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The Distinctiveness of Christianity

File0043-688x1024Homogenization of religions is rife. Who has not heard the mantra that “all religions are the same”? This judgment comes from both theists and atheists – but with different connotations. Liberal theists who maintain that all religions are good and healthy are even joined (according to the Medjugorje accounts) by the Madonna herself, who assures the “seers” that “Before God all the faiths are identical. God governs them like a king in his kingdom.”

Numerous atheists mean something quite different by that judgment: they agree with author Christopher Hitchens that “religion poisons everything” – i.e., religions are all equally pernicious.

But both sides are mistaken.

In a previous column, I discussed Thomas Aquinas’ theory of a “faith-instinct,” and the multiple misdirections and improper objects to which it could be directed – e.g., “faith in oneself,” faith in science, faith in ideologies that will “save the world,” etc. But as we get closer to the proper objects of religion, we can discern important distinctions between Christianity and other religions – the profound difference of Christianity, and the difference it makes.

1) God as the object of religion: In the Old Testament, Yahweh is represented as a personal God, concerned about individuals, with whom individuals could enter into personal relationships. He makes clothing for Adam and Eve after their disobedience in Eden, and puts a special mark on Cain to keep him from being murdered. He answers the prayers of Abraham and Sarah for offspring, negotiates with Abraham about the fate of Sodom, deals with Moses “face to face,” hears the prayers of Judith, Samson, Tobit and multiple other Hebrews, postpones his contemplated punishment of Solomon because of the memory of his beloved David, and deals firmly but patiently with the various tribes of Israel, and even with recalcitrant prophets like Jonah.

As Christianity emerges from Judaism, God’s preeminently personal relationship to His creation rises to its greatest height. God takes on human flesh, establishes friendship and brotherhood with us, sacrifices Himself for all, and makes provision for Jews and Gentiles everywhere to be able to communicate in His body and blood.


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