Why there are global trending movements away from Christianity is not disheartening in a God-seeking world. Fortunately, the ultimate focus of such a search is what can’t ultimately be denied. ◊
It would seem that the world is still fairly confused. Over 1 billion people don’t want to bother understanding or have given up and fall under the category of Atheists/Agnostics/Non-Religious. This category is growing.
Roughly one third or over 2.4 billion of the world is Christian, including a roughly 50/50 split between Catholic and Protestant. Almost one quarter or just under 2 billion is Muslim and growing rapidly.
Another way to look at it is that over 86% of the world’s population claims to identify with some religion, which is merely man’s attempt to engage with a higher power. While many people adhere to a predominant religion of their family or surrounding environment or culture, many nonetheless search a smorgasbord of other religions to find something which brings them comfort and meaning.
Here’s a global breakdown of the world’s major religions according to Pew Research and other sources:
|World Population 1|
|Christians (50% Catholic)||2.4 B||29.8%|
|Muslims (Islam)||1.9 B||24.6%|
|Other Religions||865.9 M||10.7%|
Can they all be right? Does it even matter?
No, they are so distinctly different that they cannot all be right. And yes, it does matter. While there is confusion among fellow humans about the quest for Truth and Purpose and the understanding and even engagement with The Higher Power, let it be said clearly that religion is not “the opiate of the masses” as posited by Karl Marx. In full context, Marx was referencing organized religion as a dull comforter of foolish people who would fail to see class structure and oppression around them. He saw people as potential godless worshippers of the State. Be wary of anyone or group who would selfishly and callously dismiss or diminish any man’s quest for real Truth.
Throughout human history there is record of man’s search for meaning and understanding. Again, religion is man’s attempt to explain and approach a higher power they acknowledge exists but must climb their way toward. Interesting that, apart from Christianity, all other religions possess a works-based foundation or approach to the deity. Just to highlight a few of the well-known religions, there are real differences and variations on a man-made theme of human works. Here’s a summary:
- Islam – origin: Mohammed, AD 570-632. Each person must take care of his/her sins, each must earn their own salvation. Jesus was a prophet and lesser than Mohammed. God is Allah, not Father. Muslims do not believe that Christ really died on the cross.
- Hinduism – origin: no founder; 2000 BC polytheism (ancient Vedic/Sanskrit literature). We are all divine; each must seek deliverance from endless cycle of death and rebirth through union with Brahma, which is achieved through devotion, meditation, good works and self-control. Hindus believe that Jesus is not God but just one of many incarnations of Hindu deity.
- Buddhism – origin: Siddhartha Gautama, 560 BC. Became known as Buddha. Path earned to salvation/nirvana through right living. Buddhists see Jesus as good teacher but less than Buddha. They seek to rid themselves of lustful desires through self-effort.
- Judaism – origin: Abraham and Jewish patriarchs, 2000 BC. Foundation for Christianity yet separate on issue of Jesus Christ as Messiah (because he failed to deliver Israel from their oppression). Man is not born good or evil; salvation is gained through commitment to God and through moral living.
- Mormonism – origin: Joseph Smith, 1823. Claimed angelic revelation. Believe God is an exalted man – “As man is, God once was: as God is, man may be.” Started out monotheistic, became polytheistic. Firstborn creation was Jesus. Salvation comes from obeying the Church of Latter Day Saints.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses – origin: Charles Taze Russell, 1879. Do not believe in the deity of Christ, atoning death, or that Holy Spirit is God. Adhere to teachings, decisions, and scriptural understandings of the Watchtower Society. Salvation only for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Except for Hinduism and Buddhism, all of these religions have direct ties to Christianity. Even Hindus and Buddhist must deal with “the Jesus Question” and simply acknowledge him as a good teacher, but not God. Of course, the Judeo-Christian ethical standards are rooted in the Old Testament scriptures, which cite the origin of the Arab nations (see story of Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 16) which begat Mohammed and ultimately Islam. Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses are derivations of Christianity by dubious self-appointed prophets.
So, What is the Christian Answer?
Theologian John Stott writes that essentially Christianity is Christ….Take Christ from Christianity, and you disembowel it; there is practically nothing left. Christ is the center of Christianity; all else is circumference.2 So, Christianity’s centerpiece is Jesus Christ whose death and physical resurrection in AD 33 stirred a spiritual revolution in Jerusalem that spread from there to around the world. The Old Testament is the lead-in to the advent of Christ; the New Testament is the documentation of the meaning of His story and purpose of life for all mankind. The world has never been the same since the intersection of God incarnate in Christ with human history and the release of the Holy Spirit shortly after His crucifixion and irrefutable resurrection from death.
Any honest spiritual search for God and universal Truth has got to involve the thorough examination of Jesus Christ as the focus point of Christianity and human history. Surprisingly, that search will reveal that there is no action required but the relinquishing of one’s life into the hands of One who has already acted in love for His Creation.
And yes, wars, nations, politics, evil, corruption and great benevolence have been experienced throughout the world over the past 2000 years as a result of Christianity. But evil distortion and corruption does not make it wrong, it rather speaks to the free power of all people to choose their own path and either accept, reject or manipulate the Truth which is right before all of our eyes revealed in history and in the living Word of God, the Bible.
Christianity holds up One God who is supreme, sovereign and transcendent. God came to earth in the form of a man, Jesus, as savior to rectify a broken relationship between man and his Creator. Like it or not, Jesus is the one way, the only way. Don’t discard Him out of your personal sense of fairness. Seek and find understanding through Biblical scripture and humble submission to something greater than any religion or comforting doctrine.
Do you know Christian Truth or merely human religion?
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” – John 14: 6-7
1 List of Religious Populations, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religious_populations, and Christians Remain Largest Religious Group, Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/05/christians-remain-worlds-largest-religious-group-but-they-are-declining-in-europe/.
2 Basic Christianity, by John R. W. Stott, Inter-Varsity Press, London, 1958, 1971, 1988. p.21.