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Thursday, August 23, 2007

God's Warriors . . . but which God?

CNN has just finished airing a three-day television event highlighting the religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity (including the most militant factions of each). Of course, this has been a hot topic ever since the events of 9/11 when the Islamic worldview was thrust to center stage in the American mind. In true postmodernist fashion, Christiane Amanpour presented these religions as three sides of the same coin (gotta love those three-sided coins), three equally valid worldviews that have more similarities than differences.

Before I go on, let me make one caution: be careful you do not judge a worldview or a religion by its abuses. This is a form of guilt by association and is a logical fallacy. I myself have been guilty of this in the past, decrying Islam on the basis of the terrorists and suicide bombers acting in the name of Allah. In the same way, I felt many of the quotes used during the segment on Christianity were taken out of context or simply not in keeping with biblical Christianity. Instead, one must judge a worldview by what it asserts and the founder who asserts it (in other words, deal with the ideas themselves). There is nothing left to believe if we rule out every worldview that is held (or twisted to fit an ulterior motive) by a murderer, a bigot or a moron. So I must resist my knee-jerk reaction, the same reaction of most Americans, to discount Islam based simply on what we've seen these past few years.

CNN and Christiane Amanpour went out of their way to present these religions as compatible worldviews that sympathetic characters use for discipline, humility, and self-betterment and that extremists use for hate, violence, and fear. This is not uncommon. Many people think that all religions are different only on the surface, but at the core are all the same. They cite the moral codes as proof, that they're all about "loving your neighbor".

In fact, quite the opposite is true! We should not be surprised that such similar moral codes appear in so many world religions. This moral code has been "written in their hearts" by our Creator, and it is here that the similarities end. In reality, the world religions are similar only on the surface, but at the core are vastly different. When the big questions are asked, questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny, the differences quickly come to the surface. Where did everything come from? What is man's purpose? How do we determine right and wrong? Where do we go when I die?

One line of questioning that is immediately relevant to the three religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity concerns Jesus. Who is/was He? Did He rise from the dead? What do we believe about His teachings? Through Jesus alone and by grace alone, Christianity guarantees eternal life, while Islam and Judaism deny salvation through Christ and can only offer the hope of salvation only through a strict adherence to a moral code. While this may seem exclusive (but isn't truth itself exclusive?*), the teachings of these religions stand in direct contrast of each other. It is clear, as you take a closer look, that all religions are not as similar or compatible as pop culture and CNN would have us believe.

*To assert that anything is true is to assert that the inverse is not true at the same time in the same relationship. For example, to say "I am here at the computer" is a true statement is to imply at the same time and in the same relationship that "I am not here at the computer" is a false statement. So to believe that anything is true is by default to believe that some things are not true, and this is the exclusivity I am speaking of.

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