I have found that a good way to determine the integrity and truth of religious, sectarian, or cultic teachings is to first determine what they say about Jesus.
The teachers of many religious systems claim that they worship the same God as the God of the Bible, and that their system of belief is just another way of approaching Him. Now, according to the Bible, Jesus is ‘the image of the invisible God…the exact representation of His being… for in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form’ (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 2:9). The Lord Jesus is therefore the primary yardstick by which we should measure the validity of all spiritual truth claims. What a belief system teaches concerning His deity, uniqueness, and Lordship is an excellent indication of whether or not their god is our God, and their way of salvation the biblical way of salvation. So, let us have a quick look at what five major religious systems have to say about Jesus.
In terms of Islamic teaching, Jesus is only a messenger of Allah (and a prophet). Muslims deny that Jesus is both God and man and they also deny that he was crucified. However, they affirm that He was born of a virgin and that He was sinless. Islam has a high view of Jesus, but denies His divinity.
Although there are numerous sects within Hinduism, most of them hold to certain core teachings. For instance, Brahman is the name they apply to what they believe is the divine essence of all that exists. Brahman is impersonal, eternal, and beyond all human comprehension. There are many hundreds of gods and goddesses within Hinduism generally believed to be manifestations of the divine essence (Brahman). An Avatar is the name given to an appearance on earth of one of these deities and some strains of Hinduism claim that Jesus was an Avatar. However, most hold that he was simply an enlightened teacher (a master or guru).
Perhaps the best way to understand Buddhism is as a philosophy of how to live a happy life. Although it does include a concept of reincarnation, each new appearance of life on earth does not represent a specific spiritual entity or being. Because Buddhism predates Christianity by some six hundred years, its basic teachings take no account of Jesus. If they have any view of Jesus at all it would be as an enlightened teacher.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints claims to be ‘the church of Jesus Christ’ but the big question is, ‘is this Jesus the same of the biblical Jesus of Nazareth or is he the Jesus of the latter day saints?’ Their Jesus was birthed in a pre-earthly existence (on another ‘planet’) by a flesh and bone divine man and his wife. He was the first of many sons and Satan was his younger brother. This alone evidences that the Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus revealed in the Bible.
According to Jehovah’s Witness’ theology, God is a single person, not a Trinity. He does not know all things and he is not everywhere. He first created Michael the Archangel through whom He created all “other things,” including the universe. When the time came for a messiah to redeem humanity Michael the Archangel became a human in the form of Jesus. Jesus was created and was therefore not ‘god’ and he is not part of any supposed trinity. The Jehovah’s Witness doctrine of salvation sets out three requirements for salvation – a proper knowledge of god and Jesus, obedience to god’s law, and membership of and loyalty to the one true church (theirs). This neither the Jesus of the Bible nor the way of salvation it reveals.
It is reasonably clear from all of this that the Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness Jesus is not the Jesus revealed in and through the Bible. Nor is the Jesus acknowledged by Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of these religions cannot save anyone in and of himself and cannot be worshipped as God.
Here are links to the source documents of the five religions I have listed, for those of you interested in verifying this information or studying further:
Islam: The Quran
Hinduism: The Vedas
Buddhism: The Dhammapada and others
Mormonism: The Book of Mormon
Jehovah’s Witnesses: New World translation of Holy Scriptures
The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) has a lot of information on these and other religious systems.
PS: Listen to my forthcoming TruthTalk and the Q&A that follows it if you want to know what I think of Roman Catholicism’s take on Jesus and His saving work.