By Mike Willis
When a university student signs up for a course on “World Religions,” he is likely to experience the most blatant attack against the doctrines of his faith in Christ which he has faced. The religion departments of most state and private universities are factories of infidelity. A course on world religions is an effective tool used by the devil to undermine one’s faith in the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Evolutionary Development of Religion
The evolutionary hypothesis has permeated every discipline of science, including biology, sociology, psychology, history, geology, and religion. Infidelity rejects the existence of God, revelation, and the miraculous. Consequently, the explanation of the existence of religion must fit philosophical naturalism.
Religion exists. From where did it come? Infidels deny a divine origin and instead have taught that it evolved. The evolutionary development of religion, according to philosophical naturalism, occurred in these distinctive, but overlapping, steps:
1. Animism. Animism is the “belief that natural phenomena and objects, as rocks, trees, the wind, etc., are alive and have souls.” Primitive man began his religious journey by worshiping the forces of nature.
2. Pantheism. Pantheism is “the doctrine or belief that God is not a personality, but that all laws, forces, manifestations, etc., of the self-existing universe are God; the belief that God is everything and everything is God.” This was the second step in primitive man’s religious growth.
3. Polytheism. Polytheism is the “belief in or worship of many gods, or more than one god.” After man began attributing deity to the natural powers which he did not understand, he began to worship different gods who were thought to control the unknown things of nature (a god of the sun, a god of thunder, a god of war, etc.).
4. Henotheism. Henotheism is the attributing supreme power to one of several deities, having one chief god over all of the other gods. This was an intermediate step between polytheism and monotheism.
5. Monotheism. The next development was belief in the existence of but one God. Some world religion professors believe that monotheism is the highest expression of religion; atheistic professors believe there are two more steps in the evolutionary development of religion.
5. Agnosticism. Agnosticism is “the doctrine that God is unknown and unknowable.” Agnostics differ. Some believe that one is unable to know whether or not God exists; other believe that God exists but conclude that we cannot know certainly anything about him.
6. Atheism. Atheism is the denial of the existence of God. The humanists of our century believe that the 21st century will be the century of “humanism,” another name for atheism. Humanists believe that man has outgrown the need for God and is ready to discard him as an archaic part of man’s past.
This is a concise statement of the theory of the evolutionary development of religion. The doctrine of the evolutionary development leads to these conclusions:
1. Religion is man’s groping to find God. Whereas the Bible reveals that the Creator God revealed himself to man, infidelity describes the Bible as man’s groping to find God. The Bible is said to be man’s subjective ideas about God.
2. All of man’s gropings are equally valid. One man’s groping to find God is just as good as any other man’s groping after God. No religion is the only truth; each religion contains some good and some evil. Modern man should examine the contribution of every religion, culling the bad and keeping the good. (Who or what defines “good” and “bad” is not told to us.)
3. A superior religion is merely one which has progressed further and faster than the others. The higher a religion is on the scale of evolutionary development, the more superior it is. Hence, atheism is the highest form of religion.
4. There is nothing supernatural in religion. Every religion has myth and folklore. The miracles of the Bible are no different from the miracles of the Koran, Rig-Vedas, or other “inspired” literature.
These ideas are taught in the world religions classes offered in the universities in America, many of which are supported by tax dollars. Americans are funding the teaching of atheism, agnosticism, modernism, and other forms of infidelity.
What the Evolutionary Theory Does for Faith
The doctrine of the evolutionary development of religion attacks the faith of God in many places, including these:
1. It makes the Bible an uninspired book. Instead of the Bible being the only divine revelation from God to man, a revelation which furnishes man completely for salvation (2 Tim. 3:16-17), the Bible is reduced to man’s subjective thoughts. It is made equal to the Koran, Rig-Vedas, Bhagavad Gita, and other “holy” books of the religions of mankind.
2. It makes Jesus only a ‘prophet.'” Instead of being God incarnate, Jesus is reduced to the level of Muhammad, Confucius, Zoroaster, Buddha, etc. Jesus is no longer the perfect sacrifice for sin; he is made to be a religious leader with a message far ahead of his own time.
3. It makes the miraculous of the Bible myth and folklore. The doctrine of the evolutionary development of religion makes the miraculous of the Bible myth and folklore which have grown up around the history of Jesus. The doctrine denies that Jesus performed miracles and was raised from the dead. This approach to the Bible methodically removes the miracles from the Bible story, which miracles confirmed that Jesus was the Christ the son of the living God.
4. It makes every moral and doctrinal judgment subjective. Having removed the Bible as the one divine source of authority, there are no moral or doctrinal absolutes. Every moral and doctrinal judgment is subjective.
5. It makes the church but one among many legitimate expressions of religion. The idea of one right way is considered religious bigotry (nearly anything can be tolerated in religion except the concept that there is but one right way).
These are the cardinal doctrines which are undermined by the theory of the evolutionary development of religion. The young person who enters a world religions classroom needs to be prepared to face these issues or his faith will be destroyed!
The Biblical Explanation
Where did the so-called “world religions” originate? The Bible reveals a different answer than do modern professors in world religions classes.
The Bible states that the Creator God revealed himself to man (Gen. 1-2). Man refused to walk in the commandments of God, choosing to rebel against his will (cf. Gen. 3-5). Romans 1 details this rejection of God in these words:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them . . . . Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into the image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up (1:18-24).
The first chapter of Romans details the moral degradation which followed the rejection of God’s revelation of himself to man (1:24-32).
Hence, the Bible revelation states that the man refused to have God in his knowledge, rejecting God to invent his own kinds of gods, worship, and morality. The world religions, as they presently exist, are the surviving forms of the apostasies from God’s revelation. The good which exists in these religions are the vestiges of the light which remain in a religion which has departed from God. The further removed from God the religion is, the less light there is in it; the less removed from God, the more light exists.
Can One Be Saved in the World Religions?
The adherents to the various, non-Christian “world religions” are “without excuse” (Rom. 1:18). They have “sinned without the law” and “shall also perish without the law” (Rom. 2:12). “All” are “under sin” (Rom. 3:9); “all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). There is no salvation available to any man through the so-called world religions (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12).
The world religions, with the worship of many and different gods both with and without idols, are displeasing to God. The Lord God will not allow another god to be worshiped (Exod. 20:1-3; Deut. 6:14; 2 Kgs. 17:35; Jer. 25:6). Jehovah is the only God; all other gods are non-existent creations of one’s imagination (I Cor. 8:4), the work and worship of the devil (1 Cor. 10: 19). Whether we speak of the pagan gods of Bible times (Baal, Chemosh, Ashtaroth, Diana, Zeus, Hermes, etc.) or the twentieth century (Allah, Indra, Vritra, Buddha, ancestor spirits, Tao, etc.) we are speaking of idolatry. The worship of other gods, with or without idols, is condemned by God (Exod. 20:1-4; cf. Lev. 19:4; 26:1; 2 Kgs. 17:12; Isa. 2:8; Acts 15:20,29; 21:25; 1 Cor. 5:10,11; 6:9; 10:7,14; Gal. 5:20; etc.).
Hence, the religions of the world originated in rebellion against God. They are apostasies from God which cannot save a soul from eternal damnation.
What Stance Should We Take Toward the World Religions?
A number of different stances are being taken and suggested for mankind toward the various religions of the world. Here are some of them:
1. Ignore them and they will go away. Some believe that non-Christian religions will eventually self-destruct. Some imagine that men will forsake their inferior religions when they are taught a superior religion (Christianity). This simply does not work. While we wait for men to recognize the superiority of Christianity, many souls die outside of Christ, lost and doomed to eternal damnation.
2. Recognize non-Christian religions as sister or kindred faiths. This is the stance of the mainline Protestant denominations. The mainline denominations condemn “proselyting” men from non-Christian religions to Christianity as morally and psychologically wrong, as well as being unwise. The book Bangkok ’73 which commented on the World Mission Conference, held under the auspices of the World Council of Churches, reported the call for a ban on efforts to convert the heathen to Christianity.
3. Effect some kind of amalgamation with the non-Christian religions. The modernists among the denominations suggest syncretism or amalgamation with the non-Christian religions to produce a new religion, greater and better than either of the two.
4. Treat Christianity as the fulfillment or completion of the imperfect non-Christain religions. This view sees Christianity, not as revealed religion, but as the highest religion along the evolutionary scale. This view tries to destroy the
elements of false religion which are “bad” (the caste system, greed, etc.), and point men toward the “better” things in a continually evolving Christianity.
5. Warfare. This approach toward the non-Christian religion states that Christianity is in a life and death struggle with every form of unrevealed religion. There is no room for syncretism of Christianity with the worship of other gods and idolatry. This clearly was the stance of the first century church and also should be our stance toward the religions of the world. Paul commanded,
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? . . . Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).
The word of God is the sword of the Spirit to be used to destroy every religion and thought that conflicts with what God has revealed (2 Cor. 10:3-4). Christianity is to exterminate false religion, not ally itself with it.
Christianity does not need the “contributions” of the world religion. The word of God is an all-sufficient revelation (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4); the fullness of the Godhead was in Christ, the all-sufficient sacrifice for sin (Col. 2:9); the church of Christ is the “fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). Hence, there are no inadequacies in divine religion for humanly devised religion to fill.
The stance which first century Christians took toward all religion was that of warfare. First century Christians told every sect of the Jews that salvation was only available to them through Christ, saying:
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he say say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people (Acts 3:22-23).
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (Jn. 14:6).
When the gospel of Christ was taken outside the boundaries of the Jews into the non-Christian world, beginning with Cornelius, the message was the same. Good moral men like Cornelius were told to obey the gospel of Christ in order to be saved from sin (Acts 11:14). Paul taught non-Christian Gentiles to “turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein” (Acts 14:15). He told them to depart from those things which they worshipped in ignorance (Acts 17:23) to worship the Creator through Jesus Christ.
. . . we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead (Acts 17:29-31).
This is the same gospel message we need to be preaching to the Jews and Gentiles of our days, to Hindus, Buddhists, Islarns, Taoists, Sikhs, Shintoists, Confucianists, etc.
The early church surveyed the religious alternatives offered by Judaism and concluded that every Jew needed to come to Christ for salvation. The early church then surveyed the religious alternatives which Gentiles offered, among which were some of the presently existing “world religions” and concluded that every Gentile needed to come to Christ for salvation. We dare not reach a different conclusion today. Neither the Jews nor the Gentiles have found a sacrifice for sin! There is but one way to salvation – through the shed blood of Jesus Christ! The poet Birdie Bell expressed it well in “Only One Way”:
There is only one way to the kingdom of God,
‘Tis the old-fashioned way of the cross;
You must come to the Savior, pass under the blood,
You must count earthly pleasures as dross.
There is only one way,
‘Tis the old fashioned way,
You will find it today,
If you come to the cross,
And are washed in the sin-cleansing blood.
There is still only one way to be saved from sin and to live eternally with God!
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 10, pp. 290, 317-319
May 17, 1990