World Religions Overview

What's Your Filter

Date: October 12, 2014
Study: What’s Your Filter? Christian Apologetics and Worldview
Teacher: Kameron Slater

REVIEW
Study Thesis: A Christian worldview enables us to look at all of live through scriptural lenses, which in turn equips us to defend the faith, evangelize wisely, critique unbiblical thought that pervades our culture, and bring God glory in all of life.

Worldview Definition: A commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.

Six Reasons to Study Worldviews: 1) to develop ours, 2) to defend the faith, 3) to evangelize better, 4) to identify and reject false teaching, 5) to grow in cultural discernment, and 6) to glorify God in all of life.

WORLD RELIGIONS
An essential skill for Christians living in a multi-cultural world is learning about how to engage with people from some of the world’s largest religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam.

Here is a breakdown of the world’s largest religions from the CIA (2007):

  • Christians 33.32% (of which Roman Catholics 16.99%, Protestants 5.78%, Orthodox 3.53%, Anglicans 1.25%),
  • Muslims 21.01%,
  • Hindus 13.26%,
  • Buddhists 5.84%,
  • other religions 11.78%
  • non-religious 11.77%,
  • Jews 0.23%,
  • Sikhs 0.35%
  • Baha’is 0.12%
  • Atheists 2.32%

This lesson will explore the basic teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam and then answer three important questions:

  1. Don’t All Religions Teach the Same Thing?
  2. Is Jesus The Only Way?
  3. What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

WORLD RELIGION CATEGORIES 

  1. Monotheism – there is one God (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam)
    It is important to note that though these three believe in one God, the God of Christianity is distinctly different than the god of Islam.
  2. Polytheistic – there are many gods (Hinduism, Eastern Religions, New Age, Greeks & Egyptians, Platonists)
  3. Pantheism – all is god, god is in all (Buddhism–both Classical & Zen, Voodoo, Animism, Naturalism)

OVERVIEW OF MAJOR WORLD RELIGIONS

  1. Islam (Monotheistic) 
    1. Facts
      1. Islam means “submission to Allah”
      2. There are over one billion Muslims globally, largely in the Middle East, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
      3. Islam is more than a system of belief. The faith provides a social and legal system and governs things like family life, law and order, ethics, dress, and cleanliness, as well as religious ritual and observance.
      4. The religion was founded around 622 AD by Mohammad, who believed he was final messenger through whom Allah revealed the faith to the world. There had been earlier messengers, among them Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
      5. Mohammad began to teach in Mecca and later settled in Medina. By 632 AD, Mohammad and his followers had taken control of Mecca and most of the Arabian peninsula by jihad, or Holy War. Islam has been a proselytizing religion from the beginning.
    2. Beliefs
      1. God is called “Allah” but the idea of an incarnate, personal God is blasphemous and absurd. Allah is all powerful, he created all things & is merciful and compassionate. Allah is judge, but there is no mediator.
      2. Man is capable of sin, but he is innately capable of pleasing God perfectly – or at least sufficiently.“Salvation” is works-based. The pleasure of Allah – are achieved by religious observance.
      3. Islam is known for it’s Five Pillars:
        1. Confession “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is the apostle of God.”
        2. Prayer Ritual 5 times a day
        3. Fasting during Ramadan (the 9th month)
        4. Almsgiving to the poor (2.5% of savings)
        5. Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in life, a rigid moral code.
      4. Converting to Islam requires external actions – specifically, that you repeat the confession, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.” This is to submit to all other teachings in Islam.
    3. Agreements/Disagreements with Christianity
      1. Is the Bible God’s Word? The Muslims believe it was necessary for Allah to give another book, the Koran.
      2. What is the purpose of God’s revelation? Muslims believe that Islam includes both Judaism and Christianity and say that even Abraham was a Muslim. In their mind, everything is Islam. What we need to explain to the Muslim, and it is not an easy task, is that God desired to establish a personal relationship between Himself and man.
      3. Did Jesus really die on the cross? Islam does not teach Jesus died on the cross. There is a verse in the Koran which says, “They killed Him not, they crucified Him not, but it was likened unto them. They killed Him not knowingly, but God raised Him and God is the most merciful of merciful.” In the Muslim’s mind, this verse is saying that God was so merciful He could never allow a wonderful prophet such as Jesus to be crucified by His enemies the Jews.
      4. What About the Trinity? Muslims often say, You Christians believe in three different gods — God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. That is blasphemy’ One cannot believe in three different gods. “
    4. Questions to Ask
      1. How do you know if you are doing enough good deeds to receive salvation on the Day of Judgment?
      2. How can Christianity be part of Islam when its teachings are so different?
  2. Hinduism (Polytheistic)
    1. Facts
      1. There are about 1 billion Hindus worldwide, most of whom are in India, UK or the US.
      2. Hinduism arose 3500 years ago (1500 B.C.) after the conquering of the Indian subcontinent, but there is no clear specific founder or starting point.
      3. Hinduism does not offer the same insistence on being the only “truth” as other religions do and there is no eternally dominant or “correct” form of Hinduism. Hindus don’t separate religion from other aspects of life. For Hindus, Hinduism is an inextricable part of their existence, a complete approach to life that involves social class, earning a living, family, politics, diet, etc. The culture of India is largely Hindu because of this.
      4. Hinduism is not a set of static beliefs but it continues to develop. It also explains history in circular, non-linear terms, with no starting and end point.
    2. Beliefs
      1. There is no single Hindu idea of god. There is Brahman: “The Absolute,” the impersonal, all-embracing spirit, of many lesser deities. You could say there is “One god, among many gods.”
      2. Hinduism is works-based, because behind Hindu practice is the belief all souls are eternal and accountable for their own actions. Karma is the debt of one’s bad actions for which one must atone, so that every soul is trapped in a cycle of birth and then death and then rebirth. Karma is not the same thing as judgment in Christianity. It is automatic and impersonal and reoccurring.
      3. Every Hindu wants to escape from this cycle. The quality of the next life depends on the soul’s Karma-the goodness or badness of their deeds in this life. Hindus aim to live in a way that will cause each of their lives to be better than the life before.
      4. Their ultimate aim is escape from the cycle altogether by attaining Moksha (liberation). So when someone dies, their soul is reborn into a new body (although not necessarily a human body) – this is called Reincarnation
    3. Agreements/Disagreements with Christianity
      1. Does History Matter? The Christian view of history is extremely different –linear vs.cycle. For Christians, History has a purpose, because it has a Beginning and End. Hinduism teaches a cycle of meaninglessness.
      2. What Is God Like? For Hindus, humankind is the manifestation of impersonal Brahman force, but has no individual worth. Yet Christians believe humankind is created n God’s image and thus has immeasurable value to God, personally – so personally, that he would give himself to save us. Furthermore, Christians believe God is unique and apart from Creation: not simply a part of it.
      3. What are the consequences of our actions? We agree with Hindus that there are lasting consequences for our actions. The do not believe in the idea of sin against a Holy God; only wrong acts of ignorance that can be overcome. In our apologetics, we should be clear that Christians actually believe in a “deeper” vision of sin and consequences.
      4. How Does One Become a Hindu or Christian? Christians actually agree with Hindus – that no one can be coerced to faith, and that “toleration and acceptance” are important values. But Hinduism replaces resurrection with reincarnation and both grace and faith with human works. For them, salvation is cycle of birth, death, rebirth.  For Christian apologists, the challenge is to help them see salvation actually is eternity in heaven with a good personal God because of what Christ has done for us.
      5. Who is Jesus? Hindus believe Jesus is a divine manifestation, but not more special than others. Christians believe Jesus was God Himself and we were made to have a relationship with him.
    4. Questions to Ask
      1. Do you really believe all religions are equally true, even when they teach different things?
      2. How do you explain human nature in a way that accounts for Mother Theresa and Adolph Hitler?
      3. How do you know when you are good enough to be liberated
  3. Buddhism (Pantheistic)
    1. Facts
      1. There are about 500 million Buddhists worldwide, predominately in China, Tibet, and East Asia
      2. The religion was founded by Gautama – a rich price who later became Buddha. He believed freedom happens through a release from the worldly entrapments of anxiety. It is meditation that brings a sense of freedom from anxiety, yielding the ability to live in the present moment and achieve oneness with the rest of Creation. Buddha, or ‘awakening’, came to his understanding of the nature of suffering, its cause and a way of stopping it. Buddha then devoted the rest of his life to teaching the way to cease suffering.
      3. It is difficult to talk sensibly about Buddhism because Buddhists are dogmatic that one cannot be linguistically dogmatic about anything. But over the last 30 years Buddhism has seen growth in the West as its non-dogmatic nature, rationality, possibility of a spiritual guide, and opportunity for personal transformation have all made it attractive to post-modern society
    2. Beliefs
      1. As a Pantheistic religion, Buddahism teaches we are all god – god is in all of us.
      2. Buddhism has no omnipotent, creator god who exists apart from this or any other universe. In fact, belief in a god of that kind is not part of Buddhism.
      3. Buddhists also believe in Karma – the cause and effect that traps souls in a endless cycle of birth and rebirth. But Buddhism teaches that the illusions with which human beings comfort and delude themselves, includes the illusion of material and consistency and the reliability of the senses as a means of apprehending the outside world.
      4. Buddhism teaches “Four Noble Truths”
        1. To live is to suffer
        2. Suffering is caused by desire (we allow ourselves to get attached to things)
        3. One can eliminate suffering by elimination desire (to accept)
        4. Desire is eliminated by following the eight-fold path:
          1. Right view
          2. Right intention
          3. Right speech
          4. Right action
          5. Right livelihood
          6. Right effort
          7. Right mindfulness
          8. Right concentration- meditation.
        5. The eight-fold Path brings us to the state known as nirvana, where all action and interaction ceases. Nirvana is a state of enlightenment and the place where personality is extinguished.
    3. Agreements/Disagreements with Christianity
      1. Who is Jesus? Buddhists would say Jesus is another teacher, leading people to Enlightenment – at best another Buddha.
      2. What is the Problem of Man? Buddhists get the description of the problem half right. Christians agree that in this world there is suffering. We disagree with the second half of their description of the problem. We don’t need to eliminate desire, but to desire the right things. The problem is we desire our to rule our own lives, not submit to God’s rule. They say that Desire must be eliminated. Christians say it must be transformed, so that we hunger and thirst for righteousness.
      3. Who Really Is God? We need to speak with Buddhists about the fact that the God of the Bible is all-powerful, immanent and knowable, and wants to be in relationship with His people. He is not a God of only of magical powers but has a personal name and personal powers he uses for our good.
    4. Questions to Ask
      1. Buddhism is right that there is nothing on earth that permanently exists. But what if I told you there was a world with God that would exist forever?
      2. On his death bed, Buddha said: “I remind you that all things are impermanent. I advise you to take refuge in yourselves and the teachings.  Everything that is born is subject to decay.  There is no external Savior, it is up to each of you to work out your own liberation.”  How can a Buddhist be saved from meaninglessness?
      3. Denying desire denies the desire to enjoy friendship and family, work and play, recreation and exploration. Does a Buddhist not desire these things? Why is it so hard not to desire?
      4. Buddhism teaches that desire is the problem. Yet all humans desire things, from early childhood. Could this desire point to something, Someone we were created to desire?

THREE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
When discussing religion with people, there are a lot of questions that can come up that seek to discount the exclusive claims that Christianity makes. Here are three of the more common ones and how to answer them:

  1. Don’t All Religions Teach the Same Thing?
    After spending a few minutes contrasting Christianity with Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism you may find it hard to believe people still assert the major world religions teach the same thing – yet some do. This is nonsense.
    First, as a matter of simple observation, different religions make very different claims, and it is impossible to see how they can all be true. In fact, the nature of a truth-claim is to say one thing is true and real and valid, while another is false. Christianity teaches Jesus is the one way and that no human gets to God but through him. Hindus and Buddhists would say all religions are equal, but deny the exclusivity of Christianity’s most fundamental claim. It’s nonsense to pretend they teach the same thing. There is a world of difference between the smiling Buddha and the crucified Christ.
    Second, however, world religions do have some similarities on the level of morality and ethics – what it means to be good and live the good life. Yet even here you can see there is serious variance. Buddhists understand their efforts to be the most “good” when they deny pain exists, because it is a mere illusion. Yet Christians follow Jesus, a real Man, who has borne very real pain and judgment for them. Similarities in morality also dissolve upon examination. Jesus made it clear: he did not come to make bad men good, but to make dead men alive in God.
    Do all religions really teach the same thing? Nobody wants to give the same respect to a religion based on human sacrifice, fear of evil spirits or mass suicide as they do to, say, Zen Buddhism. Nobody seriously suggests that Hitler’s claims to divine revelation should be given equal treatment with those of Mohammed or Jesus. We are only tolerant up to a point, and rightly so. Differences make a difference.
  2. Is Jesus Really the Only Way?
    So, is Jesus the only way to know God, to be forgiven and saved, and to enjoy eternal life with God? Yes (Isaiah 45:21; John 14:6).
    This is a hard truth for many people, especially in a postmodern culture. As a Christian, we need to say this cogently, Biblically, and winsomely – but as Christian apologists, we must proclaim the Word of truth. As Romans 1:16-17 says: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Here are some objections to this claim:

    1. Claiming Jesus is the Only Way Is Arrogant
      Here we should use arguments from Jesus’ own words (John 14:6, John 17) and the words of the disciples (Acts 4:12, Romans 6, etc). We can use arguments regarding the validity of the New Testament manuscripts to point out the authenticity of the historical record. These are not our assertions.
      Furthermore, there are numerous other religions that make exclusive truth claims. Making such a claim does not prove its veracity, but neither is such a claim limited to Christianity.
      Finally, let’s return to simple logic. It’s not possible for all the major world religions to be valid ways to God.
    2. Jesus Cannot Be the Only Way, Because Other Religions Would be False
      No matter what belief system you adopt, you will be saying that your system is right and that the billions of people who don’t accept it are wrong. If Islam is correct, the billions of non-Muslims are wrong; if Orthodox Judiasm is correct, the billions of Gentiles are wrong. If it is correct to approve of multiple belief systems because they’re all valid ways of achieving spiritual enlightenment, the billions of Christians, Jews, Muslims and others who believe in exclusive religions are intolerant and therefore wrong. You can see the logic breaks down.
    3. All That Really Matters is That People Sincerely Seek God
      You may hear people say that sincerity is most important in religions, and the rest is mere detail’. It is those very details that make the difference. If you were to examine a counterfeit $50 note, it would look and feel very much like the real thing. You may even need special training to spot the differences. But it is those small but real differences that make one worth $50 and the other worth nothing.
      If sincerity were a test, you and I we could spend a few minutes to create a new religion now, simply by writing down a few beliefs about a god and the state of man and the way forward in life. We could say one of you is god and an ice cream machine, the state of man is that he does not have enough ice cream, and the manner of redemption is that all must pay me for ice cream. We could decide we sincerely believe it. This might be a nice scheme for my financial growth, but it has no connection to reality.
  3. What About Those Who Have Never Heard the Good News of Jesus?
    Finally, what about those who have never heard of Jesus? Could they be saved? This is one question that comes up often in apologetics, and sometimes is related to the question of whether Jesus really is the only way.
    People may raise this question as an honest intellectual query, or they may raise it as an evasive maneuver in an attempt to evade the Gospel’s claim on their life. It will be important for you to determine how to respond to them. They are accountable to God in heaven for what they do with Jesus.
    As Jesus said in John 3, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
    The Bible has a lot to say about this topic:

    1. All humankind is already under God’s judgment because all men and women are sinful, morally accountable to God, and must give an answer to him.
      1. Romans 1 teaches that God’s infinite power and deity are evident through creation.
      2. Romans 2: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”
      3. Romans 3 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
      4. Isaiah 40 says no one seeks God and Isaiah 53 says “we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…”
      5. Isaiah 64:6 says our righteousness (good life) before God is as filthy rags
      6. Hebrews 9:27: “It is appointed to men once to die, and after that, the judgment.”
    2. Humankind is condemned to God’s judgment because of 4 C’s:
      1. Witness of creation
      2. The conscience within them
      3. Their own culpability in Adam and Eve in the Fall
      4. Their commission of sin personally
    3. Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord GOD will be saved
      1. 2 Peter 3:9: ‘He is patient … not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
      2. Romans 5: “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
      3. Romans 10:13, Joel 2:32 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
    4. Scripture is full of examples of men and women who trust God in faith with incomplete information, yet are saved:
      1. God’s people have relationship with him because they trust him in faith.
      2. As Hebrews 11 makes clear, the Old Testament saints are in relationship with God because they responded trustingly to what God had revealed of himself.
      3. Does that mean that Jesus was unnecessary for them? Not at all. As Hebrews 11 also makes clear, Jesus was the Promised Messiah and the Perfect Sacrifice for all God’s people who would repent and believe.
      4. Acts 10 tells the story of Cornelius, a God-fearing centurion who God spoke through a dream, and then to Peter – who repented and believed, trusting God.
      5. Joshua 2 tells the story of Rahab – a pagan harlot – who trusted the God of the Israelites, and, as Hebrews 11 makes clear, it was accounted to her as faith
      6. 2 Kings 5 tells the story of a pagan elite, Naaman, whose life was spared because he trusted the God of Israel

So, what about those who have never heard the gospel? We know all men and women who do not know Jesus as Savior reside under God’s judgment, but we also know that God save those who call out to Him in faith. God glorifys Himself and accomplish His purposes to call to Himself a people from every tongue, and tribe, and nation.
If you think it is “not fair” that some will perish under God’s judgment, you need to rethink your definition of “fair.” We do not need a holy God to be “fair” with us. We need Him to be merciful. The only thing we deserve is His judgment, but He has been so kind to us in Christ. All Christians love God because he first loved us (I John 4:19) and chose to save us. God can reveal Himself to those whom He loves, as He chooses. Not infrequently, pioneer Christian missionaries have come across the response to their message: “This is what we have been waiting for. Why didn’t you come sooner?” Such unusual revelations are wholly within God’s power, and they are wholly God’s prerogative. But the normative manner in which God reveals himself is clearly through Scripture. Soberingly, the Bible makes clear that God has revealed himself to humankind in creation and conscience in such a manner that men are without excuse.
This is why understanding worldviews and apologetics is so important! As Romans 10 says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Are you telling your friends the good news about Jesus? Are you defending the faith and critiquing unbelief?

RESOURCES
Apologetics and Worldview, Lesson 12. Capitol Hill Core Seminars

 

 

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