The Apostle Paul brought his intellect to bear against the best-of-the-best philosophers and religious practitioners of his day on Mars Hill in Act 17. At that time, Athens was the religious center of Greece and was marinating in every faith and philosophy that existed.
When he was delivering his address to that diverse audience on Mars Hill, Paul highlighted a few things all those in attendance had in common — their shared humanity and inherent religious nature — but then he took a hard right turn into the particulars of the Christian faith that makes it distinct from all others.
One important thing that the assertion “all religions are the same” ignores is the key distinction between universals and particulars. Universals are typically said to be abstract whereas particulars are concrete; i.e., a universal is something particulars have in common, but that commonality in no way means all particulars are the same thing.
No one does a better job of humorously pointing this out where religion is concerned than the English writer and poet Steve Turner in his short work called “Creed”:
We believe that all religions are basically the same. At least the one that we read was. They all believe in love and goodness. They only differ on matters of Creation, Sin, Heaven, Hell, God, and Salvation.
And, of course, the central difference in all religions that Paul highlighted to the Athenians was Christ Himself, which is exactly how you and I should deal with the “all religions are the same” argument as well.
If there was ever a time for a Christian leader to declare in a speech that we all believe the same thing and that every road leads to God, it was then. But that’s not what Paul did.
Why and how Christianity is distinct
Think about every religion you know without Christianity. The vast majority, if not all, take an approach to our human predicament that is either epistemic, pragmatic, or existential, with some blending two or all three.
The epistemic path is one that says, “If I just learn something, then I’ll be better.” For example, Buddhism has its four noble truths, its 8-fold path to enlightenment, etc. To the epistemic, knowledge leads to salvation.
The pragmatic approach says, “If I just do something, then I’ll be OK.” Nearly every religion other than Christianity follows this works-based plan, with a good example being Islam and its concept of the deeds scale. The pragmatist earns their salvation by the sweat of their brow.
The existentialist thinks, “If I just experience something, then I’ll be fine.” Those involved in spiritist and/or new-age faiths always look for a vision, a breakthrough, or some spiritual event that moves them from their current life to one that’s better.
But Christianity is different. It is not epistemic, pragmatic, or existential, but instead is something else.
The Christian faith is ontological.
Christianity rests completely on a Person — Jesus Christ. The prophets of other religions admit their faith does not depend on them to be true, i.e., you can take them out of the equation and the religion remains intact.
But if you take Christ out of Christianity, it completely collapses. Moreover, Christianity subsumes the approaches found in other religions and pours them all into the person of Christ.
As an example, the epistemic gains knowledge through words. And what do we read at the beginning of John’s Gospel?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is the knowledge of God personified.
With respect to pragmatism and a works-based approach, Jesus was once asked: “What shall we do, so that we may work the works [plural] of God?” Jesus’ answer to them was, “This is the work [singular] of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:28-29).
Lastly, existentialism concerns itself with experience and life. To that end, Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly … I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 10:10; 14:6).
Christianity diverges from all other religions because it is built upon the person of Christ, who, in His Person, embodies all approaches to spiritual truth.
Paul acknowledged this unique and ontological nature of Christianity when he spoke on Mars Hill and also when he wrote, “for I know whom [not what] I have believed … For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Tim. 1:12; 2 Cor. 4:6).
In other words, Christianity is Jesus. Period.
This post was taken from a great article by Robin Schumacher CP VOICES | MONDAY, APRIL 03, 2023 “All religions are the same and other lies”