How many different religions are there in the world?
We might name several of the religions that we have the most familiarity with ... namely Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. To that list we could add several other religions that we have heard of before, like Buddhism, Hinduism, the Wiccan religion, and Native American spirituality. There are several other religions that we have almost no familiarity with such as Janism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, and Sikhism. Add to this some of the modern religious movements like the various charismatic religions, mysticism, the occult, nature spirituality, interfaith movements, and the Unitarian and Universalist faiths and one has begun to number more religions than one can keep track of. This is not to mention the two most popular religions of our days ... atheism, the belief in no God, and agnosticism, the belief that is uninterested in the questions of whether or not there is a God. As we consider the many world religions we can be overwhelmed at all their claims to be true. The number of religions alone can lead us to doubt the faith that we confess.
The truth, however, is that there are not a thousand different religions in the world. There are not even a hundred different religions or even four. There are only two essentially different religions in the world: the religion of the Law, and the religion of the Gospel. All religions can be divided up into two categories: religions that seek to please God through man’s own works, and religions that teach what God has done freely and fully by Himself for mankind. The Bible teaches that there are but two basic religions in the world, the religion of the Law, and the religion of the Gospel.
The Law makes sense to the natural mind of man. The Law of God is written on our hearts. In the world those who work harder achieve more than those who work less. Our natural understanding believes that the more we do for God the more He will do for us and that we can please God by our own efforts and accomplishments. All pagan religions build on this natural understanding of God laying out the pathway to attaining salvation, but the Scriptures teach something entirely different. We are born sinful, and our works, even the best of them, are completely corrupt. We cannot please God by our own powers.
The one lone religion of the Gospel is Christianity. It is of an entirely different nature. It is not a religion of the Law (what we do) but a religion of the Gospel (what God has done for us). Through faith in Jesus Christ we come to know our good Heavenly Father who gives us the promise of His grace, the hope of everlasting life, and the forgiveness of sins. We live with a good conscience because we have peace with God. There is nothing we can do to win our Father’s heart; it is already won in Jesus. Nothing that we do can separate us from His love for us in Christ. God has brought us true consolation, confident access, triumph over death, and true joy in the hope and glory of God. Good works are offered not out of obligation or because of a sense of religious duty, but out of thanks to God for a soul that has been redeemed by grace.
If you had to live under the rule of a false god, what would that be like? In former times you might even have to sacrifice your children in order to win the god’s favor or approval. If you had to always worry about what God thought about you and if you did enough to please Him, what would be the result of that in your life? Religions of the Law bring only fear, hopelessness, and despair and a conscience that is never at peace. All those without the true God of grace are without hope. All other religions leave men under darkness and the power of Satan. As the Bible says, “As many of those who are under the Law are under a curse.” (Galatians 3:10)
While there might be small similarities between Christianity and other religions, at their core is one central disagreement. Is man justified by grace or by the works of the law? Can man make himself right with God and earn salvation by what He does? All other religions teach that the purchase price for our salvation can be bought by our own works and striving. The Holy Bible from beginning to end is a protest against this doctrine. The original religion from the beginning is the religion of grace and mercy in God and in His Son Jesus which was perverted in many forms by many other people into the many different religions which we know today which are all really a variation on the one religion of works. Adam and Eve were the first inventers of false religion when they tried to fix the problem of their own sin by sewing fig leaves together and making garments for themselves.
Thanks be to God for the good news of the One true God who is a God of love, mercy, and forgiveness! How different is this than all other religions! The heart of what we believe is what the Apostle Paul wrote in Titus 3:4-8: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.”
Have you seen this popular bumper sticker? Each letter is the symbol of a different world religion. The C contains a crescent moon and star, the symbol of Islam. The O is a peace sign, the symbol of pacifism, the religion that stresses peace at all costs. The E is the male/female sign and is the symbol of Gay Rights. The X is the Jewish Star. The I with a dot on top contains the symbols of pagan religion, the Wiccans, and the Bahai faith. The S is the Ying/Yang symbol representing the Chinese religion of Taoism. The final letter T is represented by a Christian cross.
Is this bumper sticker appropriate for Christian use? That depends on its meaning (which is somewhat unclear). If the bumper sticker means that all religions should be able to live together without killing each other then it would not necessarily be something that we Christians would disagree with. If however the bumper sticker means that all religions have some truth in them, that they are all different roads to the same goal (heaven), or that one is no more right than the next, or that we shouldn’t try to convert others, then this bumper sticker would represent something completely opposite to what Jesus taught when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” As Christians we want others to know and be converted to the one religion of the Gospel so that they might be saved from the oppressive burden of the Law.
What do you think the world understands this bumper sticker to mean? Would it be a faithful witness to the truth of Jesus Christ and the one religion of the Gospel to have this bumper sticker on your car?