Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Unique Claims of Christianity (Introduction)

All human culture is an attempt to deny mortality. Ernest Becker first came to this conclusion in his Pulitzer Prize winning book “The Denial of Death.” Religions have existed ever since humanity sinned to get back to the life we had before sin and death entered the picture. We know deep inside of us that death is wrong, but since we all face certain mortality we have created systems to overcome death.

However, every culture has developed different answers and symbols to deny death. When these different cultures encounter each other it creates conflict. When we are confronted with a different idea of how to overcome death, it threatens our belief and we want to destroy that other system.

The problem in our modern age is that people have seen the wide variety of religions and, with our modern scientific understanding of the world, religions no longer offer convincing solutions to our problem. Becker stated in his book however, that science is no helpful system in this case either.

Even today we encounter this reality. Psychologists have proven again and again that, when we are reminded of our own mortality and then exposed to belief systems other than our own, we react quite negatively.

We occasionally do surveys here in Dresden where we ask people whether they find a single word positive or negative. Things like Religion, Politics, Jesus, Church, etc. When we ask them about death, we were surprised to find a strong tendency for that to be seen as positive. It seems that in post-Christian materialism, part of the “myth” has been to try to convince us that death is a good thing.

Another aspect of our current, modern, cultural denial of death has been to say that all the different systems are equally good. All religions and philosophies are ultimately equally valid and good.

The only way for that to be possible is for them to all be equally false. If every cultural idea is merely a humanly created lie to make us feel better, then yes, they are right. And, in most cases I think they are such untruths. When we compare all religions, we find vastly divergent ideas about God, the World, and how to solve our problem. And they all also have internal inconsistencies and obvious shortcomings that make us realize that they are all equally good in that they are equally false.

That is until you come to the answer that the Bible gives us in Jesus Christ; what has come to be known as Christianity. (Although we have to be careful because not everything that calls itself Christianity really follows the teachings of Christ and the Bible.) Christianity is unique.

We find the core of Christianity’s uniqueness in John 14:

“LET NOT YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED. BELIEVE IN GOD; BELIEVE ALSO IN ME. IN MY FATHER'S HOUSE ARE MANY ROOMS. IF IT WERE NOT SO, WOULD I HAVE TOLD YOU THAT I GO TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU? AND IF I GO AND PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU, I WILL COME AGAIN AND WILL TAKE YOU TO MYSELF, THAT WHERE I AM YOU MAY BE ALSO. AND YOU KNOW THE WAY TO WHERE I AM GOING.” THOMAS SAID TO HIM, “LORD, WE DO NOT KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING. HOW CAN WE KNOW THE WAY?” JESUS SAID TO HIM, “I AM THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME.

Jesus makes claims here that He is the only answer to our problem of sin and death. Let’s look at His three claims in reverse order:

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