Are all religions equal? It is a question that is no longer debated by most young people in North America; they simply take it for granted that all religions have ultimate truth and one is as good as another. In a more academic setting the nuances of each religion may be debated but all religions point to the same end—being good and living a well ordered life. For the most politically correct amongst us, the very idea of asking the question is racist and shows our ignorance and arrogance for assuming one religion may have ultimate truth compared to the others. A further argument that we hear more and more of is that we are only Christians or Hindu’s or Muslims because we grow up in certain countries where those religions reign supreme.
For many Christians the very idea of stating that Christianity contains ultimate truth and is very different theologically and philosophically from other religions is not something they are willing to discuss. The attacks upon Christianity as truth and the name calling that accompanies those attacks has silenced many of us from stating our faith in Christ as Savior of the world. We simply whimper yes, all religions have truth and hope that we are not pressed about our belief in Christianity.
First of all, let me say that no one should confuse the people who adhere to different religions with the religion itself. Are all people equal in the eyes of God? The answer is yes. Are all religions equal in pointing to God and eternal life? The answer is no. I can hear some people already falling back in horror and screaming “The arrogance of Christianity strikes again.” But wait a moment, Christianity is not the only religion that rejects that all religions are the same. In fact, every religion claims that it is the ultimate truth. Even Hinduism that claims it is not exclusive but accepts other faiths as true believe that those truths are only expressed within the context of Hinduism. An example would be that Christianity is one way or medium by which people can express their reincarnation.
All other major world religions claim to be exclusive. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism all claim they are true and the other religions false. No Muslim, Jew, or Buddhist would claim their faith is not unique and important for ultimate spiritual growth. It is simply not true that all religions are the same with the same goals and all lead to the ultimate relationship with God.
A quick look at what they believe about God should help us grasp the differences. Islam and Judaism are both Unitarian in belief. Allah is the God of Islam and Yahweh the God of Judaism. If we had time to study the concepts or teachings of both God’s we would soon notice a number of striking contrasts. Buddhism has no real teaching or belief in God but understands salvation as enlightenment. Hinduism, of course, believes in many gods and absorbs different religions gods into their system, giving them a Hindu interpretation, and making them part of the Hindu world. Christianity is Trinitarian (no we don’t have three god’s) but believe in one God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I will do a blog on the Trinity sometime in the near future.
What about salvation? Are all religions in agreement on salvation? This of course is where the rubber hits the road. Buddhism believes and teaches, not in salvation as we understand it, but believe in a form of enlightenment that leads to ultimate truth. Hinduism believes that reincarnation into a higher level that leads to eternal peace is the great reward of being a follower of their teachings. For Islam the five pillars lead to submission before Allah and Judaism believes the Law of Moses is the guideline for salvation and eternal life. All these religions do have something in common, however, and that they understand their relationship with the ultimate good, or God, as something they must do to have that relationship or experience. God does not come down but they must raise up through living a life that is obedient and exceptional in its conduct.
Christianity is the only major world religion that believes God comes down to us and that we can never be good enough or do enough to earn merit with God. Instead God gave Himself at Calvary absorbing our sins and giving us salvation through grace alone. We can do nothing to earn God’s approval, but we receive salvation through His sacrifice and mercy. Who are the recipients of this salvation? All who believe.
The charge against Christianity that we are exclusive is just wrong. We are true to the teachings of the Bible and accept those teachings as the word of God. Nothing can or should be added to those teachings. However, Christianity is an inclusive faith system. Colossians 3:11 states, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” In Christ we are all called to believe in the wonder of God’s grace. There is a place in God’s heart for all humanity and all those who accept His grace, his forgiveness of sins, will be incorporated into the Kingdom of God.
As Christians we don’t believe Christianity is the way to a true life-saving relationship with God because we feel we are better than others. Instead it is because Jesus said He was the way and no one comes to the Father except through Him. That simply means if we accept Jesus’ death to remove our sins then we have harmony with the Father. Our faith is an invitation for all humanity to find peace and security in the arms of God through faith instead of striving.