We find the concept of submission in every world religion. In fact, the true meaning of the word “Islam” is to submit to Allah. All religions demand submission to rules, and to God or gods, or even submission to the consensus of society or the scientific community. Of course, as inherently prideful human beings, we are natural rebels against authority and are inclined to oppose submitting to laws. So then, since this is the situation, why do humans support religions that require us to submit?
Sociologists, theologians, philosophers and psychologists conclude that we humans are inclined to follow religions that are centered on us (Christianity is the exception to that rule). This means that submission to law, God, gods, or the consensus of society must in some way be considered to benefit us. In atheistic religions like secular humanism, it goes without saying that this is the case because there is no God to submit to; but it might surprise us to know that this is also the case in all other religions that claim a belief in God or gods as well.
I say this because all religions except Christianity are centered on man, and this means it’s understood that when man does for God or gods, God does for us (a “quid pro quo” arrangement). Followers of these religions believe they are to perform good works to please God and merit salvation. This is why they are called “works-based” religions. My point is that, whether it is submission to Allah’s law, or Jehovah’s law or to Hindu gods or (as in atheistic belief systems) submission to society’s needs, this is not true submission because it serves man’s prideful purpose; such submission is based on pure, defiant, selfish arrogance. It’s selfish because we expect something back for whatever we give. That’s our human perspective. From God’s perspective, we Christians know he doesn’t view this form of submission as submission to him; he is aware that our pride is the prime motivation, and to him, pride is one of the most grievous of sins.
How is Christianity so different from all these works-based religions? Works-based religions necessarily focus on what we can do for God; but, as sinners, we Christians know that we can’t possibly do everything a righteous, holy and perfect God requires of us our obedience to his law. This is why there is no salvation for us in the law.
Christianity is truly a God-centered religion because it tells us through the Gospel what God has done for us through his grace (unmerited favor). Through the person and purpose of Jesus Christ, our God has worked out our salvation for us, totally apart from us. And God calls us to submit to that salvation, to hand over all the work of fulfilling the law to Christ because only he can do it because he offers that perfect sacrifice in perfect obedience to the will of a perfect God. In trusting in Christ for our salvation, we forfeit our pride. In this way, there is no ego involved in us being saved. We can’t take any credit in us being forgiven and saved. We are given a righteousness that is not at all our own, except that Jesus gives it to us. By faith, we submit to, we stand by, and we sit back and receive God’s righteousness. Salvation comes through faith in the Gospel.
Prideful man of course is inclined to reject the Gospel. C. S. Lewis described the situation. “At first, Christianity is welcome to all who have no special reason for opposing it: at this stage he who is not against it is for it. What men notice is its difference from those aspects of the World which they already dislike. But, later on, as the real meaning of the Christian claim becomes apparent, its demand for total surrender, 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.”
Lewis thus describes what true submission is. Christianity, unlike the other religions, “demands our total surrender.” Only in surrendering self to God, can the submission be true.