Date sent: Wed, 28 Feb 2001 14:12:18 -0800
From: Ron Rhodes <email@example.com>
Subject: REASONING FROM THE SCRIPTURES NEWSLETTER
REASONING FROM THE SCRIPTURES NEWSLETTER
A free newsletter featuring “Answers to Common Questions”
January-February 2001 Edition
Dr. Ron Rhodes, Editor
Web Address: www.ronrhodes.org
I don’t think a week passes without me coming across a book, an article, or a TV or radio show in which someone talks about how all the religions of the world are essentially “one,” and are teaching the same basic truth. Not long ago I was perusing THE AQUARIAN GOSPEL OF JESUS THE CHRIST, a favorite book among New Agers, and according to this “gospel,” Jesus Himself taught that all the world religions worship the same God with different names: “The nations of the earth see God from different points of view, and so he does not seem the same to everyone…. You Brahmans call him Parabrahm; in Egypt he is Thoth; and Zeus is his name in Greece; Jehovah is his Hebrew name.”
Masonic literature communicates this same basic idea. Masons typically believe that Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and those of other faiths are all worshipping the same “all-seeing” God using different names. In fact, God is known as “the nameless one of a hundred names.” As Masonic leader Albert Mackey put it, “God is equally present with the pious Hindu in the temple, the Jew in the synagogue, the Mohammedan in the mosque, and the Christian in the church.”
Because this idea comes up so often today, I think it is beneficial to consider how Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam compare on some key doctrines. Such an endeavor proves quite clearly that these religions set forth not just different Gods but a different Jesus and a different gospel. These religions are not truly “one” at all.
While the Christian Bible teaches the Trinity, the Muslim Koran (Muslim Scripture) DENIES the Trinity and exalts Allah, and the Hindu Vedas (Hindu Scriptures) espouse many gods. If one of these concepts of God is correct, the others must necessarily be incorrect. If Yahweh is the one true God, as the Bible teaches (Exodus 3:14-15), then the gods of Islam and Hinduism cannot be the true God. For illustration purposes, let us consider the Hindu view of God. It will be readily apparent how different it is from the Christian viewpoint.
Ancient Hindu religion was polytheistic in nature, meaning that they believed in many gods. In fact, there was a heavy emphasis on ritual offerings to various deities. Some of these gods were viewed as personifications of natural forces, such as the storm, the sun, the moon, and the fertility of the soil. Eventually, certain of these gods became preeminent. These would include Brahma, Visnu, and Siva.
The Upanishads (Hindu Scriptures) fundamentally teach that behind the many gods of Hinduism stands the monistic (“all is one”) reality of Brahman. Everything in the universe is viewed as ultimately divine. “Every aspect of the universe, both animate and inanimate, shares the same essentially divine nature. There is actually only one Self in the universe.”
According to this school of thought, every person possesses an individual soul known as ATMAN that is related to the universal soul (BRAHMAN). Brahman is viewed as an impersonal, monistic (“all is one”) force. The universe is viewed as extended from the being of Brahman. Through seemingly endless deaths and rebirths (that is, through reincarnation), human beings finally come to realize that Atman IS Brahman. “Most adherents of Hinduism believe that they are in their true selves extended from and one with Brahman… Our essence is identical to that of the essence of Brahman.” “The living beings that inhabit our world are really only expressions of the Brahman. They are souls (Atman) that are a part of the great ocean of souls that make up the Brahman.” Because Hinduism is monistic, distinctions are considered unreal. When we perceive distinctions, it is nothing more than a mental illusion (MAYA). “A person’s individuality apart from the Brahman — the world in which one lives, that which one sees, hears, touches, and feels — is all an illusion, a dream.” As Mark Albrecht put it, “Hinduism holds that the world is really ‘Brahman in disguise’ — all matter, especially biological and human life, is merely a temporary, illusory manifestation of this universal spirit.” The big problem for human beings, according to Hinduism, is that they are ignorant of their divine nature. People have forgotten that they are extended from Brahman. “Humans have a false knowledge (maya) when they believe that this life and our separation from Brahman are real.” They have mistakenly attached themselves to the desires of their separate selves (or egos).
The Upanishads teach that people’s basic problem is ignorance (AVIDYA) of their plight, and only when people realize this ignorance through enlightenment and come to true knowledge will they find release. When true knowledge of the illusion of life is realized, one can be freed from the bondage of life and achieve unity with the Brahman. “The Upanishads teach that all men can achieve the divine state if they strive for it. The individual personality is denied, being considered part of the world of illusion, or maya, and deification involves the shedding of maya, the merging and obliteration of the self in the sea of the One Reality, God.” As Walter Martin points out, “As long as the individual appears to exist within maya, he is subject to such laws [as the law of karma and reincarnation]. When he awakens to the fact that all is one, he is no longer bound to them and they cease to have any relative reality.”
In view of such facts, does it not seem patently obvious that Christians and Hindus ARE NOT worshipping the same God? After all, Christianity teaches that there is one personal Creator-God, and that He is eternally distinct from His creation (including human beings). God, who is infinite and eternal, created all things out of absolute nothingness (Genesis 1:1; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 33:9; 148:5; Hebrews 11:3).
Having existed in sovereign self-sufficiency for all eternity past, the triune God sovereignly and eternally decided to create that which was not Himself and yet which was utterly dependent on Him for its continuing existence (Colossians 1:17). God is thus NOT one with the universe (see Isaiah 45:18). Nor is God “one” with humankind (see Numbers 23:19; Ecclesiastes 5:2). Quiet clearly, the Christian and Hindu concepts of God are light-years apart.
We might make this same point in regard to the God of Islam.
According to the Koran, Allah is the one true God. The term “Allah” is probably derived from AL ILLAH, which means “the god.” Allah is an absolute unity; he can have no son and no partner. To say God could have a son, Muslims say, is blasphemous — implying some kind of sexual generation. Allah is not viewed as “the Father” (Surahs 19:88-92; 112:3). He is viewed as utterly transcendent, and seems more characterized by judgment, not grace; by power, not mercy (Surahs 6:142; 7:31). By contrast, the Christian view is that God is a Trinity, that the first person of this Trinity is a “Father,” that this Father has an eternal Son, that God is both transcendent AND immanent, and that while God is characterized by judgment and power, he is also characterized by grace and mercy. If the Christian view of God is correct (as I believe it is), then the Muslim view must necessarily be INcorrect, since it irreconcilably contradicts the biblical view at many points.
Let us be clear: Scripture emphatically declares that there is only one God. In Isaiah 44:8 God Himself asks, “Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” In Isaiah 43:10, God affirms: “Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.” That there is only one God is the consistent testimony of Scripture (John 5:44; 17:3; Romans 3:29-30; 16:27; 1 Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 3:20; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2:5; James 2:19; 1 John 5:20-21; Jude 25). This God is YAHWEH (Exodus 3:14-15), not ALLAH and not the millions of gods of Hinduism.
A DIFFERENT JESUS
While Jesus is held in high regard in Hinduism, His teachings are said to reflect Vedic philosophy. (In other words, Jesus’ teachings are said to reflect Hinduism.) It is suggested that Christians have misunderstood the teachings of Jesus through the centuries and that Hindu sages have a better grasp on them.
What is the correct teaching in regard to Christ? Hindus say that among other things, Jesus is one of many holy men that communicated spiritual truth. He certainly was not humankind’s only savior, nor was He uniquely the Son of God. Rather He was a great master, in a league with other great masters. It is believed that there were holy men who were actually greater than Jesus. Prabhupada, who founded the Hare Krishna movement, is said to be an example. Some have suggested that Jesus may have been an avatar (an incarnation of a God), but He is nevertheless lower than the great Brahman (the ultimate God that permeates all reality).
Some Hindus have suggested that Jesus was not perfect. They do respect Him and honor Him, but His imperfection is evident in the anger He showed in driving moneychangers out of the temple (Mark 11:15) and in causing the fig tree to wither (Matthew 21:19). Still, despite these imperfections, He was a great sage.
Hindus also often teach that Jesus did not suffer on the cross, for he was a man who had attained enlightenment and was beyond the possibility of physical pain. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said, “It’s a pity that Christ is talked of in terms of suffering.”
Quite obviously, the Hindu view of Christ differs with the Bible at many points. First, it is abundantly clear that Jesus not only suffered on the cross but the whole reason Jesus was born as a human being was to go to the cross to suffer for the sins of humankind (see Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 16:21; Luke 9:22; Acts 1:3). Further, Hindus have wrongly attributed imperfection to Jesus simply because He expressed righteous indignation against that which was evil. Contrary to the claim that Jesus was imperfect, the Scriptures indicate that indeed Jesus was perfect, was “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), and “had no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He is said to be “holy, blameless, pure” (Hebrews 7:26). He has been “made perfect forever” (Hebrews 7:28). You can’t get more perfect than that. (One might note that a failure to show righteous indignation against that which is evil [such as the moneychangers in the temple] would constitute a true imperfection.)
Islam, too, holds a diminished view of Jesus Christ. Muslims believe that Jesus was one of the foremost prophets of God. He was a sinless man who was a messenger of God — bringing truth for His age. But He was not the Son of God. He was not God in human flesh. He is to be honored, but no more so than any other prophet of Allah. He is a lesser prophet than Muhammad.
Jesus, according to Muslims, did not die on the cross, but rather ascended directly into heaven. Judas was crucified in His place. It would have been unthinkable, Muslims say, that Allah would have allowed one of his prophets to be crucified.
Therefore, the crucifixion of Christ is viewed as a disrespectful doctrine.
We see, then, that Islam denies the very central teachings on Jesus that are at the very heart of the Bible — especially His deity (John 1:1; 8:58; 10:30; 20:28; Philippians 2:5-7; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13-14) and His salvific mission involving His death on the cross for the sins of humankind (Matthew 26:28; John 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:19).
A DIFFERENT GOSPEL In Hinduism, the soul and salvation are interpreted in terms of reincarnation and the law of karma. SAMSARA refers to the cycle of death and rebirth in Hinduism. The fate of the soul in each lifetime is said to be governed by the law of karma. If one builds up good karma during one’s life, one will allegedly be born in the next life in a favorable state. If one builds up bad karma during one’s life, one will allegedly be born in the next life in a less desirable state. This goes on life after life after life.
The goal, in Hinduism, is to break free from the wheel of karma and merge with the universal soul. This deliverance from samsara leads to immortality. MOKSHA is the Hindu term used for the liberation of the soul from the wheel of karma. This is salvation in Hinduism. At this point, one becomes ONE with Brahman (God or the universal soul which permeates all reality).
In Islam, salvation is found in complete surrender to Allah.
This is in keeping with the meaning of ISLAM (“submission”) and MUSLIM (“one who submits”). Salvation, then, is based upon works. Human effort is pivotal in the Islamic view of salvation.
In contrast to Islam and Hinduism, Christianity teaches that the moment one trusts in Christ the Savior, one is born again (John 3:5), declared righteous (Romans 3:24), reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:19), forgiven (Hebrews 10:17), and adopted into God’s forever family (Romans 8:14-15). Salvation is a FREE GIFT of God received by faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Acts 16:31).
In view of facts such as those above, apologist Ravi Zacharius makes the very important point that while some believe the world religions are essentially the same and only superficially different, the true reality is that these religions are essentially different and are only superficially the same. In their true essence, these religions are not “one” at all.
SHOULD WE JUST “LOVE ONE ANOTHER”?
Occasionally I come across the idea that all of us who hold to different religious persuasions should just be loving to one another, and not criticize what each other believes. Appeal is sometimes made to Jesus Christ as being a loving and tolerant person. We should follow His lead and be loving and tolerant of all people, we are told.
It is true to say that Jesus was the most loving human being that ever lived. It is also true that one of His primary teachings is that we should love one another, and that we should even love those who are our enemies. Yet, by this, was Jesus saying that we should overlook religious differences? I think not.
To begin, Jesus was the one who continually warned His followers about the possibility of spiritual and religious deception. He didn’t say we should overlook religious differences that conflict with His teachings. Indeed, He said to BEWARE of them in order to AVOID them. For example:
* Jesus warned His followers: “Watch out for false prophets.
They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:15-16).
* Jesus also warned His followers: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many… Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Matthew 24:4,11).
Further, one must recognize that those that Christ criticized most severely during His three-year ministry were the religious leaders of Israel who were inflicting oppressive religious beliefs on the common people. Though Jesus was the most loving person who ever lived, He had some rather scathing words for these false religious leaders. In Matthew 23 Jesus called them “hypocrites” (verse 13), “blind guides” (verse 16), “blind fools” (verse 17), “blind men” (verse 19), and “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (verse 17).
The point I am making is that being loving to one another does not in any way mean we are simply to ignore or overlook false religious teachings — that is, teachings that go against the Word of God. Indeed, TO NOT SHARE TRUTH with one who has been led astray by false religious teachings is to be UNloving. If we really care about Muslims, Hindus, and others who hold to varying religious beliefs, we will share the good news of the Christian Gospel with them, knowing that they will perish for all eternity should they die without a relationship with the true Jesus of which Scripture speaks (John 3:16-17).
 Levi, THE AQUARIAN GOSPEL OF JESUS THE CHRIST (London: L. N. Fowler & Co., 1947), p. 56.
 Henry Wilson Coil, A COMPREHENSIVE VIEW OF FREEMASONRY (Richmond: Macoy Publishing, 1973), p. 192.
 Albert Mackey, MACKEY’S REVISED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FREEMASONRY (Richmond: Macoy, 1966), 1:409-10.
 Lewis M. Hopfe, RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991), 91.
 Hopfe, 98. See also John Ankerberg and John Weldon, THE FACTS ON HINDUISM IN AMERICA (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1991), 9-10.
 Walter Martin, THE NEW CULTS (Ventura: Regal Books, 1980), 82.
 J. Isamu Yamamoto, HINDUISM, TM & HARE KRISHNA (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 11.
 Dean C. Halverson, “Hinduism,” in THE COMPACT GUIDE TO WORLD RELIGIONS (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1996), 89.
 Hopfe, 99.
 Yamamoto, 11.
 Hopfe, 99.
 Mark Albrecht, “Hinduism,” in EVANGELIZING THE CULTS, ed. Ronald Enroth (Ann Arbor: Servant Publications, 1990), 22.
 Hopfe, 98.
 Hopfe, 98.
 Martin, 80.
 Martin, 86.
 For more on Islam, see Ron Rhodes, ISLAM: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2000).
 Yamamoto, 32.
 See George A. Mather and Larry A. Nichols, DICTIONARY OF CULTS, SECTS, RELIGIONS AND THE OCCULT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), 119.
 Yogi, MEDITATIONS OF MAHARISHI MAHESH YOGI, 123-24; cited in Yamamoto, 48.
 Josh McDowell, A READY DEFENSE (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), 272. See also John B. Noss, MAN’S RELIGIONS (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974), 104, 186.
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