1. Standard memberOmnislash
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    20 Dec '05 10:05
    It occured to me the other day that it has been quite some time since I took a definitive stance on a theological matter. This comes as a direct result (I believe) of my inclination to entertain any/most notions and offer respect for their protagonists. While this is good and well, and has lead to many a good discussion, I feel it is high time I venture forth and make a declaration of my own.

    Assuredly, many will disagree with what I have to say here. Almost certainly, this statement will draw the ire some, subjecting it to "flaming". None the less, I feel it would be of value to state this. I will (futily) proclaim at the head of this, here and now, that this is simply my belief. That is all. If you disagree, that is fine. I would request like respect for the forthcoming statement, but I know better than that.

    Thusly, here it is. I have frequently said "Christianity has become a generic label". Well, I have said that enough that now I feel compelled to state what I believe Christianity is (or should be), and what my views hold to be unique about Christianity (i.e. why this is my belief) I hope the following is of value to someone.

    Best Regards,

    Omnislash

    It is often said, in today’s pluralistic culture, that all religions are basically the same and that we can learn from all of them. Sometimes the claim is also made that unless we understand all religions that we cannot understand our own as fully as we might. I would suggest that while it is helpful to understand the tenants of all faiths, that different faiths also have different and conflicting beliefs.

    Fundamentally, it cannot be true to say that if conflicting beliefs exist that both can be true. In order to come to that conclusion, it is necessary first to say that nothing is absolutely true! My well-worn Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, defines truth this way:

    “1. The quality or state of being true; specif., a) orig., loyalty; trustworthyness b) sincerity; genuineness; honesty c) the quality of being in accordance with experience, facts, or reality; conformity with facts d) reality; actual existence e) agreement with a standard, rule, etc.; correctness; accuracy 2. that which is true; statement, etc. that accords with fact or reality 3. an established or verified fact, principle, etc…”

    In other words, in order for something to actually, really be true; it must be true for all people of all times whether or not anyone believes it! To assume that conflicting claims can both be true is to deny truth itself.

    It is this understanding of truth that sets Christianity apart as a unique religion in the world. Its claims are quite exclusive, not inclusive:

    Either Jesus Christ is the virgin born, divine/human Son of God or He is not.
    Either the suffering and death of our Lord is adequate payment for humanity’s sins, or it is not.
    Either Jesus is the sole remedy appointed for the redemption of the world, or He is not.
    Either the Holy Scriptures are the true revelation of God to men, or they are not.
    To say that all religions teach the same things is foolish and untrue. Hinduism – along with its descendent Buddhism – clearly teaches that life is nothing but suffering and that “salvation” is finally to become sufficiently enlightened is to escape this repetitive suffering and cease to exist. This is accomplished by doing good works and having the right attitudes and so acquire “good Karma”, and to avoid doing bad things and bad thoughts thus avoiding “bad Karma.”

    Islam teaches that God is so holy and removed from man that he cannot be personally known and can only be appeased through the keeping of the five pillars of Islam which is a list of good works that must be accomplished by each and every Muslim if he is to avoid hell.

    Judaism teaches that it is through the keeping of God’s law that redemption and forgiveness can be found. As with other religions, there exist factions from “Ultra Orthodox” to “Reform Judaism”, but all are based on good works as the end of the faith.

    Christianity, by contrast, abandons all hope of acquiring “good Karma”, doing enough good works, or thinking enough good thoughts. Christianity teaches that all men are conceived and born sinful and can never - no matter how hard one tries - do enough good things or think enough good thoughts to ever merit God’s forgiveness for our sin. Rather, God’s love and compassion are seen in that He sent His one and only Son into the world to assume human flesh, to keep the Law perfectly, and to suffer and die for the sins of all people. Therefore, Jesus the Christ of God, is our substitute for our failure to keep the Law, for our complete inability to obtain the forgiveness of sins, and is the One who overcame the curse of sin – which is death – by rising to life from Good Friday’s tomb.

    Therefore, salvation and heaven are not gained by good works, but by faith (complete trust), in what our Lord Jesus Christ has done on our behalf! We completely depend on the good works (righteousness) of Christ! We completely depend on the sacrificial suffering and death of our Lord as full and complete payment for all our sins! Therefore, we rejoice because there is no longer any outstanding debt of sin which remains against us! We are forgiven completely!

    This does NOT mean that Christians do not do good works, but our motivation for doing them is entirely different from all other religions in the world. We do good works precisely because we are thankful to God for the redemption He has given us through faith in Christ Jesus. We are not attempting to curry favor with God by doing good things, rather Christ moves us and enables us to live a life pleasing in His sight so that His glory might be seen in our lives.

    This is salvation by faith, through grace as revealed in the Bible or the Holy Scripture. It is a faith that has its hope solely in the love and actions of God, and not in vain attempts by sinful humanity to, “Get right with God.”

    Now, either Christianity is right in this faith or it is not. If it is right, then no amount of good works or good thoughts will ever be acceptable in the sight of God since He has already sacrificed His Son to accomplish the salvation of mankind. Indeed, any such humanly based act is an incredible insult to God attempting to render payment for that which has already been perfectly accomplished by Jesus Christ.

    If one’s hope is in human accomplishments and works, then those with such a hope will never know if they have done enough, become enlightened enough, or thought enough good things and will always be left in doubt and fear as a result. But in the Christian faith, it is not our perfection but Christ’s on which we depend. It is not our Law-keeping, but Christ’s on which we depend. It is not our efforts, but God’s perfect efforts to redeem His people which is our sure and certain hope!

    So there is a very big difference between faiths, and not all of them can be true since they offer diametrically opposed solutions for man’s problem with sin and evil.

    In the Bible there are no less than 224 references to truth. In the Gospel of John alone 52 times the subject of the truth is brought up with almost all of them being Jesus saying: “I tell you the truth…” Perhaps it is necessary to understand that when Christ speaks, He can only speak the truth, as when He says:

    “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
  2. Standard memberDavid C
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    20 Dec '05 10:59
    Originally posted by Omnislash
    'Tenets'. Faiths have 'tenets'.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I wish I could say I agree.
  3. Cape Town
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    20 Dec '05 11:36
    Originally posted by Omnislash
    Thusly, here it is. I have frequently said "Christianity has become a generic label". Well, I have said that enough that now I feel compelled to state what I believe Christianity is (or should be), and what my views hold to be unique about Christianity (i.e. why this is my belief) I hope the following is of value to someone.
    I think that you will find that your views are different in many ways from many other people who profess to by Christian.

    The parable of the sheep and the goats would in my view conflict with some of your statements.

    To state that Christianity is unique is correct. However every other religion is unique. Is Christianity special? You certaily havent shown this.

    You imply that you are Christian because you see something special in the religion. This cannot be the case. You either have faith or do not, it cannot be chosen.

    I agree that it most religions do not allow you to strictly accept more than one religion as truth.

    I would say that a large percentage of Christians that I have met only do good works as an attempt to buy their way into heaven. If they were told that doing good would have absolutely no effect on thier chances of entering heaven then they would stop.

    If Christianities teachings are so unique as you imply then why are they interpreted in so many different ways? Where I come from, a town of about 100,000 people there are over 150 different Christian denominations each preaching a different message and often with very different opinions even within one Church.

    One very important question you should ask is why are so many "false" religions successfull. For example if you are Christian the why are there so many Muslims? What is it that attracted them to Islam? What is different between that and your own faith in Christianity?
  4. Standard memberOmnislash
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    20 Dec '05 12:421 edit
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    I think that you will find that your views are different in many ways from many other people who profess to by Christian.

    The parable of the sheep and the goats would in my view conflict with some of your statements.

    To state that Christianity is unique is correct. However every other religion is unique. Is Christianity special? You certaily havent ...[text shortened]... that attracted them to Islam? What is different between that and your own faith in Christianity?
    You are welcome to disagree with some/most/all of my perspective sir. It is not my intent to proselytize. I simply, and humbly offer what I have discerned myself. While this statement is clear and plain to me to be in accordance with scripture, though obviously my perception is not universal (not by a long shot).

    This is my perspective, nothing more. My position is formed from my individual study of the scriptures as an amatuer theologan over the past 9 years. That is all. People are welcome to accept or reject my position.

    If you have specific questions you would like me to address I will happily open up a thread on the topic to discuss the matter. My statement here is broad, as are your questions, thusly I believe this would be the best manner in which we can discuss these matter.

    Best Regards,

    Omnislash

    EDIT: It is late for me, so I shall be retiring for the day. If you would like, state a query in regards to my position (here or PM) and I shall address the issue tomorrow. πŸ™‚
  5. Cape Town
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    20 Dec '05 13:12
    Your post appears to:
    1. State your beliefs and understanding of Christianity and its key principles that differ from other religions.
    2. Imply that Christianity is either better or more unique than other religions.
    3. Imply that your faith is based on that uniqueness. (I may have missinterpreted this one)

    To try and stick to the title of the thread, my main question is: What is it about Christianity that makes you believe in it or is the faith part separate? Did you believe first or learn the facts of various religions and choose the best. Have you studied any other religions to any degree ?
  6. Hmmm . . .
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    20 Dec '05 16:482 edits
    Originally posted by Omnislash
    It occured to me the other day that it has been quite some time since I took a definitive stance on a theological matter. This comes as a direct result (I believe) of my inclination to entertain any/most notions and offer respect for their protagonists. While this is good and well, and has lead to many a good discussion, I feel it is high time I venture fo ...[text shortened]... my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
    Part of the problem that I had as I read your opening post was that I kept “hearing” a Muslim making the same kind of argument, but of course in support of the unique features of Islam vis-à-vis Christianity. Since, in a more generic way, lucifershammer’s thread “The Map and the Territory” was covering these kind of questions, I have simply bumped it, rather than patching my arguments in here. (We had really not progressed beyond laying some groundwork in that thread; perhaps we can move on&hellipπŸ˜‰

    On a small point—

    I am always leery of making comparisons between the religions without having taken the time to study the other religions. I am not saying that your brief descriptions of Islam and Judaism are inaccurate, as far as they go—but why do you think you can “sum up” a whole religion in such a few simple phrases? (I particularly disliked your use of the word “appeased” with regard to Islam.) Suppose I were to say: “Christianity teaches that God was miraculously born as a human being one-time-only, was miraculously resurrected after death, and that salvation depends solely on appeasing God by committing yourself to believing that as fact.” I don’t think that statement is entirely inaccurate, but it surely is a bit superficial.

    I once saw (on video) a debate between a Muslim and a Christian. It was a good debate—often sharp, but never uncivil. Both debaters were well versed, not only in their own religion, but their opponent’s as well. However, I remember when the Muslim made his critique of the Trinity—I listened and thought, “That’s not how I learned to understand the Trinity. It’s not even one of the understandings I learned.” Unfortunately, the Christian did not have a strong response. Now, I didn’t think the Muslim debater was being dishonest, or intentionally setting up a strawman: it just seemed to be an area in which his acquired understanding was limited. However, I’m sure that many in the audience thought that his presentation was perfectly accurate And sufficient. On the other hand, I realized that the Chrisitian might have made statements about Islam that were not perfectly accurate and sufficient, and that perhaps the Muslim simply decided to move on rather than spend all his time correcting his opponent...

    Then I thought: “If I can’t rely on a Muslim for an accurate presentation of a major tenet of Christianity, why would I rely on Christian sources for an accurate description of Islam—or any other religion?” From that point on, I decided that I would say little about any other religion until I had studied it through people who were in that religion and recognized scholars of that religion. And I am willing to be corrected in my understanding by people who follow that religion.
  7. Mississauga, Ontario
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    20 Dec '05 18:28
    Originally posted by vistesd
    Part of the problem that I had as I read your opening post was that I kept “hearing” a Muslim making the same kind of argument, but of course in support of the unique features of Islam vis-à-vis Christianity. Since, in a more generic way, lucifershammer’s thread “The Map and the Territory” was covering these kind of questions, I have simply bumped it, rather t ...[text shortened]... n. And I am willing to be corrected in my understanding by people who follow that religion.
    It's quite difficult for someone, anyone, to read understand and memorize many different theologies and to debate issues on the spot with accurate cited references and arguments within the context.

    In my time, I've seen a only a few people do it. I'd say three, but I'm leaning towards two, and am only sure of one having seen him tested.

    A large factor is the environment we grow up in. It saddens me when people reject all religions because of their conflict with one, and when they just don't make the effort or intention to look at other religions or even at their own more deeply.

    Sometimes it's just the way a one religions has come to define its relationships with others. To the casual observer, muslims would be the odd people out, those who have the most radical views and don't consider themselves compatible with the other abrahamic religions. It's not a well defined division between the three, and even historically, if not biblically, we can see the difference in the attitude toward other faiths and people.

    But to come back to this thread, it really cannot be stressed enough how important semantics becomes when you begin comparing religions, and how important it becomes to understand how a religion's text is meant to be read and understood.

    Call it bias is you will, but Christianity lags behind Islam and Judaism in the department, or accepted methods, of proper religious studying, then we can come to understand the incessant quibbles over interpretation that plague the bible today.

    But really, when in doubt, your best resource is a synogoue, church, or mosque. To be fair, it usually takes more than one.

    If you have the time, and you'll need lots, ask the people there what they think about other religions.
  8. Donationrwingett
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    20 Dec '05 18:41
    Originally posted by Tetsujin
    It's quite difficult for someone, anyone, to read understand and memorize many different theologies and to debate issues on the spot with accurate cited references and arguments within the context.

    In my time, I've seen a only a few people do it. I'd say three, but I'm leaning towards two, and am only sure of one having seen him tested.

    A large fa ...[text shortened]... ave the time, and you'll need lots, ask the people there what they think about other religions.
    Why would someone who rejects theism not be able to reject all theistic religions out of hand? If you don't believe in any gods, then it doesn't matter how different one religion's god is from another's, they're all equally untenable. But if you could present a completely naturalistic, non-theistic religion, then it might be worth considering.
  9. Hmmm . . .
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    20 Dec '05 18:56
    Originally posted by Tetsujin
    It's quite difficult for someone, anyone, to read understand and memorize many different theologies and to debate issues on the spot with accurate cited references and arguments within the context.

    In my time, I've seen a only a few people do it. I'd say three, but I'm leaning towards two, and am only sure of one having seen him tested.

    A large fa ...[text shortened]... ave the time, and you'll need lots, ask the people there what they think about other religions.
    It's quite difficult for someone, anyone, to read understand and memorize many different theologies and to debate issues on the spot with accurate cited references and arguments within the context.

    In my time, I've seen a only a few people do it. I'd say three, but I'm leaning towards two, and am only sure of one having seen him tested.


    The Muslim in the debate I mentioned really seemed to come close. One debate is not a decisive test, of course… (If I can find the video, I’ll look up his name.) And, to be frank, his critique of the Trinity was basic enough that one did have to ask the question whether the more complicated theological explanations really overcame it.

    Anyway, that was just my wake-up call to not simply trust Christian sources (since I was Christian at the time) to explain other religions to me. Nor can I rest simply on “comparative religion” texts, helpful as they may be, since they really can’t go deep enough.

    My wife had a recent, similar experience. One of her colleagues at work told her how they had had a class on Islam at their church, and how terrible hat religion is, and my wife’s colleague kept saying, “And it’s all right there”—by which it turned out she meant in quotations from the Qur’an and Hadith. The conversation between my wife and her colleague (as my wife recounted it to me) went something like:

    My wife: “So they actually invited Muslims to your church to explain Islam?”

    Colleague: “No, it was just our Pastor.”

    My wife: “Did you actually have a Qur’an so you could check the context of the quotes he gave?”

    Colleague: “No, they were just on the handout he gave us. But it’s all right there!”

    My wife: “Was the handout prepared by a Muslim?”

    Colleague: “No.”

    My wife: “Does your Pastor have some scholarly background in Islam?”

    Colleague: “I don’t think so. I don’t know…”

    Well, you get the idea. My wife ended up by saying that perhaps they should invite some Muslims to their church and get to know them.

    NOTE: Omnislash, by the way, is pretty broad-minded, inquiring and self-inquiring, and would not fall into such a trap…

    But to come back to this thread, it really cannot be stressed enough how important semantics becomes when you begin comparing religions, and how important it becomes to understand how a religion's text is meant to be read and understood.

    Heartily agreed. I can only read the Qur’an in translations. My understanding is that Arabic, like Hebrew (both being Semitic languages) is something of what I call a “depth language,” in which there can be layers and layers of meaning, so that translations are really “commentary.” Also, even in translation, it is clear that the contextual fabric of the Qur’anic text is far different from the Jewish and Christian scriptures—being almost dialectical in nature.

    But really, when in doubt, your best resource is a synagogue, church, or mosque. To be fair, it usually takes more than one.

    And takes more than just a visit.
  10. Hmmm . . .
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    20 Dec '05 19:17
    Originally posted by rwingett
    Why would someone who rejects theism not be able to reject all theistic religions out of hand? If you don't believe in any gods, then it doesn't matter how different one religion's god is from another's, they're all equally untenable. But if you could present a completely naturalistic, non-theistic religion, then it might be worth considering.
    But if you could present a completely naturalistic, non-theistic religion, then it might be worth considering.

    Why I keep exploring the streams of the “perennial philosophy” in the various religions, having walked away from “supernatural (extra-natural?) theism.”

    Try Taoism or Zen. I see a book: The Wobbly Tao; probably be a bestseller.
  11. Donationrwingett
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    20 Dec '05 19:30
    Originally posted by vistesd
    [b]But if you could present a completely naturalistic, non-theistic religion, then it might be worth considering.

    Why I keep exploring the streams of the “perennial philosophy” in the various religions, having walked away from “supernatural (extra-natural?) theism.”

    Try Taoism or Zen. I see a book: The Wobbly Tao; probably be a bestseller.[/b]
    I ought to look more into the two.

    I don't know about The Wobbly Tao, though. It sounds like an extremely specialized readership. Likely to find its way straight into the bargain bin. Maybe if the cover was embossed and die-cut, with metallic ink and some suggestive artwork, it might sell a few copies.
  12. Mississauga, Ontario
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    20 Dec '05 19:361 edit
    Originally posted by rwingett
    Why would someone who rejects theism not be able to reject all theistic religions out of hand? If you don't believe in any gods, then it doesn't matter how different one religion's god is from another's, they're all equally untenable. But if you could present a completely naturalistic, non-theistic religion, then it might be worth considering.
    I said "one religion", not theism.

    Aside from that, why would someone reject something they haven't analysed or understood?


    Edit: I mean that in general terms, and not to be directed at any one particular person, place, or thing.


    To the other guy, sorry I can't remember your name as I type this πŸ™‚, was it by any chance Dr. Zakir Naik?
  13. Hmmm . . .
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    20 Dec '05 20:05
    Originally posted by Tetsujin
    I said "one religion", not theism.

    Aside from that, why would someone reject something they haven't analysed or understood?


    Edit: I mean that in general terms, and not to be directed at any one particular person, place, or thing.


    To the other guy, sorry I can't remember your name as I type this πŸ™‚, was it by any chance Dr. Zakir Naik?
    I did a quick look, and can't find the video. But I found a reference to it on the web, and it was Ahmed Deedat.
  14. Standard memberHalitose
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    20 Dec '05 20:121 edit
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I did a quick look, and can't find the video. But I found a reference to it on the web, and it was Ahmed Deedat.
    He used to stay in the same city I hail from. (I say "used" because he died recently after an extended period of incapacitation due to a stroke)

    Unfortunately he became vitriolicly anti-Christian in his latter days.
  15. Hmmm . . .
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    20 Dec '05 20:19
    Originally posted by Halitose
    He used to stay in the same city I hail from. (I say "used" because he died recently after an extended period of incapacitation due to a stroke)

    Unfortunately he became vitriolicly anti-Christian in his latter days.
    What a small world! It's been some years since I saw that debate video, but I thought I still had it somewhere--of course, with a couple of moves in the last 10 years...
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