What About All Those Other Religions?
By Daniel Juster

Sometimes I think about the marvelous quality of our faith. The teachings are stupendous. In our faith, the universe is made by a personal and loving God who created us in His image, who gave us freedom, and who sought our rescue even when we used this freedom to choose the way of selfishness. He so loved us that he gave his only Son to die for us. (John 3:16) He loves Israel and all of the nations of the earth. However, He does have a moral standard by which He will judge the nations and individuals who do not repent for their sins and turn back to Him. Indeed, with regard to God's whole plan, He has given us a trustworthy revelation in the Bible. The word love is more prominent in our faith than in any other. It is absent in Islam. We are to love God, our spouses, our brothers and sisters in the Messiah, our neighbors, and our enemies! Why would everyone not want to believe in the faith of the Bible? It would seem that pride and running form God's standards are the major issue. We want to be boss of ourselves.

One day as I was reflecting on this I began to see that many flee the truth through false religion. There are one or perhaps two great lies at the heart of every false religion. Classic major religions did provide some stability in society, but these systems are not solid in core ways. I did significant undergraduate work and masters work in Philosophy of Religion. So here is my little summary of major religious systems in decreasing order of their erroneousness.

We begin with polytheism. The belief in many gods is the one great error of polytheism. These gods often are at odds with each other. One must placate these many gods. To be too favored by one would bring a person into trouble with another god. There are good gods and mean gods. In India there is Krishna and Kali. The Greek stoic philosophers saw the absurdity of this and opted for the view that polytheism was the superstition of the masses. They opted for a more intellectual type of pantheism. Augustine gave the greatest classic refutation of pagan polytheism in his The City of God in the Fifth Century. It is still worth reading. Polytheism is the general view of primitives and of popular Hindusim today. There was a belief in life after death, but the nature of this life was often vague as well.

Then there is the Hinduism of the educated classes of India. The lie of Hinduism in this form is found in the classic statement of the Hindu Scriptures (the Vedas): "That art thou." This means that one's higher self or real self is the same as the identity of God. What can be known of God is really quite vague. This is the view of Shirley McClaine and many Hollywood people. In western popular Hinduism, moral absolutes are missing. Classic Hindu society maintained absolutes, but nothing arises from the Pantheism of Hinduism to give moral absolutes. There were Hindus who began to think of God in more Theistic (Personal God) terms (some say Panentheism). Such Hindus even taught an eternal life for the individual soul. These were a minority. After the cycle of many reincarnations, the soul returns to the ocean of the One Self which it really is. This is another lie. The continued existence of the individual comes to an end. He is of no ultimate worth.

Buddhism presents a different challenge. The original Buddhists were considered atheists by some. They denied the existence of the soul and that anything could be really known about the ultimate nature or existence of God. This is the central lie of Buddhism. Nirvana was simply the state of living death where one could transcend all desire and even consciousness. This was the wrong answer for pain and suffering. Biblical faith teaches us to embrace redemptive suffering. Our quest is not to eliminate suffering in this life. We do seek to relieve and comfort sufferers, but we value life. Many Buddhists could not live in such a stark view and drifted back into more Hindu ideas which is the case of popular Buddhism today. Hinduism is better than Buddhism, and at least had some schools that tended to a personal god.

Confucianism presents us with a system of hierarchy and caste. This is rigidly held so that change, adoption and development are thwarted. The central error in Confucianism is ancestor worship which maintains and is part of a rigid social system. Taoism is an offshoot with more pantheistic ideas, but in many ways still fits the overall pattern of Confucianism.

Islam is monotheistic. God is described as infinite and personal. However, the central lie of Islam is that Ishmael is the chosen son and not Isaac, that Ishmael was offered on the altar by Abraham. This is a whopper of a lie. The second great lie is that Mohammed is the greatest and last prophet. One does not find the love of God in the Koran. After reading this book I can assure you that many texts taken in context do give grounds for the violent jihad we see today. There are other "gentle" texts too, but there is so much error. Bible story after Bible story is twisted. It is amazing to behold. One can not really understand the Koran without the Bible, for the Koran constantly refers to Biblical stories. The big contradiction is found in the many passages that refer to Moses leading Israel out of Egypt and the prophets going to Israel but without success. There is no mention of God delivering the Arabs or sending prophets to the Arabs. How can this be if Ishmael was on the alter instead of Isaac and the Arabs were chosen and not Israel? Is Islam a religion built upon Arab anger and feelings of rejection that go back to Ishmael? In its violence and rejection of the true Biblical account we can understand the terrible battle we fight.

Rabbinic Judaism is closer to the truth than any religion that does not embrace Yeshua. Judaism also speaks of the love of God and love for one another. However, there are two central lies. One is that the oral law of the rabbis was given by Moses. This gives the classical rabbis absolute authority equal to the Bible. This lie leads to the other lie, that Yeshua is not Messiah and Lord. So much good is found in Rabbinic Judaism, for the influence of the Hebrew Bible is great and inspired much wisdom in the traditions of Rabbinic Judaism. Yet this lie has led to legalism and superstition. We do seek to embrace what is good and discard what is not good, in Rabbinic Judaism.

Replacement-Theology Christianity has so much truth. However, saying the Church has replaced Israel or the Jewish people, has caused much pain and distortion. Such a doctrine gave way to the very arrogance against which Paul wrote, in Romans 11. The lack of regard for the place of the Jews, I believe, was a factor in not only persecuting the Jews and anti-Semitism, but also in the arrogance of religious wars and persecution. The Bible is so very clear on both Israel's preservation and restoration. It is an everlasting covenant. Replacement theology is an extraordinary blindness, for the call and covenant with Israel is as clear as any other major doctrine in the Bible.

Israel-Embracing Christianity and Messianic Judaism share the same basic theology. There is no basic error in the mainstream of this faith, though there are fringe groups that teach error due to wrong applications of Jewish roots and demeaning the value of the best traditions of the Church. In this faith we know the love of God but also God's future hope for both Israel and the nations. Keeping in mind the central errors of these other religions will help you maintain clarity when you are witnessing to the many followers of such religions. They all have adherents in Western nations.

In our faith, we serve a Jewish Messiah who is also the Savior of the whole world. We are seeing more and more churches and denominations embracing this view. In this faith Jewish followers of the Messiah show the covenant with Israel by continuing to live and identify as Jews. As you can see by this summary, we are not relativists. We believe that God has revealed his truth. That truth is disclosed in the Bible and the history of Israel and is most profoundly made manifest in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. We are to go and make disciples of all nations, and to teach them to obey all that Yeshua commanded (Matthew 28). We are not to seek a relativistic type of dialogue with religions.

By Daniel Juster

Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International. Donate to Tikkun International.

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15:25 14Jun05 Lynn Churchman -
Thank you for this teaching. First of all, is the oral law the 613 laws that you are referring to, or the talmud, mishnah, gemarrah etc. Secondly, what, for an example is a wrong application of Jewish roots that demeans the value of the best traditions of the Church?

15:43 14Jun05 Kefa ben Yehudah -
Shalom ! I liked the article. I found it informative on the "Basics" of other religions. I wish you would have written more along those lines . One thing puzzles me, though . What exactly did you mean by " Demeaning the value of the best traditions of the church" ? I personally think that the church should embrace the God mandated observance of HIS HOLY DAYS.

  -- Dr Juster replies: As to the Law, the Law I am speaking of when I speak of the importance of application for all is Biblical. With Rabbinic we refer to the Talmudic material.
Any application of Jewish roots teaching that says the New Covenant Scriptures were mostly written in Hebrew, not Greek, or that Christians are responsible to keep all the Feasts, and that by Rabbinic Dating, or that worshipping on Sunday is pagan is a wrong application. Past articles have addressed this.

17:03 14Jun05 anonymous -
Very good article. It is a good thing to remind us as believers in Yeshua of the hope,security and clarity of the True God we trust in. All other loveless false religions - they can't even compare ever to the love and compassion of our Father. I needed that refresher course on just how kooky and ridiculous some of these other faiths are!. It's really very sad - God have mercy on them! I know you were not trying to be demeaning in any way but the facts speak for themselves. Thanks. God Bless you and your ministry

18:18 14Jun05 Doris Dippel -
Your analysis is helpful and a new way of thinking about other religions and even Christianity. Only recently did I become an Israel-embracing Christian, though I never thought I was anything else. I was not exactly a preterist, but instead terribly ignorant about the Jewishness of the New Testament, etc. Then the precious Holy Spirit revealed the fullness of Messiah and from that fullness blossoms TRUTH!!

18:33 14Jun05 Julia Mitchell -
I was pleased to read your summation of the religions, having studied many of them myself and now being an Israel-embracing Christian. I was interested in the Islamic statement particularly. I had conversed with many people in regard to the war actually stemming from the Ishmael - Isaac birthright. But most don't agree with me or prefer not to see it in that light. It was good to hear another who could recognize this as a possible core issue between the faiths and the nations.

01:34 15Jun05 Lamuel Jackson -
Well done Dan. This essay is quite useful with regards to apologetics. I would really be interested in a subtantial expansion of the subject matter in this article. I'm sure that there may already be some fine resources out there that deal with this topic but probably very little that includes Messianic Judaism as a comparitive. This has the makings and potential for a much needed book. I hope that you'd be open for that consideration. I know that I would certainly buy it. Thanks as always.

09:24 15Jun05 Dessa Beswick -
Thank you, Dan. This is a great brief summary that is very enlightening. I would add, with others who have commented, please expand on this topic. God bless you and the ministry He has given you.

12:57 15Jun05 Pelham Gross -
Truly helpful Dan, to keep us focused on Yeshua, his kingdom family and his plan for world redemption while loving all those blinded by these false religions and belief systems.

15:57 15Jun05 Diane Whitlock -
Thank you for the very helpful article on other religions. This is a very timely message I hope many Americans take to heart! Seeing that Islam is growing at an alarming rate in our country - We need to examine the truth! Not all gods are good. 12:51 20Jun05 John Slaton -
I am in agreement that Christians (Gentile Believers) are not responsible for keeping the feasts, but if they do, why shouldn't they use dates called for in the Tanach? I personally think it is wrong that the celebration of Yeshua's resurection (Easter) is determined by the Spring Equinox, and not by the occurrence of Pesach. This leads to Pentecost and Shavuot being celebrated separately (this year weeks apart), when we all know it started out being the same day.

17:00 21Jun05 Jonathan Allen -
If Gentile believers want to keep the feasts, they have two choices: in a Jewish community, they will naturally be following the Jewish calendar; in a Christian context, it probably makes more sense for them to keep to the Church calendar as that will be the world that they live and move in. As we have pointed out in our article on the subject, Which Law?", Gentiles who are not in a Jewish context should not be using Jewish liturgy or celebrating the feasts in a "Jewish" way, but rather being creative to celebrate them in a way that points to both the faithfulness of G-d in relationship with mankind and His timeless and awesome power to save those who know Him.
As to the historic events that lead to the separation of the Jewish and Church calendar, these are well known and documented and megaphone diplomacy is unlikely to win friends and influence people at this stage of the game.

15:18 21Jun05 Dr Nicholas A. Marziani -
I have now taught two sections of World Religions at Flagler College here in St. Augustine, and am preparing to teach two more this coming Fall. What I can tell you about all these religious traditions comes down to a commentary on that famous verse from the book of Galatians: "In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son ..." It is amazing to develop analytical timelines of the development of the various strands of Hinduism, Buddhism and the Chinese based religions and to see how when the world's felt need was at its zenith, Yeshua, "desire of nations", came among the Jewish people and was ultimately preached to the Gentiles. Buddhist escapism - but also associated with Bodhisattvas (savior-type figures), Hindu "feeling after" the Creator-in-a-personal-Krishna, who tells Arjuna in the Bhagavagita "I love you", Kung Fu-tsu's attempt to seek harmony and conformity with the "Will of Heaven" all represent the better aspects of these non-Semitic religions that were on a clear ultimate trajectory to faith in the Son of the God of Israel. The Lord Yeshua will be, in the words of Simeon's prophecy, "a light to enlighten the nations, and the Glory of your people, Israel". He will also finally quench the gnawing sense of second-class status that is dissolving the Arab soul.

10:04 29Jun05 JoAnne Hauser -
Having studied all of this for 65 years, I find that Messianic congregations are the closest one can get to first century practices, beliefs and traditions. God's calendar has not changed, nor have His Feasts for all who wish to obey Him.