I wrote a blog which I posted on this site last November 22, entitled “Religion By Design.” This post today expands on that topic, and this Easter Sunday, a day for believers to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for what he has done for us, offers us an opportunity to talk about what God has designed for those who believe in him.
Christianity, of course, is just one of hundreds of religions. There are two other monotheistic religions, Islam and Judaism, a number of pantheistic (God is in everything in his creation) religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, and even an atheistic religion called secular humanism. All religions, according to Karen Armstrong, author of The History of God, are designed to meet man’s need to depend on a higher, most powerful supernatural being to allay our fear of the unknown and other fears we have as we live out our lives on this earth.
But Christians differ from all other religions in believing we have a need for a Savior to save us from our sin. Christians are unique in believing that we are sinners and have been that way since our birth. We believe that, just as Adam and Eve’s disobedience resulted in their separation from God, our sin separates us from our Creator and both he and we desire to be re-connected. We believe that Christ came to do that for us, to save us from ourselves, and, through his death and resurrection, we are re-connected to God. We celebrate Easter to remind us of what Christ has done for us. God has sent his Son to save us through an act of his grace, his unmerited favor. That’s our gospel message, and Easter is a time for us to reflect on how Christ’s death and resurrection accomplished that purpose.
All other religions are centered on what man can do for himself, to perform good works to earn his salvation; these religions downplay, or even completely ignore, God’s grace and what he has done for us to meet a need unbelieving sinners fail to recognize: our need to re-connect with a God whom we have instinctively rebelled against since Adam and Eve disobeyed him in the Garden of Eden in aspiring to be gods themselves. All of these other religions are designed to meet man’s prideful want to be God.
Easter represents to us Christians a reminder of our redemption through God’s grace, but it was also an actual historical event which even unbelievers acknowledge did happen. Jesus Christ actually existed in first century Judea, and he was crucified and buried and did leave his tomb and eye-witnesses (who swore their testimony was true to their death) subsequently claimed to see him and speak with him many times after he had been crucified and buried. Historical events establish credibility and would logically lead people to concede that the Easter account doesn’t seem like a story anyone could or would invent; they recognize too that there just might be more to the history than just a series of miraculous events occurring; that there just might be some hidden significance in this historical account; and, of course, Christians know that there is. Jesus Christ didn’t just die; he died for us. He didn’t just rise from the dead, his resurrection proved he conquered death, and that, as his followers, we will conquer death too.
How can we know though that Christianity is designed by God and not by man? At first glance, Christianity seems like all other religions designed to meet mankinds needs. People accept it because it explains what is wrong with this world and offers a moral model, Jesus Christ, for us to follow in order to lead a better life. But then when they dig deeper, they discover something else is there, and those who were not initially against Christianity now have second thoughts about accepting it.
So, what have unbelievers discovered about Christianity that turns them against it? In the chapter “The Decline of Religion” in God in the Dock, C. S. Lewis explains what happens when “the real meaning of the Christian claim becomes apparent, its demand for total surrender of self (italics mine), the sheer chasm between nature and supernature, men are increasingly ‘offended’. Dislike, terror, and finally hatred succeed; none who will not give it what it asks (and it asks all) can endure it; all who are not with it are against it.”
Does this sound like a religion man would design? Unbelievers turn against Christianity because they correctly assume it requires them to be centered on God and not on them. Sinful man would never be inclined to come up with a religion that completely centers on God and requires total abandonment to him. All other religions, in focusing on what man can do for God instead of what God has done for us, are, by definition, centered on man, not on God.
Why is it important for a religion to be God-centered and not centered on man? Isn’t it all about what each of us believes to be true? Yes, we are all inclined to see the truth, and each religion claims to have a patent on the truth. But, logically, there can be only one truth, and, since every monotheism believes God is truth, we can infer that the one true religion is the one that is totally centered on God and on what he has done to redeem us. The reality of that act of redemption is the miracle and message of Easter.