“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
Atheists often ask Christians how they have come to differentiate Christianity from other world religions. In other words, they wonder what makes Christianity special, given the significant numbers of highly faithful believers in other religions. The intention of this blog is to offer four ways that Christianity is distinct from all other religions. These are the beliefs in (1) the beginning of the universe; (2) a personal Lord who is love; (3) God’s transcendence and immanence; and (3) the non-paradoxical perfectly merciful and just Lord thanks to the bearer of our sins, Jesus Christ.
Next I will provide a brief summary of some of the core beliefs in major world religions with respect to their guiding principles and sources of enlightenment.
Beliefs from Major World Religions
Buddhism (~ 500 B.C.) is a spiritual tradition from India that focuses on the attainment of enlightenment (or Nirvana), which is insight into the true nature of life. Buddhists do not believe in a personal god. They believe life is endless and subject to impermanence, suffering, and uncertainty. They believe that the beginning of the world and of life is inconceivable since they have neither a beginning nor an end. Buddhists do not believe that the universe (sun, moon, stars) was created by a powerful God, or Buddha, but that the world has been created and destroyed and recreated millions of times by fire, wind, and water in a series of endless cycles.
Like Buddhism, Jainism (~ 550 B.C.) was also born out of India and Jainists believe in reincarnation and eventual liberation. Jainists believe the universe exists and has always existed and is regulated by cosmic laws.
Hinduism also sprang out of India around 1500 B.C. However, Hindus believe in a Supreme Spirit (Brahman) that pervades the universe, yet is impersonal and unknowable. The Brahman exists in three different forms: Creator, Destroyer, and Preserver. In addition to Brahman, Hindus believe in as many as 330 million lesser gods. Hindus (like Buddhists) believe the universe is cyclically created and destroyed. They believe that the present cycle was preceded by an infinite (i.e., eternal) number of cycles. Yet they believe that the Big Bang could be one of these cycles. The “Nasadiya Sukta,” which is the Hymn of Creation in the Rigveda (10:129) states that the world began from a bindu, or point, through the power of heat. This statement is consistent with the Big Bang theory of cosmology, yet further suggests a multiverse.
Taoism (or Daoism; ~ 142 A.D.) is a Chinese-based religious or philosophical tradition that teaches people to flow with life by living in harmony with the “tao,” which is an indefinable “way.” Taoism recognizes multiple manifestations (multiple gods) of a Divine Infinite Source, yet none of the gods are omnipotent or eternal. The tao of the world is all-encompassing and infinite, however. It is a supreme principle that permeates the entire universe and its nature is considered to be eternal and immortal. The tao is both being and non-being, the beginning of all beginnings, yet never ceases to be.
Islam (~ 610 A.D.) is a monotheistic religion that originated in Saudi Arabia. The god of Islam is Allah. He is utterly transcendent, unknowable, and impersonal. Muslims have referenced verse 30 of the Surat al-Anbiya to suggest the Quran aligns with the Big Bang theory of cosmology. Verse 30 says, “Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and we separated them and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?”
Christianity (~ 33 A.D.) is a monotheistic religion that originated in Israel from Judaism. The triune Lord of Christianity is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. According to Christianity, God is love (1 John 4:8) and He is just, merciful, and full of compassion (Psalm 50:6; 116:5; 145:8). To be both perfectly just (punishing wrongdoings), and perfectly merciful (forgiving wrongdoings) would be paradoxical if not for the bearer of our sins, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ bore the sins of the world (c.f., Psalm 68:19-20; John 3:16). God is also personal (2 Chronicles 30:8-9; Revelation 21:3), unchanging (James 1:17) and omnipotent (Matthew 19:26; Ephesians 1:19). Christians (and Jews) believe that God created the universe (Genesis 1:1), which is consistent with the Big Bang theory of cosmology.
Judaism (~ 1812 B.C.) is a monotheistic religion that originated in the territory of modern Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The Lord of Judaism is the great I AM, Yahweh. Jews believe that God bore our sins (Psalm 68:19-20), yet they do not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ or in His sacrifice as the Passover Lamb for the forgiveness of our sins.
The Big Bang Theory of Cosmology
In NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) project (1992), scientists detected temperature ripples (i.e., gravitational waves) that enabled matter to collect into galaxies in the universe for the first time. This discovery, coupled with the discovery of a radiation echo in 1965 that dealt a death blow to the steady state theory, provided support for the Big Bang theory of inflation of the universe. The Big Bang theory suggests that time, space, and matter as we know it began about 13.8 billion years ago in a small singularity, which has been expanding rapidly at an increasing rate. Findings from NASA’s COBE project provided support for Albert Einstein’s predictions. Stephen Hawking labeled NASA’s COBE findings as “the discovery of the century, if not all time” while the COBE project’s leader, George Smoot (who went on to win a Nobel Prize for this discovery) famously said “if you’re religious, it’s like seeing God” (Corbyn, 2014).
The following major world religions support the Big Bang theory of cosmology: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism.
Transcendence and Immanence
Christians and Jews believe that God is both transcendent and immanent, which is to say that He is both within our universe (immanent) and has a personal relationship with His children and He is outside of the universe (transcendent) as our Creator. The aforementioned eastern faiths believe that God is immanent, yet not transcendent. Muslims believe that God is transcendent, yet not immanent. The concepts of transcendence and immanence best explain what we know in cosmology, which requires an uncaused, intentional, immaterial, omnipotent, and eternal Lord to power inflation. And Jesus Christ best explains how the Lord can be both perfectly just and perfectly merciful, as Jesus Christ bore our sins. That is why Christianity is the perfect religion.
Thank you for your time.
Corbyn, Z. (2014). We mapped the embryonic universe. Accessed 5/11/18 at https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/apr/20/george-smoot-we-mapped-embryonic-universe-nobel-winning-big-bang-cosmos