PART 3 My Search for the One True God
What is the basic story that most of the mainstream religions are based on? It goes something like this…
God created the universe, including the solar system, as well as heavenly beings called angels, some of whom rebelled against Him. They were to receive punishment for their transgression, and some people believe that an opportunity was given for them to acknowledge their transgression and receive pardon, but they refused. The punishment would be residence in a place of eternal torment.
It is believed that they questioned God’s judgment, thinking that if he were to create another type of being who also rebelled, he wouldn’t send them to this place of torment.
So, God made new beings, human beings, in the Garden of Eden. The first two were the man and woman, Adam and Eve. Eventually, they also disobeyed God by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the one tree in the entire garden that God had prohibited. Like the angels, mankind was also placed under judgment.
Human history is centered on God’s intervention in the affairs of mankind by providing an opportunity for them to return to a right relationship with Him. Eventually, as the population of the human race increased, He would reveal himself to mankind with the hope that they would believe in who he is. God’s attempt to restore this fractured relationship with mankind is additional evidence to the fallen angels that He is just and fair, and that the sentence he imposed on them is justified.
God’s plan to reveal himself to the many nations that would come and go over time was put into motion when He made himself known to Abram. If this man would believe in Him as the one true God and obey his directives, then eventually a nation would be formed and would reside in a particular geographical area. God made a covenant with Abram that all He promised would come to pass if he and his descendants would be faithful to Him.
As time went on, Abram had a son named Isaac, Isaac had a son named Jacob, and Jacob had 12 sons. As the 12 sons married and had children, and their children married and had children, the people became known as tribes, with each tribe named after one of Jacob’s sons. Eventually, a severe famine caused these descendants to relocate to the land of Egypt where they were under the jurisdiction of a Pharaoh who welcomed them. But after his death, a new Pharaoh placed them into slavery, a situation that lasted for about 430 years. Finally, a man named Moses was appointed by God to lead the people out of their Egyptian slavery.
They set out on a journey that should have only taken about 11 days but ended up lasting 40 years as they wandered in the wilderness, eventually crossing over the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, known as the Promised Land. After arriving at Mount Sinai, God delineated to Moses commandments, judgments, testimonies, and statutes, which in their totality are known as the Mosaic Law. If the people faithfully followed God’s directives, they would conquer all of their enemies and possess the land.
As the years went by, many governmental changes occurred. The people followed Moses as they wandered through the desert, were under the direction of Joshua as they entered the land, and then guided by a succession of judges who were men or women that God raised up when Israel would cry to Him for help. There came a time when the people chose to be ruled by kings, and eventually the kingdom was split into the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the two tribes of the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Because of apostasy, the Northern Kingdom went into captivity to Assyria, followed years later by the Southern Kingdom’s captivity to Babylon. When Cyrus, King of Persia, defeated the Babylonians, the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland. A short time later, the Roman Empire came into power and the Jewish people fell under its jurisdiction.
As a central theme of their faith, the Jews were waiting for the arrival of their Messiah, an expected world ruler who would establish a government and preside over the entire world. According to their faith, they would be able to recognize his arrival because he would be born as a human being; and they expected that he would win battles and deliver them from Roman oppression.
When Jesus Christ began his public ministry and proclaimed himself as their Messiah, he was rejected, charged with blasphemy for proclaiming himself to be equal with God, and hung on a cross to die. But here’s where many of the faiths diverge.
Differences of opinion regarding the person of Jesus Christ exist in various faiths, including:
~ Was born of a virgin, having been conceived by God the Holy Spirit.
~ Lived a sinless life, exhibiting the characteristics of Godliness by growing in wisdom, speaking and doing that which he heard/saw from the Father, and was empowered by the Holy Spirit.
~ Paid the debt owed by all mankind through his death; satisfying the justice of God for their sins and resulting in the removal of all record of this debt (this is known as forgiveness).
~ Resided in hell (Hades) for three days and then rose from the dead, his spirit and soul re-entering his body to become a resurrected glorified body.
~ Remained on earth for 40 days, during which time more than 500 people were eye witnesses of his resurrected body.
~ Ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father.
~ Fulfilled his promise of sending the Comforter, as heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit came upon his disciples on the Day of Pentecost, marking the beginning of the New Testament church.
The faiths that we will examine are Judaism, Catholicism, Episcopalian, Christianity (born again), Seventh Day Adventist, the Church of Latter Day Saints, Buddhism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Islam, and Unitarian. The ones that adhere most closely to Religion’s Story are Catholicism, Episcopalian, Jehovah’s Witness, Christianity (born again), Seventh Day Adventist, and the Church of Latter Day Saints.
Judaism adheres to the Old Testament teachings that were written before Christ. However, they are still waiting for their Messiah, who they believe will be born as a human being. When he arrives, he will rebuild the temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed by the Romans; re-establish the institution of the Mosaic Law; restore the Jewish court system; and establish a government that would preside over the entire world.
The Buddhism story is based on the spiritual journey of a man named Siddharta Gautama in the 5th century BC. His journey involved abstinence and contemplation. At some point during his meditation, he obtained enlightenment. This faith emphasizes the journey of an individual to attain enlightenment or awakening for oneself. This is the process by which one seeks to obtain freedom from suffering, pain, and misery; and involves following an eightfold path that results in inner peace, wisdom, and love.
The Christian Science story is based on the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, which teach that God is an incorporeal Spirit-creative Principle, supreme, omnipotent Father-Mother, omnipresent, omniscient—the only intelligence and all that actually exists. God is Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love, and All in All. Everything is God, and God is good. This faith emphasizes the journey of an individual developing spiritually toward Truth (bringing oneself in harmony with one’s true nature as God’s reflection) until all evil (defined as error), destroys itself.
The Islam’s story is about an angel named Gabriel, who revealed to Muhammad the knowledge of how to please Allah, their name for God.
Even with all of their differences, most of these religions believe in an afterlife; though opinions vary as to where certain people will go. Quite interesting!
Now that you know in a very simplistic way the basic story line of these mainstream religions, let’s look at some general information about each faith. This will provide an awareness of their basic beliefs, or theology. Testimonies of either a member or leader of each faith will help us understand how they came to and why they continue in their faith. Just how varied these faiths differ will become obvious, and will form the basis for determining which faith or faiths follow the one true God.
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