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Comparing Christianity with the World Religions
The Spirit of Truth and The Spirit of Error
By Steven Cory, Dillon Burroughs
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2007 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
All rights reserved.
Comparing Christianity's Truth About God with World Religions
Word of God and God
But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King (Jeremiah 10:10).
Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other (Isaiah 45:22).
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy (James 4:12).
For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live (1 Corinthians 8:5–7).
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1:20).
God is love (1 John 4:8).
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land (Psalm 68:5–6).
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth (Psalm 145:18).
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation" (Exodus 34:6–7).
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong (Habakkuk 1:13).
God ... works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:3, 11).
One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" (Romans 9:19–20).
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33).
God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see (1 Timothy 6:15–16).
No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known (John 1:18).
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Hebrews 1:1–2).
Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar (Proverbs 30:5–6).
I the Lord do not change (Malachi 3:6).
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever (1 Timothy 1:17).
Buddhism and God
There is no absolute God in Buddhism, although many have interpreted Buddhism as a search for God. Buddha did not deny God's existence but said that the question of His existence "tends not to edification." Rather, those seeking enlightenment must concentrate on their own spiritual paths rather than relying on an outside support.
Buddha did not claim divinity or even a divine source for his teachings. He provided himself as an example to humanity. His teachings have been compared to a raft that should be left behind once the other side of the river has been reached.
Many Buddhists believe the existence of suffering and evil in the world offers evidence against belief in God.
Although most Buddhists reject the concept of an ultimate God, the Mahayana school developed teachings of Buddha as still existing for the sake of men. This extended to many additional deities who came to be represented in art and revered in ways very similar to worship of Hindu gods.
Hinduism and God
Many gods or incarnations of gods are worshiped by Hindus. Chief among them are Shiva, a fierce figure representing both the creative and destructive sides of divinity as well as the ideal of yogic meditation, and Vishnu, who incarnates himself many times through history in order to bring the message of salvation to man. Vishnu's incarnations (or avatars) include Rama, a benevolent king, and Krishna. The gods are sometimes amoral; their freedom from the usual restraints necessary to humans is often celebrated, and they are often represented with sexual imagery. Many lesser cults worship a complex variety of gods, all of whom are usually seen as manifestations of the one supreme being, Brahman.
Brahman is seen by many Hindus as a personal, loving God who desires the salvation of all men. More usually, however, he is described as a supreme, impersonal being completely above all creation and uninvolved with life on earth.
Islam and God
Allah means "the God," indicating the radical monotheism of Islam. "We shall not serve anyone but God, and we shall associate none with Him" (Koran 3.64). Any division of God is rejected, including the Christian beliefs in the Trinity and that Jesus is divine: "It is not meet for God to have children" (Koran 19.92).
The power of Allah is often portrayed in the Koran, and it is emphasized that his purposes are always serious. Justice is Allah's most important value for Muslims.
Allah is merciful and compassionate, but that mercy is shown mainly through him sending messengers to proclaim the truth of humanity's responsibility to live according to Allah's teachings.
Judaism and God
The complete unity of God as a powerful ruler and as a loving deliverer is central to Judaism. Jews do not deny the problem of the existence of pain and suffering, although they freely admit it is a mystery. God is in control even in the midst of an evil world.
God is not merely some supreme force but a Person. He contains the emotions of anger, sadness, and joy. He is a being who desires a relationship with His creation. He desires to share in the emotions of humanity.
Yahweh God also includes some distance. He is above the world, and His ways are often beyond the understanding of people. The tension between God's nearness and farness is a recurring theme of Judaism, leading to passionate appeals by Jews for communication with God.
God is seen as continually active in creation, constantly working in the world to offer individuals the opportunity to fulfill their obligations toward Him and toward other people.
Tribal Religions and God
Tribal religions generally believe in a large number of gods or goddesses, each reigning over a family, clan, village, or certain locality such as a river or mountain. This belief has been called henotheism, meaning close adherence to a certain god while recognizing the existence of others.
Many tribal religions believe in one supreme god who is the first source of all existence. Yet that god is usually considered too distant to be concerned with the lives of humanity.
As a result, tribal religious beliefs often focus upon several local gods who generally lack mercy and love. Their ways are not always predictable, and followers desire to appease their anger or to gain material favors from them.
The gods are usually connected in some way with dead ancestors. They relate to the tribe or community and support the customs that have kept the group functioning in the past.CHAPTER 2
Comparing Christianity's Truth About Humanity and the Universe with World Religions
Word of God and Humanity and the Universe
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).
You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them (Nehemiah 9:6).
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16–17).
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).
What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet (Psalm 8:4–6).
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Genesis 1:31).
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:4–5).
Death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come (Romans 5:14).
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12).
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:21).
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles (Romans 1:22–23).
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done (Romans 1:28).
To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life" (Genesis 3:17).
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:19–21).
The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away (Psalm 90:10).
Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure (Job 14:1–2).
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24).
Buddhism and Humanity and the Universe
The beginning and ultimate nature of the world are left unexplained by Buddha. The Mahayana school speculates about a vast series of heavens, seen as stops along the path toward nirvana. Yet even these heavens are only considered an illusion. Mahayanist teaching implies that the powers of the universe will end with all creatures eventually achieving salvation.
Buddhism does begin with an evaluation of the physical world and humanity. Buddhism sees the cycle of reincarnation filled with pain, largely because life is characterized by impermanence.
Buddha added the teaching that all creatures, including humans, are fictional. There is really no "self," only a series of occurrences that appear to be individual people and things. Once the fictional person is broken down into his component parts with his different actions and attitudes analyzed during the course of time, it is seen that there is really nothing holding it all together. The question of how there can be both reincarnation and striving for salvation without a self has occupied Buddhist philosophy from the start. The notion of no self remains difficult, and much effort is spent trying to grasp it fully.
Hinduism and Humanity and the Universe
The physical universe is not the creation of a personal God but a sort of unconscious extension of the divine. It is: 1) without beginning, and some would say endless, and 2) an illusion, because the only true reality is Brahman. Hindus believe that the universe "pulsates," recurrently being destroyed and recreated over periods lasting about four billion years. The world is seen as a huge series of repeated cycles, each cycle a near copy of the last.
Humans play a part in this gigantic, illusory, and tiresome universe. Each human soul is also without beginning and has encountered a series of reincarnations. Hinduism solves the problem of the existence of suffering and evil in a fairly clean manner. All present suffering is deserved, the payback of one's karma, the accumulation of deeds done in past lives. All present evil will be precisely repaid in the form of suffering in future lives. Traditional Hinduism has historically often not paid much attention to relieving the suffering of people, although the past century has shown tremendous change regarding social reform.
Hindus view life as full of pain and distress only temporarily masked by earthly pleasures. Underlying the unreality and misery, the human soul is identical with supreme Brahman, who has no part of this universe.
Islam and Humanity and the Universe
Muslims view the universe as created by the deliberate act of a personal, omnipresent God. The universe is not considered an illusion and is basically good, being given for the benefit of people. Muslim respect for the world order led to the development of sciences in Middle Eastern countries long before developments in Europe.
Muhammad did not produce miracles but simply proclaimed the message of Allah. As a result, the presence of God in the world is not seen through supernatural signs but through the wonderful order of nature and the one great miracle of the Koran. Muslims generally do not expect miraculous deliverance from suffering in this life. They believe that good deeds will be rewarded in the next life.
Humans are considered, in effect, co-leaders of creation under the authority of God. Islam's goal is to create a moral order in the world.
Individuals are endowed with taqwa, a sort of divine spark manifested in his conscience that provides the ability to understand truth and act on it. Conscience stands as the greatest value in Islam, much as love is the greatest value to Christians.
People can cultivate his or her taqwa and live according to the way of Allah or suppress it. This results in people either deserving or not deserving God's guidance.
Judaism and Humanity and the Universe
The physical world is considered "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Humans have a unique responsibility to order it according to God's purposes. Some Jews believe all people, animals, and things contain a "divine spark" that people are called to bring to completeness through loving action.
The person of God and His desire for relationship forms an analogy for humanity's most pressing need: to live in harmony with other people.
History displays God's purposeful activity. Jews often seek signs of His approval or judgment through historical events.
Judaism emphasizes the strong responsibility of humans along with human frailty and wickedness. The distinguishing mark of people is their ability to make ethical choices. Therefore, Jewish teachings greatly focus upon behavioral and ethical concerns.
Excerpted from Comparing Christianity with the World Religions by Steven Cory, Dillon Burroughs. Copyright © 2007 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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