like that, condemning the United States and all Americans on the basis of what they saw some Americans do. There have been people who claim to be Christians who have had attitudes and have practiced things that are opposed to everything Jesus Christ taught. This includes those supposed Christians involved in the Crusades, the Ku Klux Klan, various cults, and even dishonest politics. I am sure there are people in every religious system who are honest, kind, peaceful, and giving. It is wrong to condemn all Muslims because of the heinous acts of Al-Qaeda or to condemn all Germans because of what Adolph Hitler did. Humans are full of arrogance, ignorance, and selfishness. The only way to fairly evaluate a system is by looking into its written credo — the beliefs and commanded practices that the founders of the religious system taught. How the religious system has affected the standard of living in the cultures where it has been dominant can be of some use, but even that process is prone to error because of the number of variables involved.

In view of all of this, what evidence do we have that validates the Christian system and the claim that it is the one true path to God? How can we know that the Bible is the inspired message from God telling us how we should live? There are some areas we would like to offer that support the view that Christianity is the one true path that all men should follow that will bring them to God.

We have already pointed out that trying to tie a religion to the acts of individuals who might claim to be a part of that religion is inconsistent. Looking at what the sacred writings of the religious system teaches however, is a way of avoiding the inconsistencies of humans and allows us to make equitable comparisons. One can begin by looking at internal characteristics involved in the manuscripts themselves. We can look for such things as clarity, brevity, whitewashing, and sanitizing as indicators of the credibility of the message, without even looking at what the document teaches. This is something the reader can easily do, especially in this day of computers and evaluation tools.

This is a term used to tell how clearly the ideas have been expressed by an author. When you read something, you should stop and ask yourself “How clear is what was just said?” (Not “do I believe that?”) To assist us in making unprejudiced judgments in this area, there are a number of educational software programs that school teachers use to get a picture of what a student has written before they read the student’s paper. Over 5,000 students took my physics, chemistry, earth science, and math classes during the 41 years I taught in the public schools in South Bend, Indiana. If you ask virtually any of them, they would tell you that spelling, grammar, and punctuation were not my long suits. Still, I would frequently give students a list of misspelled words when I returned a paper I had graded. The words were carefully printed out by the computer I used which scanned the student’s paper and compiled the list. The same computer program would tell me how many words the student had used, the reading level of the paper, and something called a “fog index” which told me how clearly the students had expressed their ideas. The fog index scale ran from 1 for something perfectly clear, to 14 for something absolutely obscure. On that scale the comic strips would run 1 or 2, the front page of the newspaper 2 to 4, Shakespeare 3 to 6 and the 1040 Income Tax Instructions for the long form 13 to 14. (I actually ran that one year and most of it was over 12 and some of it was over 13.)

Many years ago I had a wonderful group of physics students who were in the habit of not doing their homework. When they bombed one of my tests as a group I gave them my “You’re not trying etc., etc.,” lecture. The next morning I found a letter from the class in my box signed by all 36 kids. They had run a fog index on my test and it was 11.6. “You can’t count a test with a fog index of 11.6,” they said, “We want another test that is at least under 8!!” After that I ran a fog index on my tests before I gave them to the students.

I would encourage the reader to scan the New Testament and compare it to the Koran, the Vedas, The Urantia Book, and the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Buddha, and Zoroaster. Look at the reading level and the fog index, and try to compare writings that are similar — history with history,  poetry with poetry, commands with commands, etc. All of these works have similar problems. They are all ancient in their authorship, and they have all been translated into English. Muslims are fond of suggesting that the Koran can only be understood if one has fluency in Arabic, but all of these books came from an ancient tongue foreign to English, and thus face similar problems. In many cases such as Arabic, computer software is available in that language, so even that problem is not difficult to handle if one is well informed and able to read all languages fluently.

The contrast in the data on fog index is striking. The book of Acts, the Gospels and the letters of the New Testament have very low scores on the fog index — most well under 4. (Remember the lower the number, the clearer the writing is.) The apocalyptic works of the Bible such as Revelation are high — over 7 — typical of that literature style. The Vedas, by comparison, are consistently over 10 and large sections are over 12. Just reading the Vedas will leave you with very little doubt that they are radically different than the biblical manuscripts. The Koran, The Urantia Book, and the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Buddha, and Zoroaster consistently run higher than the Bible in every kind of literature where the style and intent of the writing is comparable. It is an interesting comparison and useful in making evaluations.

All one has to do is to think about the most recent political campaign in the United States to realize that humans do not tend to be brief. Again, the comparisons between the Bible and other manuscripts are most interesting. Of the 12,000 days that Jesus Christ lived upon the earth, and of the 1200 days which made up His ministry, if you added up every day of His life accounted for in the New Testament  you would get a total of something around 34 days. One can see the frustration of the gospel writers as they are restrained from doing what their normal human impulse would have them do. John concluded his gospel account by writing “… there are also many other things which Jesus did, …” and John was not allowed to record them all because “… even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25).

Just look at the volume of pages in the Vedas and The Urantia Book and you will see there is no brevity. Any reading of the Koran will amaze careful readers at how much repetition and irrelevant material it contains compared to the primary message being presented. The Bible’s brevity is incredible.

Atheists and skeptics are fond of making references to the “dirty stories” of the Bible. There is no question that the Bible has the dirty laundry of its heroes as well as the stories of their successes. David’s sordid affair with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), Abraham’s willingness to let his wife be another man’s wife (Genesis 12:10 – 20), Paul’s murderous background (Philippians 3:4b –6), and the affair of a member of the Corinthian church with his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5) are all there for us to see. American politics has taught us all that cover-up is a way of life for many people in power. It is pretty easy to control the press and slant history if you have the power of total control. One of the amazing things about the Bible is that the bad is shown along with the good — something humans who are in power do not do.

Most religious books have been whitewashed and sanitized. If you go to your local bookstore you can buy a copy of the Koran which is translated by N. J. Dawood and published by Penguin Classics (ISBN-10: 0140449205). This is the translation of the same words as the Koran that Bin Laden and his followers are reading. You can also get a copy of The Essential Koran: The Heart of Islam published by HarperSanFrancisco and translated by Thomas Cleary (ISBN-10: 0062501984). This version of the Koran has had some of the material objectionable to Westerners softened or removed altogether. If one reads external accounts of contemporaries of Muhammad, one will find something about Muhammad’s history, lifestyle, and methods. There is total consistency in Muhammad’s life with the un-whitewashed version of the Penguin Classics material.

One can easily check the accuracy and understandings of the authors of various religious manuscripts. This can be done from just about every discipline that is available — mathematics, geography, science, history, psychology, literature, and medicine. In this journal we have had numerous articles over the years talking about the scientific integrity of the Bible. It is difficult to read Leviticus 17 and not be impressed with the biblical understanding of the importance of blood. Genesis 1, when taken literally, has amazing concordance with what science now knows to be true of the sequence with which life appeared on earth. There are vast numbers of scientific statements in the Bible which predate the discovery of these truths by modern science. When apparent errors are seen in biblical writings, a careful examination of the original language removes the error in virtually all cases.

In contrast to the great accuracy of the Bible in a variety of disciplines, other religious writings show considerable error. The Koran contains a number of scientific errors and the Book of Mormon has many scientific and historical inaccuracies. (Go to this link to see a list of these errors.)

It is important to note in this discussion that the subject of miracles is not a part of examining the Bible for accuracy. If the Bible presents something as a miracle, then it is recognized that this is not a natural scientific event. Explaining the resurrection is not a valid enterprise, because it is not presented as a natural event. If it were explained by a natural process that would invalidate the biblical claim that it was a miracle. The same would be true of claims of any other book — and in some cases things that are claimed to be miraculous have been shown to be natural events. It would take a large book to explore this subject adequately, but our purpose here is simply to identify some methods of validating the religious systems being considered. (For a list of scientific statements in the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon, go to this link [a PDF file of these lists] or send an addressed envelope with a 44-cent stamp and we will mail it to you.)

Many years ago on a flight from Dallas to Chicago I had a seat-mate who was a very successful businessman. As he was telling me how he made all of his money he explained that when something worked he always applied that system 100 percent to everything else he had. The fact that it worked showed that the system must have intelligence and good design behind it. I responded that his logic was exactly the reason why I have used the Bible as a guide for my life. When I decided I could no longer be an atheist because of the scientific evidence I saw for the existence of God, I started reading every religious document I could find. I was looking especially for the reasonableness of what the system taught and what the logical result would be of following that system. This is perhaps the most compelling evidence for the validity of Christianity. A few simple examples might be the best way to demonstrate this.

The relationship between man and woman is one area where the contrast in systems is striking. Many religious systems like the Koran and the Book of Mormon teach polygamy — the notion that a man can have many wives. It should be obvious to any thinking person that polygamy is an unworkable system. Males and females are born in roughly equal numbers. If one man like Bin Laden has 15 wives, then there are 14 other men out there who do not have a wife at all. The best they can hope for is a harem of their own when this life is over, making them prime candidates for suicide bombings. In addition to the obvious imbalance in wives, polygamy has a denigrating effect on women. I remember one Mormon wife who was interviewed on TV when the modern issue of polygamy came up in Mormon groups saying “When my husband decided to marry another woman I found myself asking, ‘Why am I not enough?’ I finally realized it was to produce more children.” It is difficult to comprehend how a woman can have security and a positive self-image free of competition in a polygamous system.

Polygamy totally misses what God intended for marriage to be. When Jesus was asked about the whole question in Matthew 19:3 – 6 He referred His questioners to Genesis 2:24. “‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”?’”

The issue of system design is very broad and applies in many ways. Read Matthew 5 – 7, and ask yourself what the world would be like if every person on the planet followed just the words of the Sermon on the Mount. What would happen if everyone returned good for evil, if everyone strove to love those called their enemies, if everyone went the second mile in all relationships, if everyone really did strive to be at peace with all men? (Matthew 5:38 – 46). The contrast to this teaching are the sharp military commands of Muhammad: “Anyone who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you.” (Qur’an 2:194).

It is important to understand that not all Muslims interpret Muhammad’s commands as being physical, but he practiced war, was a military leader, and certainly established his Islamic empire by military methods — a huge contrast to Jesus hanging on the cross saying “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

The final point about system design is the fruit test. Jesus said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16a). When Christianity is practiced as Jesus taught it (not as some humans have practiced distorted versions of it), what has been the result? Take your local phone book and look at the names of the hospitals in the city where you live or a large nearby city. How many hospitals contain a name that lets you know that the hospital is connected in some way to a group that is expressing their faith in Jesus Christ by ministering to the sick? How many Muslim, Buddhist, Bahá’í, or atheist hospitals are there — even in places where those religious systems dominate?

In this journal we have reviewed several books in the last few years that have explored the results of Christianity. Under the Influence by Alvin Schmidt, reviewed March/April 2003, gives a clear picture of how women, medicine, care facilities, treatment centers, and schools have been positively impacted by Christianity. The God that Did Not Fail by Robert Royal, reviewed in July/August 2007, showed the effect of Christianity on Western culture and the positive impact it has had.

Take a look at the 12-step programs sponsored in your community. Look at the nursing homes and child care facilities in your area. Check out the HIV treatment centers. Look at the homeless shelters and women’s shelters in your area. Go on the Web and do the same thing in areas where Christianity is not dominant and see what is happening there. Even in Europe where the press touts the advantages of the “post-Christian era” Christianity changes lives, provides for the needy, and promotes the care of women and children. I might not agree with the theology of Mother Teresa or Danny Thomas or the local homeless shelter director, but I admire their lifestyles and the selfless dedication that they made to doing what Jesus said to do for those who were in need. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35, 36, 40b).

My life has been changed for the better by my association with biblical Christianity. I can truly say that it has been a good life and I have been blessed by serving Jesus Christ. Know why you believe what you believe, and do not buy into relativism and the apathy and indifference that it breeds. Let your light shine for Jesus.
--John N. Clayton

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