So often people assert that all gods and religions are the same. Yet, this can’t be farther from the truth. Ravi Zacharias once stated, “All religions are not the same. People say they’re fundamentally the same; superficially different. Actually, they’re fundamentally different and at best superficially similar!” The God of the Bible is unique among the world’s plethora of deities to choose from. Unlike the others, God has entered into history, the prophecies of His prophets have come true, and He is a relational God. These just a few of the ways the Holy One Of Israel stands head and shoulders above all other gods.
Differences Make a Difference
As Christians, we often hear the argument of “One God Less” which was used by Richard Dawkins in his book “The God Delusion”:
“I have found it an amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further.”
Andy Bannister answers Dawkins (and others who use this argument) in his excellent book, “The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist”:
“To describe this as a bad argument is to flirt somewhat casually with understatement. Dawkins is, for example, a bachelor with regard to every other woman except his wife, but I am not sure that it would be entirely fair on that basis to deny existence to Mrs. Dawkins. Similarly, Dawkins is also a non-resident with regard to every city in the world other than Oxford, but that doesn’t mean he can call himself homeless and start claiming government benefits.”
Bannister goes on to say, “…all religions are not the same, all gods are not equal, and the differences make a difference.”
God Sets Himself Apart
He’s right. As it has been rightly pointed out by other Christian apologists, such an argument makes a category error by placing the God of Israel who created the universe, in with gods whom the universe created. God Himself makes the distinction, most notably in Jeremiah 10:11: “Tell them this: ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.'”
Differences between the God of Israel and the gods of other mythologies is striking. While it is true that the God of the Bible is prone to anger and jealousy, it is never in a capricious manner. He always sends a messenger to give a fair warning before judgement, imploring people to change their ways. The best example of this would be the story of Jonah who was sent to the city of Nineveh.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but from entering history, to prophecy, to how He relates to humanity, these are just a few of the ways the God of the Bible is in a league of his own.
God Has Entered Into History
As I mentioned in a previous piece, one of the biggest reasons why so many skeptics have Christianity in their cross-hairs, is because the Bible claims that God entered into His creation at a specific time in history. This is most apparent in the incarnation of Christ. Jesus was a real, historical person, who made claims of divinity (John 8:58), was ultimately put to death for blasphemy (John 19:7), and was seen resurrected (John 20:19-23).
As impossible as it may sound, the resurrection being an actual, historical event is the best explanation for the explosion of Christianity onto the ancient world. To be fair, it does require one to accept the supernatural. Author of “Cold Case Christianity“, J. Warner Wallace explains this in his piece:
“…For many people, this is a deal killer; this is the reason they simply cannot accept the Christian account. But as I’ve written in the past, we cannot begin our investigation of supernatural claims (like the Resurrection) by rejecting supernaturalism from the onset. We cannot start with our conclusions predetermined. While the Christian explanation does present a deficiency of sorts, this liability is actually a matter of presupposition rather than evidential sufficiency. If we can overcome our bias against the supernatural, the Christian explanation is the most reasonable and suffers from the fewest number of explanatory liabilities.”
And as of writing this, I’m still unaware of Mithras or Thor legitimately entering into history and impacting it.
Many Prophesies From God’s Prophets Have Been Fulfilled
“I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: My plan will take place, and I will do all My will.” Isaiah 46:10
Probably one of the more controversial aspects of the Bible (beyond the miracles therein) are the prophecies that have been fulfilled. Skeptics balk at the notion that prophecies in the Bible have been fulfilled. Yet, there are hundreds of examples that I can mention. For the sake of time, I’ll only mention what’s probably the most contentious: Isaiah 45:1. In this verse, the prophet Isaiah mentions Cyrus of Persia -by name- about 140-150 years before he ascends to power:
“This is what the Lord says to his anointed,
to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of
to subdue nations before him
and to strip kings of their armor,
to open doors before him
so that gates will not be shut…
For the sake of Jacob my servant,
of Israel my chosen,
I summon you by name
and bestow on you a title of honor,
though you do not acknowledge me…”
To be fair, skeptics are quick to point out that some scholars do believe that more than one author wrote the Book of Isaiah. However, as Darren M. Slade points out in his article:
“It can be adequately demonstrated that the book of Isaiah is thoroughly similar in style, word length, literary devices, and vocabulary. Any literary differences are likely the result of a change in topic and theme. More persuasively, however, is that all historical and archaeological evidence confirm the book of Isaiah has been copied and transmitted as a single unit. The critics are left with no physical evidence to support their claims.”
That being said, one must account for the fact that Isaiah, wrote the book between BC 701 and 681, while Cyrus didn’t rise to power until about BC 539. I do sympathize with the need to split Isaiah up into different authors: if it’s only one man, one must account for how he’d know about Cyrus before Cyrus was born.
By contrast, can anyone name one historically certifiable, fulfilled prophesy by Zeus? Wotan? The Flying Spaghetti Monster?
The Lord of Israel is a Relational God
Once again looking to Andy Bannister, he writes:
“For the Bible, Yahweh is a relational God, a God who appears to his people throughout the Old Testament, who took on flesh in the incarnation of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, and who will be present, the Bible claims, in heaven with us once again. This is very different from Allah in the Qur’an, a God who is distant and remote, transcendent and lofty, who does not deign to step down into his creation, and is not present in Paradise. As Muslim theologian Isma’il Farqui writes:
‘Allah does not reveal Himself to anyone in any way. Allah reveals only his will…that is the great difference between Christianity and Islam.’”
Sure, one could argue that the Greek gods had relationships with humanity, but I’d argue that changing into a swan, or a bull, or whatever else in order to take advantage of women misses the point.
At the end of the day, when one really takes the time to study the category of ancient, mythical gods that many skeptics try to force Yahweh into, you’ll soon realize that there is no comparison. The Holy One of Israel is in a class all His own.