Salvation Through Pluralism: A Comparison of Christianity and Islam

2337 words (9 pages) Essay in Religion

08/02/20 Religion Reference this

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Introduction

Society is approaching a frightening moment in history where emotions and opinions are becoming more well-respected than facts. Common culture is allowing individuals to believe that there can be more than one answer to everything. Although this may be the case in some debates, it clouds the minds of individuals and creates a large grey area that society does not know how to act upon. Religious Pluralism agrees with common culture and supports the ideology that there can be a centralized belief where every religion can be equally correct. Pluralism is consistently growing in society which raises the question: Can religions that are exclusive in their beliefs both provide salvation for humanity? Throughout this essay I will compare Christianity and Islam in attempts to prove that Pluralism can be harmful to society because it allows contradicting beliefs on salvation to coexist as correct. By uncovering doctrines on both religions of what they believe about who Jesus is, Jesus’ resurrection, and gaining salvation, I believe it can be verified that a Pluralist view on salvation should not be adopted by a culture that is unknowingly desperate for less ambiguous guidelines in life.

Jesus according to Christianity

In the Christian bible, it is stated multiple times that Jesus is God in the flesh. For example, in John 10:30, Jesus states that “I and the Father are one.”[1] This is a consistent theme throughout the gospels and this doctrine is also what sets apart Christianity and Judaism. Jesus was Jewish in his time; however, the Jews denied his allegations of being the Son of God and led his crucifixion. At essence, Jesus is a second aspect of the Trinity, which is a central belief in Christianity. Jesus lived a perfect life amongst sin to explain and show the world what a life with God should look like. In his book, Jesus – God and Man, Pannenberg explains that, “As Christians we know God only as he has been revealed in and through Christ.”[2] This statement just clarifies that Christians truly believe that Jesus was telling the truth when he claimed he was God as a human. Jesus is the closest idea of God that Christians can get on earth and his perfect life is used as an example of how we should attempt to live.

Jesus is a very controversial human because there are multiple beliefs that can explain his actions on earth. One Christian, C.S. Lewis, encapsulates this idea perfectly when he explains that:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.[3]

 The life of Jesus, according to Christianity, was divinely created by God to fix the sin in the world. Christians argue that he was more than just a Prophet because there was never a Prophet who lived a perfectly moral life. The life of Jesus could not be executed by just any random lunatic or demon possessed man. Here, it can be said that Christians believe that the Islamic view of Jesus can be looked at as heresy on many levels.

Jesus According to Islam

Islam has a different perspective on who Jesus is compared to Christianity. The main difference here is that the Islam Quran believes Jesus (Isa) was born from Virgin Mary and sent by Allah, but he was not divine.[4] Islam stands behind the thought that Jesus was merely a Prophet who never declared to be God. Wayne Johnson explains that, “Given the absolute emphasis on the oneness of God-strict monotheism-the Quran rejects the Christian claim that Jesus is divine and the Son of God. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity suggests a polytheism Islam rejects. The claim that God has a son is viewed in the Quran as absurd.”[5] Islam claims that Christianity is wrong based on the fact that Jesus is apart of the Trinity, which supports evidence of a polytheistic religion. Jesus is not apart of God, but instead, he is a just messenger of God. One writer points out that Jesus had a significant role to play within Islam, but Muhammad is seen as the most crucial figure to the religion as a whole. Though there are significant similarities between the stories of Jesus, it is clear that Jesus according to the Quran is not nearly as significant to Islam as He is it Christianity.[6]

Resurrection According to Christianity

The resurrection of Jesus is a doctrine within the Christian beliefs that sets the religion apart from many others. The Nicene Creed – a widely accepted statement of belief in Christian liturgy – states that:

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.[7]

There are many historical primary sources that have recorded the death and resurrection of Jesus. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all provide an account of the resurrection. Even though there are some major differences in the secondary events that take place in their stories, the primary story of Jesus rising from the dead is the same.[8] Christianity can also use Judaism as an account of Jesus’ death and although this religion does not believe in the resurrection, it does not deny the death of Jesus on the cross. Christians claim that the resurrection is the main event that solidified Jesus’ claims of being sent from God. However, Islam paints a very different picture of Jesus’ death.

Resurrection According to Islam

One writer suggests that, “While the Christian tradition underlines the death by crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, the Quran rejects both claims.”[9] While Christianity poses the idea that Jesus is apart of the Trinity, the Quran implies that when Jesus died, he was completely removed from the physical world. Quran (4:157) informs that Jesus certainly did not die by crucifixion, which leads Muslims to believe that either another person was crucified in Jesus’ place, Jesus was rescued from the cross by Allah, or Jesus did not actually die on the cross.[10] Essentially, Islam directly opposes Christianity on the idea of Jesus’ crucifixion.

These statements are all very important because they deny Jesus dying on the cross, therefore, suggesting that he was never resurrected three days later. Muslims will find less value in the death of Jesus compared to Christians because this event means hardly anything to them. This is possibly the biggest contradiction of the two religions because this disagreement determines how followers respond to the idea of salvation through Allah or God.

Salvation According to Christianity

Christians hold the belief that salvation can only be found through God, and his sacrifice on the cross which symbolizes his grace for the sins of humanity. Everyone is born a sinner, but the Trinity (Holy spirit) is used to push society to beat temptations of the material world and join God’s kingdom eternally. The Christian bible explains a God that is present in the lives of humanity through the Trinity in Romans 8:39, where it declares that, “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[11] Jesus’ death is supposed to remind believers of how great God’s eternal love is for humankind. It is a common idea that, “… it was Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection that achieved our salvation (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:7). Scripture is clear that salvation is the gracious, undeserved gift of God (Ephesians 2:5, 8) and is only available through faith in Jesus Christ.”[12] The perfect life and resurrection of Jesus is doctrinal to salvation within Christianity, whereas Islam contains a whole different set of beliefs towards salvation.

Salvation According to Islam

Iain Emberson, a Catholic apologist, informs us that, “In the Quran it is said that salvation is achieved through good works, thus personal righteousness must outweigh personal sin.”[13] Individuals are born sinless and are naturally inclined to do good things in the name of Allah. Therefore, Jesus was really only called to be a messenger and Prophet of God. Islam is an exclusive religion because it teaches that hell is for those who turn away from Allah and deny the claims of Muhammad.[14] Obviously, faith still matters to Muslims, but salvation is more centered around the idea that each individual must prove their worth to Allah in the life they are given. So here, it can be said that Christianity relies on grace alone for salvation, whereas Islam states that works and good deeds can create eternal salvation.

Conclusion

Now that we have investigated the different beliefs of Islam and Christianity on who Jesus was, his resurrection, and salvation, it can be said that both religions have contradictory views on being saved by the god of the universe. Both Islam and Christianity are exclusive in nature, so it is important to investigate different religions and find which one is built upon the most truth throughout history. I believe that salvation cannot be found through different beliefs that oppose each other on such major doctrines. Mark Clark asserts that “… we want to see if there is any truth behind this view of things, because, … it is not enough for us to write off an idea simply because it leaves a bad taste in our mouths.”[15] This illustration can be used here as it essentially tells us that we cannot just choose to accept all religions simply to make salvation easy for us. The view of Pluralism allows salvation to be given without any sense of faith or works within the individual. Religious Pluralism should not be an ideology accepted by society because many religions contain different doctrines that are believed to be exclusively needed for salvation. However, it is accepted in today’s culture because humanity wants to believe that there will never be one ultimate truthful religion.

References

  • Clark, Mark A. The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptics Challenges to Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.
  • Emberson, Iain A. Comparison Table between Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Accessed December 05, 2018. http://christianityinview.com/xncomparison.html.
  • GotQuestions.org. “What Is the Christian Doctrine of Salvation?” GotQuestions.org. February 21, 2018. Accessed December 05, 2018. http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-doctrine-salvation.html.
  • Johnson, Wayne G. Judging Jesus: World Religions Answers to “who Do People Say That I Am?”Lanham, MD: Hamilton Books, 2016.
  • Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. Harpercollins Publishers, 2017.
  • Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Jesus – God and Man. Translated by Lewis L. Wilkins and Duane A. Priebe. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974.
  • “Questions About Easter: Do the Resurrection Accounts in the Four Gospels Contradict Each Other?” Acts 3:9-10 NIV – – Bible Gateway. March 22, 2012. Accessed December 05, 2018. http://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2012/03/questions-about-easter-do-the-resurrection-accounts-in-the-four-gospels-contradict-each-other/.
  • “The Nicene Creed.” Four Major Worldviews | Grace Communion International. Accessed December 05, 2018. http://www.gci.org/articles/the-nicene-creed/.
  • “What Do Muslims Think of Jesus?” USCatholic.org. September 19, 2016. Accessed December 05, 2018. http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201609/what-do-muslims-think-jesus-30772.

[1] Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2015.

[2] Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Jesus – God and Man. Translated by Lewis L. Wilkins and Duane A. Priebe. Westminster Press, 1974, 19.

[3] Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. Harpercollins Publishers, 2017.

[4] The Quran (5:17)

[5] Johnson, Wayne G. Judging Jesus – World Religions Answers to “Who Do People Say That I Am?”. University Press Of America, 2016, 57.

[6] “What Do Muslims Think of Jesus?” USCatholic.org, 19 Sept. 2016, www.uscatholic.org/articles/201609/what-do-muslims-think-jesus-30772.

[7] “The Nicene Creed.” Four Major Worldviews | Grace Communion International, www.gci.org/articles/the-nicene-creed/.

[8] “Questions About Easter: Do the Resurrection Accounts in the Four Gospels Contradict Each Other?” Acts 3:9-10 NIV – – Bible Gateway, Bible Gateway Blog, 22 Mar. 2012, www.biblegateway.com/blog/2012/03/questions-about-easter-do-the-resurrection-accounts-in-the-four-gospels-contradict-each-other/.

[9] Johnson, Judging Jesus, 58.

[10] b777. “Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry.” CARM.org, CARM, 28 Sept. 2017, carm.org/islam-crucifixion-of-jesus.

[11] Holy Bible, Zondervan.

[12] GotQuestions.org. “What Is the Christian Doctrine of Salvation?” GotQuestions.org, 21 Feb. 2018, www.gotquestions.org/Christian-doctrine-salvation.html.

[13] Emberson, Iain A. “Comparison Table between Christianity, Islam and Judaism.” Christianity in View, 7 Mar. 2016, christianityinview.com/xncomparison.html.

[14] Clark, Mark A. The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity. Zondervan, 2017, 203.

[15] Clark, The Problem of God, 209.

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