What’s So Special About Christianity?

By J. Warner Wallace Published on February 1, 2018

Every worldview takes a position regarding eternity. Even those who don’t believe in God, still believe something about death and the possibility of heaven. To disbelieve a claim requires a belief in something contrary. When I was an atheist, I believed something about eternity and the possibility of life after death:

  1. If you’re an Atheist…
    You deny that there is a God, have no belief in supernatural phenomena (or anything beyond the natural realm), and no belief in an afterlife.

An Afterlife Dependent on Man

All the world’s religious belief systems, on the other hand, posit that humans can work their way into God’s presence through some set of good behaviors. Regardless of religious system, all proclaim a similar idea: you, as a simple human, can control (or at least contribute to) your own eternal destiny.

  1. If you’re a Jew…
    You obey the Ten Commandments.
  2. If you’re Muslim…
    You obey the Five Pillars of Faith.
  3. If you’re a Buddhist…
    You obey the implications of the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path.
  4. If you’re a Baha’i…
    You must keep the Baha’i Law.
  5. If you’re a Hindu…
    You must perform good deeds (Karma Yoga), work to attain a state of consciousness in meditation (Jnana Yoga), or perform acts of worship, temple rituals and pilgrimages (Bhakti Yoga).
  6. If you’re a Jehovah’s Witness…
    You must perform good works that fulfill God’s will.
  7. If you’re a Scientologist…
    You must work toward spiritual enlightenment and an attainment of brotherhood with the universe.
  8. If you’re a Mormon…
    You obey the Ten Commandments of Judaism, every commandment of Jesus, and the teachings of all the Mormon Prophets.

Imperfect Beings

Notice the similarity? All these worldviews are dependent on the beliefs or works of humans. You either think you are smart enough to explain it all (Atheism), or think you can somehow unite yourself to God through your own good works (all the aforementioned religious beliefs). Christianity, on the other hand, proclaims something very different.

  1. If you’re a Christian…
    You are convinced that God is too great to be impressed with good deeds and that there is nothing you can do as a mere mortal to earn your way to heaven. Amazingly, God simply offers something that he has already done for you.

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If there is a God powerful enough to create everything in the universe from nothing, this God is certainly powerful enough to bring us home without any additional help from us. A God this powerful wouldn’t be impressed with the works of men. A God this powerful doesn’t need our help; He’s fully capable of getting the job done on His own. More importantly, if there is a God powerful enough to create everything in the universe from nothing, this God is also powerful enough to eliminate imperfection. A God this powerful is a perfect Being, separated from His creation by this important distinction. Our good works might be good, but they aren’t perfect.

Of the ten worldviews we’ve listed here, only one addresses the true, powerful nature of God. Only Christianity offers the free gift of an all-powerful Deity. Only Christianity offers grace and hope for those who know they are imperfect.

Characteristics of Counterfeits

If I placed Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in a room along with many copies I painted myself, you would notice two things: First, you would notice that there is only one true Mona Lisa. All my copies would differ from the original (even though they might share common characteristics as copies). You’d also be able to identify the true painting. It would stand out from the rest; it would have a property of “singularity” marking it as genuine. Second, you’d notice the slight imperfections of all the other paintings. Each would show signs of having been painted by someone who is far less gifted than the inspired artist. One painting in the room would reflect the nature of a gifted artisan and creator, the rest would reflect the nature of an ordinary man.

The Christian offer of Salvation stands out from the rest; it possesses a property of “singularity” marking it as true.

Christianity is the Mona Lisa in the room. It stands alone, bearing the unique, singular quality of grace (the undeserved free gift of Salvation). All other belief systems and worldviews share a common logical flaw: they are “works based” and fail to offer the grace of God. And, like my Mona Lisa copies, they are alike in their imperfection. You can spot the truth about eternity the same way you can spot the true Mona Lisa.

The Christian offer of Salvation stands out from the rest; it possesses a property of “singularity” marking it as true. The other worldviews display common imperfections, each having been created by people who are far less gifted than the inspired Artist. One worldview — Christianity — reflects the nature of this gifted Artisan and Creator, the others reflect the nature of an ordinary men.

 

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, Christian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, God’s Crime Scene for Kids and Forensic Faith.

Originally published at Cold-Case Christianity. Reprinted with permission.

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  • Jennifer Hartline

    I’m a Catholic Christian, and I believe I’m commanded by God to obey Him. That includes the Ten Commandments, and of course, the commands of Jesus Christ. It means I need to heed the words of the prophets of the Old Testament as well. God may not be impressed, as you say, with good deeds, and I cannot merit Heaven on my own, but faith without works is dead. Cooperation with grace on my part is essential, and my actions in life are not irrelevant to faith and salvation. I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling, after all.
    For me, what’s so special about Christianity is Emmanuel. God with us. Jesus, the Word made flesh. Our God put on human flesh and dwelt among us. Then He who was without sin became sin, so that I can be forgiven, redeemed, made whole again, and spend eternity with Him. That’s what makes Christianity so special.

    • Ken Abbott

      Good words, Mrs. Hartline, but don’t forget that Philippians 2:13 follows immediately upon verse 12: “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Without God, all our striving is useless. The message of the entire epistle is just that–apart from Christ, everything is trash.

      • Jennifer Hartline

        Of course. We still have to respond and cooperate with grace.

        • Jackie

          Ephesians 2: 7 His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (If Grace is freely given then all we are expected to do is accept His kind gift not cooperate or work with it).

          • Jay Champagne

            Catholics still adhere to the doctrine of sola fide. It is by faith alone that we are saved, not by our own works. However, if we have faith, that faith and three love that accompanies it compel us to good works.

          • Jackie

            Yes, His provision of grace through our faith in Him alone is our only focus and we are fully aware that our works has no merit to receive anything established clearly and simply because we were already provided with all we need. Therefore our works is our outward expressed Love of Him showing in us that He has completely provided everything. There is nothing in us to merit anything from works. Lest we should boast. In other words, we don’t do works because we love him, instead we do works because He first Loved us. So then, proper faith produces proper works.

        • Conr

          We don’t HAVE to. We respond because of the grace shown to us. Not because we are forced to. I think we both generally have the same understanding, but I feel the difference is significant. It is easy to focus on works and dilute the power of the gospel when at the core He calls/saves us. There is nothing we do that can contribute to that. Sorry my Calvinistic thoughts coming out…

          • Jennifer Hartline

            Conr, we do have to choose to respond and cooperate with grace. God will never force us to respond to His grace. We do *have* to, by an act of our own will, choose God and respond to His grace. And of course, even the inclination of our hearts to respond to grace is grace. My point is only that God loves freedom, and He never violates ours. He allows us to respond or not, as we choose.

          • Conr

            I think we mostly agree, but maybe not on the terminology. To emphasize the choice implies we are not depraved beings and we have a ‘spark’ as some would describe it. Biblically it is clear this is not so. That is my hesitation, does that make sense?

    • GPS Daddy

      Do you obey to merit God’s grace or is it because of God’s grace you obey?

      • Jennifer Hartline

        I obey out of love, and by His grace.
        “Since therefore grace does not destroy nature but perfects it, natural reason should minister to faith as the natural bent of the will ministers to charity.” Thomas Aquinas

        • GPS Daddy

          We never love purely or completely, do we? Our love will never be Holy without God’s grace… or more specifically, the blood of Christ. So this leads me back to my question. Do you obey to gain God’s love? Even a little?

          I do. But that does not make it right. Biblical Grace is unmerited favor. While we were still sinner’s Christ died for us.

    • Conr

      Jennifer, I think some of the confusion is that our good works do not earn us our spot in heaven which is what other religions preach. Faith without works is dead is accurate but the works we do, are not tied to our salvation, they are simply a sign of obedience to God and are manifested out of our love for Him. I don’t believe the author is solely trying to make this point. Not that works have no place in Christianity.

  • Kevin Quillen

    Sadly most Christians do not know what makes Christianity so special. Organized religion has distorted the truth. Money and control has corrupted Christ’s message. The truth is in John 12:32. “And I, If I am lifted up from th earth, will draw all peoples to Myself”. The Greek word here for “draw” means “DRAG” Think about the implications of that!! God is LOVE and LOVES ALL. And WILL SAVE ALL!! Thank you Jesus! Heb 12:2. “for the “JOY” set before Him, endured the cross.” If only a tiny fraction of God’s children were saved, would Jesus have “JOY” from His sacrifice? NO, it is only JOY because He was successful in saving ALL! If He does not get you in this life, He WILL in the next! Praise God!!

    • John Scott

      Kevin,

      God’s Word is clear that not everyone is saved, and no one gets a second chance after death. You are taking one line of Scripture out of context while ignoring the entirety of God’s Word. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.“. Furthermore, Jesus consistently teaches that hell is real and many people will be there for eternity, because they rejected God’s free gift of eternal life by rejecting His Son Jesus. Read Matthew 13:47-50, Luke 16:19-31, and Revelation 20:11-15. There are countless other examples as well.

      Also, while every person is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), we are NOT all children of God. As Jesus taught, one can only become a child of God by being born again (John 3:1-15). You must be born again to have eternal life. Only if you are born again of the Holy Spirit are you adopted into God’s family as a child of God. Please read all of Romans 8 to see that the primary role of the Holy Spirit is to testify to our spirits that we are children of God. If you do not have the Holy Spirit in you, you do not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).

      No doubt you’ve heard the famous verse John 3:16, but have you read what immediately follows? Here is it, and these are Jesus’ own words:

      “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

      I hope this helps you see God’s full truth. If everyone who ever lived were saved or given a second chance after death, then Jesus died for no reason at all. I speak these truths in love, just as Jesus did. It is far more loving to speak the truth that, without the forgiveness of sin through Jesus, eternal punishment awaits than it is to proclaim that Jesus will save all—He won’t if someone rejects Him. God wants no one to perish and wants all of us to find repentance (2 Peter 3:9). However, you must believe in Christ now in this life and be indwelt by the Holy Spirit now inthis life in order to receive eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

    • John Scott

      Kevin,

      God’s Word is clear that not everyone is saved, and no one gets a second chance after death. You are taking one line of Scripture out of context while ignoring the entirety of God’s Word. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.“. Furthermore, Jesus consistently teaches that hell is real and many people will be there for eternity, because they rejected God’s free gift of eternal life by rejecting His Son Jesus. Read Matthew 13:47-50, Luke 16:19-31, and Revelation 20:11-15. There are countless other examples as well.

      Also, while every person is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), we are NOT all children of God. As Jesus taught, one can only become a child of God by being born again (John 3:1-15). You must be born again to have eternal life. Only if you are born again of the Holy Spirit are you adopted into God’s family as a child of God. Please read all of Romans 8 to see that the primary role of the Holy Spirit is to testify to our spirits that we are children of God. If you do not have the Holy Spirit in you, you do not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).

      No doubt you’ve heard the famous verse John 3:16, but have you read what immediately follows? Here is it, and these are Jesus’ own words:

      “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

      I hope this helps you see God’s full truth. If everyone who ever lived were saved or given a second chance after death, then Jesus died for no reason at all. I speak these truths in love, just as Jesus did. It is far more loving to speak the truth that, without the forgiveness of sin through Jesus, eternal punishment awaits than it is to proclaim that Jesus will save all—He won’t if someone rejects Him. God wants no one to perish and wants all of us to find repentance (2 Peter 3:9). However, you must believe in Christ now in this life and be indwelt by the Holy Spirit now in this life in order to receive eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). I deserve death for my sins, but Christ has taken my punishment, indwelt me with His Spirit, and given me eternal life—it was a free gift and all I had to do was accept it. He wants to do the same for everyone, but one cannot reject Him and sill expect to receive eternal life.

    • John Scott

      Kevin,

      God’s Word is clear that not everyone is saved, and no one gets a second chance after death. You are taking one line of Scripture out of context while ignoring the entirety of God’s Word. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.“. Furthermore, Jesus consistently teaches that hell is real and many people will be there for eternity, because they rejected God’s free gift of eternal life by rejecting His Son Jesus. Read Matthew 13:47-50, Luke 16:19-31, and Revelation 20:11-15. There are countless other examples as well.

      Also, while every person is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), we are NOT all children of God. As Jesus taught, one can only become a child of God by being born again (John 3:1-15). You must be born again to have eternal life. Only if you are born again of the Holy Spirit are you adopted into God’s family as a child of God. Please read all of Romans 8 to see that the primary role of the Holy Spirit is to testify to our spirits that we are children of God. If you do not have the Holy Spirit in you, you do not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).

      No doubt you’ve heard the famous verse John 3:16, but have you read what immediately follows? Here is it, and these are Jesus’ own words:

      “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

      I hope this helps you see God’s full truth. If everyone who ever lived were saved or given a second chance after death, then Jesus died for no reason at all. I speak these truths in love, just as Jesus did. It is far more loving to speak the truth that, without the forgiveness of sin through Jesus, eternal punishment awaits than it is to proclaim that Jesus will save all—He won’t if someone rejects Him. God wants no one to perish and wants all of us to find repentance (2 Peter 3:9). However, you must believe in Christ now in this life and be indwelt by the Holy Spirit now in this life in order to receive eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

    • AndRebecca

      John 3:16 is great and so is John 12:36.

  • Jackie

    This is well said. Thank you.

  • Olaf

    Thank you for reminding us of the truth. Also, as a proof for this, Jesus bodily rose from the dead.

  • Yahad

    It continues to sadden me to see Christians exalt Christianity not only over Judaism, but to also paint an inaccurate picture of Judaism. Jesus was a Jew. Jesus followed Judaism. Christianity was not His mission. Demonstrating God’s faithfulness through Biblical (not rabbinical) Judaism was his mission.

    God saved (salvation) the Israelites out of Egypt by His mercy and grace, not because they obeyed the Ten Commandments. That was a perfect picture of Salvation… simply due to God’s goodness and the people’s willingness to obey and trust that He would deliver them. Once they were saved out of their slavery, He then said, “Show your gratitude by living according to My standards.”

    How is that any different than what is described in #10?

    • Conr

      Yahad, I am not an expert or that well versed by any means but I want to humbly ask a few question from my perspective if you feel inclined to respond.

      You attribute God leading the Israelite’s out of Egypt to salvation. I don’t totally follow this logic, the Israelite’s were not given eternal salvation by this act? I agree that it is a demonstration of grace and God’s goodness but I don’t see how that is salvation.

      What are your thoughts on the requirements of sacrifice for cleansing of sins etc in the old testament? This by all means was a physical act to please God. Or do I misunderstand?

      • Yahad

        I think you ask a good question, Conr. I understand how some could see the salvation the Israelites received as not eternal. I would say that their obedience enacted (or cooperated with) God’s plan. Scripturally, I see that similar, if not identical, to what you probably refer to as “eternal” salvation. I try to take the Bible as a whole… as well as a better-safe-than-sorry approach. Though I am well aware of many verses people point out to prove that their salvation is “eternal,” there is much to be considered in Scripture that should cause one to strongly consider if their salvation is really a “done deal.” I think most non-Catholic Christians ignore “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” That Biblical comment, to me, doesn’t mean that I earn my salvation, it means I need to take care of it… be the custodian of it. If I don’t

        Then again, it IS interesting that regardless of how many times the Israelites sinned/failed at following God, who had recently saved them, they were never returned to Egypt. Could that be seen as “eternally freed from Egypt”?

        Thank you for your polite question. 🙂

        • Conr

          I enjoyed reading your comments. I come from a Reformed Cavanistic perspective so I find your parallel very interesting to consider. Are you Jewish?

          • Yahad

            I have many friends who come from a Reformed Calvinistic perspective. Though I think/hope I always try to portray a fully Biblical perspective, I know I fail. 🙂

            I was not raised in a Jewish home, but I have Jewish ancestry on one side of my family. Hitler would have considered me Jewish, but the State of Israel wouldn’t – one generation removed. Some of my Jewish friends consider me “Christian,” and many of my Christian friends consider me “Jewish” due to the points I tend to bring up in conversation.

            That being said, as I read the B’rit Hadasha (Newer Testament), it appears to me that the Gentile followers of Jesus were basically following the Jewish God and Jewish messiah. As one reads the Tanakh (Older Testament), it is interesting that Gentiles were allowed to join Israel and considered part of Israel in many ways (though not all ways). That is much closer to “being Jewish” than many Gentile Christians would like to admit.

            Just more food for thought.

            If you are interested in a related book, you might enjoy “Sabbath Breaker.”

          • Conr

            Thanks I’ll check it out

  • The nice thing about a works-based faith is that you’ve got some certainty that you’re going to the Good Place. With Christianity, though, you’ve got dozens of major denominations pulling you this way or that. Which is the right one? Sure, you can try to homogenize them, but some rules are of the “my way or the highway” sort.

    And then there’s the “we can’t judge God” problem. You read about all the bad stuff God did in the Old Testament (Leviticus 25:44-46 comes to mind), and you fall back on “well, we can’t judge God.” That’s fine until you get to Judgment. How do you know you’re getting into heaven? You’re sure that a good god would judge your faith satisfactory for entrance … but is God a “good god” by your measure? You can’t judge God, remember? If he sends you to hell for (what seems to you) arbitrary or capricious reasons, who are you to judge?

    • AndRebecca

      Huh?

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