Peter Sean Bradley comments on the Hindu/Christian debate I posted yesterday. The debate really showed the difference between how Hindus view religion and how Christians view religion. I thought one of his points was particularly interesting.
Peter Sean Bradley writes:
According to Professor Philip Carey, Christianity is unique in the religious-sphere because of its obsession with the person of Jesus. Because Christianity is about a person, it is essential to know who that person is, which therefore puts a heavy emphasis on doctrine, specifically correct doctrine, about the person of Jesus. Christianity is thus a faith rather than simply a practice and faith – being intellectual adherence to ideas – are by definition exclusive. One can, for example, be faithful to many things, until there is a conflict among those things, and then the true faith has to be determined. This is the reason for the Christian obsession with orthodoxy, i.e., “correct belief,” rather than some Christian proclivity for hair-splitting.
The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:12-14:
12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
Basically, Christianity is the only religion that stands or falls on a historical event: the resurrection. Either it happened or it didn’t. And the job of every individual is to test for themselves and act accordingly. Christianity is about truth – what really happened. If people are just interested in religion to comfort them, or to spur them towards good deeds, or as a cultural/ethnic identity, or as a set of rules and rituals, then they cannot be Christians.
Consider the words of Jesus from John 18:36-37, when he is being questioned by Pilate:
36Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
And it turns out that Hindus are not the only ones who tend to think that religion is not about propositional truth. Peter Sean Bradley cites this interview with Paula Fredricksen, a Jewish historian who specializes in ancient history. Paula says that even Judaism is not exclusive in the sense that it required pagans to abandon other gods in order to worship in the Jewish synagogue.
My experience dealing with Jewish believers is that they have one of two views. The ones I’ve met were either cultural Jews who are functional atheists, or they believed that a religion is “true” so long as it results in good works. In my experience, debates and apologetics are not emphasized in Judaism, (or in Hinduism). Two of my favorite radio talk show hosts are Jewish. Michael Medved (orthodox) and Dennis Prager (Reformed), have both stated this point of view on air many times.