To piggy back on my last post which focuses on the problem of pluralism and the unavoidable contradictions between mainstream religions here I want to focus on identity of Jesus Christ when it comes to the world religions. He is, after all, the stumbling block and the rock of offense!
Departure From Truth
The Bible tells us that there will be an increase of deception and lies as the days draw closer to Christ’s return. This will come through confusion of the truth (Rom 1:25, Gal 3, 1Tim 6:5, 2Tim 4:4, 2Pet 2:1-3) and by false prophets (Mat 24:11, 2Tim3:13, 2Pet 2:1-3). It is crucial that we be able to recognize an untruth when we hear one and separate it from the Truth so that we are not misled as many surely will be (Mat 24:24). When approaching this subject Biblically we must recognize that Satan is ultimately behind this global departure from the Truth and that he will use the intentions of wicked and innocent men alike as long as his goals are accomplished.
2Corinthians 11:4 – For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted–you may well put up with it!
The message of Christ is precisely what Satan has labored so intensely to get rid of so that we would not embrace the saving truth of Jesus Christ. The true gospel message of Christ has been pushed aside by entire religious movements claiming new deities and methods of redemption, it has been corrupted by false doctrines from within the church such as Unitarianism and Universalism, and it has been discredited by atheistic theories such as Agnosticism, Buddhism, and Atheism.
Galatians 1:6-8 – I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,
7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
1John 4:3 – and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
Types of Truth
- Absolute Truth- A truth or set of truths that is believed to remain true despite the circumstance, personal perception or personal opinion. Unalterable facts and inflexible reality.
- Relative Truth – What is considered truth is not consistently true but flexible depending on the circumstance or outcome.
- Existential Truth – Truth is discovered personally and one must choose what is truth, what you choose to be true is true for you.
Types of Religious Truth
- Pluralism – All major world religions lead to God and salvation. Thus, no one religion is inherently better or superior to any other major world religion. Pluralists acknowledge the differences among major religions but consider them minor and focus more on the “major” similarities such as love for God and love for others.
- Inclusivism – One religion is best but salvation is possible in others. Inclusivists do not go as far as pluralists in that inclusivists do not claim that all religions are equal. They do believe, though, that truth and salvation can be found in other religions. Some Christian inclusivists claim that the salvation of Jesus is unknowingly applied to adherents of other religions who live good, moral lives.
- Exclusivism – Salvation is found in only one religion which is uniquely and supremely true and all other religions are false. Christianity is an exclusive religion because of the many of the claims Christ made about Himself such as John 14:6.
Basics of the Major Religions
- Islam – A unitarian and monotheistic view of God who is known only as Allah (Arabic for “god”). Allah has neither had a son nor is he distinguishable in three persons (Quran 4.171, 5.73). Allah has spoken through various prophets such as Noah, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad through divine inspiration. The Quran is only to be written and read in Arabic. Adem and Hawwa’s sin against Allah in paradise only affected themselves however their sinful disposition did not transfer to their descendants. Islam is a widespread religion that began in 610 AD when Muhammad claimed to be the prophet of Allah, the moon god of the area.
- Hinduism – Depending on the branch of Hinduism it may be monotheistic, pantheistic (God is everything), or monistic (One God with many manifestations). Because of the numerous versions, traditions, and schools of thought within Hinduism; beliefs vary widely. The way in which a follower lives their life affects their Karma positively or negatively and thus it is determines whether the person will reincarnate in to a higher caste system or a lower caste system after death. Through various forms of Yoga one aims to be liberated from Samsara (the cycle of reincarnation) and reach Moksha; the release of ones worldly conception of self and consequent realization of their oneness with Brahman.
- Buddhism – A philosophy (there is not deity) based upon the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama who is called by his followers Buddha (Sanskrit for Awakened one). The life of a Buddhist follows a path of moderation between extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. A Buddhists goal is Nirvana which is a mental state of perfect peace where one is no longer subject to anger, greed, or suffering. In Nirvana one becomes compassionate to all and gives up all obsessions and fixations. Karma is a principle of cause and effect where positive actions or negative actions bring about results that may be experienced in this life or in the next thus driving samara (similar to Hinduism) which is the cycle of reincarnation. The branches of Buddhism have differing views on whether or not bad karma can or cannot be forgiven.
- Baha’i – A pluralist religious movement started by Bahaullah in the late 1800’s which says that all major religious founders or central figures were manifestations of God (Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad etc.). The Baha’i faith holds that God is too great for humans to comprehend at one time or in one revelation and so only some truth can be revealed to mankind at one time through a Manifestation of God, this is called Progressive Revelation. Bahaullah himself claimed that he was a manifestation of God and a fulfillment of prophecies given by Bab as well the Bible concerning Jesus’ second coming. The writings of Bahaullah are held as the most recent revelation from God to man and the ground on which Bahaism becomes a unique religion. Because God is so far out of man’s reach and the Bibles portrayal of Him as a personal deity is supposedly misinterpreted Baha’i can justifiably worship any deity as the one true God. The Baha’i’s equivalent to Christian salvation is merely the spiritual progression or growth of an individual which begins upon accepting God’s existence and current manifestation. Thus each Manifestation of God which brings the new revelation of God and God’s plan for man at the current time is a savior in that they bring spiritual truth for man to adhere to.
- Jainism – A philosophy (nontheistic) based belief system and way of life much like Buddhism. Every soul is potentially divine but it is not until one rids themselves of all negative karma that one can reach Jina which is attaining divine consciousness. A Jain (follower of Jainism) follows the teaching of Jinas who are enlightened individuals who have reached the Dharma and teach the principles of right living. Only by following the path in Jainism can one be free of bad karma. Jainism is similar to Buddhism in that one reaches Moksha (freedom from reincarnation) by ridding ones self of karma through self control and right living.
Views of Jesus in Other Religions
- Islam – Jesus was a messenger from God to Israel to deliver the Injil (Quranic substitute of the Gospel). He was born of a virgin, allowed to perform miracles, and did not die but rose alive in to heaven. All of these things were performed by the permission of Allah. It is Quranic tradition that Jesus will return near the judgment day to defeat the Antichrist. Islam holds fast to there belief that Jesus is not God’s son neither is he God incarnate. Their belief is that he was a mortal man chosen by God to speak God’s message as with any of the Islamic prophets. After Jesus returns in the end times of Islamic eschatology he will rule in a time of peace for about 40 years and then die. After his funeral prayer he will be buried in an empty tomb next to Muhammad’s.
- Buddhism – There are no direct references of Jesus in Buddhism however a large amount of literature exists concerning the parallels between the life and work of Buddha and that of Jesus. Some believe that Gnostic gospels such as the Gospel of Thomas were influenced by Buddhism which was founded roughly 500 years before Christ. It is also believed by some that accounts were borrowed from Buddhist texts and weaved in to early Christianity as well as the Gospel writings. The 14th century Zen master Gasan Joseki regarded the passage from Luke 12:26-27 as written by an enlightened man.
- Hinduism – Jesus appears to be seen as a teacher and by some also an enlightened spiritual man similar to a yogi. In the Bhavishya Maha Purana there appears mention of Jesus’s presence in India during King Shalivahan’s reign which was between 39A.D. to 50 A.D. Many Hindu’s believe Jesus did not die on the cross but escaped to India where He lived in Kashmir and died, however little reasonable evidence exists for this popular idea. Jesus is seen as an avatar or divine incarnation of God. Jesus is also comparable in some sense to a Yogi or a spiritual leader/ teacher devoted to enlightenment and oneness with God. According to Hindu scripture when this cycle of time (or age) ends, called Kali Yuga, God will ride on a white horse to do battle against the wicked and begin a Golden Age (Satya Yuga) this is strangely similar to the accounts in the book of Revelation.
- Baha’i – Jesus is to Baha’i merely a prophet from God to man, a Manifestation of God. Manifestations of God are humans in which all attributes of God existed fully these individuals also include: Muhammad, Bab, Buddha, Zoroaster, Abraham, and Moses. Baha’i’s interpretation of the Bible denies Christ’s identity as part of a trinity or as God’s son and denies Jesus’ own claims of being part of God. The title of Son of God is taken symbolically and Baha’i do not believe God can have a literal offspring of any kind. According to Bahaullah Christ’s death was simply an act of self sacrifice but not for atonement of sins. The trinity is explained away using the analogy of the perfect mirror where God (the father) is the unknowable essence of the transcendent God and the Son and Spirit are just reflections of God in two separate mirrors but not individual personalities on their own. Jesus was only the savior in the sense that He brought the new revelation of God to the people of His time and area as did all of the Manifestations of God.
- Jehovah’s Witness – In the theology of the J.W.’s Jesus is not God’s Son nor was He an incarnation of God while on earth. Jesus is neither eternally existent or divine but He was God’s first created being as Michael the archangel, as well as God’s spokesman for truth, the Word. Jesus came to teach the true message of the gospel, to model a perfect life lived unto God, and to die in order to set man free from sin and death. They also hold that God gave Jesus His kingdom in 1914 beginning their version of the end times timeline of events. Upon Jesus’ baptism did He become the anointed One, or the Messiah. After His death His spirit left His body as Michael the Archangel once again and eventually came back to Earth to present Himself as resurrected before His disciples, however His body remained in the tomb and was dissolved by God.
- Mormonism – Jesus, like Satan, you and I were spiritual offspring of God and His goddess wife before being embodied in to a human being on Earth. Jesus was the first spirit child begotten to God and His wife and thus is merely a created being. He is considered one of the three separate Gods of the trinity. Mormons such as Orson Pratt state that Jesus was a polygamist while Orson Hyde states Jesus was the one married in Cana of Galilee. Jesus apparently was aided in His creation of the world by many Patriarchs including Joseph Smith (in their spirit form of course). In the spiritual world Jesus was chosen to be the Savior of the world, Satan contested this decision because of his jealousy. Jesus not only shed His blood in atonement for sins on the cross but also in Gethsemane.
What’s the Big Deal?
If religions do not see Christ for who He is, they missed the whole point. They have no hope of knowing the One True God, they have no hope of heaven, and no true peace on Earth, only a counterfeit. Those are hard words, but truth is hard, truth seems rude, truth is narrow, truth is singular, and truth is no respecter of persons.
Jhn 8:23 – And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.
Jhn 8:24 – “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
Jhn 8:25 – Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.
All ways of life will lead to God, but what you did on this Earth with Christ decides what happens when you meet God. Will you have Jesus to speak up for your sins, or will you have Him to deny you because you never knew Him?