The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ

By Dr. Ron Carlson

He possessed no certificates, nor degrees. He never traveled farther than 100 miles from the place he was born. He lived and moved among the common people.

He was not an author. He wrote no books, composed no poems, compiled no documents, edited no papers, nor contributed to any periodicals. The only sentence he ever wrote was a single line in the sand which disappeared the same day. No letter of it was preserved. He never used a fountain pen, typewriter, or personal computer. We have no line, word, or syllable from his hand. And yet, more books have been written about him and his words than any other man. He has affected the lives of more people than all the authors of all the ages. The story of his life has been translated into more than 1800 languages, read by countless millions, and is the best-selling story every year.

He was not an orator; yet no man spoke as this man. His discourses have become the theme of millions of addresses. His words are simple and clear. Very few adjectives are used, yet his sentences abound with beauty, meaning, and grace. His sayings are hammered into polished marble, chiseled into imperishable granite, wrought into enduring bronze tablets, fashioned in stained glass windows of numberless churches, etched in rich mosaics upon temple walls, and set in arched domes of colossal cathedrals. His words are literary gems. He stands as the unequaled seer of all literature. Shakespeare, Milton, and Emerson bow their heads in his presence, recognizing a superior.

He was not a poet; yet he has inspired thousands of poets to utter their most sublime expressions.

He was not a musician; yet he inspired Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Handel, and countless others.

He was not an artist, nor a sculptor, nor a painter. He never handled a brush nor wielded a chisel. He was a stranger to the palette and canvas; yet he was the inspiration for Raphael, Michelangelo, Hofmann, and so many more.

He was not a lawyer; yet he knew the law, interpreted it, and applied it to the relationships which should prevail among men. He himself became the fountainhead of righteousness.

He was not a doctor; yet he healed the sick, opened blind eyes, unstopped deaf ears, cleansed the leper, and raised the dead.

He was not a statesman; he never held nor aspired to official position. He did not delve into politics, but he did found a kingdom.

He was not a general; yet he became the conqueror of the world.

In war or in peace, in good times or bad, it remains true that no single word grips the hearts of men and women like the name of Jesus.

To say that history bears his imprint is putting it much too mildly. Lecky, the historian, speaks without exaggeration when he declares, “The simple record of three short years of Christ’s active life has done more to regenerate mankind than any other influence that has ever been felt on earth.”

If anyone doubts this, just let him try and imagine what it would be like in this world of (current year) if suddenly the name of Jesus were torn from us and with it everything for which it stands.

Life is hard enough as it is. It would be intolerable without the message of Christmas. It would be unbearable without the song of Easter.

What Do Hindus Believe?

By Jason Carlson

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world and its influence is far reaching. Today there are close to one billion Hindus in the world with most of them being found in Hinduism’s mother country of India. However, in recent years Hinduism’s influence has spread far beyond India and the Hindu worldview is now widely embraced by many people in Western Europe and America.

The basic philosophy of Hinduism is what is known as monism and pantheism. Monism is the belief that all is one and everything is spiritually interconnected. Pantheism is the belief that all is god and god is an impersonal universal force. So, in the Hindu worldview for example, the stars are god, the moon is god, the clouds are god, the trees are god, the rivers are god, the animals are god, the dirt is god, you are god, I am god and all of these things are one, equally connected to the impersonal universe that Hinduism calls god.

Now, think about this worldview for a moment: If everything is god and everything is one, what does this do to the value of human life? For example, if the pigs are god, the worms are god, the dirt is god, and you are god, what do you become equal with? The obvious answer is that you are equal to the pigs, the worms, and the dirt. As Hinduism says, all is god and all is one.

Now, instead of this philosophy raising the level of nature to the level of men and women, what has historically happened in the Hindu religion is that humanity often ends up being devalued to the lowest levels of nature. This is one of the major reasons why the nation of India has historically experienced such devastating poverty. The spiritual worldview of the majority of the people in that country does not provide a foundation for viewing men and women as special and unique amongst the rest of creation. Therefore, there is then no spiritual basis for attempting to elevate the status of men and women in this world.

What you find as you travel around the world is that the majority of the world’s problems are not simply economical or technological. Rather, the majority of the world’s problems are basic spiritual problems, based on what a person thinks and believes about God. You see, what a person thinks and believes about God will affect every area of their life. What a person thinks about God will determine their value for human life, their basis for morality, and even their standard of living.

This is one of the primary reasons why Christianity is so unique. As opposed to Hinduism, Christianity declares that men and women are created in the very image of God, unique amongst all of creation. And because of this truth, men and women are inherently valuable and of great worth to God. No other worldview comes close to providing this kind of basis for valuing human life.

What Do Buddhists Believe?

By Jason Carlson

Buddhism is one of the most influential religions in the world. Originating in Southeast Asia, Buddhism today is rapidly growing in popularity here in the United States. Many people are drawn towards Buddhism due to the perception that it is a uniquely peaceful and tolerant religion. Others are attracted to the supposed inner-peace that various Buddhist meditation techniques offer. However, the truth is that Buddhism, at its core, is a philosophy that offers men and women nothing more than a system of human works and effort that cannot save anybody.

There are a number of schools of Buddhist thought in the world today, the most prominent being Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantric Buddhism, and there are vast differences between them. However, in-spite of the diversity within Buddhism, all Buddhists will adhere to a basic core of beliefs.

Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism and the original Buddha (meaning “enlightened one”), explained basic Buddhist philosophy through his teaching of the “Four Noble Truths”: 1) Life is suffering; 2) Suffering is caused by desire- our attachment to a world of illusion; 3) Freedom from suffering comes by eliminating our desire; 4) Desire can be eliminated by following the “Eightfold Path”- eight ways of living (attitudes and actions) which would help a person eliminate suffering and ultimately find freedom from the cycle of reincarnation that traps us in a world of illusion.

While millions of people have attempted to find peace by following the teachings of the Buddha, the reality is that right attitudes and actions cannot save us from the real source of human suffering, sin. Apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ true peace and salvation cannot be found (Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; John 14:6). This truth is probably best summed-up in the testimony of my friend Lou.

Lou grew up in the nation of Thailand and he was a Buddhist for the first 20 years of his life until he became a follower of Jesus. When Lou shares his testimony he tells the following story about the real peace he’s found in Jesus Christ:

“When I was a Buddhist I felt like I was in the middle of a large lake. I was drowning and I didn’t know how to swim. As I struggled to keep my head above water, I looked out towards the shore and saw Buddha walk up to the edge of the lake. Buddha began shouting out instructions to me, teaching me how to swim. Buddha shouted, ‘Kick your legs and paddle your arms.’ But then Buddha said, ‘Lou, you must make it to shore by yourself.’

As I desperately struggled to follow the Buddha’s instructions, I looked out towards the shore again, but this time I saw Jesus Christ walk up to the lake. However, Jesus didn’t stop at the edge of the lake. Jesus dove into the lake and he swam out and rescued me! And once Jesus had brought me safely back to shore, then he taught me how to swim, so that I could go back and rescue others!”

Warning: Christianity and Yoga Do Not Mix!

by Jason Carlson and Ron Carlson

“Yoga purists are bent out of shape”. This was the headline of a recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper.1 The article explained that traditional yoga “experts contend that Hindu religious elements are being profaned by fad versions of the ancient practice.”

So, what are these “fad versions” of yoga that are upsetting the Hindu yogis? The article cites as an example the “millions of Americans… practicing yoga to improve flexibility, strengthen muscles and relieve stress.” These 16.5 million American yoga enthusiasts “spend nearly $3 billion annually on classes and products”. The problem with this, according to the Hindu yogis quoted in the article, is that yoga was never designed to be an exercise, yet alone an exercise “fad”. Rather, yoga is an ancient Hindu religious practice intended to unite a person’s soul with the impersonal, universal force Hindus call “god”.

The Hindu Sanskrit word “yoga” literally means to be yoked or joined in union. And the goal of every Hindu yogi is to use the religious practice of yoga to lose their personality and individuality and to become one with the monistic-pantheistic spiritual force of Hinduism. This is done through Hatha yoga (the physical postures), where one seeks to tap into what Hindus call the Kundalini, a spiritual force described as a “coiled white serpent of light” which lies at the base of the spine. Hindus believe the Kundalini can aid them in their transcendence to impersonal spiritual monism. Thus, for the Hindu, the physical postures of yoga are essentially keys that unlock the spiritual realm for the purpose of losing all attachment to the physical, material world, which they believe is an illusion. There should be no doubt about it; yoga is completely antithetical to a biblical worldview. It is a 2,000-year-old Hindu religious practice designed for very specific spiritual and occult purposes.

This Star Tribune article should be a wake-up call to every Christian who is currently practicing yoga. And it should be a wake-up call to every church currently hosting yoga classes or embracing yoga as a part of their weekly worship. Too many Christians have erroneously strayed into participating in this Hindu religious practice, which is in total opposition to the biblical worldview.

The common excuse for many Christian yoga enthusiasts is that they’re only doing yoga for its “exercise benefits”. However, the fact of the matter is this, God strictly forbids His people from dabbling in pagan, occult practices; and yoga should not be viewed as an exception, even if it has physical benefits. There are countless other ways to exercise that have nothing to do with pagan religious practices.

Others, aware of the Hindu origins of yoga, claim that their yoga meditation is “directed towards Jesus Christ and not the gods of Hinduism”. However, where in Scripture do we find any precedent for co-opting pagan, occult practices and incorporating them into our worship as believers? We find none. Rather, God has revealed to us in Scripture everything we need to know to have a vibrant and growing relationship with Him.

If you’re a Christian who has mistakenly gotten involved in the practice of yoga, we strongly encourage you to stop now. There is no excuse for staying involved in a pagan religious activity created to tap into demonic spiritual forces. The practice of yoga is contrary to our calling to honor God with our bodies; and it runs counter to our admonition to be salt and light to the world. Christianity and yoga do not mix!

Minneapolis Star Tribune “Faith & Values” July 30, 2005, p. B5

The Nature and Challenge of Islam

By Jason Carlson

A few years ago my father and I had the privilege of holding a week of apologetic seminars in Tokyo, Japan. During our time there we were introduced to one of the leaders of the Japanese Muslim community. He was a middle-aged man from a Muslim country in Asia. He had been a Muslim his entire life, and for the past decade he had lived in Japan working to spread Islam’s influence in that country. My father and I had the unique opportunity to spend over an hour inside the heart of the Tokyo mosque, sharing the truth of Christianity with this leader of the Muslim community.

During the course of our conversation, this Muslim authority repeatedly declared, “Islam is a beautiful and peaceful religion”. Have you ever heard this claim before? If you’ve watched any news commentary shows or read any editorials in your local newspaper recently, I’d be willing to bet you have. Ever since the tragic events of 9/11, the Islamic propaganda machine and the secular media have been doing everything they can to convince the American public that in-spite of what we see on the news virtually every night, Islam really is a “beautiful and peaceful religion”. Unfortunately though, this claim is simply not reflective of the truth of Islam’s history and teachings, nor of its present day fruit.

When considering whether or not Islam is an inherently beautiful and peaceful religion, one must ask some basic questions. For example, where in the world is the beautiful and peaceful Muslim country that millions of people are trying to immigrate to? Where in the world is that beautiful and peaceful Muslim culture that other nations so strongly admire? Where in the world has the beautiful and peaceful religion of Islam created a society characterized by freedom, justice, and human rights for all?

The sad truth to the above questions is that there is no such beautiful and peaceful Muslim country anywhere in the world. Rather, when we look at the fruit of Islam around the world we find societies characterized by the limitation of basic freedoms, the suppression of basic human rights, and the widespread oppression of dissenting voices.

What makes this reality even more indicting is that Islam has had every opportunity and advantage necessary to produce a so-called “beautiful and peaceful” religion and culture. Islam has had the time- this religion has been around for roughly 1400 years. Islam has had the geographical territory- much of Africa, the entire Middle East, and many parts of Europe and Asia are predominantly Muslim. Islam has also had the financial resources- many of the most influential Muslim countries sit on the world’s richest oil reserves and are wealthy beyond imagination.

And yet, in spite of all of these favorable circumstances, what has the religion of Islam truly produced in the lives and societies of its adherents? Terrorism, human rights abuses, repression, slavery, warfare, subjugation, hatred of Jews, Christians, and other non-Islamic cultures… these are the actual fruit of this religion.

Now, admittedly, highlighting the above realities is certainly not politically correct today; and doing so is definitely not going to fit our culture’s prevailing ethos of uncritical tolerance. However, we cannot ignore the consequences of the foundational history and teachings of Islam for fear of being offensive.

We cannot brush over the fact that there are over 100 verses in the Koran directing Muslims to fight and kill Jews, Christians, and other Infidels. We cannot ignore the history of the life of Mohammed, the founder and prophet of Islam, in whom we see an example of conquest, subjugation, and the elimination of those who stood in his way. We cannot pretend that Islam doesn’t clearly segregate the world into two distinct camps: the Dar al Islam (house of Islam) vs. the Dar al Harb (house of war). How can these realities be viewed as anything but the motivation and justification for the jihad we see being waged by Islamic radicals today? Especially when the Muslim terrorists themselves tell us that these are the source of their inspiration.

Now to be fair, it is important to understand and state emphatically that not every Muslim is a terrorist. Our ministry has worked throughout the Islamic world and we have known many good and kind Muslim people. Most Muslims are not the radical terrorists that we see on the nightly news. In our experience, the vast majority of Muslims are simply cultural Muslims whose basic interests are the same as those of most people in the world- making a living, raising a family, and trying to live a positive and productive life. Unfortunately though, Islam has enslaved these people into a false religious system that cannot ultimately save them and does nothing to truly empower them. In fact, as was true in the time of Mohammed, the only people who truly benefit from the religion of Islam today are the ruling autocratic authorities. Everyone else must simply submit.

Truly beautiful and peaceful religions produce societies characterized by freedom, human rights, morality, justice, and prosperity; and they strive to share these characteristics with others, even those outside of their faith tradition. We do not find these values or the desire to advance them in the foundational history or tenets of Islam. We do not see them in the present day fruit of Islam. It is simply misleading to describe Islam as an inherently beautiful and peaceful religion.

While there are many beautiful and peaceful people within the Muslim world, Islam itself is a veil of deception. Satan has used this religion to blind the eyes of millions of people for the purpose of leading them away from the truth and the fullness of life that God wants for them (John 10:10). As a result of this spiritual deception, Islam poses a genuine challenge to the world today; it is the source of much global and inter-personal conflict. However, we must remember to distinguish those caught up in Islam from the religious system itself. The fact is, God loves Muslims very much (John 3:16); and as Christians we must love them too. And we need to pray that the Holy Spirit would bring revival to the Muslim world so that they too might know the joy and peace that comes from knowing that you are a “child of God” (John 1:12).

Religion vs. Christianity: What’s the Difference?

“Why are you Christians always sending missionaries overseas?  People have their own culture, their own religion, why don’t you just leave them alone?!”  This is one of the most common statements we hear as we lecture on college and university campuses throughout the United States and around the world. Students and faculty often jeeringly ask us, “What is so special about Christianity, different from every religion in the world?”  To be sure, this is a very significant question; and probably one of the most significant questions that any Christian could ask themselves: what is so special about Jesus Christ?

Our family has a close friend named Lou. Lou grew up in the nation of Thailand and he was a Buddhist for the first 20 years of his life until he met some Christian missionaries who introduced him to Jesus Christ. If you were to ask Lou today, “What is so special about Jesus Christ and Christianity different from every other religion in the world?”  Lou would share with you the following story:

“When I was a Buddhist I felt like I was in the middle of a large lake. I was drowning and I didn’t know how to swim. As I struggled to keep my head above water, I looked out towards the shore and saw Buddha walking up to the edge of the lake. I was going under for the third time, when suddenly Buddha began shouting out instructions to me, teaching me how to swim. Buddha shouted, ‘Kick your legs and paddle your arms.’  But then Buddha said, ‘Lou, you must make it to shore by yourself.’  As I desperately struggled to follow the instructions of Buddha, I looked out towards the shore again, but this time I saw Jesus Christ walking towards the edge of the lake. However, Jesus did not stop at the edge of the lake. Jesus dove into the lake and he swam out and rescued me!  And once Jesus had brought me safely back to shore, then he taught me how to swim, so that I could go back and rescue others!”

You see, this is the key difference between Christianity and every other religion in the world: Christianity is not a religion!  What are religions?  Religions are about human attempts to make our lives right with God, through our good works, sacrifices, rituals, and money. However, Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is about God entering human history to graciously save men and women through His Son Jesus Christ. It is only by placing our faith in Jesus Christ and submitting to his Lordship that we will be saved.

A relationship with God will never be found in any religion, because religions only offer swimming lessons to people drowning in the sea of sin. And it doesn’t matter how sincere or devout you are in your religious faith and practice, because the sea of sin is eternally immense. The only hope for men and women drowning in the sea of sin is Jesus Christ. God entered human history in the person of Jesus Christ; he dove into the sea of sin in order to save desperate and drowning people. If you’ll allow him to take you there, he’ll hold you in his loving arms and bring you safely to shore. And after arriving safely to shore, then your swimming lessons begin, so that you can go back and rescue others!

By Jason Carlson and Dr. Ron Carlson of CMI

Christian Ministries International is an organization that seeks to equip the church in response to the challenges of the world’s religions, cults, and various apologetic issues.