Is Jesus different?

Problem

Christians say that Jesus us unique but with the availability of information about other religions it looks to many people that all religions the same, surely Jesus is just one religious leader amongst many. It also makes sense that different religions are simply different ways of looking at the same god and if religions could get over their differences wouldn't the world be a better place?

Summary answer

On the surface the idea of all religions agreeing and settling their differences sounds like an excellent idea. No one could honestly deny that a great deal of anger has been generated by differences over religions. However brushing differences under the carpet and pretending they don't exist doesn't create a deep and lasting peace. Religious tolerance yes, religious ignorance no.

It is quite simply wrong to say that all religions are the same because they all describe God in quite different terms and they all claim to have the truth about God. Of course one of them could be right or they could all be wrong but they cannot be all the same. To deny these differences is to destroy much of what each religion has to offer in helping people spiritually. If we devalue religion in this way then we remove any of the truth that one of them might have.

Of course as a Christian I believe that this truth is found within the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. There is something quite unique about Jesus that no other religion has.

I believe it is also important to listen to the views of other religions and to be understanding of anyone's belief.

Fuller answer

Are all religious leaders and religions the same or is there something about Jesus that makes him different.

All religions say things that are not compatible with the others

There are many different religions and they all have teachings which are good for the world to hear. But is there anything different about Jesus that marks his teachings out from the rest?

Religious tolerance must be encouraged. It is quite believable that all religions have some element of truth within them, in that all those who search for God find something. People should be free to believe what they want to believe but unfortunately the desire for religious tolerance can too often lead to religious ignorance.

What we now assume to be a very modern attitude to religion, that is all religions are equal, is in fact a regression to a very old form of religion known as syncretism, the popular view in the ancient world. Today nearly all religions claim exclusivity - even those that most people popularly believe don't. When all religions say things about God or the world that are incompatible with any other religion they claim exclusivity and it stands to reason that not all religions can be right if they say different things. Somewhere there is truth about God but not all can be right.

The problem for Christians is that the claim of all religions being equal is not open to us. Jesus Christ is an historical figure and whilst many other religions have historical figures those figures are not the central part of that faith. Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, etc. could all cease to exist and the faith they represented could still continue but not so with Christianity. Take away Jesus and there is nothing left.

However if the claims of Jesus are true then no other religion can match who Jesus is and what he taught.

Isn't truth relative to each person?

Some people want to claim that truth is different for everyone, so what is true for me is not necessarily true for you. This argument is put forward to say that everyone's idea of god is equal.

J.P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at University in La Mirada, California likes to use an example that centres around his mother to answer this question. When challenged on relative truth Moreland asks the person to describe Morelands mother (which of course he can only do by making a description up, having never met her). Moreland then asks others to describe his mother and he gets several different people to offer a description and all of them differ. Moreland then points out that all of these people could sincerely believe that this was an accurate description and they could all tell others and gain a massive following based on the description but only one of them could be right. Truth is not relative it is clearly particular - only one thing can be right if there are contradictions.

Christians claim that Jesus is in a unique position to describe God. Muslims claim that Jesus was a prophet and that the worst sin you can commit is to worship Jesus as God. Jews believe that Jesus was a good teacher and that Jesus could not possibly be God. Hindus believe that Jesus is one god amongst many. Christians believe that Jesus is God and that there is only one God and that we should worship Jesus Christ. All faiths contradict each other and so they cannot all be correct. Only one can be telling the truth.

Aren't we all just worshipping the same God?

All religions are not the same and we do not worship the same God.

There are many different perceptions of God throughout the religions of the world. Some believe in multiple gods, others in multiple manifestations of the same god, others that there is no god, others that god is evil, others that there is one god, etc. They can't all be right at the same time.

This is not an excuse to attack another religion because it is important that religions learn tolerance and understanding but it is not right to say that all are the same.

Jesus claimed to be unique

Jesus teaches us that we do not choose God but God chooses us and also that he, Jesus, has a unique relationship with God the Father. These teachings do not leave it open for Christianity to become part of a universal religion.

Christians claim that Jesus alone is an historical figure who proclaims himself to be God. This is not Christian arrogance or pride but simply a central teaching of Jesus.

It is also true that Christians have suffered because of this claim throughout their history - people have died because of it. It would be much easier for Christians if we said that all religions worship the same god but what Christians believe does not allow them to do this.

Isn't the claim to be the only way bigoted and exclusive?

I can see why people might assume this but let me use an illustration here that I think might help.

Let's say you wanted to join a social club and the club put all kinds of rules and regulations in place for those who wanted to belong. You can only join if you follow all the right rules and regulations.

Then let's say there was another club that said it doesn't matter who you are, what colour you are, where you were born and there are no rules to follow. In fact all you to have to do join is to ask.

Which of these clubs would be bigoted and exclusive? The first of course.

All religions except Christianity say the same thing as the first club - you have to follow a set of rules to belong. Christianity says there are no rules to belonging all you have to do is confess that you sometimes get things wrong, that you accept that Jesus is the son of God and intend to follow him, and ask to belong.

Respect

However Christianity has a message of respect and religious tolerance at its core. Christianity has always taught that it is important to do all you can to live at peace with others and to be kind even to your enemies.