Christians claim that Christianity is unique among the world’s religions. In fact, we use that claim to support the idea that Christianity is the only true religion. Is this justified?
The word “unique” means “the only one of its kind” or “without a like or equal.” This is true for everything to one degree or another. No two people are exactly alike. For that matter, no two photo copies are exactly alike. Look at two “identical” copies under a microscope, and you’ll see what I mean. So if everything’s unique in some way, how can we justly use the claim that Christianity is unique as proof of the validity of the Christian faith? Couldn’t a Hindu just as logically claim Hinduism as the only true religion because it, too, is unique? Couldn’t every religion claim to be the true religion because it is unique?
The answer to our question concerning the uniqueness of Christianity has to do with how Christianity is unique. Other religions are unique, but they are “naturally” unique. Biblical Christianity is unnaturally unique. It could not be just another man-made religion. Too many aspects of its aspects have the stamp of the supernatural on them. They are too unnatural to have been dreamed up by mankind in his religious quest. Paul’s letter to the Roman church says “the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God” are evident in Christianity. When the whole of the Christian faith is examined in detail, one must acknowledge “how unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Rom. 11:33).
The unsearchable judgments and unfathomable ways of God have to do with His sovereign plans for mankind from the beginning of time. His creation of man, His covenants with man and His Christ for man are all part of His “unsearchable judgments” and His “unfathomable ways.” Thus we should expect that everything about biblical Christianity should be unnaturally unique. It was designed from start to finish by God. No aspect of it is man-made.
Consider, first of all, the uniqueness of the founder of Christianity. When compared to the founders of the other religions of the world, Jesus Christ is unnaturally unique. The fact that His birth was predicted hundreds of years before He appeared is unnaturally unique. The fact that His public life was characterized by incomparable miracle-working power is unnaturally unique. The fact that He claimed that He Himself is the only way to God because He is God is unnaturally unique. And the fact that He conquered death and came back to life is unnaturally unique. Skeptics, of course, question these facts, but the ball is in their court to prove that the well-attested record is untrue. Although these facts are only highlights of Jesus’ life, they are enough to show that He is unnaturally unique when compared to the founders of any other religion.
When compared to the religious writings of any other religion, the uniqueness of the Bible is another aspect of Christianity which gives evidence of its supernatural character. The Bible is the only book which claims to be the only revelation from God. This is unnaturally unique. The religious writings of other world religions generally claim divine origin, but they allow for others of divine origin. Only the Bible makes the unnatural claim that it alone is divinely inspired.
Another unnaturally unique feature of this Book which Christians follow is its fulfilled prophecies. While other religious writings contain certain limited prophecies, Bible prophecies are unnaturally unique because they are more detailed, longer in range and 100% accurate. In fact, the perfect accuracy of the Bible in all areas is another unnaturally unique aspect. Other religious writings naturally contain mistakes because they are not inspired. The book of Mormon, for example, has many historical errors. But not the Bible! And the Bible is loaded with historical data – more than any other religious book. It has been estimated that there is more historical data in Genesis 10 alone than in the entire Koran. The Bible has proved to be unnaturally accurate in everything it directly or indirectly teaches.
Furthermore, the Bible is 66 different books uniquely joined together to form one Book. These books were written over a span of 1500 years by more than 40 different authors from every walk of life – kings, fishermen, statesmen, shepherds, scholars and other ordinary people. And yet the Bible is unified in its theme – the glory of God and the redemption of man. The Bible was written in three different languages from three different continents by authors in a wide variety of different situations. Some of the books were written from prison, some from a palace, some in times of peace and some in times of war. Almost every type of literary genre is used – poems, letters, historical narratives, proverbs, visions and more. The Bible has something to say on every subject known to man. The fact that the Bible is unified in spite of such diversification is unnaturally unique. No other religious writing in the world compares to it. The existence of such a unique book apart from divine guidance and inspiration is inconceivable.
When it comes to Christianity’s teaching about salvation, once again we see the stamp of the supernatural. Christianity teaches that salvation is humanly impossible. It teaches that God requires absolute perfection (Rom. 3:19-26). This is unnaturally unique! The “high standards” of man-made religion are not so high that they are unattainable – at least by a few hard-working zealots. Attaining the “salvation” of your soul in other religions is like long-jumping 29 feet – beyond the grasp of the masses, but attainable by an elite few, through strict discipline and hard work. But, according to Christianity, attaining your soul’s salvation is like jumping across the Grand Canyon. It is humanly impossible! Natural man would never propose such a religion.
Although salvation is humanly impossible, Christianity teaches that it can be obtained as a free gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9). This also is unnaturally unique. A prime characteristic of every man-made religion is that you must do something to earn your right to Nirvana, or whatever salvation consists of in a particular religion. But according to the teachings of biblical Christianity, because salvation requires perfection, man cannot even help attain it. In fact, there is not even a single “spark of good” or “spark of the divine” within him, as man-made religions teach (Rom. 3:9-20). In Christianity, the gift of salvation is not a goal to be attained when one dies. it is a present possession. Again this is unnaturally unique. In other religions, “salvation” is a goal, the hope that if there is a life after death, you somehow might “make it” when you die. The teaching of biblical Christianity is that the gift of salvation is not only a perfect life after death, but the possession of eternal life now in a present, living relationship with God Himself. This too-good-to-be-true package of salvation would never have been proposed by “works-oriented” man. It is too unnaturally unique. But the fact that Christianity’s salvation is a free gift does not mean that it was not costly. The highest price imaginable had to be paid. God had to become Man and die! How unnaturally unique! Is it even conceivable that such a scheme would have been dreamed up by the human mind?
Probably the feature of Christianity’s salvation that is most unnaturally unique is that it is obtained by one way only! Christianity emphatically denies that “all roads lead up the same mountain,” a characteristic teaching in so many other religions. Biblical Christianity states that there is only one road, and it is very narrow (Mt. 7:13-14). According to the teaching of Christianity, when Jesus Christ was crucified on a Roman cross, an historic transaction was taking place in the moral universe of God. The judgment of God for the sin of the world was taken by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Because of this unnaturally unique transaction, commitment to Jesus Christ as God and as personal Savior is the only way of salvation (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12). Christianity further teaches that rejection of this way of salvation means eternal separation from God, and an eternity in hell. All of this is so “far out” and unnaturally unique that Christianity has to be the only true religion. There is no way works-oriented man would have advanced such a narrow path. If Christianity is not true, how did such an unbelievable and unnaturally unique religion ever get started?
The unique basis on which Christianity stands is entirely different than the bases on which other religions stand. This is another aspect of Christianity which is unnaturally unique. All of this world’s religions are, in one way or another, ultimately based on the teachings of humans. They don’t depend on events in history for their authenticity. Hinduism, for example, does not depend on whether someone in history did or did not exist. Christianity, in contrast, is based on events in history. Although the teachings of Jesus Christ are inestimable in their content and importance, and are themselves unnaturally unique, as we have seen, the foundation of the Christian faith is historical events. Ultimately Christianity stands or falls on whether the bodily resurrection of the historical Jesus of Nazareth took place in history. In the final analysis, if Jesus Christ is not alive today it really doesn’t matter what He taught! What authority is there behind the beautiful Sermon on the Mount if the same teacher falsely taught that He would rise from the dead on the third day? If the historical resurrection of Jesus did not take place, then His teachings carry no more weight than those of any other world religion!
Any religious leader can say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Some may even dare to claim, “I am the light of the world.” But when the religious leader also plainly states that He will be “killed and after three days rise again,” He and His teachings are immediately transferred into another category (Mk. 8:31-32). The authority for all of the teachings of Jesus Christ rests on the basis of whether or not He was right about the historical events He predicted. All of Christ’s teachings are intricately woven together with the historical events in His life. You can’t pick and choose in the record and somehow separate the ethical teachings of Jesus from His deeds, which were historical events. For example, you can’t separate His teaching that “I am the resurrection and the life” from His miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11:25-44). All of the teachings of Jesus are intimately connected with what He did in history – from His predicted birth to His death and resurrection. So we see that the basis for Christianity being the only true religion is absolutely and unnaturally unique. It does not depend on the subjective feelings of its followers or on the ethical value of its teachings, even though both are important. The foundation of this most unique religion is the objective, factual events which took place in history.
Several times we have mentioned the term “biblical Christianity.” The reason should be obvious. Operating under the “umbrella of professing Christianity” there are, unfortunately, many religious leaders and groups, that are not following biblical Christianity. They generally preach a works-oriented brand of “Christianity.” In fact, one of the best ways to detect unbiblical brands of Christianity is to note how naturally they move towards the natural characteristics and natural teachings of man-made religions. Biblical Christianity alone is unnaturally unique! Only in biblical Christianity do we come to appreciate “how unsearchable are God’s judgments and how unfathomable are His ways” (Rom. 11:33).
By David R. Reid
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.