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Why I Am a Christian 3 (Hinduism and New Age)

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“Why I Am a Christian”

#3: “…and Not a Hindu”

Pastor Greg Henneman

January 21, 2007

Text:          Topical

Theme:      The cross makes all the difference.

Goal:          To better understand our own faith by learning about Hinduism. Also: To reflect on how to treat people of other faiths.

Introduction

·       Promote Christian Unity Service tonight at 7:00PM at the First Congregational Church.

So far we’ve talked about atheism and Islam. Today we’re talking about Hinduism. We live in a very pluralistic world with tremendous diversity. And it’s easy to become confused and overwhelmed with all the disagreement and differences. And it’s easy to be intimidated when someone asks, “Why are you a Christian? Why aren’t you an atheist? Why aren’t you a Muslim or a Hindu or something else?”

It has been tempting for Christians to simply pull away from society and form our own little churches and our comfortable little worlds and just cocoon ourselves. Yet Jesus taught us to “go make disciples of all nations.” He told us to “be his witnesses throughout the earth.” 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Peter goes on to say, “But do this with gentleness and respect,” and live such good lives that no anyone who slanders you might be put to shame.

So this series is entitled, “Why I am a Christian.” I have been giving reasons why I personally am a Christian; but I’ve also been giving reasons why we should all be Christians. I believe that as we honestly look at atheism and Islam and Hinduism and all the other “isms” – the Christian faith makes the most sense!

You don’t have to be stupid to be a Christian. You don’t have to turn a blind eye to the facts of life to follow Jesus! So the goal of this series is to be better informed about what others believe so that we can relate to them; and to see how our own faith makes sense.

I encourage you to follow along on your outlines. There’s a lot of information there. I want to start off by talking about the…

Major Worldviews

We’ve said that everybody has some kind of worldview. A worldview is how you view the world. It’s your basic assumptions and beliefs about what life is about. Whether you’re a kid running around in the ghetto or a professor at some university, everybody has some kind of worldview. For example…

Theism – belief in a god or gods

Polytheism – belief in many gods

Pantheism – everything is god

Pantheism is the basic worldview of Hinduism and Buddhism. In actual practice many Hindus are polytheistic and some Buddhists are actually atheistic. So there is a wide variety and even contradictory beliefs within Hinduism and Buddhism.

According to pantheism, everything is God and God is everything. You and I and this podium appear to be three separate things, but we’re not. It’s an illusion!  Nothing exists but God!

Now God in most cases God is not viewed as a personal God but as an “it”. God is a force. God is energy.

Now of course this is very different from our biblical idea of God. The Bible says that God is a person not an “it.” God is other! God created this world and God created you and me. But you’re not God. This podium isn’t God. And I’m certainly not God! Now God loves you and me and God relates to you and me and God interacts with the world, but they are two different things. God is God and the world is the world!

Now you may be aware that the entertainment industry has played around with pantheism for some time now.  The Beatles were greatly influenced by the Transcendental Meditation of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and later by the Hare Krishna movement.

Former Beatle George Harrison had a top-selling record entitled “My Sweet Lord,” on which the background singers sang praises to Krishna and other Hindu gods, such as Vishnu.

Entertainers Shirley MacLaine and Tina Turner, along with former California governor Jerry Brown, have also become vocal advocates of pantheism.

Movies such as the Star Wars series have stimulated a growing acceptance of pantheism. In The Empire Strikes Back, for example, Yoda says concerning the Force: “Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings we are, not this crude matter.… Feel it you must. Feel the flow. Feel the Force around you. Here,… between you and me and that tree and that rock.”

Tom Cruise is into Scientology which is pantheistic. Most of the New Age stuff in America is simply Hindu-pantheistic thought dressed up to appeal to American interests.

Then of course there is…

Monotheism – belief in one God

Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are the main three monotheistic religions in the world.

Animism – tribal religions

Animism is the belief that everything has a spirit in it; and you can manipulate the spirits through rituals and chanting and curses. Many of the tribal religions around the world are animistic.

We learned a few weeks ago that…

Agnosticism – cannot be sure there is a god

Atheism – there cannot be a god

[SHOW GRAPH OF WORLD RELIGIONS RANKED BY SIZE]

Statistics of Major World Religions

Christianity       2.1 billion

Islam                   1.3 billion

Secular               1 billion

Hinduism           900 million

Buddhism          376 million

                (Source: www.adherents.com)

A. Brief Historical Background on Hinduism

“Hinduism” is a word that we Westerners created. Hindus call their religion dharma, which means “the right way of living” or “proper conduct.” (wikipedia)

You’ll see on your outline…

          Major Groups and Scriptures

          1. Hinduism: Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad-Gita

The Hindu religion started about 1500 BC, although its roots go back further than that. And what happened was that the Brahmin priests who controlled the Hindu religion developed too many rituals and rules and so some rebelled and formed Buddhism and Jainism.

So although Buddhism and Jainism have a lot in common with Hinduism, they started out as protest movements against Hinduism, sort of like the Protestant and Catholic Churches in Christianity.

The primary scripture of…

          2. Buddhism: The Three Baskets

The word Buddha means “enlightened one”, and so there have been lots of Buddha over the centuries. The original Buddha lived in the sixth century B.C. His name was Gautama. His followers collected many of his sayings into three major groups…The Three Baskets.

You’ve probably heard of the Dalai Lama. [SHOW PICTURE OF DALAI LAMA].

The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of at least one of the groups of Buddhism. The first Dalai Lama was appointed as such in 1578 by a Mongolian ruler in Mongolia. Buddhists believe that the Dalai Lama is reincarnated each time he dies, and so the current Dalai Lama is the 14th reincarnation of the original Dalai Lama.

There are many kinds of Buddhism today. Zen Buddhism is somewhat popular in America. The important thing for most Buddhists is not a person or even the original Buddha. They emphasize teaching and living in a right way to escape the suffering of life. The Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path are all about how to escape the suffering in this world.

          3. Daoism: Daodejing

…is basically a Chinese religion that includes Confusianism and Buddhism. Daoism is where we get the ideas of the yin and the yang. Life is all about the yin and the yang…the wet and the cold, the dark and the light, the feminine and the masculine. The goal is balance and harmony. If you have balance, that’s good. When life is out of balance, that’s evil.

 

          4. Jainism: Agam Sutras

…broke with Hinduism because it did not like the caste system and it did not acknowledge the Hindu Scriptures as divine.  But like Hinduism, the main goal in Jainism is to break free from the cycles of reincarnation.

 

          5. Confucianism: Conversations

Confucius lived in China about 500 BC. He was an advisor to a prince in the Chinese government; and he basically wrote a philosophy and wise teachings about how to organize a government and how to live life wisely. And so still today we say, “Confucius says…”

[SHOW MAP OF ASIA]

These religions, which are all similar, are the majority religions in a vast part of the world. (Comment on map)…

Now, it’s important to realize that the caste system is woven into the heart of Hindu culture and traditional beliefs. Their society is divided into give main social groups…

The Caste System
Brahmins Priests
Kshatriyas Warriors, rulers, political power
Vaishyas Merchants, land & business owners
Shudras Workers (exist for the sake of the above)
Dalits Untouchables

Although the caste system has been breaking down slowly under economic pressures over the last century, the social distinctions still exist. Basically you can marry only someone in your caste.

Although untouchability was declared illegal in 1949, there is still tremendous prejudice and millions of Dalits live in poverty.

And a driving force of the caste system is the belief in reincarnation and karma. If you’re in the Brahmin caste, for example, it’s because you were really good in your last life and so you’re good karma caused you to be born in the highest social caste. But if you’re born into the Dalit caste, it’s because you were a scum bag in your last life, and now you’re paying for it! So good for you! I don’t have to help you! So you’re living across town with no good water or sewage system, I don’t care! You’re just paying your dues!

It amazes me that many people in America are attracted to the ideas of the East, when if you look at the East and see their poverty and prejudice and lack of compassion, why would we ever want to end up like that?

Let’s talk quickly about the three ways of practicing Hinduism. The modern Hindu basically combines these three ways, with perhaps an emphasis on the third way.

Three Ways of Practicing Hinduism
The way of works Focused on rules and rituals Brahmanism or Vedic Hinduism
The way of knowledge Focused on finding God within oneself Vedantic Hinduism
The way of devotion Focused on a particular god or goddess Bhakti Hinduism

The word “Bhakti” means “loving attachment.” Bhakti Hinduism, which is probably the most popular form of Hinduism today says that you can escape from the endless cycle of reincarnation through a loving relationship with one god –not through works and not through knowledge. So pick one of the many Hindu gods, which are just different manifestations of Brahman, the invisible, ultimate reality, and by devoting yourself to loving and serving that one god, you can escape the cycle of reincarnation and realize your oneness with the universe.

Many Bhakti Hindus worship statues –idols. They believe that their god actually live inside that statue. They worship that statue.

So, as you can see, Hinduism is a huge religion with a wide variety of beliefs and practices and actual contradictions. But there are three main concepts that almost all Hindus and Buddhists and Daoists (etc.) agree on. These three concepts are reincarnation (samsara), karma, and escape (moksha).

B. Hindu and Biblical Teaching Contrasted

All of these religions generally believe that the universe is eternal. It’s just always been here. And all life, when it dies, it reincarnated. So when you die you come back again, maybe as a person, or maybe as a worm!

Now it’s important to understand that in the Americanized version that’s popular in Hollywood and elsewhere, reincarnation is a positive thing. “Hey, when I die, I’m not really dead! I get to come back again! Cool!” But in Hindu thought reincarnation is a bad thing! We are condemned to repeating this miserable, suffering life over and over again forever! We’re trapped! The Hindu word for reincarnation is Samsara, which literally means “wanderings.” We wandering through this life, only to die and do it all over again! Reincarnation is a bad thing in Hindu thought!

Now what determines how you come back is your karma. The Hindu word “Karma” literally means “cause and effect.” The idea is that whatever you do in this life affects your next life, or maybe even your next several lives! The law of karma guarantees that everybody gets exactly what they deserve.

Now see how this plays out. If you’re at the top of the caste system in India, that means that you’re being rewarded for your good past life. If you’re one of the Dalits (the untouchables), it’s because you lived a crummy past life. So if a Brahmin helps a Dalit, he’s only making things worse, because he’s trying to circumvent karma! That Dalit has to pay off his bad karma one way or another, so if you help him, he’ll have to suffer some other way! And, by violating the laws of the caste system, you’re earning bad karma for yourself!

Do you see how your worldview impacts every area of life? It’s not accidental that Christianity has been the major factor in creating hospitals and compassion ministries around the world! And it’s no accident that India is in the mess that it’s in! In fact, the success of Christian witness in India, like Mother Theresa’s ministry, is due in large part to the compassion and love that is shown by Christians.

So as a Hindu who believes in this endless cycle of reincarnation that you’re trapped into, what do you do? Well, you try to be as good as you can, which means, obey the laws of Hindu religion and culture as best you can. And maybe next time you’ll be born a little higher up the ladder on the caste system. Or if you really screw up you could come back as a pig or a cockroach!

Your ultimate hope is to escape the cycle of reincarnation and become one with the universe. Your goal is to lose any sense of personal consciousness and sense of self-identity. You will finally realize that this whole world is an illusion and you will be absorbed back into the force like a drop of water coming back to the ocean. (Corduan “Neighboring Faiths” 199)

This is the fundamental worldview of all these Eastern Religions. An endless cycle of reincarnation –this endless wheel of suffering and struggle and illusions –over and over again. The law of karma which means whatever happens to you is exactly what you deserve. And your only hope is to escape this cycle by realizing that you’ve been god all along and this world is simply illusion and what you need to do is lose your identity and merge with the oneness.

Contrast that with the biblical worldview. The Bible says that you’re not god and I’m not god. But there is one true God who created all that is! And far from being an illusion and something bad to escape, this world is good!

And this world is not eternal and we are not going round and round in endless cycles of reincarnation. Hebrews 9:27 says, “Man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment.” So when you die, you’re not coming back and back… Rather, you will stand before your Creator and give an account of your life!

And thankfully, you will not have point to your karma to impress God! All you will have to do is point to the cross and say, “God, I trust that Jesus is my karma! Jesus lived a perfect life! Jesus died on the cross for my sins! He is my hope!”

And all those who humbly trust in Christ enjoy paradise with Christ when they die. And at the end of time when Christ returns he will resurrect our bodies and create a new heaven and a new earth and will enjoy this new heaven and new earth in new bodies for ever! This is our hope!

Turn to 1 Corinthians 15:42. So it’s…

1. Reincarnation vs. Resurrection (Heb. 9:27; 1 Cor. 15)

2. Karma vs. Cross (Eph. 2:1-22)

This is the huge difference between Hinduism and the Christian faith.

READ 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 50-58. (make comments)

This is our hope! Our goal is not to escape these bodies and escape this world and enter oblivion. Our goal is restoration, renewal, wholeness!

History isn’t going round and round forever and ever! It’s moving forward under the guidance of God’s almighty hand! And one day history will find itself at the feet of Jesus! And every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!

Romans 8:21 says that “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay. Acts 3:21 says that Jesus “must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything.” Revelation 21 describes the new heaven and the new earth that we will experience. There will be no sickness or sadness or pain or death. So the Christian hope is not to…

3. Escape vs. Restoration (Rom. 8:21; Acts 3:21; Rev. 21)

…and find wholeness and peace and unity that we have longed for all along.

C. So What?        Let’s end this on a very practical note…

          1. Do you want to go round and round or to heaven?

          2. Do you want strict justice or forgiveness?

3. Do want to escape into unconsciousness or become fully

     alive?

I vote for resurrection rather than reincarnation.

I need forgiveness, not just justice.

I certainly don’t want to escape into unconsciousness. I want to become fully alive.

And it’s not just that I want that and it meets my needs; but it’s actually true. LET’S PRAY.

“Lord thank you for this privilege of learning about Hinduism. It helps us better understand and appreciate our own faith. Father we pray for the almost 1 billion Hindus in the world today. We know that you love them and you call us to love them too. Help us to think about how to relate them better –to be more thoughtful and kind. And at the same time to be courageous enough to influence them to consider your claims, the claims of Christ.

Lord, we know that when it comes right down to it, it’s about reincarnation vs. resurrection. Karma vs. the cross; and escape vs. restoration. Thank you, Lord, that we are not trapped in an endless cycle where our only hope is oblivion. Thank you for resurrection. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for restoration. Amen.”


Three main gods:

          Brahma: the creator

          Vishnu: the preserver

          Shiva: the destroyer

Worship Practices:

          Puja: Central act of worship is statue (idol) worship

          Elephant-headed Ganesha, the “remover of obstacles”

          The god lives inside the statue

          The cow is considered sacred; cannot eat

New Age

Deepak Chopra

Wayne Dyer

Influence on science and entertainment…

Yoga

Resources:

Pocket Guide to World Religions by Winfried Corduan


“Why I Am a Christian”

#3: “…and Not a Hindu”

Pastor Greg Henneman

January 21, 2007

Major Worldviews

Theism – belief in a god or gods

Polytheism – belief in many gods

Pantheism – everything is god

Monotheism – belief in one God

Animism – tribal religions

Agnosticism – cannot be sure there is a god

Atheism – there cannot be a god

Statistics of Major World Religions

Christianity         2.1 billion

Islam                    1.3 billion

Secular                1 billion

Hinduism            900 million

Buddhism           376 million

                (Source: www.adherents.com)

A. Brief Historical Background on Hinduism

          Major Groups and Scriptures

          1. Hinduism: Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad-Gita

          2. Buddhism: The Three Baskets

          3. Daoism: Daodejing

          4. Jainism: Agam Sutras

          5. Confucianism: Conversations

The Caste System
Brahmins Priests
Kshatriyas Warriors, rulers
Vaishyas Merchants, landowners
Shudras Workers
Dalits Untouchables

Three Ways of Practicing Hinduism
The way of works Focused on rules and rituals Brahmanism or Vedic Hinduism
The way of knowledge Focused on finding God within oneself Vedantic Hinduism
The way of devotion Focused on a particular god or goddess Bhakti Hinduism

B. Hindu and Biblical Teaching Contrasted

1. Reincarnation vs. Resurrection (Heb. 9:27; 1 Cor. 15)

2. Karma vs. Cross (Eph. 2:1-22)

3. Escape vs. Restoration (Rom. 8:21; Acts 3:21; Rev. 21)

C. So What?

          1. Do you want to go round and round or to heaven?

          2. Do you want strict justice or forgiveness?

          3. Do want to escape into unconsciousness or become fully alive?

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