You CAN handle the truth: about Theism
You can handle the truth about Theism. As Christians we are certainly theists, but we are not alone. Judaism and Islam are also theistic.
For purposes of comparison and contrast, we first look at general beliefs Theism espouses, of which we’re well-versed.
Regarding reality, an infinite, personal God exists. Reality is both material and spiritual. The universe as we know it had a beginning and will have an end.
Humankind is the unique creation of God. People were created “in the image of God,” which means that we are personal, eternal, spiritual, and biological. Additionally, God created us with the ability to reason, certainly a major component of that uniqueness we possess as ‘image bearers.’
Truth about God is known through revelation. Truth about the material world is gained via revelation and the five senses in conjunction with rational thought. Moral values are the objective expression of an absolute moral being.
While these are basic truth claims Theists agree upon, there is much divergence, as we’re keenly aware. The Word of God rightly divides and exposes truth from error. Additionally, the Bible is clear regarding the written revelation of God, the person of Jesus, and the way of salvation, for it is upon these bedrock concepts we can compare and contrast not only with Judaism and Islam, but with any “Christian cult.”
First, regarding the written revelation from God, Judaism in general would hold the Old Testament as God’s Word, but consider the New Testament a false document. Hence, Jesus can’t be the Messiah. Additionally, Judaism regards the Oral Law, or Talmud, to be authoritative, along with the teachings of the great Rabbis throughout history.
Islam’s Holy Books include the Koran and the Hadith. The Koran is the supposed revelation God gave Mohammad through the prophet Gabriel gradually over two decades in the early 7th Century. The Hadith is a collection of reports regarding the sayings and works of Mohammad compiled after his death. Regarding the bible, Muslims believe it is God’s Word, but not the final revelation. Additionally, Muslims today are taught the bible has been corrupted and therefore can’t be trusted. And so it’s rarely read and studied in contemporary Islamic life.
In contrast, the Word of God is clear regarding its singular authority over all matters of life and faith:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
…for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Revelation 22:18-19).
Christian cults, such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, have added or altered revelation. The Book of Mormon and The Pearl of Great Price are Mormonism’s other ‘Holy Books’. Jehovah’s Witnesses have the New World Translation, which is a corruption of the Bible. For example, in John 1:1 The New World Translation states: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was a god.”
Another bible, another Jesus and another gospel – these are the simple measuring sticks comparing any worldview claiming to be Christian with Biblical Christianity. In short, Christian cults either add or alter God’s revelation found exclusively in His Word, claim Jesus is not God, and believe we’re saved through works, not faith. Simple.
How does Theism answer the four foundational questions whereby we can objectively measure a worldview? In short, this way:
- Where did we come from? All theistic views agree in a Creator God.
- How does Theism provide meaning? Simply, we can have a relationship with this personal God. Yet Biblical faith is unique in that we believe sin separates us from God and it’s through faith in Jesus alone by which we are reconciled and rightly connected to God. Other Theistic frameworks claim a set of rules, regulations and moral adherence are the way to meaning and connection with the Creator.
- What moral framework does Theism provide? While Theism in general has a moral framework given by our Creator, our motive for obeying as followers of Jesus is radically different than other Theistic moral frameworks. Our obedience is an act of love, not compulsion or a means of salvation! For Jesus said, “If you love me, keep My commands” (John 14:15).
- What is our ultimate destiny? As Christians, we have eternal life in Christ. For our faith in Jesus and in His resurrection distinguishes our worldview from other Theistic expressions. Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. (John 11:25-26) He also states: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24); See also 1 Corinthians 15. Most other theistic frameworks have eternal destinies of some kind, yet heaven, paradise or other expression of the best possible destiny are earned through good works!
In light of our Christian witness, may I suggest a few excellent resources in engaging adherents to Judaism, Islam and Christian cults.
Being a missionary to my Jewish people for many years, I can certainly be a resource to as you witness to Jewish people in your sphere of influence. Regarding evangelism to Muslims, the Crescent Project (https://www.crescentproject.org) is a ministry out of Nashville doing great work. Watchman Fellowship (http://www.watchman.org) is an excellent ministry resource I would recommend to help engage those involved in cults and other religions
As clearly noted, all Theistic worldviews are not the same! Yet, when thinking about witnessing to adherents of non-Christian Theistic expressions, keep it simple. The foundation of our faith is the person and work of Jesus. So go out – pray, love, engage, and proclaim the singular message of hope – the gospel of our Lord!
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).