What makes Christianity different?
By Joel Lindsey
All religions are basically the same, right? How could Christianity be any different?
No matter how each religion gets there, the end result is usually the same: there is a higher power or force of some kind; human life is valuable; peace is better than violence; something happens after we die; and so on. There may be some contradictions in the details, but most religions hold these same general truths.
Many world religions have a creation story, a flood story, a rescued-people story, and so forth. There’s also usually some kind of key person in each religion. Imperfect as people are, each religion presents the case for at least one person who “did it right.” This person is the model; everyone else is supposed to strive to become like them. In fact, each major world religion is even similar in the fact that it declares itself unique in some way.
So how could Christianity really be much different from other religions?
Well, the radical claims of Christianity truly do set it apart. Because of these bizarre claims, Christianity can be viewed as either ridiculously unbelievable or something to be seriously considered.
As the famous atheist-turned-Christian C. S. Lewis once stated: “Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”1
The Claims of the Leader
The primary difference between Christianity and all other religions is rooted in the differences between Jesus and other religious leaders.
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Almost no one denies that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who lived two thousand years ago, so the issue is not about Jesus’ existence. We must look at what Jesus claimed, for it is his claims that ignite debates about him.
Unlike other spiritual leaders, Jesus openly declared that he was one with God, according to the earliest Christian writers.2 To see him, Jesus said, is to see God the Father.3 Jesus went about forgiving sins4—something only God could do—performing miracles,5 and healing the sick.6
For these and other reasons, the earliest followers of Jesus began to think of him as more than a human being. They began to believe his claim of divinity, and these Jesus-followers began to maintain that he was indeed God in the flesh.7
Those of other (or no) faiths may accept that Jesus was a good man, a wise prophet, and even that he died at the hands of his enemies. Only Christians, however, believe that Jesus was not only good and wise but also fully human and fully divine. These beliefs were reinforced by the reports of his resurrection. Thus, Christians today are convinced that Jesus’ life and claims have cosmic implications…