Home > Apologetics, Other religions, Questions and Answers > What sets Christianity apart from all the other religions?

What sets Christianity apart from all the other religions?

Please don’t be offended by the title of this post. This is not to boast or to bash, but to take a practical look at what I believe sets Christianity apart from the other major world religions. I am going to try to leave the substantive merits of each religion’s theology out of the picture. For the sake of discussion, I will assume (rather than try to prove) the following two things:

a) God probably does exist.
b) Based on the fact that God created us and endowed us with the ability/inclination to ponder His existence and character, the truth about God has probably been revealed to us in some form.

Now let’s compare Christianity to its alternatives. I’ll break it down into three very basic categories:

1. A living, perfect founder vs. dead, imperfect founders

2. Christianity’s success is difficult to explain if it were not true

3. Christianity opens itself up to scientific and historical scrutiny in ways other religions cannot

I could discuss more or break it down further into more specific areas, but I think these three summarize some of the practical differences well. By the end, I hope it will become clear why thinking Christians believe their religion to the best candidate for God’s revelation to mankind, even apart from the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

1. A living, perfect founder vs. dead, imperfect founders

All other major religions have a founder who is now dead and in the grave. Muhammad enjoyed some success in his lifetime, but then he passed away. Buddha and Confucius left their mark then succumbed to death. Hinduism doesn’t really have a founder, but rather centers on worshiping a huge multitude of unseen and unmet deities. Joseph Smith died while firing a gun that had been smuggled into prison.

Christianity claims to have a founder who is the savior God, and with Jesus Christ, there was no dead body left behind to rot and decay. Christians claim that Jesus moved about with us, died, then rose again…only to continue revealing himself for some further time to over 500 people. Then, He ascended to heaven in plain view of many followers, leaving nothing behind to bury. We believe that our founder was God in the flesh, not a mere man or even a messenger.

This means that Jesus, as God, is the only founder of a major religion that claimed to be perfect and sinless. Buddha never made such a claim, and even Muhammad admitted he was in need of forgiveness (in addition to the obvious faults he had). Joseph Smith? Don’t get me started. With regard to Jesus, other than heresy, there were no charges levied against him throughout his lifetime. Of course, if Jesus really was God, then even the heresy charge is false. Now, would you trust the teachings of God, or an imperfect man who has shortcomings, ulterior motives, or both?

(Of course, this is all dependent on the credibility of the founder himself, but we’ll get to that later.)

No other religion would dare make these bold claims of a perfect, living founder. Why not? Because there’s no way such radical claims would survive long enough to not get laughed out of the courtroom of public opinion. Honestly, I’d love to see another religion try. Ancient religions and modern cults alike have not dared to do the impossible by tricking people with such obvious lies.

The words we live by were given to us by a perfect, living being who defeated death, thereby setting an example of what’s to come for us as well. While other religions may have been started by an imperfect and mortal man, we believe ours was started by an eternal person of the Trinity. This is a risky thing if Christianity is false, and uniquely powerful if it’s true.

2. Christianity’s success is difficult to explain if it were not true

I’ll start out by saying that the popularity of a view (or in this case, religion) does not necessarily make it true. I’m not going to argue that. What I’m going to show is that the wide popularity of Christianity—and the rapid rate at which it initially spread—is very difficult to explain practically unless it were true.

Consider Islam for a minute, the second-most popular religion and the fastest-growing. How did it get so popular? Well, first of all, it piggy-backed off of Christianity and took credit for all of its teachings and people. Abraham? A Muslim. Jesus Christ? An overrated Muslim prophet. Even Adam—that’s right, THAT Adam—was a Muslim, by their definition. This is how Muslims claim that their religion is the oldest in the world, when really it began about 600 years after Christianity. The foundation—largely based on Christianity/Judaism—was already in place, so there is a ring of truth to it.

Furthermore, Islam is characterized by a lot of violence and threats. Yes, there are peaceful parts of the Qur’an, but much of it speaks about killing infidels who will not proclaim Allah as the true God and Muhammad as His messenger. Early Islam was not spread with reason and love, but rather with military conquest and a “believe or die” approach. It’s not hard to see why early Muslims believed Muhammad was chosen by God, and therefore his words were truth. He was winning battles, and they figured that God wouldn’t allow this to happen if he were a fraud. But really, this is shabby proof for truth. Anyone can win military battles, religious or not. If anything, it’s a powerful motivational tool to teach that fearlessly dying for Allah will earn you 72 virgins in the afterlife.

Consider this criticism from a 13th century Jewish philosopher: “That is why, to this day we never see anyone converting to Islam unless in terror, or in quest of power, or to avoid heavy taxation, or to escape humiliation, or if taken prisoner, or because of infatuation with a Muslim woman, or for some similar reason. Nor do we see a respected, wealthy, and pious non-Muslim well versed in both his faith and that of Islam, going over to the Islamic faith without some of the aforementioned or similar motives.”

In modern societies, my subjective view is that some groups of people around the world are already closed to the idea of accepting the so-called “white man’s religion”: Christianity. (This is kind of odd because Christianity didn’t originate in America or Europe anyway.) So they will naturally gravitate toward Islam. To be fair, I think that’s also why a lot of Americans have a bias against Islam. They are repelled from a religion that led to horrors like the September 11 terrorist attacks. In the same way, a huge chunk of the world is decidedly anti-American or anti-white, based on some of the evils perpetrated in the past, such as the atomic bomb. Islam is the much-welcomed alternative among the available flavors of religion.

What about something like Mormonism? Well, again, the piggy-back charge comes into play. The smart thing is, Joseph Smith knew that there were real flaws in the Christian church and perceived weaknesses in the Bible. So he used those chinks in the armor to convince people that there had to be a better truth out there, which incidentally, was revealed to him alone through golden plates. Simple people who were dissatisfied with what Christianity had to offer them assumed that this new guy knew what he was talking about since he shared some of their same complaints. The inerrancy of the Bible is still a hotly debated topic today, and it’s easy to see why doubt in its inerrancy would make some people gravitate toward new ideas or cults.

Christianity, however, sticks out like a sore thumb compared to these other religions. Here, you have a founder who appeared to be a mere carpenter—and not an especially attractive one at that. He didn’t win any military battles, and he was even mocked, beaten, and crucified. Jesus had nothing to gain if he was lying and even knew he was expediting his own death. His ministry only lasted three years. Most of the early proponents of the church were commoners without any position of authority from which to coerce. Paul—perhaps the greatest evangelist/missionary ever and the original apologist—spread the Word by logic, reason, and argumentation.

Early Christianity flourished in spite of severe persecution, martyrdom, and heavy Jewish bias against Christian teachings. In fact, Christianity flew in the face of many established norms of the time. Its teachings were not the kind that would easily resonate with people hearing them. I’d imagine it’s much harder to convince a wide group of people that you ARE God, rather than just hearing from Him!

There must have been a compelling reason to believe and to force change upon centuries of ingrained customs and ideas. Jews were expecting a conquering king, not a crucified savior. Teachings like “turn the other cheek” instead of exacting revenge were considered offensive or cowardly. Yet Christianity somehow spread at an unprecedented rate with this most unlikely of styles. Something about Jesus was undeniable…

3. Christianity opens itself up to scientific and historical scrutiny in ways other religions cannot

There is almost a universal pattern for creating and spreading world religions. Someone claims to have a vision, shares it with others in a convincing fashion, it sounds good enough to believe, then others follow suit. Even Hinduism, which doesn’t have an identified founder, probably came up with stories about their 300,000 gods from various people’s dreams, which have been passed down. Especially in ancient times, there was a tendency by people to misinterpret dreams as divine revelation. (I’m not ruling out supernatural dreams completely, but in the vast majority of cases, they are probably just our uninhibited imaginations running wild. I admit I am highly skeptical of dreams as visions, even when they come from Christians.)

Think about this for a moment. How can you disprove a person’s exclusive vision or dream? If I put my head under a bucket, shook around a little bit, then came out wide-eyed claiming to have seen the “truth,” how could you really prove me wrong?

Atheists always like to say, “The mark of a good argument is that it is falsifiable.” What we have in most religions are unfalsifiable stories and claimed truths. The main proof people are going to have for their faith, then, is that it feels right and makes sense to them. This is almost entirely subjective.

But what about Christianity? Well, our holy book happens to come with writings of real historical events that were being circulated within the lifetimes of the actual people involved. And these historical events are not merely peripheral issues that place things within some known context to give it the air of veracity…the MAIN EVENT is told as a historical event. Namely, a man named Jesus Christ walked upon this earth during the reign of Tiberius Caesar at specific times and places and died under Roman law, leaving behind an empty tomb.

I think people who look into the issue themselves will agree with John Dickson when he says, “the beliefs and texts of Christianity become uniquely open to public scrutiny. It is as if Christianity places its neck on the chopping block of academic scrutiny and invites anyone who wishes to come and take a swing.” (Please see this excellent excerpt: http://www.rzim.org/justthinkingfv/tabid/602/articleid/10746/cbmoduleid/881/default.aspx.)

In 2,000 years, NO ONE has been able to disprove the empty tomb, and only recently is there some effort by Christ-mythers to claim that Jesus never existed at all. (I’ve looked into these…move along people, there really is nothing of worth there.) There are a number of alternative theories bandied about, like the disciples stole the body, but they are woefully full of holes. Maybe I’ll address them in a later post.

Think about this: what could be the ultimate sign that Jesus was God in the flesh? Miracles? Sure, he did some of those. But then again, miracles have been recorded in other instances as well. Rising from the dead is the ultimate sign, and it just happens to be one the Roman government could not deny. They had every reason to parade Jesus’ body around town and squash Christianity immediately…but they couldn’t do it. Jesus really was gone and ascended.

By contrast, Muhammad won military battles, but so have countless other men who did not claim to have divine revelation from God. Muslims actually need to believe that Jesus was never crucified at all, but ascended beforehand (even they cannot deny that Jesus is not dead or buried). In other words, they need to deny one of the most obvious facts of ancient history, the crucifixion, to maintain their beliefs. Christianity, on the other hand, is completely in line with recorded history.

Buddha and Confucius may have been wise and thoughtful, but really, they’re just limited men trying to do their best. Joseph Smith? Even if he really did believe what he was preaching, there is no way to verify the truth of anything he said. In fact, there is ample reason not to trust him, considering his hypocrisy (he would fight, smoke, and drink, despite telling others not to do so).

Jesus can be trusted because of what he showed us: a perfect life without sin, power over the natural world, and even power over death. This person could not have been a mere wise teacher. It’s like C.S. Lewis famously said, “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.”

So historically, Christianity stands up to the test better than any other religion. What about science?

Well, again, I may need to address this further in a separate post. But very briefly, I’d say that for an ancient book (that was never intended to be about science), it shows itself to be surprisingly accurate. Don’t believe the hype about Genesis 1 contradicting modern science.

There are numerous prominent scientists who are Bible-believing Christians today. Some figures suggest the number is growing, as our knowledge expands. Consider this account of Dr. Hugh Ross, a man who started with no religious leanings whatsoever and actually came to be a Christian based on science:

Not all of Hugh’s discoveries involved astrophysics. Prompted by curiosity, he studied the world’s religions and “holy books” and found only one book that proved scientifically and historically accurate: the Bible. Hugh started at religious “ground zero” and through scientific and historical reality-testing became convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God! When he went on to describe for others his journey to faith in Jesus Christ, he was surprised to discover how many people believed or disbelieved without checking evidence.

Now, this isn’t to say that visions or spiritual experiences are all invalid. In fact, the most important factor that leads most people to faith is the witness of the Holy Spirit, not proof or logic. But during the dry times and when our sin muffles the voice of the Holy Spirit, I’m thankful that we have history, science, and reasoning to back up our faith.

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