Twice or more each year, primarily during the Christmas and Easter seasons, mainstream television networks air a variety of documentaries formed around a cadre of academics who explain that all religions and all Gods are essentially the same. This claim is based on the observation that it is difficult to identify a religion which advocates: (1) stealing from, double-crossing or murdering persons who treat you with kindness; (2) abusing children, elderly, sick or disabled; (3) admiring selfishness; or (4) some other pitiless, ruthless or merciless behavior. Because no religion advocates these kinds of behaviors, the experts conclude all religions must be essentially the same! This astounding product of superior 21st century human intellect might have come as a surprise to Elijah and might even have rendered his challenge to the prophets of Baal and Asherah completely unnecessary (1 Kings 18:20-40)!
But can we actually reduce the major religions to a lowest common denominator, perhaps "The universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man?" At their core, are all religions really teaching the same thing even though their outward trappings may differ? Do all religious roads, though they differ in route, ultimately arrive at the same mountain top?
The core beliefs of Christianity are listed below. Unless you can identify another religion which shares these beliefs, the answer to these questions is "no."
- The Bible is the inspired, infallible and inerrant word of God.
- The one true God exists as three distinct, transcendent, immanent, infinite, eternal, and immutable persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
- Jesus Christ is God the Son. Jesus Christ is man. Jesus Christ is one person whose divine and human natures cannot be changed, divided, separated or mixed. Jesus Christ was resurrected bodily from the dead. Jesus Christ was born of a virgin.
- Every person since Adam and Eve, except Jesus Christ, was born with a sin nature and no person, except Jesus Christ, has lived a sinless life.
- Salvation from the consequences of sin is offered to all persons by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.
- The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all persons (Titus 2:11): (a) the requirements of the law are written by God on every heart (Rom. 2:15), (b) Jesus Christ knocks at the door of every heart (Rev. 3:20), (c) the Holy Spirit calls and convicts each person (John 16:8) and (d) God's eternal power and divine nature are evident in the world around us (Rom 1:20). Nevertheless, many resist the grace of God.
- Each person who responds to God's grace and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience receives the great gift of salvation. Each person who resists God's grace is condemned to everlasting punishment.
- Faith precedes regeneration; faith is an act of human free will responding to the grace of God.
What about those who have never heard of Jesus Christ and know nothing about the core beliefs of Christianity? Can such persons respond to the grace of God that brings salvation? Consider the tax collector in Luke 18:10-14. This man knew nothing about Jesus or the substitutionary atonement yet to come. Nevertheless, he demonstrated confession of sin, remorse in his heart, a desire to repent, faith in God and the intention of obedience. He responded to what God had written on his heart. The thief on the cross had a similar experience (Luke 23:39-43). Salvation from the consequences of sin does not require head knowledge. It requires a contrite, penitent, humble, forgiving and merciful heart willing to confess sin, feel remorse, repent, believe in God and seek obedience.
Although classical logic represents the truth of God and sound reason is the foundation of the Christian faith, the objective is purity of heart.