Why should one religion have the right to declare what is right and what is wrong?


Ankerberg: We’re going to continue with
tough questions from students, university students, in the Far East, alright? And this
question was asked, “Maybe, Ravi, we are all God. Maybe we are collectively God. And
God is experiencing himself, herself or itself through us. Nothing is absolute. There are
so many religions out there, so many people that have claimed to be the son of God before.
Christianity is a historical accident. Buddha taught the same sort of thing, so did Confucius,
so did Muhammad. They all teach pretty much the same stuff. Can we really say what’s
right and what’s wrong?” Zacharias: You know, I hear that question
in different forms, John, so many times. And one wonders where to begin. I recall a statement
by Winston Churchill after one of his nemeses had gone into a tirade about him and called
him all kinds of nasty things. And when that person finished, Churchill just leaned over
to the person next to him and said, “There, but for the grace of God, goes God.”
You know, the way we behave shows we are anything but divine. And so when you talk about, for
example, Confucius saying the same thing, no, he doesn’t. Actually Confucius believed
in the innate goodness of humanity; and Jesus taught that we are all sinful. You talk about
Buddha saying the same thing, no, he didn’t. Gautama Buddha was, if not an atheist, a non-theist.
He never said anything about the existence of God. The whole idea of Nirvana is really
to end up in a state of not desiring, not wanting. And yet Jesus told us to hunger and
thirst after righteousness; and that’s how we will be filled. And so they are diametrically
opposite propositions here. Islam, for example, claims that Jesus never
died on the cross, it only appeared that he died on the cross. That is historically challenged
by every other history or religion—whether you look at pagan historians, Greek historians,
Roman historians, Jewish historians, Christian historians. Every one of us tells us that
he died on the cross, and then they claim ultimately that he rose again from the dead.
So these religions are not all saying the same thing.
Take another example. If you ask a Hindu, “How do you obtain Moksha, release, or Nirvana?
And the Hindu will tell you it is when you have paid your Karmic debt. Every birth is
a re-birth. That in itself is different, you know, the Bible says, “It is appointed unto
a person only once to die.” But when you have paid your Karmic debt is what the pantheist
will tell you. And there’s a shade of difference within Buddhism and Hinduism and what this
ultimate state is actually about. If you ask a Muslim, “How do you obtain Paradise,”
he or she will tell you your good deeds are going to be weighed against your bad deeds.
So it’s a different view, or way of looking at things.
Jesus Christ tells a story of the prodigal son. The boy renounced his father, took his
inheritance, squanders it. Goes away into the far country; ends up messing his life
up completely. And turns around and he is wanting to come back to his father. To me,
John, as an Easterner reading this story, here comes the shock, okay. An Easterner would
be thinking, “He’s coming back, what is his dad going to do? How is he going to wait
in the inside? What is he going to say when…?” No, no, no! Jesus, the Father, gets up and
goes out of the house. He goes out of the house to meet his son halfway as he is coming
back. Any Eastern boy or girl listening to me knows
this is counterintuitive to the Eastern father. The Eastern father would have expected him
to come and grovel and whatever it is, do all that it took. He goes and embraces his
son and says, “This, my son, was lost and is found; was dead and is alive.” This message
of grace and forgiveness is unique in all of the religions of the world: That the heavenly
father pursues you; and when you return the heavenly father receives you.
Forgiveness and grace is the story of the gospel. It’s not a cheap forgiveness, it’s
not just like, “Okay, I’m forgiving you.” It cost the very dearest thing in the death
of Jesus on the cross to take the judgment and take the pain so that you and I could
be forgiven. All religions are fundamentally different.
At best some of the ethical imperatives may be similar, but even there the ethical imperatives
in most religions are a means to your salvation. In the Christian faith it is the fruit of
your salvation. You do not attain it by your good works; you are forgiven and the good
works are an expression of your gratitude to the gift that your heavenly father has
given to you. Ankerberg: Ravi, you’ve got two more illustration
that I want you to share with the audience about those who hold to a pantheist view.
Zacharias: Yes. One happened, of all places, at Gainesville, the University of Florida,
John. And we had finished the talk, and this man walks over. And it’s funny, we’ve
actually captured it on video, because it is almost humorous to see it. He lumbers over
and comes up to the microphone and he says, “How do I know that I exist?” And, of
course, there is a half-groan, half-laughter. But everybody is leaning forward because they’re
wondering how you even answer a question like that.
So I answered it by telling it by telling him what Professor Nathan at the University
of New York used to say when students asked him that. He would lower his glass and say,
“And who shall I say is asking?” In the tests of truth, one of the tests is the undeniability
test. You cannot deny your own existence without affirming it at the same time. It’s like
saying, “I cannot speak a word of English;” while you are saying that, you are actually
speaking a word of English. So in the pantheistic worldview the struggle
for identity is key. You have an “I/you” relationship. You see, meditation is trying
to take you away into a capital “I”. You look inwards and you meditate. But the fact
of the matter is, they still tell you, you have to transcend that state into some sublime
consciousness or whatever. In the world of reality, you and I exist as different entities.
That’s why the hunger for God; that’s why the sacrificial system comes into so many
of these plays; that’s why the bending of the knee; that’s why the offering that takes
place in temples. It is existentially inescapable that we live in an “I/you” world.
And interestingly enough, in the Christian world you don’t look for union, you look
for communion, in fellowship and relationship with the living God. We are in an “I/you”
world. Ankerberg: You also have a second illustration
that talks to those that are in the Far East. Tell that story about the young lady that
talked to you in a hotel in India. Zacharias: This was quite a staggering story,
you know, John. If you had asked me about 15-20 years ago I would never have thought
something like this would happen. I was in Delhi, staying at one of the fine places there,
trying to take care of my health and so on. And this person contacted a mutual friend.
And she said, “I would like to see you.” And so she comes and she tells me her story.
Working at one of the prestigious places out there she said, “You know, I married against
my parents will. I married somebody from the lower caste. But we were happily married.
Then I was posted to a job in another city.” And she gave me the name of the city. She
was still working there. She said, “When I was there, I got into
another relationship, and my husband suspected it. But because I had married somebody from
the lower caste, we were ostracized. I had lost my family; he had lost his family. And
now I had got into this relationship, and he began to suspect. And he came to see me.
And he says to me, ‘Is this true’? Long story, she says, “Yeah.” He says, “How
can you do this to me? I gave up my family, gave up everything, and now you are doing
this to me.” She began to just commiserate with him, argue. He said, “Look, if you
are not going to come back to me I just want one request. I will go away for a little while.
I am going to come back. I want to put my head on your lap for just 30 minutes. I promise
I will not touch you. And if you will give me that privilege, I promise I will never
bother you again.” She thought it was a strange request. He goes
and comes back. She puts a pillow on her lap. He lies down with his head on her lap, and
he is just looking into her face. A few moments go by, he gets violently ill. He convulses,
goes into some kind of seizure and he is throwing up and is miserably sick. And what had happened
is he had taken some rat poison before he came. He was attempting suicide. He ends dying.
Take him to the hospital. And she is still shaken by this, you know.
You could tell in her face. And she said, “I have been going from place to place,
and I finally went to a guru or priest and he told me what the reason was. He said in
his previous life he had raped a little girl and this was his karma. You can live free
from guilt.” And I am sitting across the table listening
to an educated upper-middle-class woman telling me this story. I said, “Has it worked? Have
you forgotten all of this?” And she said, “No, I can’t shake it off.”
You see, we all know that ultimately we cannot lift ourselves up by our bootstraps of any
cosmic debt that we think we are to pay. We all know that my good deeds will never outweigh
my bad deeds. This is the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ who forgives, comes to you,
and says the problem is inside. Sin is the thing we don’t like, but it is a rebellion
against God, loss of purpose. When I received Jesus Christ into my life
at the age of 17, he redefined everything. Here I am over half a century later, John,
more in love with Jesus Christ than ever before, realizing more than before that outside of
him there are no answers. He offers me redemption, salvation.

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