I feel the need to write this post because of the common misconception that different parts of religions can be plucked as you like and thrown into a big shopping basket containing your own personal religion. I’m aware that some people do pick and choose the bits of religions that they most like and form their own religious ideas from that – this was illustrated in the movie The Life of Pi which I watched recently as the central character called himself a ‘Catholic Hindu Muslim’. ‘Wrong’ is a big word nowadays when it comes to issues like personal belief, but from my Christian perspective, such an amalgamation of beliefs is wrong, not only morally wrong, but logically unacceptable if you actually look at the central tenets of major world religions (in this blog I will stick to Christianity as that is what I know). What I am not saying here is that Christianity as a religion is intolerant of others (the vast majority of Christians get along just fine with members of other religions), what I am saying is that you cannot be both a full Christian and a member of another religion like Islam. Arguably, the only religion that can go with Christianity is Judaism in the sense that Christians see the New Testament as the fulfillment of the Jewish Old Testament.
Why can Christianity not be believed equally with Islam or Hinduism or some other religion? Because of Jesus, the fundamental core to Christianity. The bottom line of what being a Christian is is believing that Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins and rose from the grave. Without that, there is no forgiveness of sins for someone who is a Christian. Christianity is the only religion to claim that Jesus is equal to God (Jesus is fully God, part of the trinity) and it is the only reason, therefore, that says that salvation can only come through Jesus (John 14:6). Furthermore, whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father (John 5:23). I know that in Islam, Jesus is honoured as a prophet, but the Bible goes further, honouring Jesus as God and Lord of the Earth (Matthew 22:41-45; Matthew 28:18). Therefore, you cannot be a Christian and part of a religion that doesn’t accept Jesus. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:14, ‘If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith’. Christianity without Jesus is just empty morality.
The case could be made, as is made in the Life of Pi film, that Jesus could be found among the many gods of Hinduism. Christians cannot believe in multiple gods (even if one of them is Jesus) for the same reason that Jews can’t: Exodus 20:3-4 which says: ‘You shall have no other gods before (or besides) me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below’.
In Christianity, there can be no gods other than the One God ‘I AM’ and Jesus has to be recognised as sovereign otherwise Christianity is just empty babble. Taking the morality of the Bible and not the sovereignty of Christ makes you no more Christian than the next guy. I could go on a rant about this because the idea that you can cherry pick the bits of religion that you like leaves me seething. I’ll end with this: Christianity shouldn’t be completely comfortable. If it is truly intended by God to be a global, cross-cultural religion, then there will be bits of it that people in our culture don’t like but which will be seen as acceptable by other cultures. For example, western Christians can sometimes shy away from the idea of Hell because it’s not tolerable in our ‘tolerant’ society (do you see the irony?) whereas for Vikings, Hell was a normal idea and it was actually the idea of grace that was repugnant to them!
I apologise if I haven’t been clear enough on this issue, but it needs to be addressed somehow. I’ll be honest, I struggle with some parts of Christianity, but that doesn’t mean I ignore them, God gives me faith to trust him and to work the issues through. Taking the bits you like the look of isn’t the answer because Christianity is not a supermarket.