Read World Religions in a Nutshell Online

Authors: Ray Comfort

Tags: #Religion, #Comparative Religion, #Christian Theology, #Chrisitian

World Religions in a Nutshell

 

 
 

Contents

 

Introduction

 

Judaism

 

Mormonism

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses

 

Islam

 

Roman Catholicism

 

Hinduism

 

Buddhism

 

Atheism

 

Modern Christianity

 

Notes

 

Resources

 
 

Introduction

 

You are on CNN, live. The host leans across to you and asks, “What’s the difference between Christianity and the other major religions? They are basically all the same, aren’t they?” Millions are awaiting your reply. Do you know how you would answer that? Most of us are not as prepared as we should be, for this all-important task.

 

Sadly, most of the contemporary Church falls way short of the Book of Acts. Every page I turn in the book, I find that at every corner they turned, they preached Christ crucified. They knew their agenda and nothing was going to stop them.

 

Nowadays statistics tell us that 95% of the Church rarely
share the gospel, even in the face of the Great Commission. The fact that we have had to be commanded to preach the gospel of everlasting life reveals something about our character. Imagine a doctor, who holds a cure to cancer in his hand, having to be
told
to give the cure to his dying patients. Imagine if he complained, “I don’t know what to say,” or “What if they reject me?” or “It’s not my gifting.” What would that tell you about his character?

 

Yet such is the average contemporary Christian. God has
granted
everlasting life
through the gospel to a dying world, and we hesitate because we don’t know what to say or because we fear rejection, etc. What does that say about our character? Spurgeon said that we should be ashamed at the “mere suspicion of unconcern.”

 

I’m grateful that you picked up this book because you want to learn about other religions. Perhaps you want to gain knowledge because you enjoy debating with people of other faiths. Keep in mind that, while the fisher of men will occasionally get into a debate, our ultimate goal should be to persuade the lost that they need a Savior. That takes more
than a knowledge of what they believe. There is something
else that is necessary. It’s the ability (with God’s help) to show that Christianity offers something utterly unique among world religions. It provides the solution that “works righteousness” religions do not and cannot provide—complete and utter forgiveness of sins.

 

I don’t mind admitting to you that books on world religions, with a spine the size of my fist, intimidate me. While they might look impressive on my shelf, I literally have little time for them. I want a book that will say “Here’s what you need; now go to battle”

a book that will give me what I need in a nutshell.

 

I hope that this publication does that for you.

 
 

Judaism

 

There are approximately 14 million Jewish people in the world today, with close to 6 million living in the U.S. and about 5 million in Israel. Although Christians believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and are followers of the Jewish Messiah, we don’t have as much in common with our Jewish friends as you may think.

 

 

Judaism is ranked as the sixth largest organized religion in the world, but it may surprise you to find that many Jewish people don’t believe in God. It’s amazing, but it’s true. More than half of all Jews in Israel today call themselves “secular,” and according to a recent poll, only 30% of all Jews are “absolutely certain” that God exists, 34% are “somewhat certain,” 24% aren’t sure, and 12% believe there is no God.
1

 

So it’s possible to be secular, agnostic, and
even an
atheist
and still be Jewish. Some Jews even believe in reincarnation. If your mother is Jewish, that makes you Jewish, no matter what you believe. So being Jewish is not the same thing as following the religion of Judaism. Being Jewish is like having a
citizenship
; but following Judaism is living a certain lifestyle. To Jewish people, what they believe about God and the afterlife isn’t as important as how they live.

 

Background

 

There are three main branches, or movements, in contemporary Judaism:

 

Orthodox:
Orthodox is the most strict form, and until 200 years ago, it was the
only
kind of Judaism. Orthodox or

traditional” Jews emphasize tradition and pride themselves
on faithfully keeping the Laws of Moses. They make up 10% of the Jewish population in America.

 

Reform:
On the other end of the scale is the liberal or “modern”
movement, called Reform. The Reform movement began in the 18th century to bring Judaism’s “old and outmoded ways of thinking” up to date. Reform Jews say they keep
the good values of Judaism, but don’t have to keep strict religious laws. These are most of the Jews you’ll meet today.

 

Conservative:
In between the Orthodox and Reform are the
Conservatives. Conservative Judaism arose in the 19th century, as a middle ground between the other two branches. They’re traditional but believe the rabbis can change Jewish laws to suit the times. About 30% of American Jews are Conservative.

 

Because Judaism emphasizes behavior instead of theology, there is a wide variety of beliefs even within each of the branches. With such diversity, it’s difficult to generalize about their beliefs.

 

Who is God?

 

Orthodox Jews believe there is only one God. He is a Spirit who is all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, and eternal. Jews often recite something called the
Shema:

 


Hear, O Israel: The Lord
our God, the Lord
is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4)

 

Reform Jews, however, can interpret the “God concept” however they like, and that’s still within the boundaries of their Judaism. They can be atheists, naturalists, religious humanists, but they all agree on one concept: “The truth is that we do not know the truth.” So if you want to know
what Reform Jews believe about God today, it really depends
on which Jewish person you ask.

 

Scriptures

 

Orthodox Jews (the strict believers) believe that the Torah was written by God through the hand of Moses. The Torah is the Hebrew name for the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They also believe the rest of the Old Testament, which is called the Tanakh, but don’t give it as much authority as the Torah. There is also the Talmud—the teachings of the Jewish rabbis—which they believe has great authority.

 

But Reform Jews (the more liberal ones) don’t necessarily believe that the Scriptures were written by God. Most believe they were merely written by men. They feel it’s a good book for preserving history and culture, and helps to live a good life, but the bottom line is, it wasn’t written by God, so it’s not binding.

 

Heaven and Hell

 

Orthodox Jews do believe there is life after death in the
Olam Ha-Ba

the World to Come. They believe that the righteous of all nations will live forever with God in a perfect place of peace and prosperity, and that the unrighteous will suffer—but they don’t all agree on where those people will go. Some believe nothing happens when you die. Others believe you go to She’ol, or Gehenna, a place of purification (kind of like a Jewish purgatory). Then you either go directly to Paradise, or you are destroyed and cease to exist, or you continue to live in a state of unending remorse. Again, today’s Judaism leaves it open to personal opinion.

 

In the Reform and Conservative branches, most have no concept of personal life after death. What is most important is the here and now—being a good person, and making the world a better place.

 

Sin and Salvation

 

None of the branches of Judaism believe in original sin. They teach that man is created in the image of God and is born morally pure. They either think of humanity as neutral—with the potential for both good and bad—or as basically good. Although men do sin, they believe that God’s justice is tempered with mercy.

 

Many Jewish people never ask the question, “What do I have to do to get into Heaven?”since Judaism teaches that
all good people from all nations will go to Heaven. And because most Jews don’t believe in Hell, they don’t think of needing to be “saved” from anything. Remember, they believe they already have a favored standing with God as His “chosen people.”

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