Eleanor wakes up in the afterlife.
After inquiring about how she died, she quickly fires the question, “Who was right about all this?” In other words, which religion correctly described the afterlife? How do we make sure we get to the good place rather than the bad place?
“Hindus were a little bit right…Muslims a little bit…Jews, Christians, Buddhists…every religion guessed about five percent.” In other words – all the religions got some things right and a lot of things wrong about heaven and hell.
This is all according to Netflix’s “The Good Place” (which is a hilariously funny show – go and watch it).
In the reality of your life – maybe you reject all religions. But then, your religion is humanity; you’re already in the good place, but its not actually very good and you’re not here to stay. The afterlife’s going to be a real, unplanned for bummer when you arrive there.
But maybe there’s part of you that’s open to seeking the truth about life in religions? Whether or not the Netflix show’s assessment of religion turns out to be correct…my personal advice to you is…always start with Christianity first.
First – Christianity has EVIDENCE that’s open to scrutiny.
Historical evidence can be verified or disproved. The great thing about this is, you can test the evidence and if it doesn’t hold up then you can quickly drop Christianity and move on in your spiritual quest.
“Christ died for our sins … was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day…was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers”.
The New Testament’s claims can be assessed. So – start there.
That’s not true of Islam, which is a long-term experiment. Surah 21 says “We try you with evil and good as a test; then unto Us you will be returned.” So, I don’t know Islam’s right till after I die. Buddhism? “You’d better get a Zen Master…you’re going to be working at that thing for a long time till you experience enlightenment.”
However, Christianity is an evidential belief system. So, start there first.
Second – Christianity is the only religion with a true notion of GRACE.
This means God shares the riches of his love based on nothing we’ve done (or not done) but instead based on Jesus’ atoning death on the cross. Christianity is the only religion that has “freely shared forgiveness” at its core. This means qualification to enter the good place after death is based on Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, not our final score.
Islam doesn’t work this way. Cannon Andrew White led a church in Iraq for years and is an expert on the Qur’an. “The trouble is a lack of forgiveness in Islam. I’ve looked through the Quran trying to find forgiveness…there isn’t any. If you find it, tell me.” What about Eastern religions? They point you towards demands involving hot coals and meditation.
Why do all that…without checking something that’s free first? Christianity.
Third – Christianity is a complete WORLD VIEW FIT.
Christianity makes sense of all aspects of our lives – everything fits together. That’s not the case elsewhere.
Chan Buddhism urges the cleansing of the mind…leading to natural illumination (tun-wu). This is sometimes provoked by riddles (koans) or questions like, “What’s the sound of one hand clapping?” and “Suffering exists, but there’s no-one who suffers.” Buddhists deny logic in their religious life, yet in their financial dealings and caring for their family, logic is essential. Abandon logic in the real world, you risk going bankrupt or putting your family at risk.
Yet a Christian remains a Christian in every area of life. We look the world in the face – study the exquisite complexity of nature from our limbs to our cells. Life looks designed, and there’s a good reason for that.
Christianity applies to the whole of my life – everything fits.
My final reason for trying Christianity first is…
Fourth – Jesus Christ.
Start with Christianity because of who Jesus is. Everyone wants Jesus on board with their religion. The Qur’an elevates him above Mohammad, Hindus have him as an avatar incarnation of Vishnu and Buddhists call him the enlightened one.
If all the religions mention Jesus in some way…then doesn’t it make sense to start with Christianity? Which has Jesus at the very centre of everything it believes? After all, if everyone wants Jesus on board their train…there must be something about him. Right?
In summary, I have a strong suspicion that we only get one go at life (prove me wrong). So…doesn’t it make sense to start with the religion that’s easily disproved first? The one that’s built around the free gift of salvation and makes sense of life and the universe?
Image courtesy of Pexels, https://www.pexels.com/photo/berries-berry-blur-close-up-275706/.
 1 Corinthians 15:4-6, NLT.
 John R. Hinnells, The New Penguin Handbook of Living Religions Second Edition, (Penguin Books, 1997), 176.
 Craig J. Hazen, PH.D., Christianity and the Challenge of World Religions, CD, (Biola University, 2015), disc 2.
 The Vicar of Baghdad: ‘I’ve looked through the Quran trying to find forgiveness…there isn’t any’, The Spectator, accessed November 24th, 2015, http://new.spectator.co.uk/2015/11/isis-bombs-have-exiled-the-vicar-of-baghdad-to-surrey-but-hes-itching-to-go-back-to-the-middle-east/.
 Spurgeon’s 9.4.
 Spurgeon’s College, Exploring Other Faiths, (Spurgeon’s College, 2003), 8.5.
 Arthur J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted, (Oxford University Press, 1991), 53
 Hazen, disc 2.