By Tal Davis
David, a 19-year-old Southern Baptist, was in his first year at State University. His basic studies program required that he take several electives in Humanities or Religion. He had scanned the course catalog and found a class in comparative religion, a particular interest of his, taught by the school's most distinguished professor of religion.
The professor, a graduate of a famous Ivy League theological seminary, began the class with a statement that caught David by surprise, "We will be examining the history and beliefs of the major religious movements of the world; but let me say at the outset, we will begin with the pre-supposition that everyone of them is a legitimate expression of the cultural, social, psychological, and existential experience of its adherents. Though they may differ in external and formal statements of doctrine and practice, they all express a similar essence of the awe and mystery in life and the universe. Furthermore, we will assume that each of the founders of the religions were all, in their various ways, expressing similar and universal moral and spiritual concepts. Thus, we will assume they are all equal in their authority and revelational validity."
David looked around his room. Was anyone else in the class as stunned by the teacher's pronouncement as he? Apparently not, as every other student looked straight ahead, showing no sense of surprise or concern.
Unfortunately, David's experience is a common one for college students. Often raised in Christian homes and conservative churches, they are confounded when tenets of their faith are challenged by authoritative figures such as college professors.
Thankfully, David did not take his teacher's pronouncement as an incontrovertible fact. He decided to investigate the truth claims of the various faiths and the assertion that all their leaders were the same. After several months of study, he came to the conclusion that all religions were not equal and that Jesus Christ was and is superior to the founders of the other major religions of the world. His conclusion was based on five lines of truth.
1. Jesus Christ is the only major world religion founder who had no beginning in time or space.
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ, unlike any other person who has ever lived, had no beginning in time or space. That is, Jesus eternally preexisted as God the Son in the Godhead with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Christians believe that , though
they are separate persons, they are One God (see Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 8:6, 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 1:21-22, 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2).
The gospel of John states, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made" (John 1:1-3, NIV).
The apostle Paul, in Colossians 1:15-17 (NIV) stated, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth . . . all things were created by him and for him."
Jesus Himself, when questioned as to His own origin, made the audacious claim, "before Abraham was born, I am" (John 8:58, NIV)!
The Bible teaches that Jesus existed eternally and had no chronological origin. No other religious leader can make such a claim. Gautama Buddha (560-480 B.C.), Mohammed (A.D. 570-632), Confucius (551-479 B.C.), and all other religious founders began their life at birth. Jesus already existed, as deity in heaven, prior to His earthly birth.
2. Jesus Christ is the only major world religion founder who came into the world as He did.
Though Jesus pre-existed eternally as God, the Bible indicates that He entered this world in a unique way. He was born into the world physically as a result of a virgin birth.
According to Matthew 1:20-21, (NIV), an angel of the Lord informed Joseph not to fear taking his pregnant betrothed, Mary, as his bride "because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
Matthew explained (1:22-23, NIV), "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel - which means, God with us.'"
The gospel of Luke records that Mary herself was informed by the angel Gabriel that she would become pregnant and give birth to a son (see Luke 1:26-33). Luke says her response was incredulity, "How will this be . . . since I am a virgin" (Luke 1:34, NIV)?
The angel explained (Luke 1:35-37, NIV), "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of
God . . . For nothing is impossible with God."
Thus Jesus, among all the religious leaders, was conceived miraculously and born of a virgin. Even the great Hebrew prophet Moses had an earthly father.
Muhammad, founder of Islam, also was born of a man and woman and made no claims to divinity. Baha'u'llah (1817-1892), the supreme prophet of the Baha'i faith, was conceived and born in the ordinary way.
3. Jesus Christ is the only major world religion founder who lived a perfect and sinless life.
To be fair, Christians agree that many of the world's religions' founders taught high standards of morality and justice. For example, Buddha taught the Eightfold Path as a way to wisdom and morality. Baha'u'llah taught high principles of justice, world peace, and human rights. Moses, of course, provided the Ten Commandments and the Books of Law.
In none of these religions, nor in any other non-Christian faith, do the followers claim their founders to be perfect or without sin. Only Christians claim, as the Bible teaches, that Jesus Christ was totally without the stain of sin. The writer of Hebrews stated, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin" (Heb. 4:15, NIV).
Likewise, the apostle Paul in commenting about the effectiveness of Christ's atonement stated, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21, NIV). Even Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor who unjustly condemned Jesus to die, admitted, "As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him" (John 19:6, NIV).
Jesus Christ, of all the world's religious founders, was without sin and lived a perfect life. Thus, he alone was qualified to do what was necessary to make salvation available to mankind.
4. Jesus Christ is the only major world religion founder who died as a sacrificial atonement for the sins of humanity.
Muhammad taught that to receive forgiveness of sins, one needs to ask for it sincerely and, if Allah (the Islamic god) wills (and you can never be sure of that), he may grant it. Buddha taught that sins cannot really be "forgiven", only that the desires of this life must be overcome by enlightenment.
The Bible, however, teaches that the only way sins may be forgiven is for an atonement to be made to cover them. The Old Testament taught that a sacrificial system using animals could temporarily atone for some sins. The New Testament, however, teaches that the ultimate sacrifice for sin was made by Jesus Christ by His death on the cross. He died as a sacrificial atonement for the sins of the world.
As John 3:16, (NIV), states, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Romans 8:3 (NIV) states, "For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering."
Only Jesus was qualified to be our sacrifice as He was without sin. Further, He gave Himself willingly to rescue us from our sinful lives and hell. Jesus said, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord" (John 10:18a NIV).
5. Jesus Christ is the only major world religion founder who rose from the dead to demonstrate His power and authority.
Ever wonder what would rank as the most important event in all of world history? Would it be the invention of the wheel, the rise of the Roman Empire, World War II, or the fall of Communism?
Clearly, the most important event of all time, and one of the best attested historically of ancient times, was the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Bible indicates that the third day after His crucifixion He rose from the dead and then, for 40 days afterward, was seen alive by a number of witnesses.
The apostle Paul reported to the Corinthians after Jesus' death "that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born" (1 Cor. 15:4-8, NIV).
Paul, along with the writers of the four Gospels and the other New Testament writers were absolutely convinced of the fact of Jesus' resurrection. Paul even states that if it were not true, then the Christian faith is false, "and if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead" (1 Cor. 15:14-15, NIV).
Indeed, Christianity stands or falls on the truth of Christ's resurrection. It is the one historical event that validates both the claims of Jesus about Himself and the message that Christians proclaim. No other religious leader validated his truth claims in such an undeniable way. Moses, as great a prophet as he was, is dead. Muhammad is dead. Buddha is dead. Confucius is dead. Baha'u'llah is dead. Any and all the founders of the world's religions are dead. Only Jesus Christ overcame death itself with this ultimate miracle, establishing once and for all the truth of His deity and Lordship.
Jesus, however, demonstrated His superiority to all others by His birth, life, death, and resurrection. Thus, no other person who has ever lived can and should capture our allegiance as does Jesus. He alone offers us the way of salvation and the assurance of eternal life. As the apostle Peter boldly stated so long ago, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12, NIV). Jesus Himself said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John14:6, NIV).
When sharing Christ with those of other faiths, those who are agnostics or atheists, we must focus on why we believe Christianity is superior to all others - we must be cautious, however, not to belittle or demean other faiths or their leaders. That will usually only magnify the barrier that may already exist. Rather, examine common principles we share with other faiths, but, clearly show how Christ alone is the full expression of God's revelation in the world and the only way of salvation.
Christianity does not stand or fall on its moral principles or depth of mystical experience. If that were true, then it would be no better than any other religion in the world, and Jesus Christ would be only another great religious or moral teacher. No, Christianity stands or falls entirely on the person and work of one man: Jesus Christ. Either He was who He claimed to be, the Lord of the Universe, who came to earth as man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross as an atonement for our sins, and rose again from the dead, or the entire Christian faith is a gigantic lie.
Additional resources concerning the uniqueness of Christ:
Colson, Chuck. Answers to Your Kids' Questions. (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Pub., 2000).
Geisler, Norman and Brooks, Ronald. When Skeptics Ask. (Wheaton, Ill: Victor Books, 1990).
Habermas, Gary R. and Licona, Michael R. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. (Grand
Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004).
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. (New York: Macmillan, 1957).
McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson
McDowell, Josh. More Than a Carpenter. (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 1977).
Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1998).
Strobel, Lee. The Case for Faith. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 2000).