Comparing Christianity is an easy discussion for a missionary kid formerly based in a continent dominated by Muslims. Having seen firsthand the similarities and differences between Christianity, Islam, non-belief, and the rest, I have looked forward to this discussion since beginning the Monday Q&As.
Because this is the last Q&A from Stoa Apologetics, I will be answering all 14 questions, regardless of relevancy and wordcount. As always, the answers are taken from as close a Biblical standpoint as possible, and constructive discussion is always welcome. You can find the entire Q&A worksheet here.
1: Compare and contrast the Muslim view of God with the Christian view of God.
Ultimately, the largest difference between Allah (the Muslim God) and Yahweh (the God of the Christians, to be henceforth called “God”) is consistency in character. God is always true to His character; He never changes, never sins, and never breaks promises. On the other hand, Allah is a rather fickle god, and with him, you never really know what’s going to happen. While trusting in God and having Faith in His son’s sacrifice will guarantee you salvation, following Allah’s commandments isn’t a clearly-cut way to heaven. If he’s feeling lenient, he might let you in. If not, then you’re out of luck.
In addition to Allah’s consistency in character, another fundamental difference is found within the character of Allah himself. Allah is a single being while God is three beings: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, known as the Triumvirate. While appearing to be minor, these differences are massive and completely trump the idea that Allah is God but in another name.
2: Compare and contrast the Hindu view of the nature of man with the Christian view of the nature of man.
Hinduism: All reality is one; in other words, (philosophical) Hinduism is a type of monism. This ultimate ground of all being is called Brahman. Brahman is a force, power, or energy that sustains the world, an ultimate reality that causes or grounds existence, an essence which pervades all reality. Ultimately all of reality is one; all is Brahman (Messerly 2014). Man is therefore a tiny part of a greater being, a god-type character that encompasses all. In other words: man is god.
Christianity: All reality has been created by God and is completely governed by Him. He is entirely in control of his creation, but He has not elevated it to His level. His creation of man in His image was not to create “mini Gods”, but to create a companion to love and glorify Him. Thus, man is not God but is under God and made in His image.
The creation of man in His image was not to create “mini Gods”, but to create a companion to love and glorify Him. Man is not God but is fully under His power and ultimate plan.Tweet
3: Respond to the statement by Buddha: “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”
Only God saves. To us as Christians, this much is clear. We cannot save ourselves. To do so would be the equivalent of lifting ourselves up two hundred feet into the air by nothing more than our bootstraps. It is literally impossible to save ourselves, and only through the power, grace, and love of God can we be saved from our own sin.
Furthermore, walking in our own steps is not a Biblical concept. We are called to walk in the footsteps of the Lord, who has predetermined our path and will guide us as we go. We are called to walk with the Lord, not by ourselves.
4: Is karma a biblical concept?
Absolutely not. There is no room for “good karma” and “bad karma” in the Bible. Everything is preordained by God and is under His plan. Nothing else governs the world or the outcome thereof.
5: How would you respond to the criticism that Christianity is narrow-minded and dangerous?
This criticism alone is narrow-minded and dangerous. To believe that Christians are A) narrow-minded and B) dangerous is a foolish, un-researched, and highly prejudiced statement. For a Christian to be Christian proves he is not narrow-minded, for he chose the hardest path a man can take in this world (an unnatural and anti-cultural choice). Yet, while choosing the difficult path, he also chose the path that would eventually bring him peace, showing true wisdom and fortitude.
To believe a Christian is dangerous is also foolish. The only people who believe this were either hurt by religion or have rejected it entirely. While the first is understandable (many Christians are hypocrites and end up repulsing others from the belief), the second comes from a deep anger towards God. This is true every single time.
But, at the end of the day, the only response to a person claiming that Christians are dangerous is, “How can a group of people devoted to a God that calls us to love each other and Him become dangerous?” A belief in love is hardly dangerous, and only the foolish would believe otherwise.
6: Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Christians?
I must confess, I had to research what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe before I could confidently answer this question. Personally, I would highly disagree with the idea that they are Christians because a true Christian agrees on the pillar statements of Christianity, several of which completely disagree with core tenets of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God created Jesus, and that Jesus is inferior to God because He is not God.. This is completely against the Biblical teaching of the Triumvirate (God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit; three beings in one being- God). They would also disagree with the identity of the Holy Spirit, claiming that the Holy Spirit is merely God’s active force.
While some Christians would accept Jehovah’s Witnesses as one of their own, I cannot label someone as something they are not. They disagree with the core tenants of my belief and therefore are not part of my belief.
7: Are Mormons Christians?
Absolutely not. While Jehovah’s Witnesses disagree with a few major points of Christianity, the entire foundation of Mormonism is contrary to Christianity. This is comparable to asking if Hindus are Buddhists- the two are entirely incompatible. A complete comparison between the two can be found here.
8: How many ways are there to heaven?
Only one: Jesus. Inclusivism (the belief that there are other ways to Heaven) is neither Biblical nor Christian. In this matter, the Bible is clear: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (English Standard Version, John 14:6).
9: Compare and contrast Scientology with Christianity.
For the second time in this Q&A, I had to research a term before I could answer the question confidently. Upon researching the definition and beliefs of scientology, I can give a few major points in which the cult-like religion disagrees with Christianity.
A) Scientology claims that man has a soul that has been passed on to him by people of the past, thus claiming that we can learn from those who possessed our soul and receive absolute truth through this gift of information. Christianity, on the other hand, states that man’s soul is his and his alone; it cannot be possessed, given away, or passed on at death. Absolute truth comes from God and God alone. Any truth from a human being must be tested and challenged. If it is not originally from God, it is not ultimate truth.
B) Scientology is a mystic-oriented belief, closely similar to many Eastern religions in its emphasis on mystic teachings and past lives. Both emphasis are contrary to Christianity, which teaches us that the only true teaching comes from God, who tells us that, while man’s soul is eternal (which appears to be the only major point Scientologists and Christians agree on), it belongs to a single being and is released to an unknown place upon death.
10: Respond to the Bill Gates quote: “In terms of doing things I take a fairly scientific approach to why things happen and how they happen. I don’t know if there’s a god or not…”
This quote is interesting, to say the least. It is difficult to see whether Gates is affiliating science with a lack of God, but the fact that he is honest enough to say that he doesn’t know is a tribute to his humility. While I believe a scientific approach isn’t the best lense to view the reason behind the world, I can also understand why he’d follow such a mindset.
11: Respond to the statement by Ernest Hemingway: “All thinking men are atheists.”
I would first respond with a question: “Mr. Hemingway, I am not an atheist. Are you saying I am not a thinking man?”
Having read Hemingway’s books (and understanding how he spoke and thought), I believe that he would likely respond with a resounding “yes”. While this logic would be offensive to some, I find it rather amusing since it actually contradicts itself. For Hemingway to say that thinking men are atheists is to state that every belief except atheism presents a lack of thought. Yet to make this statement implies that atheism is the only “wise belief”, and that it should be obvious to everyone that Atheism is for thinkers. Therefore it is a mindlessly easy decision to see and it actually requires no thought at all to understand this statement.
Clearly this statement is foolish. Even as a Christian, I will not discredit some of the great Atheist minds of our day. While I lament their misplaced beliefs, I also recognize their brilliance and work in their fields. For this, they have my respect, pity, and love.
12: Respond to the quote from Michael Shermer: “Play hard, work hard, love hard… The bottom line for me is to live life to the fullest in the here-and-now instead of a hoped-for hereafter.”
To be clear, this mindset was not invented by Mr. Shermer. In fact, it goes as far back as early Sumerian times in the epic Gilgamesh. The mindset, today known as Hedonism, is anti-Biblical because it substitutes future hope for current pleasure. Willingly discarding Jesus for the pleasure of the world isn’t a Biblical teaching and thus is contrary to God’s plan for man.
13: What are the unique features of Christianity that set it apart from all other religions of the world?
To paraphrase Josh McDowell’s book “More Than a Carpenter”, Christianity is different because its teachings revolve around someone who claimed to be God. Nowhere in any other legitimate, non-cultish religion does someone claim to be God.
Apart from the foundational character of God, Christianity at its core is different from every religion. While most religions teach tolerance for others, Christianity states that those who are not Christians will go to Hell, as taught by Jesus (a teaching I believe). Loving our neighbors and our enemies is also a crucial aspect of Christianity.
Fundamentally, the very basis for Christianity (the Gospel) is different from every other religion. The Gospel is a message of love and hope. Only through the Gospel can we find true, everlasting hope and acceptance within our Creator. The lack of hope is highly evident in almost every religion and belief, from Islam to Atheism.
14: Is the “Force” from Star Wars a reasonable allegory for Christianity? Why or why not?
Because I am not a massive Star Wars fan, I have asked my good friend Ben Beehler (aka Bneb from Benmark) to answer this question for me. Being the biggest Star Wars fan I know, he is adequately informed on the Force and has given a fantastic answer.
“The Force in Star Wars is not a sufficient allegory to the God represented in Christianity for numerous reasons. The Force is an impersonal deity, which would imply that the Star Wars Universe itself is pantheistic (God being the universe). Moreover, the Force, according to recent lore, prefers a strict balance between light and dark. If one side rises, the other must also rise to meet it. The presence of light and dark qualify the Star Wars universe as a dualistic cosmology.
While The Force is not solely based on a specific philosophy or religion, it is strikingly similar to manichaeism (conflict between light and darkness) while also drawing influence from zoroastrianism (dualistic cosmology of good and bad eventually leading to the destruction of evil) and elements of neoplatonism (the idea of a single supreme source of goodness and being in the universe from which all other things descend). It is quite clear that these ideas are not representative of Christianity. While the idea of good and evil are common variables between the two belief systems, they hardly qualify as an allegory.
Unlike The Force, God is a personal being that is maximally good, loving, and just. He exists within three coeternal persons in one substance. Furthermore, evil is simply the absence of good and it is not a property existing within God Himself. This contrasts deeply with the idea that a being’s emotions automatically relate to its alignment to either good or evil. If a being within Star Wars is keen on being wrathful, for example, the dark side of The Force slowly corrupts the being until it becomes fully evil. This supports the idea that The Force is pantheistic and impersonal. It does not care about the actual state of the person. On the other hand, God does not will evil nor does He draw people to evil. He simply allows evil and suffering as means of creating further good. God’s telos is His own glory. What is good, therefore, glorifies God.
Our God cares about those He loves, while the force is a non-feeling entity that creates good or evil within its subjects. The two are not similar and should not be treated as such.” (You can follow Ben on Twitter at @BeehlerBenjamin).
These answers have been given in as close of accordance to God’s word as possible. If you disagree with them, feel free to say so (and give your reason for disagreeing), but please understand that these were not written for debate purposes. Constructive criticism is welcome, but insults and anger directed at the author are not Christ-like and will be deleted.
In the meantime, thank you so much for reading, and I hope you have a fantastic day!
Messerly, Dr. John. “Summary of Hinduism on Human Nature”. Reason and Meaning, 3 October 2014, https://reasonandmeaning.com/2014/10/03/philosophy-of-human-nature-part-3-hinduism/
Note: All Scriptural quotations taken from the English Standard Version.
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