Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Uniqueness of Christianity

I was asked to speak to the high school class at our local Christian school. The topic was the uniqueness of Christianity in a relativistic age. I only had 40 minutes, but here's what we covered. I know this paper (which I wrote after the class for the students) is woefully inadequate, but I only had about 40 minutes. I purposely limited myself to two pages, but I hope it gives an outline of worthwhile lines of defense for the Gospel.

Is Christianity the Only True Religion? YKCS Sr. Bible Class

What is the right response to the charge that Christianity is arrogant because it claims to be the only way and truth? I am going to present three lines of argumentation – each of them builds on the prior point:

A. Scripture

The Bible claims to be the only true revelation of God – particularly the only true revelation of the only Saviour, Jesus Christ. Critics respond to this by charging Christians with a circular argument: “You claim authority from a book, but then only turn to that book to substantiate your authority! That’s not fair!”

I would put the question back to the skeptic: “Upon what authority do you claim that all religions are the same or that Christianity is false for making absolute truth claims?” The skeptic has no authority but his own reason. Reason is his book, and it is circular argumentation for him to appeal to that book for a foundation for reason, truth or morality.

The Bible does not leave us without evidences, however:
- The Bible has stood the test of time and influence – not only in the West, but around the world.
- It was written by 40 authors over about 1500 years by a wide cross-section of people. It was not created by an individual or a small group in a short period of time as something new, but was built upon what was revealed beforehand (unlike Islam or Mormonism, for example).
- No book has been more examined, more researched and more trusted in human history. The manuscript evidence for the reliability of the New Testament alone is overwhelming.
- The internal coherence of the Bible is astonishing. The message of human sin and inability and divine intervention, the promise of God’s Deliverer, and the New Testament dependence upon the Old Testament are just a few examples.
- The history of the apostles and the early church underline the authenticity of their message: Who would die as a martyr for a man-made religion? Jesus’ resurrection – which validated his teaching and crucifixion – is the only reasonable explanation for the tremendous explosion of Christianity in the early days of the New Testament church.

What is the track record of purely relativistic humanism? What can it present as an alternative authority?

So, what does the Bible say about itself? Here are a couple of examples:
- But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14 -17 (ESV)

- And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2 Peter 1:19-21 (ESV)

There are many other passages that talk about the nature and power of God’s Word (Psalm 19 and Isaiah 55:10-11, for example), but the two examples above teach us some fundamental truths:
- The Bible is God’s Word – not man’s word. This is very significant. Because God, the Creator, has spoken, we can trust His Word. Who could know more than Him?
- The Bible is not just for information, it is for transformation – it is able to make us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

That leads us to the most important part of the Christian truth claim: Jesus Christ Himself.

B. Jesus Christ

The Bible is full of testimony to man’s need of a Saviour and God’s promise of a deliverer. The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Jesus Christ is the one who has come to reconcile man to God. Here are a couple examples of passages that point to Jesus as the Only Saviour for all people:

- Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…. John 14:5-9 (ESV)

- This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. – Acts 4:11-12 (ESV)

There is logic to the claim that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone:
- How many gods are there? There is only one God – this is the basic confession of not only Christianity, but Judaism and Islam as well.
- God is one in essence, but three in persons. This is an exclusively Christian claim, but it is consistent with the Old Testament (Jewish) Scriptures.
- If God is one, and if Jesus Christ is the revelation of God in flesh (as He claimed), then how many Saviours can there be? There can only be one.

Jesus, then, is the only Saviour. That raises the question: Why do we need saving, and how does this salvation work?

C. The Gospel

The fundamental confusion that many Christians experience when challenged with the narrowness of the Christian truth claims boils down to a misreading of the Gospel. This is due to a loss of the truth of God’s holiness (which is abundantly clear in the Bible) and the doctrine of mans’ sinfulness and utter spiritual separation from God. It is beyond the scope of this brief paper to address these issues, but I challenge you to read through the first three chapters of the book of Romans if these are foreign concepts to you.

Essential to biblical Christianity is a right understanding of the Gospel. If Christianity is about what we do through our good works, the pursuit of morality and sincere worship (or religious rituals), then the charge that all religions are the same will stand against us. Christianity is just another human religion.

If, however, if Christianity makes a radically different claim, a unique claim, then the “all religions are the same” objection vanishes. What is it about Christianity that makes it unique, different than all other religions?

The truth of Christianity is summed up in the declaration of the Gospel – which simply means good news. “Be nice to one another, take care of the poor and the weak, don’t hurt each other,” etc. etc. is not news, it is advice. All major religions share this kind of message.

The Gospel declares, “Christ died for our sins … Christ rose from the dead on the third day … there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus … behold, I make all things new” (1 Corinthians 15:1-3; Romans 8:1; Revelation 21:5). This all centers upon the person and work of Jesus Christ – God the Son, the Son of God. In fact, it is God that enables us to repent, believe and receive this news. We are transformed by the Gospel by the supernatural work of God the Holy Spirit (see John 16:8 and context).

In short, Christianity is unique because it majors on what God has done, not upon what we must do to achieve God’s favour, personal enlightenment or “global harmony” or whatever. This is true for new Christians and it is true for those who have been Christians for decades. We are saved through faith in this good news of what God has done. The Gospel declares that to find peace with God and see the future transformation of this broken world, we must be passive recipients – we must receive God’s salvation as a gift.

This unique message is the foundation of Christianity, and it is the centre of God’s revealed truth. If we try to blend it with other religions, or bend it to the will of modern skeptics, it will be lost. The consequence of losing the Gospel is not merely the loss of a religion, but the loss of the voice and the salvation of God. This catastrophe of unbelief is nothing short of the road to Hell.

May God give us grace to “…contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3b).

1 comment:

Adam Pastor said...


On the subject of
God is one in essence, but three in persons.I recommend this video:
The Human Jesus

Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you in your quest for truth.

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor