“A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”
The most effective arguments are often simple.
If your point is non-threatening, or general (or maybe even a bit dull), it lends credence to its validity. We expect truth to be both predictable, and boring.
The notion that “All religions are basically the same” carries a drab logic that all by itself, persuades a person not to look a whole lot further into the matter. We’re pretty confident that all religions teach essentially the same things (though fanatics sometimes blur the lines): love, charity, worship. Give or take a few distinctive rites, and that’s basically the building blocks of every major religion.
To some degree, this is true. The tenets of most religions do hold to similar exhortations of justice, mercy, kindness and provision for the poor. That’s pretty powerful evidence of a divine common grace influencing the thinking of men.
As a kid, I was satisfied to accept that Jesus and Buddha and Allah were probably the same guy with a different name, and that was good enough for me.
Until I came face-to-face with the problem of Easter.
The secularized Easter bears the earmarks of the pagan German/Anglo-Saxon spring celebrations by which we come to the peculiar practice of oversized rabbits leaving colored eggs for small children, symbolic of new life and fertility.
However, contrary to popular belief, the origins of both the word ‘Easter’ and the dates by which it’s celebrated (the Sunday following the Jewish Passover) are of strictly biblical origin. Easter was derived first from the Latin word alba, the source of the term for daybreak or dawn in many Romance languagues. It was later translated as ‘eostarum’ and further Anglicized to the familiar Easter.
Despite the confusion wrought by bunnies and eggs (rabbits do not, in fact, lay eggs), Easter is explosively relevant with enormously important implications.
The resurrection of Jesus is the single most important event in human history. All of Christianity hinges on the open door to an empty tomb, and that is no overstatement.
These are the stunning claims of Easter: an obscure middle-eastern Jewish rabbi with attested power to heal the sick and even raise the dead, became enormously popular in a backwater Roman province during the reign of Caesar Augustus. The afflicted sought him out and the lost followed him. The man’s influence provoked murderous jealousy in his contemporaries, along with wild claims to be the son of Yahweh.
Then Jesus came back from the dead to prove it.
This sets Christianity apart entirely from every other world religion. Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianis, and other eastern mystical traditions contain focuses on ridding ourselves of the desire material gain. But there is no redemption for sin, only constant striving in the hopes that one day there might be peace. None founders of such traditions claimed divinity. When they died, they stayed dead.
Islam focuses on ordinances of worships and adherents meticulously strive to keep the laws of the Quran with the hope of salvation yet unrealized. While Islam was established, spread and maintained at the edge of a sword, it was born of one man’s desire for universal peace, and to escape the corruption of the religious atmosphere of the day.
Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith, Wayne County’s founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, claimed their visions and conversations with God were visible and audible to no one else and gave them alone the secrets of truth. There are parallels there between Islam and Church of Latter-Day Saints — but all Muslim and Mormon patriarchs remain dead to this day.
Judaism is the foundation of Christianity. It was the chosen instrument by which God would reveal his plans throughout history; its ancient texts unchanged in their translation today as when they were originally penned. The reader who finds centuries of time between dozens of writers is surprised to note the unmistakable flow of singular authorship which speaks to a divine inspiration.
The prophets of Judaism made remarkable predictions of both Jewish and world events. Nevertheless, the Hebrew prophets and judges lie still where they were buried.
Preceding their deaths, however, they made clear predictions that one day, there would be a Jewish prophet who would defeat death and atone for the sins of the whole world.
While other religions follow the teachings of their deceased founders, Christians follow a living savior. It is belief married to history. Jesus not only rose from death, but he stayed with us for over a month and was reportedly seen by more than 500 people before asecnding heaven with a promise that one day, He would return.
Christianity is set apart from every other major religion by this one remarkable event: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, who died to pay the sin debt of the entire world, rose from death to demonstrate His power over it, so that we might believe and be saved. Thank God that once in a while, the truth can be rather sensational.
Brooke Demott is a freelance writer from the town of Oswego who regularly contributes to The Palladium-Times on topics of family, worship and faith. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.