[Babylon 5]

Nathan Mates' Christian Pages

"If you believe this, don't buy Swampland (err, Real Estate) in Florida!"

[Originally published in the November 12, 1996 issue of The Fishline by The Caltech Christian Fellowship.]

Next time you're at a grocery store, try looking around for some Orange Juice. There's a rack of jugs and 2-quart cartons with either yellow/orange liquids inside, and maybe even pictures of a real orange on the outside. Are these all the same? Not at the stores I've visited-- there's the real stuff down to "10% juice" and even "FD&C artificial yellow #6502." All it takes is a few seconds of looking at the label to tell that despite the initial appearances being the same, what they're trying to sell you is radically different inside.

Other than the fact that we're thankful for laws regarding truth in advertising and disclosure of ingredients in the supermarket, what's this demonstrate? Hopefully that with a little knowledge of what's really inside things, intelligent and mature people can tell the difference between things.

Now, switch to a larger perspective. The US and the old USSR (not gonna get a RIP from me, just a 'Thank God it's dead' :) both have laws against murder, traffic laws, and other things to govern how the people behave. So, the US democratic system is the same as the Ruskie socialist/commie system? Heck no. It's not the laws that determine whether political systems are alike, it's how they behave in a lot more matters.

So, laws and initial appearances are no way to judge Orange Juice or political systems apart. Fine. Then don't judge religions the same way either.

This is not rocket science, so why should I even have to bring this up? Because the enemy is enjoying a lot of success spreading the utter lie that "All religions are the same, go do and believe whatever you want, and you'll still end up in heaven." [Well, where you'd end up might be the next best thing to heaven to the ones who started this crud, but it ain't the real thing.]

As I mentioned earlier, similar laws don't necessarily make a political system identical to another. However, some try and get away with the line of "All religions basically tell you to be a nice person, so they're all equally valid." Yay. And Hitler was really kind to his pet dogs, but that's not going to get him anywhere near the pearly gates.

The usual response of "you're just some bigot if you try to point out the many places1 in the Bible that say the only way to God and heaven is by accepting Jesus as your lord and savior" is a cop-out on their part. The Bible is very clear on the point that Jesus died for our sins, and that accepting him into your life is the way to Heaven. Ignore this at your own peril.

Some more tricky types will try and pull out the line of "it's not just the moral code, there's also a bunch of stories that are similar between the Old Testament (especially Genesis) and other Mesopotanian and Middle East religions, so they're the same." Fine, so look at the results of those other religions. Noah's neighbors forgot their cruise liner tickets. Sodom and Gomorrah got nuked.

Or, look at the independent historical writings as discovered by Archaeologists. Tossing a firstborn child off the city walls to their death, or into a furnace (the type Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego didn't get baked in), and all other sorts of nasty behavior were practiced by adherents of these other religions. Suuuure Judaism was the same as the other religions that had similar stories. To call those other religions the same is once again to put on a blindfold to the truth and the facts.

Some other religions of the 1st centuries (BC and AD) waited for messiahs, and had stories of resurrection. Great, but Jesus was the real thing, not some knockoff. Fact is, the tomb was empty.2 Jesus died, Jesus was raised from the dead, and Jesus appeared to lots of others. And with a bit of prayer, he'll enter your life, something no other religion can even get close to.

Ok, enough examples of similarities you might hear from others. If you're going to demolish these types, how about some differences? First, some easy differences. Unlike Hinduism, Buddhism and a few other oddball religions, there's no cycle of endless reincarnation. The Bible's real clear on the fact that you die physically once3, and then spend eternity with or without God, depending on whether you were that way in your first life.

Next is faith vs works. Almost all other religions put the emphasis on works. "Sacrifice X if you did Y, pray Z times a day to A, help granny cross the street, follow list of laws B-M, on holy day N do actions O-S, etc." are the hallmark of most other religions. Hopefully, they're nice works that don't hurt anyone else.

But, Christianity is different. There's a gap between ourselves and God that's permanent and unbridgable by works. God sent his son down to Earth to heal, preach, cast out demons, wash people's feet, and die for our sins. God personally reached out and bridged the gap. Sure, we're sinners and deserve to die, but God has something better: an offer of free grace and salvation, should you *choose* to accept it, by faith. Nobody else can even come close to this at all. Why? they can't touch the real thing.

If you read the Bible, you'll start noticing even more wonderful, unique, and _personally relevant_ sections. That's yet another thing that the "go do whatever you want" types can't deal with either-- the millions of people who've had their lives personally and profoundly changed for the better after accepting Christ into their lives.

Thus, if you believe the line about "all religions are the same," as I noted before, don't buy any swampland in Florida, the Brooklyn Bridge is not for sale, and the word 'gullible' is in the dictionary, despite what people say. However, you've got a few scales over your eyes that need to be lifted.

Nathan Mates

[1] Romans 10:9, John 14:6, plenty of other places.

[2] I might go into this more often later, but consider this: the High Priests and company had Jesus crucified. They would have loved to ridicule the disciples and the early Church if they could have produced a body, but neither they or anyone else could. There's also the testimony of the gospels and rest of the New Testament, which is good reading material also.

[3] Unless you're Enoch, Elijah, or one of the lucky bunch in a rapture.

See more Christian writings by Nathan Mates at http://www.matesfamily.org/xtian/index.html