The idea that the world’s three great monotheistic religions — Christianity, Islam and Judaism — worship the same God is comforting to many people. It’s also a politically correct way to tone down the rhetoric that often generates more heat than light. But is is true? In this post from 2009 — one of the most visited posts on this site — we will ask three simple questions that enable us to compare Yahweh (the God of the Bible) and Allah (the god of Islam). If Christians truly love Muslims, as Jesus does, we must clearly and compassionately share the truth about the identity of the one true and living God.
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This week I finished teaching an eight-week study on world religions and cults for employees at LifeWay Christian Resources. What a great group of men and women with a passion for God and a compassion for the lost. Employees gave up their lunch hours each Wednesday to learn more about Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology and other belief systems. We had two common goals: 1) to better understand the beliefs and practices of other faiths, and 2) to learn how to more effectively share our faith with those who don’t share our faith — kindly, respectfully, and truthfully. Many thanks to LifeWay’s leaders for encouraging this type of training. And many thanks to each person in the class who invested in God’s Word and the lost of this world.
I am including a downloadable version of the booklet used in this study. Feel free to print out copies and/or forward electronic versions to anyone who might benefit from this study.
The link above takes you to a study of world religions and cults, which some people call “alternative” faiths or other paths to God. Our stand will be on the truth of Jesus’ words in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Is this view narrow-minded and outdated, as some suggest? Quite the contrary. The words Christ speaks are “spirit” and “life” (John 6:63). To disregard them is perilous. Yet many do.
There are roughly 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide, 820 million Hindus, 400 million Buddhists, 13 million Mormons, 7 million Jehovah’s Witnesses, and millions more engaged in other false religions, or no religion at all. By all appearances, these people are sincere. They want to know the truth and believe they have found it. How can so many people be wrong? This study answers that question — and many others regarding people’s quest for ultimate truth.
Through this study, we will look at many belief systems, from Islam to Scientology. In each case, we’ll examine the background of the “alternative” faith and compare its beliefs to what the Bible says. We also will discuss effective means of witnessing to people who embrace these false religions.
Our purpose is not to condemn anyone or to assume God’s role as sovereign judge of the universe; rather, it is to compare the teachings of the world’s major religions and cults with biblical, historical Christianity so that we might be more effective in praying for and witnessing to the lost, and wiser in our ability to discern false doctrines. Every person, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, is precious in the eyes of God and is someone for whom Christ died. Our attitude as we study these false religious systems should be one of humility, love, and grace.
The words of the apostle Paul are clear: Those who are not grounded in the Word of God are subject to deceptive teachings about “another Jesus … a different spirit … a different gospel.” Every world religion and every cult that we study professes belief in Jesus and has an exalted place for Him in its theology. But without exception, each of these belief systems fails to correctly answer the key question Jesus asked in Matt. 16:15: “Who do you say that I am?” They also have false views of the Holy Spirit and without exception embrace a works-based doctrine of salvation.
Paul warned Christians in Acts 20:29-31: “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And men from among yourselves will rise up with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them. Therefore be on the alert …” Our prayer is that this study will help protect you, your family and your church from false teachers who proclaim “another Jesus … a different spirit … and a different gospel.”
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips
Think you know a lot about the differences between Christianity and other belief systems? Here’s a chance to test your knowledge — and have a little fun along the way. The answers are at the end of the exam.
1. Which of the following is not a Hindu scripture:
a) Rig Veda
b) Sama Veda
c) Yajur Veda
d) Darth Veda
2. True or false:
Islam is the second largest religion in the world – and one of the fastest growing.
3. True or false:
Buddhism has its roots in Hinduism but differs in many beliefs and practices.
4. The great dividing line between Judaism and Christianity is:
a) Kosher foods
b) The Sabbath
c) Mel Brooks
d) Jesus as Messiah
5. Who founded Scientology:
a) Tom Cruise
b) L. Ron Hubbard
c) E. Buzz Miller
d) Stephen Hawking
6. Which of the following religions is best summarized by the statement, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become:”
b) Christian Science
7. A cult is best described as:
a) A blue oyster
b) A dead-end street
c) Merchandise at Big Lots
d) Counterfeit Christianity
8. Muhammad taught that Jesus (circle all that apply):
a) Was a great prophet
b) Was born of a virgin
c) Lived a sinless life
d) Died on the cross
e) Is coming back one day
9. The Jehovah’s Witnesses deny (circle all that apply):
a) Ever knocking on your door
b) The deity of Christ
c) The Trinity
d) Soul sleep
e) Eternal punishment in hell
f) Jesus’ invisible return in 1914
10. Who is Siddhartha Gautama?
a) Master of the pan flute
b) The explorer who discovered Guatemala
c) The founder of Buddhism
d) The real name of rapper Snoop Dogg
11. True or false:
Mary Baker Eddy, L. Ron Hubbard and Sun Myung Moon joined forces in 1984 to form what they claimed was “perfect Christianity.” They called their new organization the Unification Church of Christian Scientology.
12. According to Mormon history, which of the following Jewish tribes crossed the Atlantic and became the ancestors of the American Indians:
a) The Lamanites
b) The Jebusites
c) The Parasites
d) The Kung Pao Buckaroos
1) d; 2) true; 3) true; 4) d; 5) b; 6) c; 7) d; 8) a, b, c, e; 9) b, c, e; 10) c; 11) false; 12) a
|What the Bible says about God:||What Judaism says about God:|
|There is one true and living God, who exists as three distinct, co-equal, co-eternal persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Deut. 6:4; John 10:30; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 13:13; 1 Peter 1:2). God is personal and is to be the only object of worship (Ex. 20:2-3; Isa. 43:10, 44:6; Matt. 4:10).||There is one God who is Creator, Deliverer, and Lord of history. He exists in absolute singularity (Deut. 6:4) and therefore is not triune, nor does He exist as more than one distinct person. He is somewhat less personal and more abstract than the God of Christianity.|
|What the Bible says about Jesus:||What Judaism says about Jesus:|
|He is the virgin-born Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-23; Luke 1:35). He is the eternal God, the Creator, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and Holy Spirit (John 1:1-14, 10:30; Col. 1:15-20; Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 1:1-13). Jesus died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3), rose physically from the dead (Matt. 12:38-40; Rom. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:4-8; 1 Peter 1:18-21) and is coming back physically and visibly one day (Matt. 24:29-31; John 14:3; Titus 2:13; Rev. 19:11-16).||Judaism rejects Jesus as the Messiah because he did not fulfill the required prophecies, which include worldwide peace, the return of all Jewish exiles to Israel, the cessation of sin, and the acknowledgement of God and the worship of God according to the Jewish religion. Some Jews see Jesus as a humble but insignificant prophet; others, as a fraud; still others as a pagan idol.|
|What the Bible says about man:||What Judaism says about man:|
|God created man in His image – with a human spirit, personality and will. A person’s life begins at conception and is everlasting, but not eternal; that is, our lives have no end, but they did have a distinct beginning (Gen. 1:26-28; Ps. 139:13-16).||God created man in His image (Gen. 1:26-28). Man does not inherit original sin. Therefore, mankind basically is good, free, and self-determining.|
|What the Bible says about sin:||What Judaism says about sin:|
|Sin is a violation of God’s perfect and holy standards. All humans are sinners (Rom. 3:10) and are under the curse of sin – spiritual and physical death (Gen. 2:17, 3:17-19; Rom. 3:23, 6:23). Only faith in Christ and His work on our behalf frees us from sin and its consequences (John 3:16, 5:24; Eph. 2:8-9).||Sin is seen virtually as criminal behavior. Therefore, most Jews do not see themselves as sinners. Ignorance of God’s law, or refusal to keep the law according to rabbinic tradition, not sin, is man’s biggest problem.|
|What the Bible says about salvation:||What Judaism says about salvation:|
|Christ’s death at Calvary completely paid our sin debt so that salvation comes by grace alone through faith in the person and work of Jesus (John 3:16, 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).||The solutions to man’s problem – which is either ignorance of God’s law, or refusal to keep the law according to rabbinic tradition – are education and greater effort applied to living moral and disciplined lives. Repentance, good deeds, and prayer take the place of sacrifice.|
|What the Bible says about the Bible:||What Judaism says about the Bible:|
|The Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God, and is His sole written authority for all people (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).||The Hebrew Bible (Tanakh, or the “Old Testament”), as interpreted by rabbinic tradition, is man’s guide. In practice, rabbinic tradition is more authoritative than Scripture.|
|What the Bible says about death and the afterlife:||What Judaism says about death and the afterlife:|
|Physical and spiritual deaths come upon all people as a consequence of sin (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 3:23; Eph. 2:1). A person becomes spiritually alive when he or she is “born again” by the Spirit of God (John 3:3-6; Eph. 2:4-5). At physical death, our souls and spirits separate from our bodies [which go into the grave to await resurrection and final judgment] and enter an everlasting state of blessedness [for those born again] or torment [for those who die in their sins] (Luke 16:19-31; 2 Cor. 5:8).||Jews hold a range of views:
|Hell is a place of everlasting conscious existence, where the unbeliever is forever separated from God (Matt. 25:46; Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 14:9-11, 20:10). As for Heaven, all believers have God’s promise of a home in Heaven, will go there instantly upon physical death, and will return with Christ from Heaven to earth one day (John 14:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:8; Rev. 19:14).|
Copyright 2008 Rob Phillips