Christianity’s distinguishing claims have perplexed many who aren’t believers and even led some Christians to act superior to people who aren’t believers. Christians and people of other religions may benefit from some clarification on this issue. We shall make an effort to do so by first elaborating on the common ground shared by all religions and then highlighting the uniqueness of Christianity.
Ideas Held in Common by the World’s Major Religions
C. S. Lewis pointed out that being a Christian does not obligate one to reject all other religions as false.
Religion is significant from a sociological perspective since it is a universal feature of human civilization. People of all cultures share the belief that, at our core, we are religious or spiritual creatures. It’s possible to argue that the materialistic West is an outlier, yet even there, people often appear to treat their pursuit of material goods with almost holy fervor.
People sometimes say that God created humans with worship in their very DNA. If they refuse to worship God, they will bow down to something or someone else. Mystics, or those who devote their lives to earnestly pursuing God, are not limited to any one faith tradition but can be found in every major world religion.
Moreover, following the lead of German philosopher of religion Rudolph Otto, Lewis identifies the shared characteristics of the world’s major faith traditions.
- Faith in a higher power or divine nature. Distinct religious traditions, such as animistic, pantheistic, or monotheistic, have diverse conceptions of the divine and use different terminology to express it. Each of them, though, has faith in a higher power.
- Having faith in a set of moral principles. Nonetheless, humanity tends to violate this moral rule.
- Faith that a higher power ultimately upholds morality. Breaking the law is equivalent to sinning against God. According to the teachings of all world religions, humanity occupies a difficult position before the divine, with potentially horrific consequences. Christians would now find themselves in broad agreement with adherents of many other faiths.
Elements That Set Christianity Apart
Belief in the Holy Trinity
This is the point when Christianity distinguishes itself from other global faiths. According to Christians, only God, in his kindness, can bring fallen humans back into the right connection with the divine. Christians believe that God is one, yet he is a Trinity of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, God is a relational being.
This distinguishes Christianity from other monotheistic faiths precisely where a conflict in the notion of God in those other religions causes their theology to become irrational and defective. No appeal to the heavenly mystery may rectify this shortcoming.
Christians are the only ones who can confidently say that a non-contingent being’s ownership of relational qualities implies that possession of a connection is a necessary condition for that being. In contrast, non-Trinitarian monotheisms are eager to assert that God is an independent, self-existent deity unaffected by external causes.
Moreover, most individuals who are not Trinitarians would agree that God is a God of love; nonetheless, they must wonder, “Who is the object of God’s love?” By saying “Creation,” one implies that God needs his creation to be fully God, which attacks God’s essence. And this is the paradox at the heart of this erroneous concept of God; God cannot be both contingent and non-contingent.
The Incarnation of Jesus Christ
Differentiating characteristics of Christians include their belief that the second person of the Godhead, God the Son, took on human flesh and walked the earth to share God’s love and forgiveness with his creations.
Before he became a Christian, Lewis thought that if God existed, he couldn’t know God any more than Hamlet could know Shakespeare. After two years, when Lewis converted to Christianity, he returned to his Hamlet-Shakespeare comparison.
Hamlet, the play’s protagonist, would never be able to leave his fictional world and meet the play’s author, Shakespeare. However, Lewis hypothesized that Shakespeare, the play’s author, would insert himself into the play as a character, allowing for an introduction between Hamlet and Shakespeare.
In Lewis’s view, this kind of event did happen when the Son of God took on human form at the Incarnation. This incarnation of the Son of God is what the world requires to restore humanity. He made atonement via his death, bringing peace between God and humanity.
Christ’s Unrivaled Claims
Some may argue that there are other routes to God, but Jesus Christ, the Son of God, claimed to be the one and only. Some people find this exclusivity to be upsetting since it’s so restricted. At this juncture, it’s important to stress that the very reality constrains any truth they strive to depict.
The truth always has a limited perspective. The repercussions of jumping off the Empire State Building are terrible, and admitting as much will not mitigate the damage. Neglecting a fire alarm in a burning structure is not justifiable because the alert indicates a very persistent warning. Even though it is limited, listening to caution is the wiser action. Jesus’ exclusivity claim may or may not be accurate, but it is not wrong simply because it is limiting.
A further look into the matter will show the claim’s validity. Those who reject Jesus’ claims because of their perceived lack of breadth may want to reconsider the nature of truth itself. Some people dismiss Christ’s assertions because they think he is mistaken since he has a limited perspective on things.
The Uniqueness of the Love of God
Christians claim that God loves everything he has made and those to who he has granted life in this world. The world’s main religions have diverged from God’s love, as shown in the Bible, by constructing systems of works and endeavors to gain favor with God. As taught by Christians, God’s love is a love without condition. According to the Bible, “Perfect love chases away fear” (1 John 4:18).
One possible consequence is that insecure, worried, and anxious people are the progeny of a love that isn’t perfect. Everyone has experienced the drawbacks of imperfect love and caused worry for those they claim to love. Pride, especially religious pride and the sort of religious “group thought” that results from it, is founded on fear and panic.
According to Christians, the only cure is the unconditional love of God, who sees and understands us fully and, through Christ’s death and resurrection, can forgive us. We all have sins that keep coming back to haunt us, but the gospel gives us the freedom to face them head-on and overcome them.
Furthermore, a person healed in Jesus will have greater compassion for others and the ability to visit them at their place of greatest need, sharing the good news of Jesus with them. Only Christ can love us properly and redeem us from our sins, making the claims of Christ and the blessings of the gospel exclusive and confined.
What is different about Christianity from other religions? It is God’s love for us. His compassion sets the Truth of the Gospel apart from faith. Jesus’ death is the clearest illustration of this kind of love. All people are invited by God, via the power of the Holy Spirit, to accept His love.
God wants each of us to show how we feel about this love. Jesus went through pain that neither you nor I can understand. He was assaulted, spat on, put down, and then put to death on a cross. He did all of this willingly, and God wants nothing but what is rightfully His. As the one who made the world, keeps it going, and saved us, He deserves our adoration, worship, and loyalty.