INTRODUCTION. This is the third post in a series of articles about “religions.” I had planned to have this third post be about the threats posed to the true church from pagan religions and from “Christian” religions and also about the biblical warnings against these false systems, but I have decided to defer those subjects and, instead, to consider the shallowness of religions. Shallowness is another mark of “religions.”
OUR DEFINITION OF RELIGION. We have been considering the subject of religions in the last few posts. Remember that we are defining “religions” functionally, knowing that these systems of thought do not innocently spring up as someone’s helpful ideas, but are Satanically conceived and designed to prevent the adherents from hearing about Jesus Christ and thus being saved. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).
Thus, I am defining a “religion” as “any worldview, philosophy, ideology, or system of thought which exists for the purpose of intentionally obscuring the gospel of Jesus Christ so that people remain trapped away from salvation in a godless, Christless, hopeless religious system.”
CHARACTERISTICS OF RELIGION. Last time we had also talked about the characteristics of religions so that we could better identify them. The definition above contains the most prominent characteristic of religions; namely, that the purpose of “religions” is keeping people away from Jesus Christ and away from His salvation. But as I was thinking and praying about this topic this morning, another distinguishing mark came to mind: Religions are shallow.
RELIGIONS ARE SHALLOW
Religious thought is marked by shallowness. They intentionally avoid the immense and complex questions which occur to every human being. God has built into every human heart a longing to know the answers to obvious questions about their own existence and He has displayed His creation for all to see His handiwork and to give undeniable evidence of His existence (Romans 1:19-20). But as you examine religions, you will see that they do not answer the obvious questions. Religions do not answer these questions because religions cannot answer these questions. If you have ever spoken to someone who is a religious adherent and have tried to move the conversation to deeper things, you have probably been frustrated by your inability to get much traction with them. That is because of how religions operate. Religions typically seek the young and the gullible and the simple-minded. These they ensnare in their religious system with its simple answers to complex questions and then they gradually smother any curiosity about the inadequate, unsatisfying answers they provide. Thus, as Paul said, they “blind the minds of the unbelieving.” So, religions are marked not only by shallow answers to life’s complex questions, but also by vigorously discouraging clear thinking or challenging questions. The attitude is, “Do what we tell you and do not ask questions!”
I have claimed that religions are shallow because they do not answer the basic questions of life. But what are the “immense and complex” questions that we are considering? What are the deep questions that we would like religious adherents to think about as precursors to possibly coming to faith in Jesus?
I maintain that every sentient human being asks these questions at some point in life. We all have questions about our existence like:
- “Where did the world (and universe) come from?” How is it that the infinite complexity and order and beauty that I see all around me came into being? Has it always existed or was it made by someone? These questions plant the fact of our own smallness and finiteness in the front of our mind. Whoever created all this must be extremely powerful and immensely wise.
- “Who created me?” When I consider my own body and the phenomenal complexity it has, I must ask, “Who made me?” I have a heart and lungs and eyes and ears and bones and a brain, and these all function perfectly well without my conscious will. Who could have designed and created me like this?
- “Why do I exist?” Man is made to search for meaning because he needs a purpose for his life. Once a person loses a purpose for their life, they begin to die. But the question is, “Where do I find my purpose?” Who supplies me with my purpose? Since all other people are seeking an answer to this same question, then the answer cannot lie with people. But if why I exist is something that cannot be answered by man, who can answer the question?
- “Why do people die?” As we gain years in life, we begin to notice that people die. One day the person is laughing and smiling, and they can hug you and talk with you, and the next day they lie still and cold and will never laugh or talk again. What happened? Why did they die? Where are they now? Is death the end, or is there something beyond death? If something is beyond, what is it?
- “What happens to me when I die?” The previous question leads inevitably to this question. As I think about that person’s death, since I also am a person, I have to think about my own death. The same questions now take on vastly more significance. Where do I go when I die? Is death the end, or is there something beyond? Some claim that my death will be followed by nothingness, but if that is true, why am I so afraid of death?
These are universal questions which all people consider simply because they are human beings. As we search for these answers, we would naturally turn to our religion. “Surely,” we think, “my religion will give me the answers to these deep questions.” Unfortunately, the shallowness of religions is borne out by the lack of satisfying answers they provide for these most basic of human questions.
But human beings are also moral creatures with a God-given conscience. Yes, we are fallen creatures stained by sin and our moral faculties have been warped by the fall, but we are still all moral creatures with a built-in sense of right and wrong and a sense of guilt earned from our own transgressions of God’s holy Law. And so, after wrestling with the universal questions of existence, we turn to moral questions which lead to God and His justice. Now we are asking questions like:
- “Why is there so much evil in the world?” If God is good, then why is there so much evil? Where did the evil come from?
- “What do I do with my sense of guilt?” I see that I do many evil things and I feel guilty. How do I get rid of this guilt?
- “How can I be forgiven of the evil things that I have done?” I do not think that my good will ever outweigh my bad. In fact, I am not even sure I can think of an example of doing a “good thing.” What I need is a new start. What I need is forgiveness of all my sins.
- “Does God exist?” Even though man knows that God exists, this question still needs to be asked. Some religions would get this one wrong.
- “What is God like?” Is there one God or many gods? Is God personal or impersonal? Is God good or evil? Does God care about me or about anything that I do? For that matter, is God involved in this world at all?
- “How can I know anything about God?” Has God ever communicated with man in any way? Is there anyway that I can find out about God? Is there anyway that I can communicate with God, like one-on-one? What are God’s thoughts? What does God think about evil? What has God ever done about evil?
- “What is the Bible?” The Bible stands alone as by far the most famous and most read book in human history. This amazing book is God’s written communication to man. There are religious books that are clumsily written counterfeits, but the Bible is evidently God-breathed. There is no book like the Bible.
- “Who is Jesus?” While religions may have their religious heroes like Mohammed or Buddha, Jesus towers above them as Mount Everest towers above a sand dune. Religions offer evil founders with their sinful systems of wicked worship and useless works, but Jesus shines as incarnate deity, the Son of God and God the Son, who performed countless miracles as He lived a sinless life. Then He submitted to the agony and humiliation of His atoning death on the cross, rising from the dead three days later in glorious resurrection and coming soon in power and glory to judge all the earth.
Take any of these metaphysical questions to any religion and the answers will either be shallow or silent. If religions have no answers about the immense questions of life, they certainly offer no hope regarding moral answers.
But there is one more area that should fall into this discussion and that points out the shallowness and hollowness of religions.
INTIMACY WITH GOD
In Christianity, our God is personal, and He invites us into a personal, intimate relationship with Him that continues to grow deeper the longer we walk with Him. He declares He is with us and will never leave us or forsake us. He invites us to cry out to Him and to commune with Him because, in Christ, we are His children.
By contrast, in religions whether pagan or “Christian,” the gods are impersonal, and God is distant. An identifying characteristic of a religion is that the one who is worshiped is emotionally distant. Religions are marked by an absence of intimacy.
SDG rmb 3/6/2022 #498