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Self-tests of Some of the World's Religions

It is fairly common for a religion of the world to give itself a sort of test for truth, since this is one question that is asked of any religion: “Why should I believe what you are telling me is true?” After all, the answer to such a question will ultimately result in followers of specific beliefs and doctrines, let alone religions, or will result in a lack of followers. 

If a religion can answer this question posed by seekers and thinkers, and therefore train its adherents to be able to answer why a religion is true, this will inevitably help people believe in such, even if the claims are false. If there is no answer, this is where a religion will perhaps find more trouble for itself. 

Many religions make an appeal to a higher authority, namely, God, for the veracity of their existence and as a result, no one can question the truth from such an authority. This is correct in a sense, that if in fact God is making such a claim, then what is said or stated is true, but the question is, how do we know that what is being claimed actually came from God? This is the major task set before the religions of the world … To show that the truth of what they claim actually came from God. In this article, I want to look at several claims from specific religions in the world, examining each in turn in light of the strength of their own claims.

 

Islam

Muslims will sometimes challenge their interlocutors to write such an amazing and/or beautiful work that compares to the Quran. The idea is that it is impossible, since the Quran is so amazing and beautiful, and that no man could possibly write anything in comparison. This is one of their claims to proving that the Quran, and therefore, Islam is true and came from Allah. Sura 17:88 in the Quran says, 

 

Say: If men and jinn [spiritual beings] should combine together to bring the like of this Quran, they could not bring the like of it, though some of them were aiders of others.”[1]

 

Found earlier than this, the Quran says in sura 11:12-14, 

 

Then, it may be that you will give up part of what is revealed to you and your breast will become straitened by it because they say: Why has not a treasure been sent down upon him or an angel come with him? You are only a warner; and Allah is custodian over all things. Or, do they say: He has forged it. Say: Then bring ten forged chapters like it and call upon whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful. But if they do not answer you, then know that it is revealed by Allah's knowledge and that there is no god but He; will you then submit?[2]

 

Finally, in sura 52:33-34 we find, 

 

Or do they say: He has forged it. Nay! they do not believe. Then let them bring an announcement like it if they are truthful.[3]

 

One of the issues with this is that someone will say that a person needs to read Arabic in order to understand the truth and beauty in the Quran, but the problem is that this violates basic rules of language. The fact that language is objective in nature shows us that we can in fact understand from one language to the next what object is being referred to. See this article for more on this discussion.

Another issue is that there are many things that are beautifully written. For instance, There are some poems that will likely be just as timeless as the Quran. Think of Homer’s Iliad, or the Aeneid, or even Beowulf. Are these not beautiful works of art? How about the Lord of the Rings? The Princess Bride? Not only that, but how do I compare the beauty of say the Lord of the Rings with Homer’s Iliad? Perhaps it is an absurd thing to suggest at all. 

If one might object that this is different than that because it does not necessarily contain truth in it, what about certain wedding vows or some specific obituaries? As a pastor, I have read multiple lines of both, to say the least, and some of them are as beautiful as word combinations can be, while also holding to the truth. 

 

Mormonism

Mormons will challenge their readers with what is frequently called the “Moroni Challenge.” The challenge is found, and often pointed out by Mormons to non-Mormons from the book of Moroni 10:3-5 which says, 

 

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.[4]

 

And again, we find in Doctrine and Covenants, section 9:8-9.

 

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.[5]

 

These texts call for the reader of Mormon literature to feel if the things mentioned in it are true. The problem is that how can I possibly know in my heart if something is true? Isn’t truth discovered outside the heart? Did Jonas Salk look into his heart to know if the polio vaccine was legit? Or did he have to look at it objectively under a microscope? 

One moment I long for baked salmon, the next moment I desire lasagna. My stomach desires nutrition, which could simply be plain rice or plain boiled eggs, which I do sometimes crave, but my heart often craves more than just sustenance. I want extravagance! I’m sure many can relate, based on a short survey of culinary videos and pictures on Instagram. The point is, we don’t even need the Bible to tell us that, “The heart is deceitful above all things.”[6] One can know and see the truth of such just by examining what his heart once thought toward a specific female while attending middle school. Thankfully, in cases too numerous to count, God saves us from such disasters. 

In any event, not only are there issues in all that we just discussed, but also, why could we not use the Moroni Challenge on any religious text that claims to be true? Say, the Quran? Can I read the Quran and feel that it is true and that makes it such? Definitely not. This just shows another way in which the Moroni Challenge fails as a test for truth. 

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Some religions are not so bold in revealing their self-tests for the veracity of their claims. It can be difficult to navigate what the Jehovah’s Witnesses actually believe regarding this, but perhaps a look at their claims through their own published work will reveal something as well. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (hereafter, WBTS) is said by Jehovah’s Witnesses to be God’s organization on earth. Not only this, but it is easy to peruse their website and find that they believe that one must be a Jehovah’s Witness in order to be truly saved. The WBTS frequently puts out several publications including magazines and even their own version of the Bible

We find in one of their magazine’s answers to several questions that a seeker toward Jehovah’s Witnesses might ask. Here I will examine two of those questions. First, we find the answer pointing to salvation in the organization, that is the WBTS…

 

3. For anyone to survive into God’s new order, what must he do?

3 Any person who wants to survive into God’s righteous new order urgently needs to come into a right relationship with Jehovah and His earthly organization now.[7]

 

Again, in a question further down the list we find, 

 

18. What do we anticipate as regards the scope and manner of the preaching activity before this system comes to its end?

18 We can expect a similar expansion of our preaching activity now, at this climax of the ages. No doubt, before the “great tribulation” is finished, we will see the greatest witness to God’s name and kingdom in the history of this world. And while now the witness yet includes the invitation to come to Jehovah’s organization for salvation, the time no doubt will come when the message takes on a harder tone, like a “great war cry.” Revelation 16:21 shows that “a great hail with every stone about the weight of a talent [nearly 100 pounds] descended out of heaven upon the men, and the men blasphemed God due to the plague of hail, because the plague of it was unusually great.” Hailstones are frozen, hardened water. So this pictures how, at the end, Jehovah’s judgment message sent down upon disobedient mankind will be like a barrage of hard-hitting hail. The fact that the plague of hailstones is spoken of as being “unusually great” suggests that at the very end there will be a hard proclamation of Jehovah’s “day of vengeance” by Jehovah’s servants.[8]

 

What is interesting here is that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are saying that to know that what claims are being made are true is discovered through the organization, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. In other words, the organization tells people what is true, because it is Jehovah’s (God’s) spokesman on earth. So, the organization is saying that what the organization says are claims of God and are therefore true. Read that last sentence again, but slowly. The test for religious truth about the Jehovah's Witnesses religion is that they say it is true because their leaders tell them that it is true.

 

Buddhism

Some would argue that Buddhism is not a religion but is instead a philosophy. But since I have already argued that it is a religion, I’ll just point you to this article to show you how it is a religion. The reason this is important is because at the beginning of this article, I said that religions must claim that they are somehow from God. That many Buddhists (especially in the west) believe that there is no God, does not slow us down. They are still straining toward something transcendent, something outside the boundaries of humanity, namely enlightenment. This is what they believe happened with the Buddha. That he was finally enlightened to esoteric freeing knowledge (Nirvana). This knowledge is not something from earth, necessarily, but came from a higher power (that many would attribute to the universe). 

Robert Wright wrote the book, “Why Buddhism is True.” In it, he does not argue why Buddhism is true, necessarily, but instead argues that we can feel truth and apprehend truths and exist in, or with, those truths for a little while.[9] This, as we have seen in Mormonism, fails completely because the truth by nature cannot change, yet people still base the veracity of truth claims on their feelings. 

I think it is easier to understand that people think Buddhism is true because they relate to the first three noble truths. Namely that suffering exists (which sucks), and that I suffer at all only because I am attached to things, and finally, that if I could just figure out a way to not be attached to things, then I finally won’t suffer (good luck with that). So then, when people learn of Buddhism and see these noble truths, they become attached to Buddhismwhich they will never be able to detach themselves from. This goes to prove that as human beings, we are designed to be attached to things. In a sense, real Buddhism (not Robert Wright’s version) is asking its adherents to do the opposite of what Mormonism is asking of its adherents… That is, that Buddhism wants its adherents to let go of all feelings in general. 

So, a claim of Buddhism that adherents of such communicate that is true is the first noble truth, that suffering exists. Everyone can relate to this, and therefore see the truth to it. It is the building on top of this where we see how Buddhism fails. Not everything in life should be about trying to get away from suffering. Sometimes, suffering is good. Think of going to the dentist or having a surgery performed. These experiences can be better than if we didn’t go through the suffering of having surgery or going to the dentist. 

But not only this, but think about what really helps us learn things in life. Doesn’t going through a hard experience make us all the wiser? If I am struggling through some difficult experience, doesn’t it often teach me how to handle such an experience, and not only that but also give real and meaningful advice for another person who is going through something else that is equally painful? 

Think about the idea that we are to release our attachments to things for a moment. Buddhism teaches that I suffer when someone I love dies because I am attached to them, so that I need to release my attachment to them somehow. But this is never the way things are supposed to be. For instance, try asking a Buddhist to detach from his own child. Buddhism in this light is an impossible way to live. Its truth claims of how it is true are essentially self-refuting.

 

Christianity

Christianity sets itself apart. It does not merely ask people to feel in their heart that it is true, it does not challenge the readers to try to write something as beautiful as what is found in its pages, it does not reduce authority to an organization that says it is from God, and it does not ask its adherents to not have feelings. 

Instead, the self-test for truth in Christianity is found in the Bible. Specifically, in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. 

 

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

 

Did you catch that? Read it again: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” This means that if the Resurrection of Christ did not historically take place, then all of Christianity is false. This test for why such a religion is true soars far above all other tests mentioned in this article, to say the least. If Christ did not objectively rise from the dead, then Christianity is false. The object of the Resurrection is the truth of what Christianity rests on. So now, the question becomes, what is the historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus? You owe it to yourself to investigate the historical claims of Christianity.

 

Allow me at this junction to point you to some excellent resources regarding such:

 

Articles:

https://hc.edu/news-and-events/2016/06/03/primary-sources-jesuss-resurrection/

 

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/jesus-of-nazareth/the-resurrection-of-jesus

 

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/debates/is-there-historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection-of-jesus-the-craig-ehrman

 

https://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/resurrection-evidence.htm


http://www.apologeticsandevidence.com/2018/09/roadkill-resurrection.html

 

 

 

Websites:

https://www.risenjesus.com/resources

 

 

 

 

Books:

https://www.amazon.com/Case-Resurrection-Jesus-Gary-Habermas/dp/0825427886/

 

https://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-Jesus-New-Historiographical-Approach/dp/0830827196/

 

https://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-1-Evidences/dp/1087778603/


https://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-2-Refutations-Gary-Habermas/dp/108777862X/



Written By Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

© Nace Howell, 2024


[1] M. H. Shakir, ed., The Quran (Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library, n.d.). Sura 17:88.

[2] Ibid. Sura 11:12-14.

[3] Ibid. Sura 52:33-34.

[4] Smith, Joseph. The Book of Mormon: Another testament of Jesus Christ. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints: Intellectual Reserve, 1981.

[5] Smith, Joseph. The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints; Intellectual Reserve, 1981.

[6] See Jeremiah 17:9.

[7] Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. w81 11/15.  ‘Stay Awake and Keep Your Senses’ The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom—1981.p. 16-17; emphasis added.

[8] Ibid. p. 21; emphasis added.

[9] Robert Wright, Why Buddhism is True; the science and philosophy of meditation and enlightenment (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. 2017), 251.

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