Why is Christianity Different From Other Religions?

I recently had a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine about religion that brought up some good questions in my mind. He was of the persuasion that the “type” of religion didn’t matter but rather the quality of life you get from it. He sincerely felt judgmental and ill-equipped to decide which religion was right or wrong. He himself leaned more towards Buddhism but didn’t want to imply that Islam was wrong either. Essentially his ideas about what religion is was a very millennial proposition and represented a philosophy that is widely spreading in my generation.

When it comes to religions, I have seen a trend. When I went Turkey and talked to Muslims I saw something. When I talked with Buddhist monks in Nepal, and even Hindus in India there was something that I noticed about each of these religions that were different from Christianity. I note the country of these interactions because I want you readers to know that these weren’t westernized philosophies inspired by a more radical thing. These weren’t American’s slapping a name to their half-hearted and lukewarm convictions, calling it a religion. These were Muslims that still sacrifice animals to Allah. These were Hindus that belly crawl and sacrifice to statues. I think a lot of people I’ve met abroad that claim the title of some of these religions, would be offended at the way some Americans throw around these titles and don’t live it out. They were and are still, desperately working towards something.

Salvation, to most of the world, is a paycheck you earn from a lifetime of obedient behavior.

I realized something crucial in my conversation with my friend; As we were both engaging and discussing the different philosophies it begged to ask the question; when are you good enough?

At what point does someone do enough good to merit standing before a perfect, just, and holy God? When does the time come, that good works erase the bad and evil that is in someone’s heart? As good as a person can possibly be or become, are they perfect? NO! No one in their sane mind would claim to be perfect. So why do we have the audacity to think that our imperfection is somehow acceptable to a perfect God?

A young man in Kathmandu constructs a statue of Buddah.

What does the Quran says about how you get salvation?
We (God) will question those to whom messengers were sent, and We will question the messengers. We will narrate to them with knowledge, for We were never absent. The scales on that Day will be just. Those whose weights are heavy—it is they who are successful. But as for those whose weights are light—it is they who have lost their souls because they used to mistreat Our revelations.

Essentially it’s saying that Allah is always watching and in the end, they will weigh the good deeds from the bad deeds. If you live a good life and do many good deeds then you are good enough for God and good enough for heaven, “those whose weights are light – it is they who have lost their souls”.

Buddhism is much more gray. I’ll never forget talking to a Buddhist in Nepal. After he shared with me his philosophies I asked him, “But how do you get to heaven?” I never got a straight answer but listened patiently as he struggled to think of something. He talked for a long time about karma and doing more good than bad. The Sutra (Buddhist’s compilation of holy books) isn’t specific enough for me to find a concrete answer. It seems to promote the idea that neither heaven nor hell are permanent and that people are reincarnated into lives based on their deeds in the previous life. If you have a good life now you must have been a good person in the last life, if you are homeless now you must be ashamed of yourself because you were terrible in the last life.

Then consider the millennial religion. Oh yes, it’s a thing. A millennial would never say it’s a thing but I beg to differ. The millennial religion says that everyone should follow god, or no god if it suites them, and only to the extent that suites them. It is wrong and condescending to judge or condemn someone based on their approach to philosophy, and as long as harmony is made amongst the masses everything is fine. There is no clear way to heaven and essentially that’s not important. What is important is that everyone gets along and is the best person they can be, however that is defined by the individual.

A friend of mine looking at Hindi temple along a busy street in India.

Consider what the Bible says about salvation. This was written to people who believed they were already saved and the writer reflects on the process they went through.
Ephesians 2:1-10
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

It seems to me that Christianity is the only honest one of the bunch that essentially says mankind is jacked up! Mankind is not “good” unless your standard is based on “bad”. If perfection is the standard then no one is good! If God is perfect then I’m SCREWED! Right?

To paraphrase this paragraph loosely –
Mankind is a big mess. There’s nothing anyone can do because we obviously can’t save ourselves or work our way into heaven. We are utterly hopeless to achieve this for ourselves and we deserve everything coming to us.

But God did what we could not do and paid the penalty that we should have paid. Why? All scripture tells us about why God would do this can be summed up as “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy…”
God paid for my sins with His own life and because judgment for my sins has been satisfied, now, and only now do I get to go to heaven. The Bible says that God became sin for us, and then he died with our sins, and then he rose from the dead. He literally conquered our sins and they died…. – only God could do that, not you. The paragraph says it’s not by works.

From my completely biased and presuppositional point of view, even at a philosophical level, other religions just don’t make sense. How could anyone NOT believe in God? How could anyone believe they could WORK their way to him?

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.

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