What makes Christianity unique from other religious beliefs? How can we trust its claims about God? What impact should it have on my life? Daniel Hartzheim, co-director of SHM explores answers to these questions at the monthly After Hours Ribs & Brew event.
For further exploration of how Christianity is unique from other religious beliefs, watch the videos in our sidebar and footer titled, “Tough Questions.” You may also see these and additional resources at Christianity Explored.
Distinctives of Christianity.pdf (referenced in the video)
Welcome to another resource for living life with wisdom, purpose and faith. Brought to you by shepherds heart ministries. Shepherd’s heart is a 501 c three evangelical nonprofit located in Bozeman, Montana. Join us for one of our many events in the Gallatin Valley as we seek the lost, strengthen the pound, and together shine more brightly for Jesus. And now on to today’s resource.
So tonight, in light of what Keith shared, we’re going to talk a lot about rules. And
No, actually, I hope what I share should like line up with what he talks about. We we have, you might be one of them. We have people who come to these gatherings who’ve never opened a Bible in their life. They haven’t lived around.
The church you’ve been in and been a part of it. And and then we have lots of people who come who are on some spectrum of Christianity. Maybe you’re someone who’s following Christ with everything that you are. And others are just kind of one foot in one foot out, which is normal in a size group like this, that we have a broad spectrum of people and where they’re at in faith.
But something that has interested me ever since I went to college,
are some of the questions or criticisms or doubts against Christianity and the God of the Bible. And so learning about what what is what is it that’s distinctive about Christianity from other religions? Because at least we could give the give credit to people of other religions to
Be, at least they’re trying to get in touch with a creator or with the spirit realm. They’re recognizing that I’m more than just this flesh and my consciousness consciousness. There’s something out there.
I don’t know if you guys have noticed if you’re whether it’s Netflix or YouTube or Amazon Prime or Hulu, whatever, wherever it is, you get video content. How the last five years the last 10 years,
the skyrocketing the astronomical amount of content that involves paranormal activity.
People who are ghost hunters, we literally have people someone at least one person in Bozeman who will take you on ghost tours.
Looking for ghost and then these videos documentaries about you know, they’ll take a microphone, they’ll go to the place where they they’re expecting paranormal
activity, and they’ll record it on film and audio. And then they go back and watch it. And it’s just freaky. The the sounds that that the microphones pick up that their ears don’t pick up when they’re there. But all of that to say, the last 10 years, the last 20 years, there’s been a real, a real rise in people who are identifying that there’s more to life than just my my mind and my body. There’s something else out there. I don’t know if it’s demons, I don’t know if they’re angels. I don’t know if they’re ghosts, or if they’re all the same mixed up. But there’s a lot of searching. One of those movements is the New Age movement.
And just the thing that I credit people for in all of those areas is I agree with you, there’s more than just our mind and our body. There’s a spiritual realm, and we ought to explore that as much as we explore it.
The physical realm.
But what but what makes what makes Christianity different from other religions? What makes it similar? And what makes it something that we can trust? how might it impact our life in a positive way that maybe these other religions don’t offer? So we’re going to look at that today.
Every every religion, I would say in it, and even a worldview that doesn’t have room for a creator, has these components, an explanation for the universe, how did we get here?
We recognize a deep problem within humanity, that something’s not right. People are willing to kill each other. We’re willing to steal from each other. We’re willing to take on lifestyles that are self harming. Whether that’s addictions or other things.
From the time anyone who’s had a kid, or at least watched a young child from the time they’re born, they’re selfish.
It’s you could say survival of the fittest. But one thing’s for sure they’re they want the toy more than they want to share it with the the other little kid next to him. So there’s a deep problem within humanity.
And finally, every worldview, and religion offers a solution to rise above the problem. Human beings, were certainly geared towards problem solving. And if something’s not right, we want to fix it.
But that’s even that right there in and of itself, if you recognize something’s wrong, and you want to fix it, especially on a macro worldview, then you’ve just identified something core to the human race, which is, we recognize something’s wrong and it should be right
So, there’s there are arguments like that philosophical arguments that start to
at least bring out the plausibility that there’s an intelligent designer, a creator, who has embedded within us. We have someone at our table tonight, who’s a programmer, and the idea of programming things and embedding things to work the way you want it.
And it would seem that in every civilization and every religion, there’s always been the idea of right and wrong, and morality.
So, these things point to an intelligent designer, a creator who embedded morality across humans for all time.
When I was in college,
Oh, goodness, didn’t play it. When I was in college. I dated a girl briefly, who raised a question to me about
about Christianity, She challenged my faith even though she was a Christian. But she had her doubts. And she said, Well,
have you heard the story? Like, how do you know that your way that your religion is the right way? You know, isn’t it arrogant to say that there’s only one way to God? And how could you know you’re such a finite human being on the planet? You know, have you experienced every religion and tried them all? How would you know what’s different?
And in fact, she shared this metaphor. That’s an old metaphor. It’s been around for a couple hundred years, at least, about
some blind men and an elephant. And it’s a metaphor for people who claim to know about God. So I’m going to play this video that tells the story.
The blind men and the elephant by john de sacs.
was six men of understand, to learning much inclined, who went to see the elephant. All of them were blind, that each by observation might satisfy his mind.
The first approach the elephant, and happening to fall against is broad and stood beside that words began to more. God bless me but the elephant is very like a wall.
The second feeling of the Tusk cried Oh, what are we here? So very rounded, smooth and sharp. To me it is very clear that this wonder of an elephant is very like a spear.
The third approach the animal and happening to take the squirming trunk within his hands does boldly RP speak. I sequel he the elephant is very like a snake
before reached out his eager hand and felt about the knee. But most this wondrous beast is like his very plan because he just clear it.
The elephant is very like a tree.
The fifth who chance to touch the ear said in the blind this man can tell what this resembles most denied the fact who can. This marvel of an elephant is very like a fan
of six No sooner had begun about the beast to grow up. Then seizing on the swinging tail that fell within his scope, I see equals he the elephant is very like a rope.
And so these men have understand, disputed loud and long, each in his own opinion exceeding stiff and strong, though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong
Morrow, so often theological was the dispute and so we rail on in utter ignorance of what each other mean and pray about an elephant
Not one of them seen
this girl, this girl that I dated briefly in college raised this parable. And it really challenged me at the time and I didn’t know what to respond. Like, that’s a good point. How could any relate one religion have it? All right?
We haven’t all
got a full view. We’re all finite beings. And we’re talking about an infinite being, how could we have it right? So the thing that I’ve learned in the, in more recent years, which turns this metaphor and this kind of parable, this riddle on its head
is in Christianity. You have someone who comes and doesn’t tell you about God and how to get to God. In fact, he says, I am God. I am the elephant.
And so it puts Christianity in a different capital.
Gauri, really then all the other major religions of the world, all the other other religions bring you a sage or a prophet. As Tim Keller points out here,
grab this off of my sheet.
The other religions bring you a prophet, or they bring you a sage and they say, this is the way to find God. So in that sense, they’re all the same. But Christianity comes along and says, This person is God, and He was raised from the dead to prove it. And that is just a different category. And you have to come to grips with that to be a Christian. And also it does force you in a way to grapple with it. Instead of saying, I like this rich religion because it meets my needs, or I like these thoughts. You have to say, Did it happen or not?
As as other
Christian theologians have said, either, either Jesus was
totally crazy like psychotic and claim
Things that only a psychopath would claim.
Or he was incredibly deceitful, intentionally deceiving the crowds. Or he was actually who He said He was, and, and and did the things he did.
Part of part of what therefore becomes impressive about Christianity is if you have your main character of Christianity, Jesus, claiming to be God, and as you read through the Bible, and he does things that equate with God, such as walking on water, raising people from the dead, speaking to us, a crazy raging storm, that veteran fishermen thought they were going to die. He speaks to it and it goes silent. It calms down.
healing people, every sort of thing you could imagine.
if, if, if this really happened, it either really happened, or his followers became incredibly divisive deceivers to the world. But they had his followers. after his resurrection and ascension into heaven, his followers had a incredibly huge disincentive to try to spread a lie. So you’d have to think what would what would be in it for his followers to spread a lie if his whole thing was false.
They, they, they were persecuted and killed. For the things that they said about Jesus. They would on their own expense, they would traverse the Roman Empire and tell other cities city after city, about the message of Jesus,
who’s going to go out
Do that for a lie.
These these guys were literally in the Scriptures, you read about it, they lost property. So it’d be like if Christianity was outlawed in America and they said, If you profess that if you spread that message will take your property. If that doesn’t stop you, you know will will flog you and have you beaten one whip short of death? If that doesn’t work will take your family members from you. And if that doesn’t work will kill you.
Do you think of the incredible persecution against the followers of Jesus? And the only logical conclusion there is that these guys really saw Jesus do the things that only God can do? And they really saw him be raised from death to life after he had been crucified after he had been killed.
So that’s the first very big distinctive about Christianity from other religions is that
Here we have someone saying, I am God, I’m the son of God, I’m one with God. before time began, I was, I’ve always been and always will be.
And then does the things that we just talked about the types of miracles and signs and wonders to back it up, including himself being raised from the dead.
The second distinctive about Christianity is that it’s in many ways, it’s actually the most pessimistic worldview about humanity
than the other religions.
The other religions, you know, will say we need to be good people we need to, you need to meditate and clear your mind and reach a state of Nirvana or you need to be an extremely good person to break the cycle of reincarnation. You’ve got to be so good to come out of that cycle, and not
Continue to experience pain and suffering in this world, or you have to live a morally upright life as good as you possibly can, and hope that you never fail. And then hopefully, that’ll be enough to get into heaven with God or hopefully that’ll be enough that you can become a god yourself.
They actually are a little bit more optimistic than Christianity in this case, because Christianity says
no matter how hard you try to appease God or to make peace with God and approach God on your terms, or his terms, your good deeds, your good works, your good efforts and intentions are but filthy rags to God.
The second reason why it’s more dire for Christian the Christian worldview on humanity is even
more dire than the other religions is that it says we’re actually spiritually dead.
In Genesis, the first
first chapter, the second chapter, second chapter, the Lord God warned him being Adam. You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.
And of course they did.
So they became spiritually dead.
And then this is from the New Testament, the book of diffusion says, once you are dead because of your disobedience and your many sins and sin is taken to be cosmic treason, treason. Anytime we do something that’s against God’s will and design for the world. That’s a sin.
You used to live in sin, just like the rest
Of The World obeying the devil, the commander of the powers in the unseen world, he is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.
All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature, we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
So again, we’re spiritually dead. So even if
even if we were to try to approach God with a with an upright lifestyle, a righteous lifestyle, living, what we would say, or what a cult any culture would say is the right way to live or just trying to be a good person is still won’t get you to heaven and Christianity, because your righteousness is as filthy rags to God and you’re spiritually dead to begin with. God is spirit. You can’t connect to God’s Spirit if your spirits dead.
So here’s a quote from a Greek Greek guy on these topics Ravi Zacharias. He says the Christian faith Simply stated, reminds us that our fundamental problem is not moral. Rather, our fundamental problem is spiritual. It is not just that we are immoral, but that immoral life alone cannot bridge what separates us from God. Herein lies the cardinal difference between the moralizing religions, and Jesus is offered to us. Jesus does not offer to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive.
So that’s, that’s the incredibly pessimistic worldview on humanity that Christianity carries. But here’s where it starts to get incredibly good and incredibly optimistic. If you’ve been around church at all, and the Bible at all, you’ve heard the term the gospel of Jesus.
This are the good news of Jesus. And you can’t understand the good news unless you understand the bad news that I just talked to you about. We’re spiritually dead and anything we try to do is never good enough. So here’s where it gets incredibly good. Jesus who we already talked about here is God, He is the elephant. Jesus comes in the flesh and pays the price for humanity’s moral debts. He pays the price when he dies on that cross.
God accepts Jesus His perfect righteousness by raising him from the dead. That was the sign that God said, I accept this as payment for humanity’s moral debt.
And finally, here salvation is not based on our righteousness, our works, our efforts, our deeds, but it’s based on the finished work that Christ did with his life, his death, his resurrection.
If you’ve read those passages before, everyone would be anyone who has would be familiar when Jesus says it is finished. And he breathed his last breath and dies. Why would he say it is finished?
It’s because it’s finished. There’s no other work needed to make atonement for humanity to bring peace between God and man, not your efforts or mine.
So this is a huge distinctive from the other religions that would say, you’ve got to work your tail off to be a good person. And and then Then and only then can you even hope that God will still have mercy on you.
So finally, it leaves us with the question if if this is true if if Jesus is God, if he actually did the things the Bible says he did, if he was raised from the dead and that’s why his followers
So vigorously spread the Good News across the planet.
What does this mean for my life? How How do I respond to God’s gracious gift of eternal life?
And here’s what the Scriptures say. And a lot of these scriptures are on your your page there on the on the last page, but the summary of it all is this, believe and receive that God gives you the opportunity for eternal life. He gives this as a gift to you. All you have to do is believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who died for the sins of the world, including yours and mine.
Then the Bible says that we are to get baptized and follow Jesus His commands.
We are to abstain from immorality and selfishness, the very things that God was upset about with humanity. In fact, the book of Hebrews in the Bible talks about
how ridiculous it is for anyone who would say I’m going to follow Christ, I believe in his sacrifice, but then their lifestyle doesn’t change if we keep on staying in a place of immorality and selfish living.
And finally, we do good deeds are good works. Because it’s our response to God, we say thank you, I accept your free gift of salvation through Jesus. And therefore, I want to live as you intended now.
So these are the main distinctive, what sets Christianity apart, Jesus is God. God offers eternal salvation as a gift since he paid for humanity’s treason.
And we respond to God’s gracious gift with righteous living or obedience.
So that, I believe Yeah, that that wraps up what I wanted to present and now
I just would turn it over to the Table Talk table discussion here. And you’ve got kind of a guide for the things that I’ve said here tonight at your table. And so just take the next 20 or 30 minutes. You could just start at a place of conversation if you want.
What do you guys think about this? What do you think about Christianity?
Makes me think whatever. There’s some there’s some questions at the top of that first page that could help guide your conversation. And if you want to get into some of the passages, some of the proofs, you can do that as well.
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Together shine more brightly for Jesus.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai