I sometimes get emails with various objections. To clear up the matter, here are my views ...
A brief summary of various world religions from a Christian perspective.
Hinduism | Hari Krishna Movement | Islam (Muslim) | Sikhism | Buddhism | Zen Buddhism | Taoism | Transcendental Meditation | False Jesus Movements | Astrology | Trance Channeling | Shamanism | Mormonism | Unitarianism | Jehovah's Witnesses | Christian Science | Judaism | New Age Movement | Catholicism | Christianity
A few Catholic quotes . . .
All the major world religions express a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over . . . the events of human history. (Vatican II)
The Catholic Church . . .
We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. (Vatican II).
At the end of each section, I include the Catholic view of the "goodness and truth" expressed by each religion.
Hinduism is an ancient religion originating in India. Since the 1960's (and even before that) Hindu spiritual thought has influenced Western culture, especially in the form of the New Age Movement.
Hindus believe in reincarnation, the idea that after death each person will be reborn again as a human or even as an animal. The kind of creature we become in a future life depends on our actions while in this life. Thus, each successive life builds in some way upon our past lives.
I have a nagging question about this. Upon reflection, it seems we can't remember our past lives. As a consequence of this, the lessons we learned in previous lives can not be applied to this life. What is the point of continually being reborn over and over if we can't remember and learn from the mistakes we made in our past lives?
Hindus believe in karma, the idea that good actions beget good, and bad actions beget bad. When we do a good action we get good karma, and when we do a bad action we get bad karma.
I have a nagging question about this. There is a curious circularity to all this. According to Hindu teaching, the reason we do good actions is because of the good karma we were born with, and the reason we do bad actions is because of the bad karma we were born with. Thus, our actions in this life are predetermined by our actions in a previous life. Where did it all begin? And what hope can we have of ever improving?
Hindus believe we are reborn into a form of life which expresses the karma from our past lives. If we have a lot of bad karma, we will be reborn as a bad person, or even as an animal. But if we have a lot of good karma, we will be born as a person in one of the higher castes. Hinduism has a caste system in which people are consigned to a caste, or role, in society for their entire lives based on the caste into which they were born. In recent decades, the caste system is in the process of being abolished.
Hinduism has many flavors and varieties. Thus, Hinduism is simultaneously monotheistic (one personal God), polytheistic (many gods), and pantheistic (all is God). (I should note that Hindus probably wouldn't express their religious beliefs in these Western terms).
Some Hindus are polytheistic and worship many gods. These gods are often thought of as personified expressions of the one reality. Hindus often have altars to a variety of gods in their homes, and each family has its favorite gods which they worship. Typically, polytheistic Hindus also acknowledge some sort of Supreme Being which is above these gods. This Supreme Being is by nature unknowable, and so they must instead relate to the lower gods, which are more accessible to humans.
Some Hindus are pantheistic, which means that they believe that all is God; that God is within all things; that God is inseparable from the universe. It is this aspect of Hinduism which has strongly influenced the New Age Movement.
There are a variety of sects in Hinduism. One of these is the Hari Krishna movement which was made popular in the west by the involvement of George Harrison, a member of the famous rock band, the Beatles. There are also ascetic groups of yogis who practice extreme forms of yoga. Their goal is to "short circuit" the normal process of rebirth after rebirth by energizing the spiritual energy circuits of the body. In so doing they believe they will become "liberated" or "enlightened." Yoga has become popular in the west and there are many varieties of pop yoga.
Another aspect of Hinduism is the belief that once in a while an "avatar," or incarnation, of God comes into the world to teach fallen humanity the path of enlightenment. There are many historical and mythical characters who are considered to be avatars. Even Jesus is considered by some Hindus to be one of these avatars (but they reject and change his teachings to suit their worldview.)
Some sects of Hinduism use mantras as an aid to spiritual advancement. Mantras are words and phrases spoken or chanted over and over again. These words and phrases are considered to have spiritual power.
The goal of Hinduism is to attain "enlightenment." This final state of being is similar to that of Buddhism.
Much of the New Age spiritual practice of modern western society is based on the worldview of Hinduism.
I should note that many New Age devotees do not seem to consider the paradoxes in this worldview. These include (1) contradictory concepts of God (already noted above), and (2) the low regard for human life. Regarding point (2), humans are given no special consideration over animals, since animals will some day become humans, and humans could one day become animals. Thus, the cattle which roam the villages could be your ancestors.
Hindus who know about Jesus Christ generally regard him as either (1) a myth; (2) a great teacher (but they reject the Christian view of his teachings); or (3) an avatar. In any case, they would not consider him to be what he claimed to be; "the way, the truth, and the life."
According to Vatican II, the most recent Council of the Catholic Church, in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust.
The Hari Krishna Movement is sect of Hinduism in which Krishna is considered to be an "avatar." Through devotion to Krishna, the devotee can attain enlightenment. Those with perfect devotion to Krishna will attain enlightenment in this life (but this is rare). Most devotees of Krishna expect to be reborn again in a higher state of life, as a result of the good karma which results from their devotion.
Devotees of Krishna sing mantras, dance, and eat food which has been offered to various Hindu gods and to Krishna. They have altars in their temples with various statues and images of these gods.
Centuries after the time of Jesus, a visionary from Arabia named Mohammad had visions prompting him to establish the religion of Islam. He considered himself a prophet of Allah (God). Islam has elements in common with the tribal religions of Arabia, with Judaism, and with Christianity.
In our current era of peace and tolerance, most followers of Islam would claim that Islam is a religion of peace. But unfortunately, in our modern era, there are radical Islamic groups that practice violence in their attempt to forcibly convert the world to Islam. It should be noted that these radical Islamic fundamentalists claim to base their violence on passages in the Islamic scriptures (Koran) which speak of jihad and violence. But in reviewing these many passages, I can not find a single passage in which unprovoked violence is taught. The passages all seem to be in the context of defending one's life and religion after being attacked by others. The two most incriminating passages I could find in the Koran are: All who are not Islamic are enemies of God and should be killed in jihads and Fight those who do not believe in Allah . . . nor follow the religion of truth. But these passages do not say that the fighting and jihads are justified when unprovoked.
Allah is the God of Islam. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all monotheistic (one God) religions, but there are significant differences. Typically, Muslims don't know for sure if they will be allowed into heaven after they die. The best they can do is to increase their chances by faithfully reciting their daily prayers, by living as good Muslims, and by making a pilgrimage to Mecca. In Christianity, however, God is merciful and will forgive those who are truly repentant.
There are mystical sects of Islam such as Sufism (Sufi). The modern New Age Movement has incorporated some of these mystical ideas.
Islam regards Jesus as a prophet of God, but is not true to the historical account of Abraham and his lineage given in the Bible. In the Bible, Abraham's son Isaac received the promise that the Messiah would come through his lineage, and Abraham's other son, Ishmael, would also become a great nation (but a contentious nation). However, Islam switches this around and makes Ishmael the son who received the blessing. But both religions agree that Ishmael left home as a young man and traveled east to Arabia to become the progenitor of the Islamic peoples.
According to Vatican II, the most recent Council of the Catholic Church, Muslims "adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees. . . . Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, . . . they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all [, and] . . . they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting."
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 841, the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us [Catholics] they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.
If you are a Sikh please read my open letter to Sikhs.
Sikhism is a very beautiful and inspiring religion. The Sikh scripture (Siri Guru Granth Sahib) contains devotional and inspirational writings by many holy men.
Sikhism contains elements of Hinduism and Islam (but it is not Hinduism or Islam). A simple search of the following words from the Sikh scripture (Siri Guru Granth Sahib) highlights these elements — Vishnu, Brahma, Vedas, Shiva, Krishna, Karma, Reincarnation, Allah, Mullah, Koran, Mosque; and many more.
Sikhs have endured severe persecution at various stages of their history (as have Christians and Muslims) and there have been many courageous heroes of the faith. Many Sikhs have given their lives for others, even those of different faiths. Sikhs feed the poor in their community meals (langar).
Sikhism was founded by a succession of 10 men (called Gurus). The 10th Guru declared the Sikh scripture (Siri Guru Granth Sahib) as the final Guru and that there would be no more human Sikh Gurus.
Sikhs bow before their scripture in reverence; they read it during church services (Gurdwara) and at other times; and they memorize sections which they recite daily, much as Muslims recite their daily prayers. The Sikh scripture contains writings by the founders of Sikhism as well as a few Muslim holy men.
Sikhism teaches that a person can become "liberated" by following the teaching of the Gurus in the company of the holy. The goal of Sikhism is for the Sikh to ultimately end the cycle of death and rebirth, much the same as in Hinduism. The way to accomplish this is unclear — there are many references in the Sikh scripture to reciting the name of God and to living in the company of the saints.
I should note that the Sikh scripture contains contradictory ideas about the nature of God. For example, it seems to teach simultaneously (1) that there is One God, a personal God; (2) that there are many Gods; (3) that all is God (pantheism); and (4) that the Self within each one of us is God. Quotations from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib:
That being said, I should note that there is a strong emphasis on the One, Holy, True, Creator-God.
Some Sikhs believe that the concepts of God, faith, salvation, etc. in other religions are compatible with Sikhism; that different religions merely have different names for the same concepts. However, the concept of God and his attributes in Sikhism, Islam, and Christianity are quite different. Would a Sikh agree that God is a Trinity (as in Christianity) and that Jesus Christ is deity and the one unique savior of the world?
Sikhs who know about Jesus Christ regard him as merely another prophet much as Muslims do. However, the Sikh scripture (Siri Guru Granth Sahib) states that the Bible is true:
Do not say that the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran are false.
Practice within your heart the teachings of the Koran and the Bible.
However, the teachings of the Bible contradict the teachings of Sikhism. How can two contradictory teachings both be true?
Open Letter to Sikhs
I have been to Gurdwara many times and have always felt welcomed. I have read the entire Siri Guru Granth Sahib several times. I regularly listen to Gurbani Kirtan. I can recite Jap Ji in Gurmukhi from memory.
My passion is to know and follow the Truth wherever it leads. I have been involved with eastern religious teaching (Hinduism, Buddhism) as well as Sikhism. But several things about these systems troubled me:
In resolving these difficulties I ultimately became a Christian. As a Christian I believe that the teachings of Jesus and his apostles are trustworthy and true and that these teachings (when followed in faith) lead to ultimate eternal union with God. However, I believe that many non-Christians will also enjoy this eternal union with God.
Many non-Christians claim to believe and accept the teachings of Jesus and the Bible but in spite of this they misrepresent these teachings. They typically teach that Jesus taught that all faiths are equal and that all religious systems lead to God. But these claims are simply false; Jesus did not teach these things. He clearly taught that he is uniquely deity in a way no other person ever was or ever will be; that our sin nature and resulting sins require his intervention; and that certain concepts about reality are simply false.
It is not my goal to convert Sikhs to Christianity, merely to present Truth. If I have made errors in my articles I will correct them.
A visionary named Gautama Buddha who was the son of a rich nobleman was sheltered by his parents from seeing any of life's hardships such as poverty, disease, and human suffering. One day he wandered away and observed these things, and was deeply moved. He developed a program of "right living" and traveled around teaching. He taught reincarnation and karma and developed a way for humans to escape the cycle of death and rebirth. Those who manage to do this become "Buddhas" and become "enlightened." This means that upon death, they lose their individuality and become absorbed in the "One Mind." However, Buddhas can somehow choose to defer this final merging and instead live in a spiritual realm where they assist others in their quest of becoming Buddhas.
Since Buddhism is an oriental religion, most Buddhists don't really have any exposure to Christianity. Those who do would consider Jesus Christ to be either a teacher or a Buddha. Jesus, however, did not teach that the goal of life is to lose our identity and merge into the "One Mind." If Jesus was a Buddha, he certainly was not a very good one since he got the teachings all wrong. Jesus Christ taught that after death we retain our individual identity and that, in addition, we will all one day receive a resurrected body (the same kind of body Jesus received when he was raised from the dead).
In contrasting the teachings of the Buddha with the teachings of Jesus Christ it is clear that either Buddha is wrong or Jesus is wrong — they can not both be simultaneously true. I believe Buddha was wrong and Jesus is who he claimed to be — the One God incarnate who died on the cross to save a fallen world. The Buddha died from eating poisonous mushrooms and he's still physically dead, but Jesus sacrificed his life in our place on the cross and was raised from the dead in a resurrected body three days later.
The modern New Age Movement borrows heavily from Buddhist teaching and philosophy.
According to Vatican II, the most recent Council of the Catholic Church, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination.
Zen Buddhism is a sect of Buddhism focusing on a strict ascetic lifestyle and long, intense periods of motionless meditation. The objective of Zen meditation is to still the mind. Zen Buddhists believe that the thoughts of the mind disrupt the experience of "One Mind." During meditation, the practitioner attempts to cause thoughts to cease.
An obvious problem with all of this is that the human mind wasn't designed to cease thinking, so Zen Buddhists have resorted to pondering clever paradoxical questions such as "what is the sound of one hand clapping." The Zen practitioner is supposed to respond with a spiritual-sounding, clever, and deeply intuitive response. The TV series "Kung Fu" illustrated this idea in practice. In emphasizing these verbal gymnastics, some modern self improvement movements, such as EST (now called the Forum) emphasize (1) students should never be intimidated in any situation, but (2) should always have a spiritual-sounding verbal comeback for every situation.
There have been various western philosophical systems by such men as Alan Watts and Werner Erhard (EST, the Forum) inspired by Zen Buddhism.
Zen Buddhism is thought by many to be a beneficial spiritual path, but few would want to submit themselves to the ascetic lifestyle and meditation of a Zen monastery. In spite of this, Zen philosophy has had a strong influence on the modern New Age Movement.
The principle of duality, of opposites, of the Yin and Yang (male and female) comes from Taoism. It is fashionable to use the word "Tao" (pronounced daow) to refer to the interconnectedness of all things. The book "The Tao of Physics" tries to take some of the oddities which have been discovered in the science of physics and quantum mechanics and to super-spiritualize it by attaching metaphysical-sounding descriptions of these physical phenomena.
A Hindu Guru named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi came to America teaching a form of meditation he called Transcendental Meditation (TM). To each of his followers he gave out a "secret" mantra which they would mentally repeat for 20 minutes a day. But it turns out that many people got the same secret mantra.
Transcendental meditation is a variety of Hinduism packaged for use by Westerners.
It is common for devotees of various spiritual movements to claim Jesus taught whatever it is that they believe. Some have even fabricated the story that Jesus went to India and the Himalayas, and became a yoga master. However, everybody who claims Jesus is their great teacher makes the same error — they ignore, twist, and distort the teachings Jesus handed down to his disciples.
For example, some people claim Jesus taught he is merely one way of many ways, but Jesus actually taught "no man comes to the Father but by me [Jesus]." Some people claim Jesus was a mere man who merely possessed the "Christ consciousness," and that many before and after him also possessed this "Christ consciousness," and that we can also possess this "Christ consciousness." However, Jesus did not teach this. He was a Jew, and his teaching was based on Old Testament Jewish concepts of God and salvation. In fact, the Greek word "Christ" is the Hebrew word "Messiah," and there is only one Messiah. We can't become Messiahs. Only God can become incarnated as the Messiah.
People who make Jesus out to be something that he isn't are fooling themselves and those they teach.
The daily horoscope in the newspaper is the tip of the iceberg of this religious system. People who are deeply involved with astrology figure out their astrological chart for the moment and the location of their birth, then they can figure out for any day of their life what kinds of spiritual and life challenges they will face.
The worldview of astrology makes some anti-Biblical assumptions. It claims spirituality is merely a personality trait, and that some people, because of when and where they were born, are interested in spiritual things while other people aren't inclined to be spiritual. However, according to the Bible, all people are equally spiritual. Also, astrology assumes the position of the planets, the sun, and the moon at the moment of birth determine a person's personality. Astrology assumes the future can be predicted by merely calculating the position of the sun, moon, and stars in relation to the earth. However, the Bible teaches that the Lord is sovereign and controls all events on earth.
Read more about Astrology
In New Age circles today there is a phenomena called trace channeling. The channeler goes into a trance state and another being possesses his or her body and speaks through it. I've been to a couple of trance channeling sessions and I must say they were eerie. The channeler's personality changed as well as their voice and mannerisms.
Trance Channelers claim they are allowing some "higher" being from the past, from another dimension, or even from another galaxy to speak through them. Some channelers write in a trance instead of speaking; the Seth books and the Urantia books were written this way. Edgar Casey was a trance channeler.
The Bible clearly condemns allowing spirits to possess you. This is because the beings who possess you are fallen, demonic spirits.
Native American Indians have a spirituality called Shamanism. A "priest" (the Shaman) obtains spiritual powers through drugs or through spiritual practices which are often physically demanding. Common drugs used are peyote and magic mushrooms. Through the use of drugs the Shaman makes contact with "spirit" guides who impart spiritual power. I should mention that not all Shamans utilize drugs.
One of the spiritual practices used to gain spiritual powers is the "vision quest." The Shaman digs a hole in the ground and sits in it without food or water for weeks until he has an encounter with his spirit guide. Another practice involves being speared through the muscles near the clavicles and being hung in the air until the flesh rips out. Shamans often go into trances similar to those who do Trance Channeling.
The whole focus of life for a Shaman is to encounter spirit guides. But these spirit guides are not all holy; rather some may be what the Bible calls "demons." Shamanism is really just a form of Sorcery and this is condemned by the Bible.
The church of the Mormons is named the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). They claim (1) the Bible is incomplete with many errors, and (2) their founder Joseph Smith was supernaturally given the "true" gospel which he wrote down. Thus, Mormons consider their church to be "true" Christianity with "true" Christian doctrine and belief. They believe we have no trustworthy historical record of what Jesus and the apostles taught and that the historical Christian church was corrupted before anything was written down so that all the writings of the early church fathers and the New Testament are untrustworthy (unless properly interpreted via the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).
It is clear that the doctrines and practices of the historical Christian church have little in common with Mormonism. Many of the key terms used in Christianity have different meanings when used by Mormons. In addition, the key Christian doctrines are radically modified in Mormonism. Because of this, many Christians think Mormonism is not a Christian church at all because it does not have historical, dogmatic, or traditional continuity with the historical Christian church. I suppose the question of whether Mormonism is Christian at all depends on your definition of the word "Christian".
I applaud the high moral standards emphasized in Mormonism.
Mormon evangelists often speak using words and phrases from the Bible, but they give them different meanings than the commonly accepted meanings of Christians.
Mormonism cannot easily be proven as untrue because it is disconnected from historical and archaeological facts. In other words, there is no archaeological discovery which could ever be made which would disprove Mormonism; there is an explanation given for every objection put forth against Mormonism. Mormonism reminds me of Scientology in a way: Scientology is based on a science-fiction story from L. Ron Hubbard which is believed as "true" and Mormonism is based on a story presented by its founder Joseph Smith. Neither of these stories can be proved or disproved; they are not grounded in verifiable, historical fact.
Mormonism reminds me of Islam in that both are based exclusively on the writings of their founders and both claim to be based on the proper understanding of the Bible (assuming, of course, they have the true and correct interpretation of the Bible). Both Islam and Mormonism have concepts of God and the afterlife radically different than those of the historical Christian church.
In Mormon teaching, the only people who can attain (via exaltation) to the highest heaven (called the "celestial kingdom"), are those (1) who are members of the Mormon church in good standing, and (2) who tithe 10 percent of their gross income.
Another troubling teaching of Mormonism is that Mormons hope to reach a state of "exaltation" in which they become a God. They teach Jesus Christ is merely a man who became "exalted" and became a God. Once they become exalted beings, Mormons believe they become the God of their own planet. This is certainly not what the Bible teaches.
Some Mormons send their kids off for 2 years to become missionaries when they are 19. They go around the neighborhoods 2-by-2 wearing white shirts and a tie. They call themselves elder so and so, and often travel on bicycles. They are usually sent far away from home as missionaries. But to their credit, these missionaries, and Mormons in general, come across as being very clean-cut and polite, and have high moral standards.
A serious problem with Mormonism is the historical and archaeological contradictions. Mormons claim their religion has a basis in history. But, according to the Smithsonian Institute and the National Geographic Society, there is not a single bit of historical evidence that the accounts of the events contained in the book of Mormon ever happened. For example, the Mormon history includes references to steel swords but a steel sword has never been discovered.
Mormon claims and my comments...
|Mormons say...||The truth...|
|Apostolic teaching became corrupted in the first generation after the apostles died||This is false. From studying the New Testament, the writings of the early church fathers, and secular historians we see a continuity of essential Christian teaching which, by the way, doesn't match Mormon teaching at all|
|The Bible has been corrupted and mistranslated. The LDS church has corrected the errors||This is false. The writings of the early church fathers contain large quantities of biblical quotations which match the modern New Testament translations|
|The book of Mormon is historically accurate||This is false. There is no evidence of the events described|
|LDS is the church Jesus established||This is false. Why would Jesus come to earth, establish a church via apostolic teaching and the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost only to have it fall into apostacy for 1,900 years?|
Some people think this church is a Christian church. But most Unitarians don't believe the Bible and they don't believe what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ.
The Watchtower organization of Jehovah's Witnesses claims to be a Christian movement. While they claim to believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, they have rejected the teachings of the historic Christian church. Individual Jehovah's Witnesses typically do not read and study the Bible themselves. Instead, they read materials published by the Watchtower organization.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that only a select group of "prophets" who run the Watchtower organization are capable of understanding and interpreting the Bible. These prophets publish several magazines which Jehovah's Witnesses read and which are passed out by evangelists. I must say that these magazines have some very un-Biblical teachings.
Jehovah's Witnesses must earn their way into heaven by going from door to door as evangelists as they try to convert people. These evangelists have to pay out of their own pockets for the magazines they hand out.
The Christian Science religion is neither Christian nor is it science. Christian Scientists deny the existence of the physical world and deny the reality of sickness. Because of this, they don't go to doctors when they are sick. These views can be deadly.
Christian Scientists have an unbiblical worldview. Their concept of God is totally different than that of Christianity.
Judaism can mean different things depending on which period of history we are discussing. In our modern era, there are Jews who are faithful to the Torah (the Old Testament books written by Moses), as well Jews which are atheists, and everything in between. There are even some Jews who recognize that Jesus Christ was the Messiah (but these are more properly designated as Christians).
Even during the lengthy period in which the Old Testament was being written (up to about 250 BC) there were various Jewish sects. Some of these were the object of rebuke by the various Old Testament prophets. But it was those Jews who recognized the Old Testament as the inerrant, inspired word of God who provided the foundations for Christianity. At the time of Jesus and the early Christian Church, some Jewish sects were rebuked by Jesus (and the writers of the New Testament) for their failure to properly follow God's revealed plan.
The Old Testament records the history of the Jewish people (the Israelites) who at various times became unfaithful to God, and even followed after idols and false gods. On one occasion, God's response to this was to send the Israelites into captivity in Babylon. But they later returned from captivity and again occupied the land that was given to them by God. However, they again turned away from their God and began to follow a religion devised by the rabbis instead of following the traditions of the Old Testament. By the time of Jesus Christ, many Jews were practicing this corrupted version of Judaism.
Jesus Christ was born in a Jewish culture and he was, himself, Jewish. He was the promised Messiah and he fulfilled hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament. He attempted to teach the unfaithful Jews the error of their ways, but they rejected him as their long-awaited Messiah which resulted in his death. Soon after this, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple as predicted by the Old Testament and by Jesus himself, and the Jews were dispersed.
Today most Jews are no longer practicing the religion of the Old Testament — they are practicing a religion which has come from various traditions. But some Jews of today are beginning to realize that Jesus Christ was, indeed, the Messiah. These Jews are called Messianic Jews and are really Christians who keep their Jewish culture but who accept the New Testament as God's revealed word. These Messianic Jews, as well as Christians, believe that both the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible are God's revealed word.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 839 & 840, the Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. . . . When one considers the future, God's People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God [Christians] tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one [the Christian,] awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other [the Jew,] awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting [by the Jews] is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.
Our whole society is immersed in "New Age" ideas and practices. The New Age Movement is a curious blend of Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Zen Buddhism and Shamanism. It ranges from seeking extra-terrestrial contact with super-evolved "space brothers," to involvement with trance channeling, astrology, sorcery, witchcraft and much, much more. Almost anything goes in the New Age Movement. The only thing which is actually excluded is historical Christianity because it is considered too old-fashioned and narrow-minded for the modern spiritual thinker.
New Age practitioners sometimes consider themselves to be as "gods" and they seek some form of enlightenment through self-realization. There is an emphasis on loving one another and of being nonjudgmental. Some even blend in environmental concerns and a few even consider the planet earth to be alive and to be their "mother." The whole universe, and particularly the earth, is considered to be one organic being of which we are all a part and in which we all share.
The books in the New Testament of the Bible tell the story of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and of the early years of the Christian Church. These events were a continuation of God's plan of redemption which He revealed to His chosen people, the Jews. The books of the Old Testament contain amazing prophecies about a Messiah (Christ) who would come from heaven to earth and redeem all who were willing to repent from their sins.
Jesus selected 12 disciples, later called Apostles, and he commissioned them to start a church on his behalf. After the death and miraculous resurrection of Jesus, the Apostles were empowered by the Holy Spirit to teach the faith boldly, to preserve it from heresy, and to pass it on to subsequent generations. Thus, the Church was born. Within a few decades, this church was referred to as the "Catholic" (universal) Church.
Over time, as the church was plagued by various heretical movements, the church leaders (now called Bishops, Priests, and Deacons) held Church Councils to address these problems. These councils defined and defended the faith which was passed on to them from their predecessors. The various Christian doctrines slowly became more and more clear over the centuries (via Doctrinal Development).
Jesus singled out Peter, the leader of the Apostles, for a special role of leadership which was to be passed on from generation to generation. Over time, this developed into the Papacy (Pope). The Pope was (1) to oversee the Bishops, and (2) to preserve and protect the Christian faith. Over the course of time, the Papacy grew in influence until it was equal in power to the secular rulers. But the power of the Catholic Church over human affairs eventually unraveled.
In the early 1500's A.D. there was a violent schism known as the Protestant Reformation in which various "reformers" including Martin Luther, John Calvin, and King Henry VIII, radically changed Christian doctrine, teaching, and practice. To this day, the Christian religion is divided, but the Catholic Church claims to maintain the fullness of the faith and the continuity from the Apostolic era. In looking at the writings of the Early Church Fathers, we see that the early Church had Catholic elements from the very beginning but there were many developments over time, often in response to heresy.
All of the Catholic doctrines have their roots in the in writings of the Apostles of Jesus (the New Testament). Over several centuries, these writings were determined by the Church in various church councils to be authoritative and inspired by God. The process of determining the Canon of Scripture involved (1) collecting together the various documents which were in circulation, (2) determining which documents accurately taught the faith which had been handed down from Jesus and the Apostles, (3) rejecting those documents which were heretical, and (4) giving this list of books an authoritative stamp of approval. We now call these writings the New Testament canon of scripture.
It took hundreds of years before the canon was finally determined. Before that time, Christians learned their faith from oral tradition, from the liturgy in their weekly church meetings, and from teaching by their leaders, who were often Bishops. Even today, the Catholic Church teaches that it is the Bishops in union with the Pope who have the Holy Spirit-empowered duty to preserve and teach the true Christian faith.
I should mention the various anti-Catholic views which are held by the many non-Catholic (Protestant) Christian denominations. Although there is a great variety of opinions about the Catholic Church and whether or not it is the church which Jesus established, Protestants generally teach that Catholics have added many things to the faith found in the Bible. But this view has a few problems.
Some of the doctrines, teachings, and practices of the Catholic Church which are rejected by most Protestants are:
Some of the false claims of Protestant anti-Catholicsagainst the Catholic Church are:
I should mention that I converted to Catholicism from Protestant Fundamentalism.
It has been my observation that many Protestants don't really understand Catholicism and commonly misrepresent its teachings.
There are many Catholics who have a genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and who look to Him as the Savior of their souls. But there are others who, it could be argued, have no such relationship and merely practice their faith out of habit.
Please see the next section (Christianity) for more information.
Christianity is based on:
Christians understand God to be eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, and personal. In Christianity, God is one, but has three centers of personhood (the Trinity). The three persons of the Trinity are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost). Other Christian teachings are:
According to Christian teaching:
This is what the Bible teaches, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and this is what the Christian Church teaches — both Protestant and Catholic. Many people consider that the Bible is just a book of fables and can't be trusted. But there are problems with this idea. For one, the Bible gives a detailed historical account of the time period from the beginning of the earth until just after the time of Jesus. archaeological evidence supports the account given in the Bible in many details. There are no cases in which archaeological evidence contradicts the Bible. In cases where people thought there were contradictions, further research showed that there were no contradictions after all.
Another line of evidence for the Bible is in the area of prophecy. The Bible contains many instances of prophecies of future events. In every case the prophecy has come true. Some of these prophecies are simply amazing. One example is the prophecy in the book of Daniel which gives the exact time from the command to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the coming of Jesus Christ. It was fulfilled perfectly.
Please see the previous section (Catholicism) for more information.