The Differences of Christianity
BackgroundWhat makes Christianity different from other religions? Why should I believe that it is the only true religion even though other religions claim the same thing? There are four main subjects that separate Christianity from the rest of the pack.
In high school, a friend of mine said, "You're better off believing in Christianity. If you do, and it's wrong, then it's no big deal. But if you don't, and it's right, then you're in trouble." Of course, he was referring to the fact that Christians recognize that heaven is the eternal home for those who follow God, and hell is the eternal home for those who do not. He knew enough to know that hell is trouble with a capital H. And as for heaven, well, see the second point, below.
On the other hand, that might not be a good argument. It works if a person is looking at things with a perspective on eternity. But for the "it's no big deal" path (following Christianity when, hypothetically, it is wrong), a person with a short-term outlook would probably disagree. If there is the chance that this life is all there is, then why place all those restrictions on people? It would be better to say, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." (See I Corinthians 15:12-19.) However, it may be a good way to get a person to consider what lies beyond this life.
Love and GraceHere, grace is the undeserved forgiveness of sins. Grace is also the gift of heaven and eternal life (we are saved from sins and hell and saved to heaven and eternal life). This is a distinction because other religions teach that you can, even have to, earn forgiveness or a place in heaven. The Bible says that salvation cannot be earned; no amount of good deeds can secure you a home in heaven (Ephesians 2:8,9 - For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.) You need only believe - in God, not just of His existence. Please see the Gospel page for further information.
HopeThe hope of Christians is different from the hope of other religions. The Christian hope is a confidence and assurance that salvation has occurred. Other beliefs tend to cause the type of hope as a wish - "I hope this is right." or "I hope I am going to heaven."
The difference in the word "hope" is illustrated in this scenario. Pretend you are stranded on a deserted island (isn't this the way all good scenarios should start?) You are alone, and your food and water supplies are almost gone. The wishful-thinking hope would be "I hope I get rescued soon", whereas the assurance hope would be different. For that, the scene would be that a plane has flown over the island and dropped a note. The note conveys the message that you have been found, and a ship is being sent to rescue you.
This section is closely related to the eternal consequences section, below. However, it is a separate difference, because not only are there consequences for how a life was lived, both positive and negative, but also Jesus, in the Bible, gives His promise to those who follow Him. For a description of what it is that Christians anticipate, please see the what-happens-after-death page. This life on earth is not the ultimate goal, but the medium in which to learn about, prepare for, and convince others of the infinite future, which begins at death.
Eternal ConsequencesThis is, in a way, the opposite of Hope, above. Whereas Hope is hope for the believers, Eternal Consequences is despair for the non-believers. This section is to highlight that the Christian belief involves eternal consequences. For a detailed description of what those consequences are and how they will occur, please visit the page about what happens after death.
There are religions, beliefs, and trains of thought out there that promote only peace, happiness, and such. Not many have an actual bad consequence for not following their god. It seems that either you follow them and achieve something good, or else nothing happens, no punishment. This is not a hard and fast rule - that other religions are nice and easy without consequences - but it is a noticeable trend that is a distinction.
The Bible says in II Thessalonians 1:9 that the people who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ "shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power." That was the eternal bad consequence. The eternal good consequence is mentioned in John 6:47, where Jesus says "He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." This whole concept is summarized nicely in I John 5:12 - "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (see also John 3:36.)
Another major trend is to have other lives (e.g. reincarnation). That belief may have consequences, but they are not eternal. If you behave badly in one life, you may be punished by coming back as some other species, but that punishment lasts only as long as that life. You can earn your way into or out of punishments and reward in each life. That is not what Christianity says. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27 that "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement."
The TruthOnly one religion can be the true religion. If other beliefs state that there are multiple correct faiths, then they contradict the one that claims otherwise.
If the religions disagree, which one is correct - the one that says it is the right and true way to heaven, or the ones that say that there are various means to heaven / happiness / utopia / nirvana / etc.? If you side with the various-means people, and you are wrong, then you are in trouble, because you chose the wrong belief. But if you side with the one-way people, and you are wrong, then you are not really wrong because then any religious path you chose was right. Which odds would you rather have? Should you be "playing the odds" when it comes to your eternal state? Or is that something which deserves some thought? A "faith" that is professed just to be on the safe side does not sound like a true faith. Faith should come from the recognition of who God is and who you are compared to Him. So why is this little argument listed here if it does not result in a real faith? It is here mostly to get people to think, and from that they might consider God, read the Bible, and come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.