We met recently while I was visiting friends and talking about Jesus. You said that it would be OK if I left you a short note. You said that there are about 4,200 religions in the world and Google basically agrees with you, though there is significant double-counting with each Christian denomination being counted as a separate religion even though their beliefs are fundamentally identical. You indicated that you had studied a representative number of these religions.
You said that you believe in the Ten Commandments.
Excuse me if I am incorrect, but I understand your basic belief is that all worthwhile religions have a system of moral law and that the core of the moral law of all worthwhile religions is the same. This consistency in the core of the moral law is what validates the moral core as true. In other words we can know what is true by seeing what is common across the worthwhile religions. The moral core of all worthwhile religions is represented by The Ten Commandments.
Hence your basic belief is that all that is required of mankind is that we follow the Ten Commandments, which you do. Hence you have no further need of any instruction.
Question: Is something true just because a lot of religions say it is true ? On what basis can a religion be known to be good and worthwhile ? Who decides what is a worthwhile religion ? Is mankind capable of discerning what is true and good ? Does mankind possess a functioning moral consciousness which is able to discern spiritual truth ?
You imply that you have the ability to be able to discern between worthwhile religions and those which are not worthwhile and also to completely or at least satisfactorily follow the teachings of worthwhile religion.
The corollary of the above is that you believe you have a functioning moral consciousness that enables you to both discern and do good, at least to a satisfactory level.
Question: Who decides what is a satisfactory moral performance ? Me ? You ? The local Mullah ? The Pope ? God ? Which God ? A jury of our peers ? Some African people we have never met ? Even allowing for a common moral law, why do people disagree on what is satisfactory moral performance ? Since people disagree on what is a satatifactory moral performance, how can I know that my own moral performance is acceptable? Are multiple different personal moral standards person-by-person acceptable ? Shouldn’t there be a single objective moral standard ? How can we know that God will be satisfied with our moral performance ? Am I qualified to judge myself ? Am I my own God ?
Many people think that a satisfactory moral standard is covered by some subset of the Ten Commandments – usually : Don’t lie, Don’t Steal, Don’t Kill and Don’t hurt anyone. Sometimes someone will add Don’t Commit Adultery.
Most Australians seem unaware that we routinely break several of the commandments, namely Don’t worship anyone except Yahweh, the God of The Bible, Don’t misuse the name of God, Don’t work on The Sabbath, Don’t be jealous of someone else’s material possessions, Honour your father and mother.
Many Australians I speak to think they have basically kept the Ten Commandments, or at least the subset they nominate, though they will also agree that are not perfect and have made some mistakes. They mostly think that their mistakes are small and unimportant and that God will forgive them and that they will still go to Heaven. If pressed they will say ‘ I haven’t killed anyone’, reducing the Ten Commandments to One.
Are the ‘forgotten commandments’ important ? Is it only required to keep One Commandment? If so, which one ? Can we pick and choose which Commandments we follow ?
I agree that the Ten Commandments provide a basis for ethics and moral law. But I often fail to keep the Ten Commandments.
Should there be any consequences for moral failure ? If so, what should those consequences be ?
The Ten Commandments appear in The Bible in Exodus Chapter 20. Exodus Chapter 20 also spells out the consequences for moral failure: to atone for failure to keep the moral law, Israel was required to bring sheep and other animals and sacrifice them to God.
So The Ten Commandments say that the consequences for moral failure is Death. Not your own death, but someone else’s. Of course if the animal was not bought for sacrifice, the guilt would remain on the law-breaker and his own death would be required by God on Judgement Day.
Question: Can we believe the Ten Commandments and the moral law without believing the consequences for our failure to keep the moral law ? Can we accept the first half of Exodus 20 but reject the second half ? Can we pick and choose from The Ten Commandments ? Can we pick and choose which parts of The Bible to believe ?
Jesus also believed the Ten Commandments. In Mark 10:17-30, Jesus instructed a Rich Young Man to follow the Ten Commandments. The Rich Young Man claimed to have followed all the Commandments, but was still spiritually empty. Jesus questioned The Rich Young Man on his attitude and actions in regard to wealth.
What question would Jesus ask you ? What question would he ask me ?
In the end Jesus told His disciples that it was impossible for a Man to go to Heaven by adherence to the Moral Law.
Jesus said “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:25-27)
Question: Jesus says it is impossible for man to satisfy God with our Moral Performance. Is Jesus correct ?
Why is it impossible for you and me to satisfy God with our moral performance ? Because the standard of God is perfection. Read Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve were expelled from Heaven for committing just one sin. Have you committed one sin ? I have. We all have.
In fact, Jesus interpereted the Ten Commandments very strictly. Jesus taught that wrong thoughts and attitudes were the same as committing sins physically. One specific example Jesus gave was men looking at women lustfully. I have done this. Jesus says that makes me guilty of adultery. I suspect every man on the planet is thus guilty of adultery. Maybe even you. By Jesus’s standards (see Matthew 5:28).
Jesus also taught that any man who calls another man ‘A fool’ has committed a sin and is therefore liable for moral consequences, this penalty being death and hell. (Matthew 5:22) So, Jesus teaches us that there is not even one person has lived a satisfactory moral life
Question: Should we accept Jesus standard of morality or our own ? Why ?
Jesus also believed in the second half of Exodus 20, the consequences of moral failure i.e. the Death of the One who fails morally. John The Baptist said Jesus is The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). In other words, John taught that Jesus is the ransom required for mankind to receive forgiveness from God. Jesus taught the reason for his life was to give his life as a ransom for many.(Matthew 20:28). Jesus taught that all mankind including you and me are guilty of moral failure and face the most extreme consequences.
And that’s where Christmas comes in. God Himself decided to come to Earth as Jesus to live as a man, to overcome all temptations and to completely fulfil the moral law of God. In this way, Jesus becomes a representative of mankind before God. He suffered death and hell on our behalf so that we don’t have to.
Jesus has paid your ransom. You now have the choice before God of accepting Jesus as your ransom or choosing to pay the penalty of death and hell yourself.
Its up to you.
You indicated that you do not believe that the death of Jesus on the Cross is a payment for your sins because you do not believe in Human Sacrifice.
Jesus did not teach us to practice Human Sacrifice. Jesus did teach us that the Judicial Penalty for sin is death. He has paid that penalty so that you don’t have to. There is a fallacy believed that Christianity teaches Human Sacrifice. It does not. But Jesus, Moses, David and Abraham did teach that the Judicial Penalty of death can be paid for by God on behalf of mankind.
Sir, not all religions are the same, even though all of them have some kind of moral law. Let’s examine the four largest religions on Earth:
Hindus say: The Truth is One, but the teachers speak of it in many different ways.
Buddha said: Follow my eight-fold path and you will discover The Truth.
Mohammed said: The Truth has been revealed to me.
Jesus said: I am The Truth
Of the four largest religions on earth, there is only one that says that you can get to the truth by multiple different essentially equal ways. That religion in Hinduism.If someone says that there are many ways to God they are contradicting Buddha, Mohammed and Jesus. Do we really have any right to contradict these teachers ? In particular, who are we to say that we understand their religions better than they themselves do ? Buddha, Mohammed and Jesus all said that there is only one way to heaven, not many.
If we align ourselves with Hinduism saying all religions are basically the same, do we then do as the Hindus do and worship Ganesh, Shiva and Vishnu ? If not, why not ?
Of these four religions, three say the way to heaven is by works, or our own efforts in adherence to the moral law. Only one says that our own efforts in adherence to the moral law will never take us to Heaven. And that one is Jesus.
Jesus stands alone.
Is Jesus correct ? Is He alone The Way to Heaven ?
I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me. (Jesus, John 14:6)
Sir, Thank You so much for allowing me to leave you this short note. I would love to discuss these ideas with you in further detail. Please contact me any time.
Merry Christmas !