What Makes the Christian Message Unique?
CBN.com - When discussing
religion, what makes the Christian message so unique? Clearly Jesus Christ
stands out in world history, but what separates him from others who claim
to be divine and prophetic? Gordon Robertson spoke with the
author of Jesus
Among Other Gods, Ravi Zacharias on The 700 Club. Mr. Zacharias
has examined the claims of Christ and says the evidence of his uniqueness
is overwhelming. His book is a great source for anyone who's struggled
to understand what separates Christianity from other religions. Here's
a look at that special interview:
GORDON ROBERTSON: How did you come to become a Christian?
RAVI ZACHARIAS: Well, technically, the Brahman background,
Gordon, goes back several generations; five on one side and seven on
the other. But my parents were nominally Christian. About five generations
ago, from the highest caste of the Hindu priesthood, they were led to
Christ. But somewhere along the line, the very Christian faith became
nominal in that it was in name only. So in that sense, I did have the
influence of Christendom, not so much of Christ himself. But all of
my friends and those around me were Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, so I was
really raised more neutrally in terms of a personal commitment, but
culturally in a nominally Christian family.
GORDON ROBERTSON: What has convinced you -- because
obviously you're quite convinced -- what has convinced you of the uniqueness
of Jesus Christ?
RAVI ZACHARIAS: So much happens in life that
it's hard to sometimes reduce it. I became a Christian when I was 17
years old. I was on a bed of suicide in Delhi, searching for meaning,
searching for the answers to life's basic questions -- especially in
a religious country, you're used to asking that. But how does one know
that this way is true and another way is false? There are 330 million
gods in the pantheon of Hinduism. And when I came to know Christ, it
was in a crisis moment, on a bed of suicide. But as I began my pursuit
and was willing to make that commitment, I came to believe that the
specifics of Jesus' answers are so unique.
When you think of it, Gordon, really there are four fundamental questions
of life. You've asked them, I've asked them, every thinking person asks
them. They boil down to this; origin, meaning, morality and destiny.
How did I come into being? What brings life meaning? How do I know right
from wrong? Where am I headed after I die?
When you take the answers of Christ to those four questions, there
is no parallel that brings individually, correspondingly, true answers
to those individual questions. And then you put the four together, there's
no other world view that brings such a coherent set of answers, correspondingly
true individually, coherently whole when you put them together. The
person of Christ is so unique that no honest seeker can deny it once
you have looked at his answers to these questions.
GORDON ROBERTSON: Let's deal with the Western world
view for a minute. You grew up in sort of a multifaceted religious society
with Buddhists and Hindus and Muslims all living together. I think that's
unique in the world. But from a Western point of view, I think one of
the reasons many Americans, for example, have--have rejected the claims
of Christ or even the existence of God, is they say, `Well, how do you
now explain evil? Why do bad things happen to good people?'
RAVI ZACHARIAS: I think that is the most daunting
question. It is sort of a hatpin in the heart of many a world view.
But when a person asks that question, Gordon, they have to remember
two things. The first thing is that it is a question everybody needs
to answer, not just the Christian. The Hindu needs to answer it, the
Buddhist needs to answer it, the atheist needs to answer it, and the
skeptic needs to answer it. One of my chapters is given over to that
question when Jesus was asked, `Why was this man born blind. Did he
sin, or his parents?' And Jesus' answer is fascinating. So let me try
and put the hatpin into the heart of the question first, because that's
where you begin the answer. When a person says there's too much of evil
in this world, they're assuming there's such a thing as good. When they
say they assume there's such a thing as good, they must assume there's
such a thing as a moral law on the base of which to differentiate between
good and evil. But when they posit such a thing as a moral law, they
must posit the moral lawgiver, but that's whom the skeptic is often
trying to disprove and not prove, because if there's no moral lawgiver,
there's no moral law. If there's no moral law, there is no good. If
there is no good, there is no evil. What becomes of the question?
To raise the question actually posits or assumes the existence of God.
So the questioner must ever remember that raising the question does
not disprove the existence of God, it only necessitates the existence
of God, because without God, good and evil do not actually exist. And
therefore, the answer of God in the Christian faith is very unique.
In the Hindu world view, it is sort of karma, inherited, every birth
is a rebirth, you pay, you pay, and you pay through millions of incarnations.
In the Muslim world view, it's fatalistic -- it's the will of Allah.
You go on. There's no real down-to-earth explanation. It's just there.
Within the Christian world view, there is a plethora of evidence as
to how Jesus defends for us the reality of evil and the reality of good.
When you go to the cross, you see the two converge -- evil in the heart
of man, goodness in the heart of God. That convergence in the cross
of Jesus Christ is so unique that it even prompted Mahatma Gandhi to
say outside of the cross, he did not know where else something so unique
could be given as an answer.
Now you lead philosophically to these issues and then you see how the
Bible does deal with it. So to raise the question demonstrates the existence
I've taken you through the six steps of God's answer that shows us
how you deal with the problem of evil, Gordon, ultimately moving to
this question: If the evil around me bothers me that much, I must ask
the question: Does the evil within me bother me, then? And it must,
and for that evil within, only Christ has the answer.
GORDON ROBERTSON: Let's deal with some of the major
world religions. What would you say to a Buddhist? How would you contrast
the uniqueness of Christ to a Buddhist?
RAVI ZACHARIAS: That's an excellent question because
Buddhism is gaining a lot of popularity. It is a very much-pursued idea
today. What I've done in the book is, rather than coming in an in-your-face
response, because that could offend, I've taken questions that Jesus
answered that neither Buddha, Mohammed nor Krishna would have answered
the same way, and you see the uniqueness and the coherence very persuasively,
I trust. The opening line in the Buddhist scriptures is every life is
paying its karma for its previous birth. Buddhism is non-theistic, possibly
atheistic, and when you deal with Buddhism, therefore, it really is
an ethical theory about how to be good without positing God. You can
have goodness without God is Buddhism's fundamental assumption -- and
the answer is in you, through the Eightfold Path, and you go on.
There are many issues that one can raise. But let us suppose this one
aspect of Buddhism that there is really no God. How does, then, one
define goodness as you come back? Where does goodness come from? What
really is evil?
Secondly, it tells you that you have an infinite series of rebirths.
If there is an infinite series of rebirths, infinity -- infinity is
an unending, uncountable. But if Buddha attained nirvana, then it must
be countable. He came to a number. It is a finite series of births.
So if you talk of an infinite series of rebirths, but Buddha himself
had a finite series of rebirths, in order to attain Buddhahood, you
immediately begin to see the contradiction. What you really have to
understand is that the human heart is desperately wicked and evil and
cannot in its own self solve the problem. And at the heart of Buddhism,
Gordon -- and the listener must hear this very carefully -- at the heart
of Buddhism is the loss of the concept of self because Buddhism's fundamental
doctrine is that there's no essential nature of self -- anatman. Hinduism
talked of atman, the essential self. Anatman is the non-essential self.
How wonderful to know that when Jesus Christ speaks to you and to me,
he enables you to understand yourself, to die to that self because of
the cross, and brings the real you to birth. When you're crucified with
Christ nevertheless you live, yet not you, but Christ lives in you.
He retains the individuality and the identity, but brings it to fruition
in your identity in the person of Christ. I think that's so unique that
one cannot escape the ramifications.
GORDON ROBERTSON: I think for me, though, it's almost
a question of practicality. When you look at Buddhism, or you look at
Hinduism, no one achieves nirvana.
RAVI ZACHARIAS: That's right.
GORDON ROBERTSON: No one achieves moksha. In Islam,
no one can possibly follow everything in the Koran.
RAVI ZACHARIAS: That's right.
GORDON ROBERTSON: You cannot achieve it and Christianity
is unique that you can achieve it and through the sacrifice of Jesus
Christ, you can become one with God. It is a unique claim. No other
religion allows it.
RAVI ZACHARIAS: You put it very well. The moksha,
the release, the nirvana, the extinguishing, and that's why the Muslim
never has the assurance of going to heaven, unless he dies a martyr's
death or whatever. The assurance of heaven is never given to the person.
And that's why at the core of the Christian faith is the grace of God.
If there's one word I would grab from all of that, it's forgiveness
-- that you can be forgiven. I can be forgiven, and it is of the grace
of God. But once you understand that, I think the ramifications are
For example, one of the issues that was raised in Jesus' answers to
the question, he refers to this body as the temple of the living God.
Just think of that beautiful truth. You won't find that in Hinduism.
You go to the temple. In the Christian faith, you take the temple with
you. In Islam, which is of this worldly nature, killing and all can
be justified for other-worldliness. In many of these other religious
world views, sensuality can still be real for them and Jesus says no,
this body is a temple of God. So when you see what the grace of God
does in forgiveness, it is not just a blanket absolution. It is a price
that has been paid and the imperative to live with Christ himself living
in you. I think that's magnificent.
GORDON ROBERTSON: I do, too, Ravi. If you want to
know more information about this, I urge you to get a copy of his book,
Among Other Gods. Increasingly in America, we're getting into a
multi-religious society, and you need to be armed with arguments as
to what these other religions believe and the unique claims of Jesus
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