Is Christianity > Other World Religions?
Hey Siri, give me directions to Washington DC. “Ajit, I have 4 different paths to Washington DC. Which one would you like to follow?” So, in this case I wanted to go to Washington DC and whether it is Siri, Google, or Apple Maps; all show me multiple options to get there. I can choose my path based on if I want to drive, want to bike, want to take public transport, or take a ferry. Within each one of those also, there are multiple options. For example, for me to drive, I can take the highway, highway with/without tolls, inside roads, or a combination of that.
Another twist to reaching my destination is, “what is my starting point?” If I am in Rockville, I have different options available. However, if I am on the other side of the Potomac, I might have to take a ferry. Another instance is if I am in the wilderness, where there is no road, my options will be totally different.
It seems less prudent to insist a person who is stuck in the wilderness, with no access to a paved road, that the road and car is the only way to reach the ultimate destination in Washington DC.
I know this is a very simple example to make my point, and pretty much all of you can punch holes into this logic with counter logic or a rebuttal.
As you might have figured out from the title of this article, that I am not going to bore you with going to Washington DC and give you a lecture on transportation. I am just struggling and wresting with a deeper question in life, especially when wonderful people of different faith, ethnicities, and backgrounds surround me.
I am a Christian and whole-heartedly believe that by being a follower of Jesus Christ, and following his teachings, I will achieve salvation. My struggle is to logically understand what is going to happen to all other billions of people who are non-Christians. What about those who were born before and died before Jesus? What will happen to the chosen ones — Jews, from whom Christianity was born? What will happen to a non-Christian who is identical to a Christian in terms of belief in God, morality, how s/he lives life, but does not have an opportunity to listen to Christian Gospel, whether it is language, physical, or technological limitation. Will that person go to hell? What was that person’s fault? How can God be so unjust that He will save only the Christians?
God has given me this logical and analytical mind and I have wrestled with this question for years. For one thing, I was not born a Christian. I was born as a Sikh and grew up in a Sikh family who had high moral values. We believed in pretty much doing all things, like any orthodox Christian would. I married a woman who was raised as a Hindu. She also pretty much grew up in a family where morality and doing the right thing was the way of life. We both, along with our children became Christian, because, we had a divine calling. We found our God through Jesus. Yes, as I mentioned earlier, I do believe in Jesus and I don’t have a shred of doubt that Jesus is a Son of God. He is the begotten Son of God and He came to this earth about 2,000 years back to save us. And, all those who believe in Him will go to heaven. Yes, this is my path. I chose it or I was destined to choose it. Who knows, but that is not relevant for our discussion?
Majority of Christians believe Christ is the only way, Muslims believe in the teachings of Islam, Jews are still waiting for the Messiah, and Hindus (including Sikhs) believe that they need to follow the teachings by doing the right things, which will eventually lead to salvation. So who is right, who is wrong, and most importantly who decides this?
Of course, Christians are correct in their long held believe that Jesus is the ONLY way. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (ESV). Christians argue that either Christ was the true Son of God and telling the absolute and literal truth, or he was a fraud, nothing in between. Historians and scholars have researched and established that Jesus lived on the earth and many of the things claimed in the Bible were true and have been proven.
However, if you speak to Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, etc., they also claim that the teaching clearly show a path to salvation. It may not happen in one lifetime, but it happens through multiple cycles of life, death, and rebirth. And, of course we should not forget that all the religious books, such as Torah, Quran, Bhagwad Gita, Guru Granth Sahib, etc. are written by distinguished apostles and are as credible as the Bible. Each one of them seems to have been inspired and/or lead by a divine power. Then, why are we, each one of us, are stuck to our beliefs, and trying to discredit everything else, which we may not be familiar with. Why?
“There is no one alive today,” Arnold Toynbee observed, “who knows enough to say with confidence whether one religion has been greater than all others.” — The World’s Religions by Huston Smith, Pg 6
As I mentioned earlier, being a Christian, I have been confused and torn apart. I love hearing and reading about the teaching of Jesus Christ, but I get turned off when highly learned scholars and theologians dismiss all the other religions. My heart fully believed in Jesus, but I just can’t agree to the fact that all Christians will go to heaven and others will fall short and end up somewhere else. How could God be so cruel and unfair? We of course know, God is fair; is this not, why Jesus died. God wanted to have communion with his creation, humans, but somebody had to pay the price for the sin (disobedience that kicked-off with Adam and Eve). Therefore, a sinless creation, Jesus, was sacrificed because of which we are now saved. So, if God is so fair how can he let a majority of the world have no chance to salvation?
Therefore, I set out to read myself. I have read dozens of blogs and articles, talked to numerous others. If you had a drink with me, this topic probably came up. I have also read “World of Religions,” by Huston Smith. This gave me a glimpse into basic philosophy of most of the religions. I am now reading Bhagwad Gita. Then, I have Quran and other religious books in queue to read. But, as I explore this further, one thing is becoming clear to me; most of the religions, at a very high level have similar teachings. Of course, each religion has slightly different flavor, customs, and rituals, but at the very core, they all guide towards a similar path to salvation. Although, Christianity’s teachings are also similar to other religions of loving your God and neighbor, it does, however, have a unique aspect, which separates it from all the other religions.
Last week, I was listening to a sermon from Pastor Chip Ingram (www.livingontheedge.org) and he summed it so nicely that it was a tada moment for me. He said, all religions teach you to “DO.” Do this, and do that; the purpose being you need to get a favor of God. The problem is that you don’t know when you have done enough? Have you met the threshold or not? But, with Christianity, there is no “Do,” but “DONE.”
Jesus died for our sins and He already paid the price, therefore the favor is “DONE.” We have already passed; there is no longer an exam anymore. You just have to believe with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength on Jesus Christ and seek his forgiveness. You don’t have to live in the world of uncertainty, but know that it is already DONE. Your debt has been paid; you are forgiven, and saved.
I told you earlier, that my curiosity gets better of me and wants to go further. So, now I have a big question for my Christian brethren and sisters. Will all Christians go to heaven? The answer is of course not. Only those will go to heaven, who have truly accepted Jesus, sought his forgiveness, and continue to follow his teachings. Therefore, it seems that “DO” is still in play. We have to believe in Jesus, but also continue to follow His teachings. If that’s the case, then how different are we as Christians really from other religions?
I am including few excerpts from The World’s Religions by Huston Smith, which intrigued me.
“Father Surin, for example, criticized “directors who get a plan into their heads which they apply to all the souls who come to them, trying to bring them into line with it like one who should wish all to wear the same clothes.” St. John of the Cross called attention to the same danger when he wrote in The Living Flame that the aim of spiritual directors should “not be to guide souls by a way suitable to themselves, but to ascertain the way by which God Himself is pointing them.” — The World’s Religions by Huston Smith, Page 28
That Hinduism has shared her land for centuries with Jains, Buddhists, Parsees, Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians may help explain a final idea that comes more clearly through her than through the other great religions; namely, her conviction that the various major religions are alternate paths to the same goal. To claim salvation as the monopoly of any one religion is like claiming that God can be found in this room and not the next, in this attire but not another. Normally, people will follow the path that rises from the plains of their own civilization; those who circle the mountain, trying to bring others around to their paths, are not climbing.
…It is possible to climb life’s mountain from any side, but when the top is reached the trails converge. At base, in the foothills of theology, ritual, and organizational structure, the religions are distinct. Differences, in culture, history, geography, and collective temperament all make for diverse starting points.
…For evidence of this, one of Hinduism’s nineteenth-century saints sought God successively through the practices of a number of world’s great religions. In turn he sought God through the person of Christ, the imageless, God-directed teachings of Koran, and a variety of Hindu God embodiments. In each instance the result was the same: The same God (he reported) was revealed, now incarnate in Christ, now speaking through the Prophet Muhammad, now in the guise of Vishnu the Preserver or Shiva the Completer.
As per a 19th century, Hindu saint, Ramakrishna, “God has made different religions to suit different aspirations, times, and countries. All doctrines are only so many paths, but a path is by no means God Himself. Indeed, one can reach God if one follows any of the paths with whole-hearted devotion.”
- The World’s Religions by Huston Smith, Page 72–74
So, is Christianity greater than other world religions? I really don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows that. And, honestly, I don’t care. What is more important is that we find our God and wholeheartedly follow His teachings.
I personally will continue to believe in Jesus Christ and try my best to follow his teachings. You should also trust in your God and follow the teachings…
If you are doing everything right, how can you go wrong…