Archive for the ‘Religions’ Category

What Christians Can Learn From Other World Religions

September 19, 2012

Title: What Christians Can Learn From Other World Religions

Text: Luke 11:1, Thessalonians 4:3-5, Matthew 5:11

Time: August 2nd, 2012

 

I’ve just finished up a message serious on the other major world religions – Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. I basically gave a critique of the top three problems in each faith. For example, I explained how in Islam, Jesus is given short shrift to Mohammed and the Bible is placed lower in value than the Koran. So I basically pointed out some shocking problems with these rival religions to Christianity. I have no problem warning people to stay away from these false religions if they haven’t gotten too close already, or if they are participating in one of them to flee it, as soon as possible. Why? Because as we examine all the major world religions we quickly realize that, contrary to popular opinion, they don’t all teach the same thing. In fact, at core, they teach totally different things altogether – which is why they are separate religions and haven’t merged together. For example, to be a true Muslim requires that one not be a true Christian or Jew. To be a true Hindu is impossible if one is a true Jew, and so forth. About the only mixing and matching that could take place is between, say, a Jew and a Christian; or a Hindu and a Buddhist. But for the most part, religions are incompatible with each other on core teachings. But having said that, what can a Christian learn from the other world religions? I’ve just completed a message series critiquing the major world religions, but now I’m asking the question, “How can Christians learn from these faiths?” Now for some Christians, that’s the wrong question to ask because they might say, “If these religions are wrong or false, then we shouldn’t be trying to learn anything from them.” True enough, as far as doctrine goes, I would agree that Christians have no business, for example, snooping around the Koran, trying to find some truth in Islam. Why? Because in Christianity we have a complete revelation from God in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation; we don’t need additional religious truths in order to believe and live out the Christian faith. But I’m not talking about doctrines per se, I’m asking a different question – “What can we as Christians learn from members of other religions?” And in answer to this question, I believe the reply should be, “We as Christians can learn some things from others that can even help us be better Christians.” For example, one of the illustrations I’ll make in this message today is that as Christians we can learn some things by watching the total commitment we see in members of other religions; and we can learn from it. Not that we learn from the religion itself, but we learn from the religious person’s commitment to what they believe, even if it’s false. We can admire their dedication, for example, and learn from its example for our lives as Christians. So let me unpack this a little further and point out three areas that we as Christians can learn from members of other religions. (more…)

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The Three Most Shocking Beliefs of Buddhism

September 19, 2012

Title: The Three Most Shocking Beliefs of Buddhism

Text: Psalm 14:1, Genesis 1:31-2:1, Luke 23:42-43

Time: July 28th, 2012

 

Most Americans are not very familiar with the religion of Hinduism or the religion of Buddhism, although more and more Americans are encountering them through the influence of foreign teachers coming to America. For example, in the case of Buddhism, the most important teacher to the West is the Tibetan Dalai Lama. Hollywood celebrities flock to hear him speak — which draws the attention of the public, who join in to see and hear what all the fuss is about. Through books, radio, and television interviews the Dalai Lama communicates the basic teachings of Buddhism to culturally Christian populations. But what is Buddhism, and how does it differ from Hinduism? Last time, I talked about the three most shocking beliefs of Hinduism – belief in an impersonal ultimate reality or God; an inability to categorize anything as ultimately right or wrong, true or false; and belief in the transmigration of the soul or reincarnation. These are strange beliefs to the most westerners who were raised, at least nominally, on Christianity. Buddhism continues in the strange belief category with such shocking things as – an atheistic or agnostic teaching about God, reincarnation of the soul (but only rebirth back into another human life, in contrast to Hinduism, which teaches rebirth into lower life forms, such as animals), and salvation through meditation. Which is more popular in the Untied States today, Buddhism or Hinduism? That’s hard to say because of so many different groups, societies and organizations that promote one or the other or both. For example, mostly Hindu teachings are promoted by the Hare Krishna’s, and mostly Buddhist teachings are promoted by the Dalai Lama. The Beatles traveled to India to learn Hinduism decades ago drawing attention to that religion, while contemporary celebrities like Richard Gere and Steven Segal follow and promote Buddhism. Of course, Hinduism as a religion came first, then Buddhism followed, but they both share a similar worldview that is radically different from the traditional Western theistic worldview. Buddhism claims that the primary problem of life is suffering due to wrong expectations and desires about life. It then offers a spiritual path to eliminate wrong desires as a means to cope with life’s suffering and achieve spiritual salvation, which is called Nirvana. Through meditation, Buddhism teaches, one can achieve salvation by escaping the cycle of reincarnation and reaching a new consciousness. Again, all of this sounds very strange to someone raised in the West, and it is strange, confusing and even contradictory to anyone attempting to understand it. But because it’s important for Christians to understand what and why they believe what we believe, it’s also important that we understand what others believe as well. So let me take a few minutes and outline the three most shocking beliefs of Buddhism. (more…)

The Three Most Shocking Beliefs of Hinduism

September 19, 2012

Title: The Three Most Shocking Beliefs of Hinduism

Text: Exodus 3:14-15, Isaiah 5:20, Hebrews 9:27

Time: July 27th, 2012

 

So far I’ve talked about two different religions – Islam and Judaism – how they differ from Christianity. I pointed out some of their more shocking beliefs, such as with Islam, how Muslims put Mohammed above Jesus in honor and esteem. From a Christian perspective this is unthinkable. Or how, in Judaism, Jews reject Jesus as Savior, Lord or Messiah – even though he was one of their own, as were his disciples, as was the entire early Christian church. Again, from a Christian perspective, to reject Jesus is just plain spiritual blindness. Today, I’d like to turn to a completely different direction from the Middle Easter – the home of Judaism and Islam – and turn to the Far East – home of Hinduism and Buddhism, two other major religions of the world. With these two eastern religions we encounter not only different doctrines and practices, we run into an entirely different outlook on reality. In other words, the differences between the religions of the Middle East, like Judaism, Islam, even Christianity, are differences of particular beliefs and practices, but they all share a common worldview, a common view of reality, only provide different answers to the questions this reality raises. For example, in Islam, Judaism and Christianity there is a common assumption of monotheism, that is, belief in One God. Each different Middle Eastern religion answers the question how man is to approach the One God differently, for instance. But in the religions of the Far East, there is a radically different view of what constitutes reality. There is no assumption of monotheism in the Far East; to the contrary, the assumption is that all is God or what is called, Pantheism.  In eastern religions, many or even most of the basic assumptions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are missing. In their place are totally different assumptions about what is ultimate reality, who is man, where man came from or where man is going. Also, in Hinduism and Buddhism, the diagnosis of what is wrong with the world or what is wrong with man is totally different from that of the three major monotheism religions. So consequently, the solution or answer given by eastern religions will be radically different from that given by Judaism, Christianity or Islam. Therefore, the fundamental beliefs and practices of Hinduism, for example, are almost incomprehensible to anyone familiar to the Judeo-Christian culture, or even Islamic culture as well. So then with Hinduism and Buddhism, the basic question isn’t so much about specific beliefs and practices, but more importantly – is the eastern assumption about fundamental reality correct? I’d like to demonstrate by reviewing three shocking Hindu beliefs that the fundamental eastern worldview is flawed, not in order to pick a fight, but in order to get closer to the truth. (more…)

The Three Most Shocking Beliefs of Judaism

September 19, 2012

Title: The Three Most Shocking Beliefs of Judaism

Text: Matthew 26:63-66, Hebrews 9:22, Matthew 26:59-61

Time: July 26th, 2012

 

I’m in the middle of a message series on the most shocking beliefs of the major world religions. Last time I talked about the most shocking beliefs of the Muslim faith – that Mohammed is held in greater esteem than Jesus, that the Koran is viewed as more authoritative than the Bible, and that for Muslims spiritual salvation is obtained not by faith primarily but by submission to Allah’s divine law. Some of these points may not seem shocking at all, but for most Christians they are because they contradict Christianity. It demonstrates once again that Muslims and Christians do not “just believe about the same things.” Today, I come to the religion of Judaism, and in respect to Christianity Jews almost do believe almost the same thing as Christians, except the big difference is centered on the identity of the Messiah Jesus Christ. Christians, of course, see Jesus as Savior, Messiah and Lord; Jews, on the other hand, see him as neither. For Jews, Jesus is at best some kind of prophet – although they aren’t sure what kind of prophet they’d categorize him; or, they reject him outright as a false prophet who led many Jews and many more Gentiles astray. Now in today’s contemporary world it’s not popular to emphasize the differences between religions, especially between the religions of Christianity and Judaism. Hasn’t the relationships between Jews and Christians been tense enough? Do we really need to add to the division by debating and discussing their differences again, today? Well, yes, it is important to outline the major differences between world religions, and yes, also between the religion of the Jews and the religion of the Christians. It’s important because ignorance is never the answer. Many people still continue to confuse the beliefs of Jews and Christians. Others understand and acknowledge there are differences but aren’t particularly interested in talking about them because they feel that one religion is as good as another, just as long as it helps the individual believer. But that post-modern and relativistic view of faith isn’t very helpful in seeking the truth. I’m aware that many people in the modern world have given up on seeking after any religious truth, since they feel that faith is essentially more about psychology than objective reality. But as Christians we oppose such radical skepticism. We believe in objective truth, and we believe that Christianity brings such truth into the world through the person of Jesus Christ. We believe the Bible teaches truth, not just subjective inner truth, but also external, objective truth as well. That’s why it’s important to know what other religions teach and practice, in order to test their teachings against the objective truths of the Bible. What we believe and how we live really do make a difference, in this life and the life to come. So let’s explore today three of the most shocking beliefs found in Judaism today. (more…)

The Three Most Shocking Beliefs of Islam

September 19, 2012

Title: The Three Most Shocking Beliefs of Islam

Text: Philippians 2:6-8, Revelation 22:18-19, Romans 1:16-17

Time: July 25th, 2012

 

In our modern secular world it’s fashionable to view all religions as the same, essentially. More and more people today consider all religions doing, or attempting to do, more or less the same thing – comprehending ultimate reality.  So then differences between religions are minimized in the contemporary world. But in reality it is impossible to seriously believe that all religions are the same once we start to compare them point-by-point. Once we scratch below the surface, we quickly realize that they teach many radically different things. For example, most people in the West, most Christians, would be shocked to find out what Islam really believes, because the common misconception is that Muslims believe essentially the same thing Christians do, except they follow Mohammed and the Koran. Yes, Islam teaches there is one God and acknowledges many of the same prophets and holy men as Jews and Christians, and accepts many of the Bible stories. But Muslims put all of these together different in their religion. I’m aware that it’s not “politically correct” to criticize another person’s religion, especially Islam post-911, but if we don’t scratch below the surface and find out what Muslims really believe then we’ll remain forever ignorant and limit ourselves to superficial comments that don’t get at the truth of things. Tolerance doesn’t mean that we don’t acknowledge differences between religions; it means we recognize the profound differences between different beliefs, yet respect the people of different faiths. Pointing out differences in doctrine and practice between religions – and even criticizing false teachings found in different religions – doesn’t mean we harbor hate in our hearts towards others. It may simply mean we want to get at the truth. One of the reasons why many contemporary citizens of the modern world don’t like to debate or discussion different religions is because they don’t believe there are any absolute spiritual truths. If no religion is speaking the real truth – or in other words, that which corresponds to reality – then there’s no reason to argue over different religious beliefs. This is essentially what philosophers call “post-modern thinking” – that there are no absolute spiritual or moral truths. In the post-modern atmosphere it’s easy to see why people wouldn’t want to engage in a fruitless discussion about religious truth, when they don’t believe there really is any truth in religion. But as Christians we can’t subscribe to post-modernism’s skepticism towards truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” John 14:6. Christianity affirms truth, which is why we Christians must be able to point out the errors in other religions. Today, I’d like to point out the three most shocking false teachings in Islam. (more…)