Some time ago, I attended one of Biola University’s Apologetics Conferences called, “Reasonable Faith in an Uncertain World.” Some of the speakers were my current professors. One of those speakers was Craig Hazen who is the head of the Apologetics department at Biola.
He had a breakout session where he talked about various world religions. With a PhD in World Religions, Dr. Hazen had much to say about why a person should investigate Christianity before all other world-religions. I wasn’t an MA student at Biola yet, but being the nerd that I am (coupled with the fact that this subject fascinates me), I brought my laptop and was taking copious notes on every word each speaker said.
Hazen started off his session by recounting the story of when a Cal State University Teacher’s Assistant phoned him looking to invite religious speakers. They needed a fundamentalist so they called him. His introduction was a bit of an insult and his audience was science students. Needless to say, his reception started off rather chilly so he decided to change the topic from fundamentalism to “How a thoughtful person like you goes about a religious quest.” He proceeded to tell them that if one is a thoughtful person, one would start their quest with Christianity and he gave them five reasons why they should.
- Christianity is testable.
Hazen argued that,
“We can offer evidence for and against it and the evidence means something. You can’t do that with other religions. When you start to push back, they take a step back and they say they have had a testimony that it’s true. Then the evidence doesn’t count because they’re telling you about internal testimony (they have a feeling that it’s true). Not true with Christianity. For example, 1 Cor. 15 says if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith. Why is that one of the strangest passages in all religious literature? Paul hung all Christianity by the thread of resurrection. He could say this because he was an eyewitness of Jesus after his resurrection. He’d seen him.”
So Christianity can be investigated in a finite amount of time. It’s doable and it has been done.
- In Christianity, salvation is a free gift from God.
Hazen asked, “Is there grace in other world religions? Maybe a slice in Hinduism, or Buddhism, but not to the degree as in Christianity.” Ephesians 2:8-9 says, by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
All other religions besides Christianity are works-based religions. People work so hard to be good so they can go to Heaven. The problem is that no one knows how good one has to be.
- Christianity offers an amazing world-view fit.
Hazen contends that,
“Christianity paints a picture of the world that matches the way the world really is. For example, regarding the problem of evil, pain and suffering; Christians think it’s real. That’s not the case in Eastern religions. Their goal is to get it off the table in their life by thinking it’s an illusion. Does that paint a picture of the world the way the world really is? Christians deal with evil, pain and suffering by getting down into the pain with the people and bearing them up with Jesus Christ. Jesus promises to wipe away every tear and take care of every injustice.”
C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity like the sun has risen, not only because I see it but it allows me to see everything else.”
- With Christianity, you get to live a non-compartmentalized life.
Hazen taught that,
“Most Asian/Eastern religions teach that reason, logic and investigation etc., not only have nothing to do with the successful religious life, but are actually impediments to progress. (One has to clear the mind and not think—one must try to have a pure experience unmediated by rationality.)
But adherents to Eastern religions still have to live in the same world we do where rationality applies constantly in everyday life. So the adherent to an Eastern religion lives a bifurcated or compartmentalized life: In one compartment you have the religious life where logic does not apply and in the other compartment is everyday life where logic applies all the time and you can’t escape it.”
In other words, Easterners can try to live in a world where logic doesn’t apply but in the end when they cross the street, I’m betting they’re still going to look both ways because it’s either them or the truck.
Hazen concluded #4 by stating that, “In Christianity we live in a non-compartmentalized life. We live in a single compartment where the religious life and everyday life come together and rationality applies to both.”
- Christianity has Jesus at the center of it.
When Hazen got to #5, the audience went crazy. He explained that,
“Jesus is the universal religious figure. Some Buddhists believe Jesus is the incarnation of Buddha himself. In Hinduism, some people believe Jesus is the incarnation of their Hindu deity. In Islam, Jesus emerges as a figure greater than Mohammed himself, born of a virgin, miracle worker and will stand with Mohammed at the end of time. Everybody wants a piece of Jesus. So why wouldn’t you start with the religion that has Jesus at its center?”
One third of the students followed Craig Hazen out of the auditorium. They’d never heard that Christianity could be approached in a thoughtful, methodical way.
I believe these five reasons are legitimate reasons to check out Christianity first when investigating different religions. I pray that if you are seeking that you will do the same. We must remember to seek truth—not the religion that merely fits our preferences. If that happens, then God begins to look just like us and not God.
When Jesus was talking to His disciples about true treasure in Matt. 6, he instructed them in verse 33 to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Jesus is truth. Seek truth.