In anew Comparative Religion course I’m taking at school. we’re currently
studying Hinduism and will soon move on to Buddhism its actually quite
fascinating. Hinduism, with all its splendid contradictions and
incongruities, is really not that bad of a religion. Dont get me wrong, my
faith is not wavering but I found that studying the way that other
religions deal with certain subject matter is quite helpful in my
relationship with God. Paul speaks in Romans about God’s truth being made
evident through His creation, and seeing as we are His creation, there is
some truth in our religions. at the very least, Christendom doesn’t have a
monopoly on people who can powerfully convey spirituality through
writing. Getting away from a western mode of thinking helps to see God in
a whole new light. I once heard Billy Collins say that the only way to
truly make your poetry unique is to read a lot of poetry, not to hide from
it in the hopes that you won’t copy it. I guess perhaps the same is true
for my relationship with God, the only way to see beyond tradition and
human constructions (like Jesus’ long wavy hair) is to examine the Gospel
in the context of the world it was sent to save.

The real reason for this e-mail is to ask you about your thoughts
regarding the scripture that says we are created in His “image” do you
take this to mean physically (and what does that say about a
transcendental God) or spiritually and emotionally (and what does that say
about an infallible God)?

First, I agree that it is perfectly reasonable, and not
somehow dangerous, spiritually, to study and find the positive aspects of
a particular religion. In fact, if one is not willing to do so, one is
not in a good position to help people in such a religion come to Christ.
If Christianity is truly from God, then it will hold up just fine in the
face of any fair scrutiny. I am absolutely convinced that the Bible
passes all the tests one can throw at it, including a fair-minded and
rational comparison to Jaina, Confucianism, and so forth. I agree that
there is some positive morality in Hinduism, and even more so in Buddhism,
in my opinion. I have said many times to those who will ask, that the
Islam which was created by Muhammad (as opposed to the modern
interpretation by Islamicists), is a brilliant human creation which
brought about a massive improvement in the general morality and character
of the Arab peoples. But then again there are way bogus religions which
were created by power-hungry evil people such as Mormonism and Jehovah?s
Witness, but that is another story?.

I do not think you are in danger in studying these religions to find both
good and bad as long as you are staying close to God and staying in the
Bible. Some leaders would tell you that it is sinful to look into such
things. I disagree with them but can understand where they are coming
from. Those who are falling back from their commitment and are becoming
reinvolved in serious sins might easily be misled by another religion.
That is the data which some spiritual leaders use to reach their
conclusions. In other words, for some people at some points in their
life, it is in fact possible that studying out other religions might give
them a peripheral excuse to reject Christianity. Having said that, for a
person who is in a reasonable healthy spiritual state, I believe the
studies you are doing can only help. When you say that Hinduism is not
really that bad a religion, it sounds sacrilegious at first, but I believe
what you are saying is that those who created Hinduism the way it is were
tied in on some level to the true nature of man and what we were created
to be and to do. Therefore there are elements of “good” in the religion.
Of course there is the other side of the issue which is that those who
accept Hinduism lock stock and barrel must reject Jesus Christ. In doing
so, they are not saved and do not have their sins forgiven. Therefore
they are lost and are in absolutely desperate need of the Gospel of
Christ. I am assuming that this is a given for you and is not what you
are referring to when you say that Hinduism is a “good” religion.

As to the question of the meaning of the statement that we are created in
God?s image, I am reminded of Jesus? statement in John 4:24, “God is
Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” God?s
essential nature is spiritual, not physical. One must interpret the
statement that we were created in God?s image in light of the fact that
God is a spiritual being. It is in our spiritual nature that we are in
God?s image, not in our physical nature. Therefore, one cannot use the
statement that we are in God?s image to conclude that God has hands, feet,
hair, eyes, sexuality and so forth. My 13 year old daughter just the
other day pointed out that God cannot be either male or female, which is
clearly a true statement. Although we traditionally refer to God using
male pronouns, God clearly is not a guy! Based on this, I speculate that
we are in God?s image in that we have a spiritual nature, we are eternal
beings, we have emotions, we have the ability to create and to destroy, we
have the ability to give and to receive love. Some of these qualities,
such as emotions, have a physical component in our brain, but are
essentially spiritual qualities we share with God.

John Oakes

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