► Many argue that the objective of all religions is to persuade people to do good works. [Some new religions such as Bahai regard all religions the same.] If so, believing in any one religion will end up in the same destination. But this is not true.
a. Religions are different: There is only one truth (correspondence to reality). All religions are not the same because their teachings are all different at key points. They all have their truth claims to the exclusion of all others (Ac 4:12). Even all-inclusive religions such as Bahaism end up being exclusivistic by excluding the exclusivists!
B. Different answers to life’s basic questions:
● Life has 3 basic questions of origin, meaning, and destiny: Where am I from? (OR Who am I?) What is the meaning of life? (OR Why am I here?) What happens to me when I die? (OR Where am I going.)
● While living, we have an additional basic question about morality: How can I determine right from wrong? (OR What is right?)
● Since there is only one reality, answers to all these 4 questions must be in harmony with each other without contradiction.
C. Illustration of naturalism:
● Many scientists subscribe to the philosophy of naturalism. It tries to explain our origin by saying that life evolved purely by accident and that we are here due to the cumulative effect of time plus matter plus chance. If this is true, there is no meaning to life and morality has no foundation. To be consistent to this position, naturalists should live a life as if there is no meaning and no such things as morality.
● Therefore, a naturalistic worldview is inadequate to explain the nature of reality in a coherent way: it could not explain the origin of the universe, nor could it explain morality. It cannot provide a meaning to life and cannot provide an answer on destiny.
d. Religious tolerance does not mean equal validity of truth:
● In an age of toleration and pluralism, the most popular argument against the Christian religion seems to be simply that it is only one of many religions. Truth, by its very nature, is intolerant of error.
● Religion has to do with much more than codes of behaviour. Integral to all world religions are concepts of the nature of God, the purpose of man, the status of a person after death and the source of ultimate truth. the essential doctrines of the various religions drastically contradict each other.
● If we are going to hold that all beliefs are of equal value, we cannot fudge later by excluding certain beliefs we happen not to like. Are we really willing to say that the belief system of a tribal chief performing human sacrifice, a white supremacist advocating mass genocide or a Satanist promoting anarchy and lawlessness is of equal value to all other beliefs?
A. Christianity has a consistent answer to life’s basic questions:
● Compared to naturalism and all other religions, Christianity is both consistent and powerfully explanatory: it offered a convincing, rationally consistent, and logical explanation for the 4 basic questions.
● For Christians, we were created by God for His purpose. Our meaning of life is to know God and love Him. Our moral choices are based on God’s character. Our destiny is to live in eternity with God and all His children.
● Man may try to find the meaning of life from wisdom, pleasure, work, money, power, or fame. Solomon tried and actually obtained all of these, but his conclusion is “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” (Ecc 1:1) Yet Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (Jn 10:10) Only by following Jesus can we find meaning to life.
B. Christianity is unique in perspective:
● While all other religions are human attempts to reach God by good works, Christianity is God’s act to reach humans by His grace. We believe that man has no ability to be perfect to please God so good works cannot save man from sin. [However, to do good is the moral responsibility of man and is an indication that the person is saved.]
● The focal point of Christian experience is Jesus Christ (who claimed Himself God, Jn 14:6; Mt 7:13).
C. Christianity is unique in fact—Empirical proofs when comparing religions (PEARL Method):
● Prophecy: Can these religions point to well-attested examples of fulfilled prophecy equivalent to those of the Bible?
● Experience: Can we see in history and throughout the world today that these religions powerfully change people’s lives for the better? [universality of experience of rebirth and assurance of salvation]
● Archaeology: Does archaeology support the historical claims of these religions?
● Resurrection: Can these religions point to well-documented confirming miracles in the same way Christianity can point to the resurrection? [objective reality behind subjective experience]
● Logic: Do these religions give the most consistent, comprehensive and satisfying explanation of man and the world?
► Belief that Christianity is the only true faith can be arrogant if it is motivated by pride and the desire for supremacy. But it is not when encased in humility and motivated solely by the desire to know and live truth.
D. Christianity compared to other religions:
► Every religion must have some truth in its teachings. Otherwise, no one would have accept it. However, Christianity teaches the complete truth while all other religions represent only partial truth.
(1) Polytheism: Numerous finite gods exist together. Man can only please some of the gods and gain their favour in this life. There is no real salvation. Ancient Greek and Roman religions were polytheism. Today, Hinduism and Daoism are examples of polytheism.
● Confucianism: It is a system of moral teachings, not involving divinity and salvation. Later Confucianists attempted to include some supernatural elements but were not successful in changing the main teachings.
(2) Pantheism: God is everything that exists and everything that exists is God. Salvation is merge oneself in this universal “god”. Buddhism in its original belief is an example of pantheism but it has developed into one with polytheistic characteristics.
● Buddhism: It is mainly an attempt to solve the problem of with suffering. It teaches that everything in this world is illusion, thus denying the reality of life. An individual will be continually reincarnated into different lives after death until he gains the knowledge of life and escapes from ther reincarnation cycle.
(3) Deism: God created the universe and established the natural laws but when withdrew to allow the universe to develop on its own. God does not intervene in human affairs and their salvation.
(4) Monotheism: There is one personal, transcendent God who has always existed outside of time and space; who has created both the universe and man, and is still intimately involve with both. There are 3 main monotheism: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. [There may be other smaller religions such as Sikhism.]
(5) Islam: It emphasizes the exaltation, supremacy and holiness of God above all else. The duty of the Muslim is to obey God, not necessarily to know him. Muslims believe individuals can earn the right to go to paradise by doing good deeds. However, only God can judge when a person has done enough good deeds, so salvation is never certain unless a person is killed in a holy war (jihad) while defending or spreading Islam.
● Muslims, which means “ones who submit.”
● Muslims can never be sure that their efforts gain acceptance by God; not even Mohammad is assured of salvation. However, since the only sure way of getting an eternal life is to die in a jihad, this fact partly explains why so many people are willing to be suicide bombers.
(6) Judaism: They believe in the true God of the Bible but they reject that Jesus is the promised Jewish Messiah. Salvation is based on wholehearted obedience of God’s commandments as revealed in the Old Testament.
(7) Christianity: The only religion in which “salvation” is not in the least based on a person’s good actions but is based solely on the kindness of God.
a. Biblical truth concerning salvation:
(1) No one is innocent:
[a] All men know God since He has revealed Himself through nature (Ro 1:18-20). No one can plead ignorance as an excuse for denying God.
[b] Since all men commit sin, they are not innocent. They deliberately distort or reject the knowledge of God.
(2) Salvation only through Jesus: No one can come to God except through Jesus Christ (Jn 14:6).
(3) Everyone has opportunity to repent (Jn 7:17): non-Jews who knew God and were accepted by God: Rahab (Jos 2:9; Heb 11:31), Naaman (2Ki 5:15-19), Ethiopian eunuch (Ac 8), Cornelius (Ac 10).
(4) Fair judgment of God: God never condemns innocent people and will judge fairly (Ac 17:31). God is love (1Jn 4:8). God is just (Job 34:12).
(5) People who receive salvation include OT saints (who did not know about Jesus) and NT saints (who accepted Jesus)
b. How was it possible to receive salvation without knowing Jesus, such as OT saints?
(1) One possibility: OT saints looked forward to the Messiah (manifested in the act of animal sacrifices) while NT saints look back at the Messiah.
(2) Another possibility: All OT saints believed God (took God at His word) and obeyed God (exercise faith in the provision for salvation which God revealed), eg. offer animal sacrifices.
(3) For them, the sacrifice of Jesus was the ground of their salvation even before the event took place because time is not a constraint in God’s perspective. God would regard them as righteous in view of the death of Jesus which occurred later in history.
c. Saving faith probably involves 3 elements:
(1) Seek God: Anyone who seeks God will find Him (Dt 4:29; Pr 8:17; Jer 29:13; Mt 7:7).
(2) Repent of their own sins (Is 55:6-7; Ro 2:5-6,12-16).
(3) Believe God and exercise faith in whatever God reveals. [In OT, offer sacrifices; in NT, accept Jesus.] For those who never heard the gospel, this may be the knowledge of what is right on the basis of their conscience.
d. It is possible that people who never heard the gospel will all be condemned because no one is innocent and everyone is responsibility for his/her own sins. But it is also possible that some of them (including infants who died, see David’s saying in 2Sa 12:23) may be saved.
e. One suggestion is that they may be judged according to their God-given conscience or moral standard (Ro 2:12-16). Another suggestion is that God may give them extraordinary conscience (including dying infants) just before death to decide whether they would accept Jesus. In all cases, salvation is still grounded in the sacrifice of Jesus.
f. Who then is saved? Answer: Only God knows. While this question has no definitive answer, it is important for each person to have assurance of one’s own salvation. To speculate about others is worthless. Jesus says that only a few would be saved (Mt 7:13-14). But when the disciples asked Jesus about comparative numbers, His answer was “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door,” (Lk 13:23-24) implying: “Mind your own business!”
a. Jews are an elected race. The election is based on the covenant between God and Abraham.
● God promised:  to make him great (Gen 12:2),  to make his descendants a great nation (Gen 12:2),  to dispense God’s blessings to the whole world through him (Gen 12:3)
b. Jews are chosen to be a tool of God to fulfil His eternal plan and kingdom. The wish of God is to save everyone (2Pe 3:9).
c. God does not favour one race and the gospel is for the whole world (Ac 10:34-35).
d. Jews endure more sufferings in history than most other races.
a. Slogan of humanism: “Man is the measure of all things.” (ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras) They make man into God.
b. Religion: All religions have some truth. Secular humanism is just another religion but most of what they preach is not truth. They regard man as God and they denied the need of man’s need for a supernatural God. They believe that there is no after-life so there is no need for salvation.
c. Philosophy: They believe that moral values are originated from human experience so these values change with time and with culture (moral relativism). They emphasize reason and intelligence, not faith. They believe that man cannot be perfect because we do not have the moral ability to be perfect.
d. Mankind: They value dignity of the individual and the freedom of choice. Although humanism affirms human goodness such as honesty, justice, and love, yet they do not believe in an absolute standard (originated from God). As result, their viewpoint on most moral questions is contrary to Biblical morality.
E. Society: They emphasize targets of civil liberties, open and democratic society, separation of church and state, economic well-being for all individuals, moral equality without discrimination. Some of these are valuable suggestions but they over-emphasize human rights and freedom without responsibility.
F. Science (technology): They take science as the key to human progress and the ultimate solution to all human problems—a science religion (Scientism). However, as man achieves technological improvements, human heart is still void. Many social problems such as the family disintegration and juvenile delinquency are not solved.
G. Modern humanism and Satanism have similar definition of man. Both attempt the divination of man in order to escape from human finitude. Both deny the Creator-creature distinction. Christian apologist Van Til uses the analogy of a secret treaty between the humanist’s two worlds: the realm of science and the realm of mystery. New Age Movement (a mixture of humanism and eastern mysticism) is the modern representative of such an attempt.
Q.50: 4 Positions on who can be saved (Gill)
(1) exclusivism - traditional posture:
● Christianity is the only true religion; all the others, no matter how inspiring and/or influential, are either misleading or diabolical because non-Christian religions are human attempts to reach God while Christianity is God’s act to reach humanity
○ difficult to explain how the true believers of OT are to be counted among the redeemed. (usually handled by saying that they looked forward to the Messiah, while we look back at him) Heb 11: redemption of OT saints is by their faith, ie. their capacity to trust God amidst their contemporary circumstances.
○ those never heard the gospel (extreme Calvinistic view of election, wherein God’s grace is essentially arbitrary) Ro 2: Gentiles know what is right on the basis of their conscience and are justified or not, accordingly
○ difficult for the notion of what constitutes actually hearing the Christian message. Certainly simply being exposed to certain “facts”, as pieces of information about Jesus’ life is not sufficient.
(2) inclusivism or syncretism:
● all religions are essentially equal in value, each representing a different way of reaching God; many paths, one goal. Another form of this posture maintains that deep within each of the (major) religions lies a common core that constitutes the real truth about God, the world, and humanity.
● Difficulties: ignores important differences among religions
(3) pluralism or cultural relativism:
● accepting the reality and viability of each (major) religions while at the same time maintaining the unique irreducibility of each
● All who live in meaningful and faithful relationship with God do so on the basis of this “Christ principle” (the principle of God’s sacrificial love, as expressed in Jesus Christ)
● There are persons who actually practise different religions with a deep spiritual commitment to divine truth.
● possibility of true faith existing outside of the Christian religion while at the same time maintaining the universality and uniqueness of the Christ principle.
(4) universalism: everyone will be saved (not in Gill’s book)
Q.50: Salvation in the Old Testment (Feinberg)
Reference: John S. Feinberg (1981): “Salvation in the OT,” in John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, eds. (1981): Tradition and testament. [Note: The author is dispensationalist.]
● OT saints were saved by faith: the plan of salvation has been the same from the beginning until now: by grace through faith
● Christ’s work is the ground of redemption for all ages.
● No one comes to God except by Jesus (Jn 14:6), including OT saints
● 2Pe 1:11-12, Heb 11:13 OT believers knew about a coming suffering Saviour and the promise but not about Jesus of Nazareth
● Abraham saw Jesus’ day (Jn 8:56)
● Heb 11 OT saints saved by faith
● God demands absolute righteousness of any creature who would be saved but no one has the ability to live a perfectly righteous life (Ro 7:18,24, 8:7-8, 2Co 3:5, Eph 2:1,8-10). Thus God’s method of salvation is always a grace method, never a works method.
B. basis or ground of salvation
► God’s gracious provision of the death of Christ
► The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, only the blood of Christ could do that (Heb 10:4ff).
► From God’s perspective, the sacrifice of Christ is the objective act on the grounds of which God offers salvation in any age.
► God can grant man salvation, even before the sacrifice is performed in history.
C. requirement of salvation
► No one on his own is capable of an act that is righteous in God’s eyes (Ps 14:3, Ro 3:10-12).
► The sole requirement for salvation is that man exercises faith in the provision that God has revealed. Even faith is God’s gift to man (Eph 2:8, Ro 6:23, 2Ti 2:9).
D. ultimate content of salvation
► The ultimate object of faith in any and every age is God Himself. The ultimate issue at any time in history is whether a man will take God at His word and exercise faith in the provision for salvation which God reveals.
► Heb 11 repeatedly emphasizes that each hero of faith did what he did because of his faith in God.
► The repentant sinner was ultimately turning or returning to God. In all times, God is the ultimate object of faith, even today.
► A rejection of Christ constitutes a refusal to believe God’s word about Christ; it is a rejection of God Himself.
E. specific revealed content of salvation
► responds positively to God’s truth: believing in the promises (age of promise, before Moses), agreeing that God will forgive and cleanse the sin of the one who in faith offers sacrifice (age of law), or placing his faith and trust in Jesus as Saviour (age of grace, after Christ).
► Ro 4:3 Abraham believed God, in reality believed the promise of God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.
► OT: blood sacrifice is of utmost importance in order for man to maintain a right standing before God.
► In addition to the theme of sacrifice, there is the theme of promises.
F. believer’s expression of salvation
► 3 kinds of elements:
(1) elements that are constant, such as the moral law. Thus, at all times, a believer is to express the fact that he is saved by adhering to the moral law. Such adherence will not save him, but it will provide evidence that he already has met the requirement of salvation.
(2) elements that conclude with a given age, eg. animal sacrifices. With the advent of the age of grace, the believer no longer expresses his devotion to God through bringing animal sacrifices.
(3) elements that commence in a given age. In the age of grace, the believer can express his obedience to the Saviour through observance of the Lord’s supper and baptism.
(1) the content of faith presented to the believer and the expression of his faith differ.
(2) the believer’s relation to the law has changed. God’s standards of morality do not change, but NT believer no longer under the ceremonial law.
(3) NT believer receives a much greater enablement for obedience to God in virtue of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
(4) union of the believer with Christ is part and parcel of the NT believer’s salvation.
(5) though there was forgiveness for sin in both OT & NT, sin was only fully and finally paid for when Christ made His sacrifice.
Q.50: Requirement for salvation (Kreeft & Tarcelli)
(1) Is the standard the same for all times? yes
(2) Is the explicit knowledge of Jesus necessary for salvation? no, e.g. OT saints
(1) Seek God: all who seek God will find Him (Dt 4:29, Pr 8:17, Jer 29:13, Mt 7:7)
(2) Repent: (Is 55:6-7, Ro 2)
(3) Believe (faith): We all know God (Ro 1:20)
► How much knowledge of God must we have to have faith and be saved?
● The amount cannot be quantified. However, we know (Ro 1-2) that we all have enough knowledge of God to make us responsible before him.
● If so, why do mission work? Because we don’t know who is going to hell?
► Who then is saved?
● God only knows. We only know that only a few would be saved (Mt 7:13-14).
● When the disciples asked Jesus about comparatively heavenly and hellish population statistics, His answer was “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” (Lk 13:23-24). In other words, “Mind your own business!” Speculating about others is as worthless, even harmful, as speculating about the exact date of the end of the world (Mt 24:36).
● Pagans will then be saved without becoming Christians.