Christianity is a belief system that is rooted in the teachings of Jesus, the Christ. In the field of religions, Christianity is considered one and yet it has certain attributes that distinguish it from other religions. What is it that distinguishes Christianity from other religions and how does this faith relate to those religious systems?
Religion is a system of thought which strives to understand the universe in a coherent manner.
Most religious systems posit specific actions that human beings must take in order to live in right relationship with God or gods who are responsible for all of creation. A system of religious thought claims to have special knowledge that enables the adherent to live in truth and for that truth to provide benefits both now and in a future existence if there is one. Religions begin with human beings searching out ultimate truth and then ordering that truth so that it can be passed along to others. The responsibility in religion is on the follower of that system to do what is necessary to be in the right relationship to the world and to the God or gods who oversee it.
Christianity stands in contrast to other religious systems in a number of fundamental ways.
The system of thought in Christianity begins with the person of Jesus, the Christ. It is his teachings, life, death, and resurrection that form the core of all that the Christian faith proclaims. A right relationship with God is understood only in relation to Jesus and his life. The onus of responsibility in Christianity is on God acting through Jesus to accomplish all that is necessary for the individual to be in the right relationship with God. In contrast to other religious systems, Christianity does not require any particular action other than faith and trust in order for the adherent to be in right relationship with God. The Christian faith relies upon the revelation of God as mediated through Jesus in order to understand what God requires and how a person is to live. Ultimate truth begins in the being of God and is communicated to human beings through the Bible; the inspired scriptures written by human beings directed by God.
Religious systems focus on acting rightly in order to please God or the gods.
This creates an antagonistic relationship between human beings and the supernatural beings who order reality. In contrast, Christianity focuses on fixing the relationship between God and human beings. The Christian faith explains the distance between God and human beings as being the result of sin and the damaging effects of sin. Sin is acting in opposition to the will of God and its presence in the world has created an unbridgeable gulf between God and human beings. Requiring human beings to act rightly as religious systems do is considered an impossibility in the Christian understanding of the world. Christian faith necessitates that God must transform the human being who has put trust in Jesus in order for that human being to have the ability to act as God requires. The fundamental basis of Christianity is not doing the right thing, as in other religious systems, but trusting God in order to restore right relationship with God. Actions are a result of a right relationship with God, not the source of it.
The truth of Christianity rests on a verifiable, historical fact. While religious systems can point to events of the past, their truth claims lie in the content of their teachings. The adherent is asked to consider the writings or oral tradition and make a decision based on these. While certain events of the past are referenced to support the religious traditions and writings are used to enhance this fact, each religious tradition presents itself to the adherent with all that is needed for him or her to respond. Christianity rests on one fact of history; the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Apostle Paul wrote that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, the Christian faith is useless and all those who have trusted their lives to its truth are fools (1 Corinthians 15:17). No belief system is so wedded to one historical event as is Christianity. The believer in the Christian faith system must ultimately believe in Jesus. The truth of Jesus’ claims is fundamental for the Christian and those claims all rest on whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. While the adherent of other religious systems has a number of issues to consider, the follower of Christianity has only to evaluate whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. If Jesus did rise from the dead, then everything he said is true and the Christian has a firm foundation upon which to believe and live.
While Christianity is considered one of a number of religions, it stands apart from other religious systems in a number of important ways. Christianity focuses first on God and relationship with him, while religions focus on performing the right actions to please a God or gods. Christianity starts with the revelation of God through Jesus and is fundamentally dependent upon all that Jesus said and did for its content. Right acts that are so crucial in religious systems are only possible in Christianity after God has completely transformed the human being who has trusted in him. The resurrection of Jesus roots Christianity in history in a way that is unlike other religious systems. The Christian faith stands apart from other systems of religion and it uniquely points to Jesus, God becomes man, as the way to live eternally in the presence of God.