The following is excerpted from a paper BJ wrote while working on his Doctorate.
A prominent leader in the Christian community made the following comment:
I have learned of the common ground shared by true Christians and Muslims in the practice of their faith. I learned that we believe in and are submitted and committed to the same God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael! The God who created us and the world we live in… True believers in God must learn to come together as partners in peace; we must move our society and our world from combatibility to compatibility; from intolerance to tolerance, seeking justice, mercy and compassion for all. For the sake of all the unborn generations to come, we here and now, must begin the task of working together as partners of peace.
This attitude is what is facing the church today: “professing” Christians claiming that Christianity is no different than religions such as Islam. The challenge facing the body of Christ is that we must contend for the faith (Jude 3) and show others that Jesus Christ alone is the promised Messiah and the only way of salvation. We must confidently proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a unique and superior revelation.
The culture in which we live has two prominent characteristics. The first characteristic is that of pluralism. We live in a time when people are saying that all religions lead to the same end. They claim that differences in religions are merely the result of cultures interpreting the same truth in various ways. The second prominent characteristic of our culture is a spiritual awakening among people. People in our generation are looking for answers to the questions of life. In the midst of a pluralistic society, people are desperately searching for answers and meaning in their life. This is the cultural setting in which we, as Christians, find ourselves.
How does the Christian respond to the spiritual hunger of man within a world of pluralism? In 1 Peter 3:15, we are given an explicit command as to how Christians should respond:
But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.
There are two key issues to consider from this passage. First, we are called to give a defense for our faith. The word apologia is the Greek word for defense. We as Christians are called to give an apologetic, or defense, of the faith. Second, we are to give our defense of the faith with an attitude of gentleness and reverence. A clear example of one giving a defense for the faith is when the Apostle Paul spoke before King Agrippa (Acts 26). In a gentle and reverent manner, Paul gave King Agrippa a reason for the hope that he had.
The main focus of this article is to give a defense of the Christian faith by showing how Christianity is unique and is able to answer the questions of man today.
Truth Is Not Relative
Before looking at the uniqueness of the Christian faith, a few primary issues need to be dealt with. These issues are misconceptions that people hold to within our culture. First, we need to understand that truth is not relative. Truth is not a matter of personal belief. Instead, truth is what corresponds to reality. Truth is outside of us, not inside of us.
Second, the Christian faith is not merely a blind leap into the dark. Many people feel that religion is a matter of a person’s faith. For instance, I had a chance to talk to a woman who was into the New Age. She made the assertion that the truth of a religion is simply a matter of spirituality and faith. I responded by explaining to her that Christianity is unique among the other religions in that it is established upon historical grounds and the truth of it is open to evaluation. I supported this assertion by going to Paul’s defense before King Agrippa. In his defense, Paul does not merely say that his faith is a blind existential leap into the dark. Instead, he says that his faith is established upon the historical event of the resurrection, which is not a matter of mere faith but is grounded upon evidence which is open to evaluation.
For the king knows about these matters (resurrection), and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. (Acts 26:26)
A final issue that needs to be dealt with is that Christianity is exclusive. Christianity is not just one religion among many that leads a person to God. Instead, it is very clear in the Bible that it is only by placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ that one can be saved. Christianity stands apart from all other religions in asserting that salvation only comes through the person of Jesus Christ.
There are a variety of foundations on which Christianity can be established. The following are four examples. First, Christianity is unique in that it has a superior revelation.
On my way to referee a playoff soccer game, I was able to have a conversation with my friend who was born in Morocco and was raised in accordance with the Islamic faith. He asked me what makes the Bible different or superior to the Qur’an. He saw both as being the product of their culture and he had a hard time seeing the Bible as being any more authoritative than the Qur’an.
There are numerous grounds by which one could show the superiority of the Bible over other sacred writings. For instance, one of the superior elements of the Bible is that it contains within it fulfilled prophecy.
There are numerous prophecies made about future events in the Bible that have been fulfilled. There are prophecies that reveal the succession of great empires (Daniel 2), the miraculous history and restoration of Israel (Isaiah 11:11-12), and the judgment of certain nations (Tyre-Ezekiel 26:3-14; Edom-Jeremiah 49:16-17; and Philistia-Zephaniah 2:5). Perhaps some of the most astonishing fulfilled prophecies in the Bible are concerning the Messiah, where over 300 Messianic prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus Christ during His first coming.
What these fulfilled prophecies point to is the fact that the Bible is inspired by God and is unique in regard to the sacred writings of other religious traditions.
Superior Plan of Salvation
The second foundation used to establish the uniqueness of Christianity is that it has a superior plan of salvation. Through faith in Christ one can have the assurance of his ultimate destiny. Many people attempt to attain salvation through works. They try on their own effort to work their way to God. When one tries to achieve salvation by works, he is always left with two questions. The first question is the quantity question: How do I know if what I did is enough to save me? We may stand before God and find out that we were just one work short of entering into heaven. The second question is the quality question: How do I know if what I did is good enough to save me? We may stand before God and find out that we did not have a proper attitude in the works that we did and therefore fall short.
When one’s salvation is dependent upon his own merit, he is left with these two questions and no assurance as to his eternal state. As a result, many people go to extreme measures in trying to obtain assurance for their eternal destiny. For example, in Islam one does not have the assurance of his eternal destiny until he dies. A Muslim can only hope that Allah will accept the good deeds he did while living and allow him into paradise. Since there is no assurance, many devout Muslims commit suicide as “martyrs” (die for a holy cause) and kill others to be assured that Allah will accept them into heaven.
Fortunately, a Christian does not have to go to extreme measures (even though some do) to have the assurance that they are truly saved. Instead, there is assurance in the Christian plan of salvation. The emphasis in this plan is not on what I can do but on what God has done for me through His Son Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul is a good example of the assurance that a believer in Jesus Christ has in eternal life. As he sat in a Roman prison facing death, Paul confidently knew what awaited him.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (II Timothy 4:7-8)
The Christian plan of salvation not only gives one assurance of his ultimate destiny but it is also a simple plan that deals with the heart of the problem. Because of his sinful nature, man has been separated from a holy and perfect God. However, God sent His only Son to atone for the sins of man (John 3:16). Now, sinful man has access to a holy God through the perfect mediator, Jesus Christ (I Timothy 2:5). The emphasis is not on what I can do, but on what God has done for me through His Son Jesus Christ.
In Hinduism, one has to go through multiple reincarnations to gain salvation/liberation. In Islam, one has to follow the five pillars of Islam and do other good deeds in order to gain the acceptance of Allah. In Christianity, all one has to do is recognize the problem (that I am a sinner) and accept in faith the solution (Jesus is the only way for salvation). True faith in Jesus will then motivate the believer to live a holy life before God, empowered by His Spirit. Christianity has a superior plan of salvation. It supplies man with a plan that recognizes the heart of the problem, and provides a solution through which man can obtain the assurance of his eternal destiny.
A third reason why Christianity is unique is that it has a superior Savior. Many people think of Jesus Christ as merely one of the great teachers in history. They place Him on the same level as Buddha, Mohammad, Confucius, and others. However, is Jesus just one among the many religious and moral teachers of history? It is my contention that Jesus stands unique and superior to all other religious leaders, prophets and so called ‘messiahs’ of history.
There are numerous reasons we could give to support this claim, but for our purposes here, we are going to show the superiority of Jesus on the grounds that He fulfilled His plan while He was here on earth.
What was Jesus’ main purpose for coming? According to the Bible, His main purpose was to die for the sins of mankind and be resurrected three days later (Matthew 16:21; Mark 9:31, 10:32-34; John 12:27-33). There is overwhelming evidence to show that Jesus Christ did indeed rise from the dead.
The following is a brief look at three pieces of evidence. The first piece of evidence is the fact that the tomb was empty (Luke 24:1-3). Various theories have been proposed to explain why the tomb was empty, but the resurrection stands as the best explanation. First, security precautions were taken to ensure that Jesus’ body was not stolen (Matthew 27:62-66). These precautions consisted of a large stone in front of the entrance of the tomb (Mark 16:2-4), the stationing of guards who were highly trained and effective in securing their posts, and the placement of a Roman seal. The fact that the tomb was empty and that detailed security measures were taken supports the fact that the resurrection occurred.
A second piece of evidence is the postmortem appearances. Throughout the Gospels there are numerous eyewitnesses who testified that Jesus appeared to them after His death (Luke 24:36-37; John 20:11-18, 20:26-29). Many have postulated that these accounts were merely hallucinations, or that the people saw a vision or an aberration. However, after careful consideration the evidence overwhelmingly supports the fact that they did see the resurrected Jesus.
These eyewitness accounts are reported without mystical or fanciful descriptions. They clearly describe Jesus as being physically resurrected (Luke 24:39). The credibility of these eyewitnesses is increased because they testified to these appearances in spite of Jesus’ enemies being present. Any fabrication of their accounts would have enabled the enemies of Jesus to cut off the spread of the resurrection story.
Finally, consider the extraordinary change within the disciples. After the crucifixion they were hiding in a room with the doors locked (John 20:19). They were fearful for their own lives. Even after the women had told them that Jesus had risen they still doubted. The disciples were in no position to steal the body of Christ or fabricate a story that He was resurrected. These men were devastated when Jesus was crucified and it took His actual appearance to convince them that He had indeed overcome death. Jesus’ appearance extraordinarily changed the disciples from men of fear and doubt to men of boldness and courage, willing to give their lives as they openly proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The evidence is overwhelming in showing that Jesus Christ was in fact raised from the dead.
The power of the evidential proof for the resurrection is overwhelming. This proved to be true as I spoke with Gene while at a coaching clinic two years ago. In our two-hour discussion, Gene told me that he did not believe that God existed. He had relatives who had survived the Holocaust and he could not conceive of a God who would allow that atrocity to happen. As we spoke, we talked about morals, God’s existence and creation versus evolution. Throughout this conversation both of us stood strong to our convictions. It was not until I began to share with Gene the evidence for the resurrection that I saw a change within his disposition. After sharing for several minutes some of the amazing evidence, Gene had no response. All he said to me was that he had never met a Christian who was able to give such evidence for his faith. A few months after our discussion I received an e-mail from Gene. In this e-mail, Gene told me that the conversation we had greatly impacted his life. He could not deny the overwhelming evidence that pointed to the fact that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
A final basis in showing the uniqueness of Christianity is that it has a superior eschatological hope. One of the greatest impressions that I gained from my mission trip to India with my father was of the people known as the “Untouchables.” In Hindu society, these people are considered to be the lowest in human existence and should not even be touched. My heart broke for these people who have been robbed of all hope and joy. The impact that Christian missionaries have had upon the “Untouchables” is truly amazing. Despite their lowly existence here on earth, they are coming to realize that they have value through Jesus Christ and hope of a blessed eternity.
This hope in Jesus Christ is also demonstrated in the lives of those who have been martyred for the name of Jesus. In fact, during the past century alone, more Christians have been killed for their faith than in all the previous centuries combined. Romans 8:18 is a good verse in showing the hope that one has as he faces persecution, torture, and even death for the name of Jesus Christ:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
It is the eschatological hope of all believers to one day spend eternity with God. Revelation 21:3 promises:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.’
The eschatological hope of Christianity transforms lives, brings comfort and gives hope to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ.
The challenge facing the body of Christ today is that we must contend for the faith (Jude 1:3) and effectively communicate that Jesus Christ alone is the promised Messiah and the only way of salvation. Since we know that Christianity is unique and superior, we do not have to cower in fear but can confidently proclaim, as the apostles did, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Space will not permit me to share all the evidence for the Christian faith, but enough has been revealed in the Scriptures to convince the strongest skeptic, if only he is unbiased.