by Bill Nugent
A young college woman sits down at her desk on the first day of a course on comparative religion. She thinks it’s a good deal. She gets college credit for a casual review of her own Christian faith and gets to learn about other world religions.
The professor enters the room fashionably late. He’s casually dressed in frumpy clothes and his hair is in a thin gray ponytail. What follows in that first class and throughout the rest of the semester is a battle for the souls of the students in the class.
The professor’s secular, atheistic, materialist bias is revealed from the first time he opens his mouth. He nevertheless gives all religions a modicum of respect except for traditional Christianity for which he reveals unvarnished disdain.
The professor, when dealing with the Christian faith, attacks it in a manner commonly used in comparative religion classes in college.
His gross error is the claim that in the early centuries of Christian history there were several vastly different sects of Christianity each with their own sacred texts, competing with each other on a more or less equal basis to become the dominant mainstream branch.
Incidentally, the murder mystery thriller, The Da Vinci Code, promoted the view that a feminist Gnostic sect had the greater claim to be the true Christian faith. The truth is far different.
The truth is that traditional apostolic Christianity, which is the Christianity of the New Testament, was the mainstream form of Christianity from the very earliest days of the church.
The Gnostic sects are very different from traditional Christianity and are by no means on an equal scholarly footing with the traditional Christian faith. The Gnostic texts were written centuries after the New Testament.
Nevertheless, this “60’s geek” professor with his persuasive words is able to shake the faith of some young Christian students. A careful student who takes some time to do some research will see through the “strawman” the professor has set up.
The “strawman” tactic is commonly used in debates and lectures. It consists of distorting Christianity into a strawman of inaccuracies and contradictions and then attacking the strawman and giving the impression that Christianity has been disproven.
Let me give a thumbnail sketch of early church history. The religion of the ancient Greeks was Olympianism which had some points in common with the Hinduism of present day India. The Romans essentially adopted Olympianism but referred to the various gods by Latin instead of Greek names.
Hindus believe that the material world is “Maya” which means illusion. The Hindus essentially believe that material objects don’t really exist. The ancient Greek Olympians similarly had a disdain for the material world.
Anything physical or material was lower than the realm of spirit and was corrupt. This is why many people of the ancient world had a hard time accepting the Christian doctrine of the incarnation.
The incarnation is the Christian doctrine that Jesus, Himself being divine, was born as a baby and grew to manhood. In other words God took on human flesh and dwelt among us.
The Olympian, Hindu-like religion dominated the thinking of the Pagans of the ancient world. It is from this soil that Gnosticism grew. Gnosticism was a syncretism (mixture) of Christianity and Olympianism. The Gnostics thought that God would not be joined to the material world. Thus they rejected the incarnation.
Full blown Gnosticism didn’t appear until the second or third centuries AD. The sacred texts of Gnosticism were written about that time which removes them a long way from the historical events of the life of Jesus and the apostles.
Traditional Christianity and its sacred texts which comprise the New Testament were mainstream and generally accepted from the earliest days of church history long before gnosticism reached full flower.
The best scholarship shows that the books of the New Testament were written in the first century, were universally accepted by the early Christians and were later formally codified as the New Testament.
The Gnostic writings attempt to connect Christ to a Greek philosophical and religious worldview. The Gnostic writings make little mention of real events of real history.
The traditional gospels and epistles of the New Testament rightfully connect Christ to the Hebrew worldview and make many references to real events that occurred in real history.
The New Testament shows that Jesus was the promised Messiah of Israel who came in fulfillment of over 300 Old Testament prophecies. No other faith, including Gnosticism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism and Jainism has anything to compare with the Old and New Testament record of prophecy and fulfillment of prophecy.
Most sacred writings of other faiths contain no prophecies at all. I have often said that the many hundreds of Bible prophecies and their fulfillments are like God’s signature on His holy book and prove that God inspired the writing of the Bible. The professor in that comparative religion class would do well to look into the matter of prophecy and fulfillment of prophecy. If he does he will find that traditional biblical Christianity is beyond compare!