Evangelism and Exclusivity

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How do I handle talking about other religions that are so close to Christianity and the Bible? How do I talk to people of other religions?

Many of these religions include parts of the Bible or the full Bible. For instance, Judaism contains the Old Testament, but not the New Testament. Islam has parallels with Old Testament stories as well.

Then there are “Christian” cults, like Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the like. But they add to it. Mormons include the Book of Mormon along with the Bible, but the emphasis is on the Book of Mormon, not the Bible. Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own translation of the Bible that fundamentally changes what the Bible says.

Amidst all of these differences, it is not easy to address others from different religions. Because Christianity is exclusive, meaning that it states Jesus is the only way to get to heaven, many other religions refuse to listen. Jesus declares himself to be God, a claim no other religious founder makes. He also claims that he is the only way to the Father in heaven (John 14:6).

This doesn’t even touch talking to atheists, who are a whole different animal. They will fight with any religion. For some reason, they don’t realize they have their own belief system, and therefore are a religion.

Judaism may be the closest to Christianity, except that they don’t go the whole way. They are still searching for the Messiah. Christians believe Jesus is the Messiah, and he has been here in the first century. He lives even today through resurrection.

It’s not as easy as we think to talk to them about the Messiah because messianic prophecies and passages are spread out through the entire Old Testament. They’re not all in one place. Much work must be done to link all of the passages together to show them how Jesus fulfilled messianic prophecies.

Muslims have some parallels to the Old Testament in the Qur’an. But at the same time it rejects that Jesus died on the cross. This is a historical fact proven from several sources other than the Bible. There is very little wiggle room around this truth.

The miracle of Islam is the perfect Arabic in the Qur’an. But you must learn Arabic to see this miracle. It’s not very accessible to most of the world. The question that must be asked and answered from Muslims is, “Who is the greatest prophet?”

Muslims will state that Mohammed is the greatest prophet. But a comparison with Jesus may leave some lingering questions. Mohammed never claimed to be God. Jesus claimed to be God. Mohammed died and is buried but Jesus’ body cannot be found because he rose from the dead. I’m sure there are other questions that can be raised as well.

One of the biggest barriers to speaking with Muslims and Jews about the differences in all of our beliefs is that most will not listen with a critical ear. Most of the time they will shut you down before you can ask your questions. Even if they think you are genuine, they will not listen.

This barrier can only be crossed through genuine lifestyle and love and care for the person to speak with. You can’t approach them with a bait and switch attitude. When I talked to people of other religions, I am genuinely interested because I want to know what they believe. I want to know how it affects their life and how it enriches it.

Christians are often accused of contradictions within the pages of the Bible. But no one asks Muslims about the contradictions in their scriptures. Most people don’t ask about contradictions in anyone else’s sacred Scriptures.

When you talk to Jews, one of the best passages that lays out a good approach is Romans 9-11. There’s a lot that Paul says there. But one of the best illustrations he gives is of the grafted tree (Romans 11:17-24). The Jews are God’s people who have received the law, sacrificial system, and promises of God. They are his chosen people.

But there are different kinds of Jews. There are national or ethnic Jews and there are several types of religious Jews, ranging anywhere from liberal to conservative. Paul makes the case that only believing Jews are part of the grafted tree. Then believing Christian Gentiles are grafted into this tree as well. The tree represents what I call the composite people of God, believing Jews and Gentiles in Jesus Christ.

“Christian” cults contain a little of the Bible but most of them take a messianic approach. There is usually one person in charge, an authoritarian. It’s his way or the highway. He cannot be challenged. Under the surface, many of these cults exhibit abuse on their members, forcing them to stay out of fear. How can the truth be found in the midst of fear?

Then there are religions unlike fees because they are polytheistic. These include Hinduism, Buddhism, and many other religions. The place I usually start with them is to ask them how there can be more than one God.

How do I talk to people of other religions?

The first point we need to make to clear the air is to realize that every religion is exclusive. Muslims are exclusive to Islam. Christians are not allowed to worship alongside of them. The Qur’an  tells Muslims to kill the infidel, anyone who doesn’t believe in Islam. I don’t think you can get more exclusive than that.

Jews and Christians have fought philosophically and theologically for centuries. That covers most of the monotheistic religions. But even the polytheistic ones, like Hinduism, Buddhism, and others don’t mix well with Christians. Nobody wants to be all-inclusive.

There’s a philosophical reason for this. The claims of each religion are exclusive to that religion. That’s why another exclusive religion can’t join your exclusive religion. This is why we have words like “convert.”

One of the best ways I’ve heard to reach out to others, especially with evangelistic intention, comes from Ravi Zacharias. He contends that there is a four-part approach to dealing with religions. Every religion must answer four key questions, those of

  1. Origin
  2. Meaning
  3. Morality
  4. Destiny

These all encompass, along with other tests, a worldview. A worldview is how we understand the world around us. But if the worldview doesn’t make sense, then life will not make sense. The challenge for every religion is to make the world make sense according to its tenets.

When we talk to others about religion, we must be kind and speak out of love. But there is also the truth. We must find a way to speak the truth in love. It must come across that we speak about religion, especially the hard parts, because we love that person and want to see them end up in heaven.

But because there are so many competing, exclusive views in religion, there must be a right one and wrong ones. They cannot all be right and all contradict one another. It’s a tall order to figure out which one is the right one.

But it isn’t subjective. The idea, “That religion works for you but it doesn’t work for me,” doesn’t make any sense. If it is true, it works for everyone. We must find a way to lovingly ask the hard questions of our friends in different religions.

There are questions that will anger and turn people of other religions off. Find an approach that doesn’t make them angry but makes them think. One of the most popular ways to approach it is from Evangelism Explosion.

It asks two questions.

  1. Ask, “If you died today, do you believe you would be in heaven and why?”
  2. Have you ever broken God’s laws? Take an example from the Ten Commandments. Ask them if they’ve broken it. This prevents the, “I’m a good person” approach from them.

I would add that one of the most important distinctions to make is that being a good person and doing all of the right things doesn’t get you to heaven. It’s not about what you do; it’s about who you know. Doing good things will never be good enough. Knowing Jesus is all it takes.

But the very best way to talk to others about their faith is to tell them you are curious and want to know more about their religion. People often want to share. Then talk about your religion. The groundwork before you speak to others must be a life that demonstrates the love and truth of Christianity. If they don’t see a difference in you, they won’t see why Jesus matters.

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