Great to see you after Christmas. I was excited to hear about your trip to India. What a great adventure! You have this sense of adventure, and the world and your whole lives are before you. I love India and Indian food, perhaps because I have lived with Indians at different times in my life, and enjoy their friendship. I see India as a land of many languages, diverse cultures, and exotic cuisine, as well as tragedies in many people’s lives.
I appreciate your courage and willingness to try new things, to go places, and see things and meet new people. My experience in visiting other countries has been exciting, and I don’t believe a person can visit another country and come back the same. It helps me realize how things can be better here, as well as appreciate some aspects of our nation and culture that I took for granted.
I also appreciate your openness to learn about other religions and cultures, and to see the good in them. I would like to share some perspectives for you to consider on your spiritual journey. Each of us is on a grand spiritual/intellectual/life journey, a privilege no one else can or should try to undertake for us. I see each of us experiencing different phases or chapters of this journey; mine have included Marxism and classical Greek humanism).
You mentioned that there is truth in every religion. I agree with you, just like there is (some) truth in what everyone says. There was truth in what Hitler said, and Mao, and Stalin, and all the other bad guys that have lived in history. I think that’s why they were successful – they wove truth into their deceptions that enabled them to sway the masses to their world views, their agendas. But how do we discover what is true among the many statements of political and religious leaders?
I find it useful to think of different religions in the world as different world views/conceptual systems, all competing for the attention of, resources from, and ultimately the soul of all persons. A few observations:
- Because they have competing claims, they all cannot be wholly true. Christianity and Islam, for example, both claim to be the only way to heaven or paradise. Both could be false; both cannot be true.
- Ultimately, the question is what is true – really true, objectively, absolutely true – truth that does not depend on our awareness of it. The notion that you have your truth, I have my truth, etc. – the claim that all truth is subjective, falls apart. It claims to be absolutely, objectively true that all truth is subjective. Statements that are self-contradictory need no refutation – they refute themselves, like the person who claims he does not exist.
- Related to notions of truth is the question of our nature. Are we by nature good? Bad? Neutral? The belief that man/woman is basically good, and that society can make real (social/moral) progress took a big hit when World War I came along, killing millions of people. Then WWII came along, with one of the most advanced, educated, and scientific nations on the earth directly responsible for the murder of millions of Jews and other persons considered undesirable by the Nazis. If we are basically good, how can we explain such pervasive in the world – due to ignorance? Socialization? Chance? They are ultimately not satisfying. The Christian presupposition that our nature gravitates toward sin is bolstered by the question – if all of your/my thoughts and feelings were projected up on a big screen for everyone to see, would we be comfortable with that?
Christianity is unique in other ways as well:
- Fulfilled prophecy – Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection fulfilled dozens of prophecies, the odds of which happening by chance are truly astronomical.
- The Bible itself, which was written over 2,000 years by over 40 authors on 3 continents from widely differing backgrounds. The consistent theme, interwoven stories, and prophecies made and fulfilled testify of a single author – the Holy Spirit. Even an individual or organization with unlimited resources would be unable to do such a feat over such a vast period of time.
- Vast archaeological evidence that testifies to the historicity of the Old and New Testaments, rather than being merely an inspiring book authored by a charismatic religious or cult leader. There have even been expeditions that have found Noah’s Ark, and brought back physical evidence of the ark’s existence. Over one hundred cultures have stories in their histories about a world wide flood and a family that survived in a boat with animals. What is the likelihood of this happening by chance?
- Christianity offers the opportunity for a personal relationship with the sovereign, living God, unlike other religions. For example, Allah is distant and even capricious, while Hinduism is ultimately pantheistic – god is all there is. And “everything” is not personal; it just is. The sovereign, living God of the universe created us in His image, with the capacity and yearning to know Him and walk in His ways. The Word of God reveals that He knows us and every hair on our heads, that He created each of us with unique gifts and talents, that we have a purpose in our lives, and that we will never experience true joy and peace (that transcends circumstances) unless we discover and live to carry out that purpose. It is a sad thing to see people who have never discovered their purpose or mission in their lives.
- Furthermore, He states that this relationship – of knowing God, (not just knowing about God) as eternal ramifications: “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matthew 7:22-23.
- There is a wise old saying “money is not everything, but you have to have money to realize this.” Solomon, for whom there is no one comparable today, was the richest, wisest, most powerful person on earth when he lived. He had everything a person could possibly want, including hundreds of wives. And he said it was all vanity. He came to recognize that life devoted to worldly pursuits is not ultimately satisfying.
- I am reading a wonderful book called “Simplicity” by Mindy Caliguire. She asks: “Are you living the life you were uniquely created for? Body and soul contain thousands of possibilities out of which you can build many identities. But only in one of these will you find your true self that has been hidden in Christ from all eternity. Identity is never simply a creation. It is always a discovery. True identify is always a gift of God.”
There is another perspective that is worth considering, which I would call “My Own Religion”, or MOR. It is really a synthesis of elements of other religions, a sort of designer religion. Take the nation of a loving God, add the universalistic notion that everyone is going to heaven, subtract the concept of sin and judgment, add New Age reincarnation, a dash of Buddhism, and the Mormon notion that we can all achieve godhood, and tad a, we can design our own religion. While this exercise of creating God in our own image may be very interesting, it fails to pass the basic question of whether it is true, and whether it reflects temporal and spiritual reality.