Tag Archives: heaven

Christianity – Distinct From All Others

I could have sworn I’d written previously about the uniqueness of Christianity from all other religious faiths, yet when I searched my archives to find it, I was unable to do so. Apparently it was something I’d _intended_ to write about and never did. Allow me to rectify that situation now.

One of the things that absolutely convinces me that my religious faith is the correct one, the only one that _can_ be right, is its very distinctiveness. In all the world, there is not another religious faith that is as unique, and simple, as Christianity. The one that comes closest, perhaps, is Islam, but as we “have seen already”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=315, even it falls away to be little different than all the others. What follows are a few of the things that set Christianity apart and spotlight it as being so very special.

*Nothing We Can Do, Nothing We Have To Do*

In every religious system, personal salvation is worked out by the deeds and actions of the individual. If someone desires to get to heaven or attain a higher position or status in the next life or to ascend to a nirvana-like state, that individual must first live a life that consists of more good deeds than bad. At the minimum, the scales have to be balanced, and at the maximum, they have to be tipped in favor of good deeds. It is a game of continual tension and anxiety, the individual never knowing if they have done enough to earn that special place in the next life.

Within Christianity, there is nothing that we _can_ do that is ever good enough to earn our way into Heaven. We are prohibited from doing so by our very sinful nature. But at the same time, there is nothing that we _have_ to do to earn Heaven, for what needs to be done has already _been_ done. The payment has already been made.

*God Himself Making the Way for Men*

Christianity is also unique in that it is the only religious faith where God Himself made it possible for human beings to get to Heaven. It is the only place where you will hear about God becoming a common man simply for the sake of taking on the punishment for sin. The gods of other religions have always traditionally been petty and cruel, warring and bickering amongst themselves and forcing humankind to perform all manner of menial and degrading tasks to earn a shaky place of security in the next life. Only in Christianity is admittance into Heaven a free gift, offered to any and all who would accept it, made possible by God Himself.

*Personal Relationship with God*

Christianity is also the only religious faith that teaches that men can have a _personal_ relationship with God Himself. It is the only place where God has literally reached down into history itself and spoken one-on-one with men, where He has walked with men and fellowshipped with them. It is the only place where God Himself took on the form of a child and grew up as a man, providing the bridge necessary for God and men to relate to one another in perfect harmony. The Greeks believed that the gods sometimes disguised themselves as men for a period of time, for any number of reasons, but always they returned to Olympus and never could common men maintain contact or continued communication with them. The gods were indifferent to the needs of men, caring more for their own comfort than for the welfare of men. The God of the Christians is different. He genuinely cares about His people and is fully accessible to all of them. We may go to Him personally to speak with Him and present our needs, our requests to Him. And what is more, He actually listens to and hears us. Nowhere else will you see this relationship between deity and mortal played out.

*Focus on Self, Focus on God, Focus on Others*

As a result of this relationship with God, the focus is not on ourselves, as it is in every other religious system. Everywhere else, the focus is on getting oneself into heaven, doing enough to insure that one has lived a good enough life to move to a better place when one dies. Within Christianity, everything that needs to be done has already been done, so there is no longer a need to do anything for oneself in order to get to Heaven. The focus, then, moves from self to God, and from God to others. We are able to focus on our relationship with God, following Him and serving Him. We are also able to focus on others with the joy that we have, urging them to also choose God, to choose Christ, over the cumbersome ways of self-righteousness and self-justification. We can tell them that it is so much easier than all that to make sure that one gets to Heaven, that the price has already been paid, that there is actually a personal, loving God who has already done everything for us that we need and that all we need to do is accept that gift He has offered us.

This is what makes Christianity so very unique in the world, what sets it apart from all others. The rest of the world religions may _look_ unique from one another at first blush, but when you boil it down to what each demands of its supplicants, what you find is that they all demand the same thing – good deeds of the individual in order for him or her to _earn_ his or her way into heaven. Christianity is the _only_ religion where the individual has to do nothing, where it is already done. Christianity is the only religion where its members are truly free, where the shackles of a legalistic and rules-driven life have been cut away and discarded forever.

This is what I believe sets my faith apart from all the rest, what convinces me without doubt that I have chosen the truth. There is no God like my God, no Lord like my Lord, no freedom like that freedom which He has given to me, and I will follow Him all the days of my life. I can give Him no more and no less than all of me, for He has secured my hope and my salvation.

Delusions of the Religious Variety

I briefly caught some of Larry King’s coverage of the Andrea Yates story last night, along with some of the interview that officials had with Andrea. It was interesting to hear how she believed that Satan was telling her to kill her children and how she drowned three of them, believing that was saving them from Satan’s grasp by sending them to heaven. At first blush it sounded a lot like the delusions of someone suffering from schizophrenia (something that only a further detailed investigation would confirm).

There are quite a few mental disorders that manifest themselves in the forms of delusions pertaining to God, angels, Satan, demons, etc. Two that come to my mind immediately are bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, both having some form of delusional behavior. I have to wonder why so many (though not all, by far) present with the sorts of delusions above. I’m sure background plays a role in it, though I wonder just how much of a role it plays. Do people with
such delusions come from particularly conservative and/or religious backgrounds? Or is it something else? I would definitely be interested in seeing some numbers on this — the number of religious/spiritual delusions that counselors see over the course of a year; what proportion are schizophrenic, bipolar, depressive, etc.; what proportion of delusional clients come from religious backgrounds and what proportion of non-delusional clients come from religious backgrounds, etc. I may actually have to conduct a study on this at some point, if for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity.

Misconceptions

There is a common misconception that just because a person is religious, they are a Christian and going to heaven. The trouble is this: the Pharisees were religious, and Jesus condemned them many times. He called them ‘white-washed sepulchres’ (pretty on the outside, smelly on the inside), and Paul described them as having ‘throats like open graves’ (spiritual halitosis). So, just because someone is religious does not mean that they are ‘alright’. It only means that they know how to build a facade. So, beware of someone who is religious (especially those who are proud of it). Beware the sweet talker. If the walk doesn’t match what God says is the behavior that pleases him, chances are good that that particular ‘religious’ person isn’t worth your time. True Christians are humble servants, willing to speak the truth in love, willing to suffer abuse, trials, pain, and hardship, and willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that God is magnified above all else.

Bupkus

Ok, I promised I would come back and revisit this book I’m reading. I’m working my way through it (slowly!). It’s an intense read, to say the least, and I am finding that I just don’t have much time for ‘casual’ reading with my current class schedule. But I just finished the introductory chapter, so let me summarize it.

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The author is a physicist who originally started as an atheist. Throughout his work, he eventually came to the conclusion that God exists and that a future resurrection of the dead to eternal life will occur (and that this is all provable). He states that the universe has already been existence for at least 10 billion years and will continue for at LEAST another 10 billion, but more likely for another 100 billion+ years in the future. God, in his theory, is in actuality something called the Omega Point, basically the end of time/space/etc. He claims that as a necessity to his theory (and by implication proven through his calculations), God is not yet fully Being, that His Being will actually only occur in the future, at this Omega Point event. He does claim that his God is personal and that his God loves us, and thus will resurrect us. Heaven and Purgatory exist (or will exist, to be more precise), and Hell might exist, depending on a future condition (a.k.a. variable) of the Omega Point event (i.e. the end of all time and space). According to the author, the resurrection of the dead will occur for all those who have died in the past (but not for another few billion years, at the end of time), but that it will occur as an emulation performed through the computers of the future. The dead will be resurrected to this state of being (which he claims can be proven to be identical to our current state of being), and that it will be a state of “continued individual becoming.” Additionally, he states that neither Western Christianity, nor any other major world religions, fits well into the Omega Point Theory. He states that the Omega Point Theory merely proves the two things that every religion shares — that God exists and that He will grant immortality to us. The rest of the book will be used to flesh out these thoughts/theories more fully.

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Already, I’m barely out of the introduction, and I’ve discovered that what this scientist postulates does not match up with the God that the Bible proclaims. I would not say that this scientist is a Christian (and based on his own words, I do not think he himself would claim to be a Christian, necessarily, either; in fact, I think it would be far safer to say that physics is his religion), though he believes in God, because his view of God (and his view of an inevitable and undiscriminating resurrection of all to essentially the same place) does not match the Scriptural proclamation of the Gospel. I plan to continue working my way through his book because I believe in giving everyone a fair chance to voice their opinions (and frankly, I curious to see where he goes with this).

Chaos

Ok, I’ve only just started this book (The Physics of Immortality), and I can already see where he is headed — and I’m not even out of the preface yet. He has stated that the universe is chaotic, that it evolves chaotically, that life is the very reason for its existence. At the same time, he posits that God, Heaven, and the “resurrection of the dead” do, indeed, exist. However, he defines God as a particular theorem, a convergence of numbers, if you will. I have not read the specifics of this Omega Point, but as I get into it, I will spell out it for you. Tipler is a physicist, and thus a reductionist. He has joined modernism, mysticism, and theology into a whole…..

(more to come…..)