Distinctions Make All the Difference

Key distinctions between religions come into greatest focus as we celebrate Christmas, which is the recognition and acknowledgement of the birth of the Christ child.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Drendel

Ravi Zacharias has spoken to orthodox theological scholars of Islam and orthodox theological scholars of Christianity around the world. He speaks from experience when he says that those orthodox scholars who know the sacred texts do not say that the God of the Quran and the God of the Bible are the same deity. Pluralism is a positive and important cultural value, and we can value pluralism without sacrificing distinctions or truth.

We don’t embrace the beliefs of “Flat-earthers” in the name of pluralism. They are free to believe what they want to believe, but we shouldn’t let the flat earth position affect how we do science or how we view the world because of pluralism. An appreciation and respect for different cultures and ways of viewing and living in the world should not dictate an embrace of positions that are inherently contradictory with each other or compel us to abandon reason or truth.

In the clamor and noise of the connected world in which we live, we are tempted to minimize or ignore differences. We often only see a rudimentary and distorted view of things, and we are apt, therefore, to come to incomplete and inaccurate conclusions without a nuanced understanding of those things. We might be tempted to think that all major world religions are fundamentally geared in the same direction, being merely different approaches to the same end. We might be tempted to think that Christianity is a very politically orientated and conservative, western worldview that is arbitrarily exclusive and, therefore, elitist.

Ravi Zacharias grew up Hindu in a world in which Buddhism, Islam, and other religions were more prevalent than Christianity. His background lends some credibility to his observation that no religion offers redemption like Christianity does. Other world religions offer a way of attainment that must be earned. Christianity is unique in this respect in its view of God and our relation to God, and Christianity is uniquely accessible to all people in all places to the same extent.

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Rejecting the Right God

If anyone is going to reject God, they should at least be sure to reject the right God.

Depositphotos mage ID: 46970151 Copyright: JanMika

It occurs to me that the “new atheists” are rejecting the wrong God. They are famous for saying that they don’t believe in the Christian God any more than they believe Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It seems to me that, if someone is going to reject God, they ought to be rejecting the right one.

Not all gods are created equal. The Christian concept of God is not on a par with Zeus or a “flying spaghetti monster”, to say the very least. The same can be said of the Islamic view of God or any other major world religion. The concept and “proofs” of God are much more sophisticated than the weak understanding displayed in a comment that likens them to a flying spaghetti monster.

The ignorance of the new atheists about these things is rather shocking, though it shouldn’t be altogether surprising. They admit they find no use for such things as gods and, therefore, and most have spent no time studying or considering them. The ignorance is actually willful, then, and inexcusable.

I can’t do justice to the subject in a short blog, but I will try to summarize. The only serious contenders for consideration as God are the gods of the major world religions. They can’t all be true because they are incompatible with each other[1], so which one, if any of them, is the most likely candidate?

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An “Other” View of Christianity

it is more intellectually honest to acknowledge the different worldviews and social practices, including the resulting necessity that there is a choice to be made to determine which is more truthful than the others

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Bialasiewicz
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Bialasiewicz

I began my college career with a World Religions class that exposed me to the major world religions. My professor boasted a Christian upbringing and background, but he was more of a universalist than a Christian in his theology and philosophy. The class focused more on the religions other than Christianity than Christianity, partly, I suppose, because most people sitting in a World Religion class in a small liberal arts college in Iowa already were acclimated to Christianity.

Western Civilization was another class I took. Western civilization, not surprisingly, dominates and colors most of the history of American thought since the United States is predominantly an extension of Greek, Roman and western European philosophy and ideology. My Jewish religion professor put that in context for me one day in a class on the Old Testament when he asserted that Judaism has roots in Eastern religion and civilization. (I was a thesis away from being a religion major.)

I will not repeat the context or expand on the details of that proposition. I have forgotten most of the details anyway. The take away I want to chew on with this piece is that we make assumptions about religion and the world based on how we have been acculturated and “indoctrinated” by our culture. Listening to the perspectives of “others” provides us valuable, different perpectives, even on the things with which we are familiar (like Christianity).

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