It has been said that people just take their own thoughts and opinions of how we should act or live and paint them on the face of God, and thereby make a new religion. Then people who have identical moral or theological beliefs grip on to that religion claiming it to be the only way.
At first glance, this statement may have some power; but when put face to face against the Christian worldview and a few minutes of clear thinking it falls very very short.
Religions of Grandeur
Most of the world’s religions teach very similar things, with their primary differences being only the self-proclaimed prophet whose words they each follow. The common thread that ties them all together is the instruction to “have faith and be good,” but most notably is the fact that none of them takes the words of Jesus as seriously as he meant them to be taken.
At some point all religions have to, in some way, adopt Jesus into their belief system. As such a significant historical figure, no one can leave him out to dry, so instead of ignoring him, they adapt him by starting off with the premise that the Bible has been corrupted. From there, Mormons say Jesus was the half-brother of the devil, Jehovah’s Witnesses say he was an angel who was made into a man, Muslims say he was just a prophet and New Agers say he was a man who was in tune with the divine consciousness.
Since many scholars believe that there is no sufficient reason to doubt the authenticity of the Bible, and since it seems that as time goes on, more and more evidence surfaces that gives us increasing reason to believe its words, perhaps we should look more intently at what Jesus actually said about himself. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”1
The God of History
It is when applied to Christianity, that I believe this claim falls apart quickly. Put very briefly, we read in the Old Testament of how sin entered God’s creation, which forever changed everything (Gen 3). But because of God’s love for us, he promised he would send a rescuer (Messiah) to pay the debt that our acts of treason have earned (Isa 7:14; 53:5). But here’s the hitch; these promises are interweaved within a historical narrative of events involving real people, nations, wars, places and landmarks, where this God undeniably affected the proceedings.
But now for the icing on the cake. This long promised messiah actually came down, claiming to be God (John 5:18) and the long awaited savior (Luk 4:17-21; Jhn 4:25-26). Not only did he make these claims, but he backed them up with demonstrations of power that only God could perform; such as healing sickness, disease and blindness, counseling people about things in their life that only they could know, raising people from the dead (Luk 7:22; Matt 9:35) and ultimately resurrecting himself after he was executed for claiming to be God (Mk 16:6-7).
What separates Christianity from all other religions, is the teaching that we can never earn our way to salvation; much like doing good deeds could never make a man guilty of murder innocent of his crime. Rather, Jesus taught us that it is by faith in him alone (Jhn 3:16; 14:6), and his sacrifice on the cross that we would be made clean once again. The Bible then goes on to tell us, that this faith would result in good works, not done out of obligation, but done out of joy, worship and response to what Christ has done for us (Gal 5:22-24; Jas 2:18).
Removing The Paint
All other religions are based off of a single individual’s experiences in private. These people never performed miracles, never genuinely prophesied and never left us with much more than manipulation or mutilation as reasons to follow them. However, the things we read about concerning Jesus always happened in public view. He performed countless miracles, prophesied often and left us with little reason to doubt his words and actions.
When I look at other faiths, it is understandable how people could believe that religion is just man’s thoughts and opinions painted on God’s face. But the way I see it, is that throughout his life, Jesus painted a self portrait of who he is and always has been… God.
- Lewis, C. S. "Mere Christianity." The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics (New York: HarperOne, 2007), 50-51