I want you to turn with me to Romans chapter 1 for our reading, and we begin reading around verse 20. We will be visiting this portion of Scripture in the course of our study this evening, so do keep Romans 1 open before you as we look at this great world faith of Hinduism. Verse 20 of Romans 1, Paul writing to the church at Rome says: "For the invisible things of him", God that is, "from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them".
Now I would like to say right at the outset, and I suppose this could be said of many of the faiths and cults that we've been looking at in previous weeks, but I think out of them all Hinduism is one of the most complex and complicated religious systems on the face of the globe. I'm sure that you will agree with me and say a hearty 'Amen' to that at the end of this evening, but do bear with our deliberations tonight as we consider what Hindus believe, and indeed how it measures up to what the Scriptures teach. Bruce J. Nicholls, a scholar, agrees with me on the complexity of this religion in that he says, and I quote: 'Of all the world's great religions, Hinduism is the most difficult to define. It did not have any one founder. It has many Scriptures which are authoritative but none that is exclusively so. Hinduism is more like a tree that has grown gradually than like a building that has been erected by some great architect at some definite point in time'.
Hinduism is a religion that really has evolved through various stages. We first hear of it when the Aryans, a people, conquered the people of the Indus Valley in India. Essentially the designation of Hinduism to a religion is a geographical one, rather than a theological one. It is first found in these people of the Indus Valley, and the Indus Valley is around the area of the Indus River, and you can see a close-up of it in this picture. These people, the Aryans, who invaded the Indus Valley brought, in their conquering of the people who lived there, their religion. It was a very simple religion, simply a religion of hymns and prayers that were known as the 'Vedas'. 'Vedas' simply means 'wisdom' or 'knowledge', and they believed that they had wisdom or knowledge that would bring them to God. This teaching, this 'Vedas', this wisdom and knowledge, had many different gods and goddesses in its theology. But right there in the Indus Valley, many many years ago, that was the embryo that would begin the religion of Hinduism, that would later spread right to the whole of India.
Now a comprehensive study of Hinduism would have to really be a comprehensive study of Indian history. You'll be glad to know tonight that neither am I able, nor am I compelled to give you a complete history of India this evening. But nevertheless, the development of this religion comes in tandem with the development of the Indian race. Historians have narrowed it down to four basic periods of development of Hinduism within Indian history. The fourth period, which is round about 200BC through to 200AD, is where the beliefs started to evolve that we would really recognise today as being modern-day Hinduism. That is when Hinduism, as we understand it, was defined, in the fourth period of their history, 200BC to 200AD. As I said, and as I quoted from Bruce Nicholls, there is no founder to this religion. It's unique in many of the religions and cults in the world, in the fact that there's no one person that we can see its origins coming from. In fact, the name 'Hinduism' was not one that it took to itself, but rather it was christened 'Hinduism', if I could say that, in the 13th century by the invading Muslim Persians who wanted to differentiate between their religion and the religion of the Indians, Hinduism - the religion of the people of the Indus Valley.
Estimates vary regarding how many Hindus there are in the world today, and some scholars believe that there are 700 million Hindus - most of them restricted to the continent of India, but others who are right over the globe. That is a staggering figure: 700 million. But when we consider that Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in existence today, its precepts and principles dating back perhaps 4-5000 years ago, it is not so staggering to think that it has taken over so much of our world, even if it's focused mainly in the Indian continent.
Now Hinduism has been described more as a way of living than a theological ideal or philosophy. In fact, a former Indian President, Radha-krish-nan, said these words: 'Hinduism is more a culture than a creed' - Hinduism is more a culture than a creed. Now that's important for our consideration tonight, because there's a great significance in our study tonight to we who are in the West. 'Why is that?', you say. Well, Hinduism, and certainly many of the philosophies and theologies of Hinduism, are starting to impact us in our Western culture and society. Hinduism lends itself to making strides into other cultures, because of its cultural nature rather than its theological nature. Because it is culturally based, Hinduism can embrace a wide variety of beliefs in this world.
In fact, once you start to study Hinduism, you find that it's always seeking to accept other beliefs, to embrace other faiths. It seeks to leave no god or no belief outside its religious umbrella, and it often will adapt and evolve and mutate its own doctrines for the sake of the interpretations and beliefs of others. It will assimilate, syncretise other beliefs into its own mindset. Now you might say: 'Well, so what?'. Well, the reason why I'm sharing that with you right at the introduction of our study tonight is that I want to warn us all that we should never underestimate the cultural impact of Hinduism in Western modern society. Whilst we welcome Hindus as ordinary people, and we don't want to be misconstrued as being racist, we are far from that, we want to be on our guard for the inroads of Hinduistic philosophy, religious thought, entering not only into our society but actually into some of the beliefs and mindsets of Christendom at large. Now you might think that is maybe ridiculous or even near to hysterical, but hopefully I'll make this clear as we go through our study this evening.
The inroads that Hinduism has made in Western society, I think, can be traced back to the year 1893 when, in the city of Chicago in the United States, there was a World Parliament of Religions. One of the individuals who attended that World Parliament of Religions was a man by the name of 'Vive-kan-anda', and this is a photograph of him. Vive-kan-anda so impressed the gathering of many religions with his own spirituality, with his view of Hinduism as a great universal faith, that afterwards - believe it or not - many of the Westerners, the so-called Christians in that gathering of the Parliament of Religions, were beginning to question the wisdom of continuing to send missionaries to the continent of India. They thought that this was such a great spiritual leader, who had a great concept of who God is, what spirituality is in its essence, that they actually questioned heralding the Christian evangel to the Indian nation.
Now from that Parliament of Religion, the influence of Hinduism in the West grew greatly, more so of late in our own generation. One leading Christian leader is quoted as saying this, and it's remarkable, a very piercing insight - he says this, I quote: 'The East is still the East, but the West is no longer the West. Western answers no longer seem to fit the questions. With Christian culture disintegrating and humanism failing to provide an alternative, many are searching the ancient East'. Can I quote that last statement, because it is remarkable in what it says of our own day and generation: 'With Christian culture disintegrating', and we recognise that in our own society here, 'and humanism failing to provide an alternative', most people now are not atheists, 'many are searching the ancient East' for the answers to life's deepest questions.
This can be seen not just in the inroads that actual Hinduism is making in and of itself as a religious system, but also in many of the cults and New Age groups, many of which derive their ideas, their principles and beliefs from Hinduism. Some of them you're familiar with: Hare Krishna derives its origins from Hinduism; Transcendental Meditation, or 'TM', that involves yoga and meditation of various kinds; Osho, which is another religious cultic belief; 'The Divine Light Mission', another group or cult - all of them are a variety of beliefs that derive their origin from Hinduism, and many of which could be found and categorised in what we call the New Age movement today. Now although it all began, I believe, really in the West in 1893, the real inroads and revival that took place in Hinduistic belief in our society, I believe, can be dated back primarily to the counterculture of the 1960s. I don't know whether there are any people here tonight who were hippies or not, maybe there are some who still look like them, but nevertheless in the 1960s they had a key role in the growth of Eastern religions in the West. Really the counterculture in society in America and in Europe during the 1960s was a reaction against traditional Western values. The hippies reacted radically against technology, against intellectual reason and rationalism. They reacted against materialism and economics, and they saw in the East an uncomplicated philosophy, a lifestyle that was much more simplistic and attractive, a radically different framework of belief. So they shifted towards this.
Now maybe you don't recognise this, but here's one example of how Hinduism and Hinduistic philosophy and belief has made inroads into our own thought processes. Forty years ago a 'guru' probably would have been thought to be some kind of exotic jungle animal, but today a 'guru', the word 'guru' is a household word. Most people know what a guru is, an enlightened master, a spiritual teacher - and that word 'guru' comes directly from Hinduistic belief. Now another individual, you might not recognise him but you may have heard of him, is the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This man was more prominent in the 1960s than anyone as a guru popularising Hinduism through Transcendental Meditation. This is the father and the founder of Transcendental Meditation. During the 60s his affiliation with celebrities helped to popularise Transcendental Meditation - for instance the Beatles practised it, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Mia Farrow and other top celebrities gained Transcendental Meditation a worldwide press and coverage that it perhaps would never have had if they had not embraced it. In fact one writer says that 'Transcendental Meditation did for Eastern mysticism what MacDonalds did for the hamburger'. That's a very good illustration: it popularised Eastern mystical belief.
This is those who are Yogic Flying, which is a part of Transcendental Meditation - I think it's a supernatural phenomenon, a demonic phenomena even. But what TM did was, it made Eastern mysticism, effectively Hinduism, more accessible to average people in our world. Americans embraced it even more when the instructors of Transcendental Meditation made the claim, now listen to this carefully, that one could practise this meditation technique without violating or going against one's own personal faith or belief. You can do it to help you holistically in body, mind, even spirit, and not transgress what you believe. Now many people argue this way with me about some alternative medicines, some meditative practices, and even the practice of yoga, and they say 'Well, I'm just using it for my body, and maybe for my mind, but it doesn't transgress my Christian principles and beliefs'. There is a great warning here, I don't have time to go into all the details regarding this, but the health warning, the spiritual health warning that must go over any meditation that is outside Biblical Christian meditation is that ultimately the chief goal of meditation is to bring you into contact with a spirit world. If you're involved with any of these things, even yoga, you're opening yourself up potentially to spirits, contacting them, and even becoming a habitation for them.
Well, the Maharishi became so popular in America that there is, I think in Ohio, the Maharishi International University which was founded by him in 1971, and it continues to flourish. Young American boys and girls go and study there these theories of Transcendental Meditation and the like. To date, this year, there are around 100,000 young Americans who go constantly year after year to the coast of India in search of spiritual enlightenment. You might say: why is it all so appealing and so attractive? We see the reason why as we consider the beliefs of Hinduism and Eastern mysticism: they all comply with the spirit of the age, which is the spirit of New Ageism today in our world.
We'll see this as we look at the doctrines of Hinduism tonight. Hinduistic Scriptures - there's not one 'bible' that we can point to and say 'That is the Hindu Scripture'. There are several 'Vedic Scriptures', filled with this wisdom, 'Vedas', 'Vedic Scriptures' they are called. But there is one in particular that has come to be known as the 'bible' of Hinduism, and it is the 'Bhag-a-vad Gita'. You might hear Hindus talking about it, it's the best loved storybook of all, and it was written round about the first century AD. It is made popular in our day by the Hare Krishnas - walking through the centre of Belfast, or other towns in our nation, you may see this group of people with shaved heads and saffron robes, beating these drums and singing 'Hare Krishna'. These are a group of Scriptures, and added to them are many other Scriptures, which are varied. There is not one single authoritative book or writing that we can look at and say 'There is Hinduistic doctrine'. That is significant, because along with having varied Scriptures, Hinduism also has a great variation regarding their understanding of God.
The most specific thing that I could say really about their understanding of God is that God is an impersonal force. He is the impersonal force of the universe. Eerdmans' Handbook to The World's Religions, on page 172, defines their understanding of God like this: 'The individual Hindu may reverence one god, a few gods, or many gods, or none at all' - you can't get more of a variation than that! It goes on: 'He may also believe in one god and in several gods as manifestations of that one god. He may express the ultimate in a personal way or in an impersonal way'. So right away, I think the best way we can define Hinduistic theology is that it is a hodgepodge of all sorts of beliefs regarding God. It is a hodgepodge of polytheism - polytheism is 'poly' meaning many, 'theism' meaning 'god'. 'Atheist' meaning no God, a 'theist' meaning believing in God, 'polytheist' believing in many gods. Proverbially Hindus believe in 33 million gods - now that's not literal, it's used as a metaphor to speak of the fact that their belief in gods is limitless, they have many many gods. So they are polytheistic, but they are also pantheistic - 'pan' meaning earth, 'theism' meaning God - they believe that God is in all of nature. Hence they worship many of the animals of nature.
But not only is it polytheistic and pantheistic, but it is a hodgepodge as well of monism. Monism simply is that all the universe has one unitary principle that governs everything, that means that God is in you, God is in everything, and the one force of God is in this whole universe united - whatever religion you are, whatever culture or creed you come from. Let me try and simplify it for you - it's very difficult, I must say, to simplify! They do believe in one creator god in a sense, they believe in what is called the 'Brahma'. Brahma is the creator god, he is the creative force of the universe, and all of these other gods in Hinduism are expressions of that one force. Therefore some Hindus claim to be monotheistic, they believe in one god - of course they don't, but yet there is this one force, the Brahma. So Hindus can worship several gods and believe that they're worshipping the one god. Some of them worship Shiva, which is the destroyer god; others worship Vishnu, who is the preserver god - Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu form the trinity, if you like, of Hinduism. Vishnu's incarnations, which they call 'avatars', they are manifestations of God that can come in many different forms. You've heard of Hare Krishnas, well Krishna is one of the manifestations, the incarnations of the god Vishnu.
Then there are other Hindus that worship goddesses - we don't have time to even start to go into that. These manifestations of the Hindu gods, whether it be Brahma or Vishnu, these are very rarely in human form, rather they're in the form of nature, of animals, in a cosmic form of the creatures of this world. In fact, the god Vishnu is believed to draw near to man in ten different manifestations, ten different avatars. Among them is the fish, a fish god, a tortoise god, a boar. Other gods: one is like a half-man, half-lion, the man-lion god; there is a dwarf god. Krishna is a god in his own right, another Hindu god is Buddha - yes, that is the 'enlightened one', the founder of Buddhism, he is also a god within Hinduism. Then there is Kalhi, which is the tenth manifestation of the god Vishnu, and he is yet to come - the world is still waiting on this particular god.
Now maybe this is all double-Dutch to you in many respects, but one thing that you will be able to identify with is the cow. The cow is sacred in the Hindu religion, also the monkey and the snake are revered - even rats are revered within Hinduism. In fact, there are some villages in India, and the temples care for and feed the rats at a cost of £2500 per annum. Vermin! I'm led to believe that 15% of India's grain actually goes to feeding these rats in the temples! The cobra is also worshipped, and annually kills 20,000 Indians because they seek to worship him. Then there is the sacred cow, it gets most publicity. There are 159 million cows in India, that is 20% of the world's total population of cows. The cow is believed to be the Mother Goddess of life, so much so that many Indians will actually drink the urine of the cow to purify the soul. Staggering, isn't it?
Many rivers in India are holy, particularly the Ganges, they believe that by bathing in the Ganges that they wash away, effectively, bad karma, and they improve good karma, if you like, washing away sins. In fact, one of these great festivals, the greatest ever was held in the year 2000, 'Kumbh' they call it - and there was expected 75 million pilgrims. In fact Channel 4 ran a series of programmes over that week called 'The Greatest Show on Earth'. It was claimed to be the greatest gathering of humanity ever in the history of mankind.
So we've looked at their Scriptures, we've looked at their understanding of God, and let's look just for a moment at what they believe regarding salvation. Well, it should come as no surprise that there is no salvation in Hinduism as far as we as Christians understand it. In fact, the Hindu believes in reincarnation, like the Buddhist. In fact, salvation for the Hindu is to get out of this cycle of continual birth, life, death, rebirth, life, death, rebirth. Salvation is to escape into a kind of oblivion where you will be away from all this suffering, and you'll be in this nirvana of non-existence - submerged, as it were, in the Brahma, the force of nature and creation.
During the second period of India's history and evolution there came into vogue what we know as the caste system. It was developed, and you may have heard of it, it simply is that there are four main castes in Hindu society. There are the Brahmans who are at the top, they are the priests or the scholars. Then there are the Shudra at the bottom, they are the slaves. There's no salvation for the Shudra at the bottom. It's said that a Brahman at the top, if he was dying of thirst, would not even take a drop of water from a Shudra lest he would be polluted and contaminated. During all those years of evolution there eventually arose 3000 subcastes in Hindu society, and at the very bottom there are what are called 'the untouchables' - human beings who are seen to be inhuman, the dregs of society, not worth anything. They're just fit for living among the rubbish and the excrement of society.
Now I don't wish to offend you ladies, but the females don't figure at all in the caste system - so much so that many Indian mothers, when they give birth to a girl baby, kill their child. You know, the reason why I'm referring to this here regarding salvation is that the caste system has become a justification for the belief in karma and the belief in reincarnation. If you've bad karma you come back as a low caste, and there is this philosophy of society that actually adds to this belief of karma and reincarnation, that shackles the whole of Indian society. I've seen it, people living at the side of roads in absolute abject poverty that you could not imagine. Some aren't even eligible for salvation, and if you are eligible for salvation the way to reaching that goal is through the four paths of yoga. The four paths of yoga are simply paths of knowledge, paths of asceticism and working out your own salvation, and yoga is involved in it. You can see a picture of a Hindu Sadhu, who is a holy man, practising yoga; and here we have the modern-day counterpart in the West that many so-called Christians even partake of.
These Sadhus, these religious holy men, believe that they can win their salvation - or at least they hope to win their salvation - by relinquishing all pleasure. They take, as it were, a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. They relinquish all comforts, and they go away wandering around society, these Sadhu holy men. I tell you, it's a sight to behold: some attempt unbelievable feats in order to seek to kill the self nature within them. Some have been known to lie on beds of nails, others don't speak for years, others grow their hair to seven feet long braids, others stand on one leg like a stork for months on end. There are others who have been known to hold out their arm for months and even years until it has atrophied. This is a video clip of one Sadhu, it's not even a minute long, but it shows you the type of awful situation that people get into when they believe in a religion like Hinduism:
[Begin video transcript]
Narrator: 'Sadhus, Hinduism's holy men, find their own particular ways of devoting themselves to God'
Sadhu: 'I have no idea how long I will hold my hand up in the air. This is the most difficult austerity of all to do. I hope that it will continue for the rest of my life. This is the hardest austerity in the world'.
Narrator: 'Bhola Giri has been holding his hand in the air for 12 years. He believes by pushing [himself to do this he is killing] his ego to find a greater truth'
[End video transcript]
You see this man, a Sadhu, and there are variations of it, but this man in particular is holding up his hand for 12 years. He believes he is killing the inner self. Now, what we want to ask tonight, as we've looked at Hindu Scriptures, and God and salvation is: do our Scriptures fit into this system? People do claim it, even those in Christendom are starting to believe these things, and thinking that the Hindu god, the Brahma, can find its manifestation in our Lord Jesus Christ and in our God Jehovah. Some have even likened the Hindu 'trinity' to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit of Christianity. Does the Bible fit into the Hindu mould?
Well let's look at the passage of Scripture we looked at tonight in Romans chapter 1. We read in verse 20: 'the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse'. Paul cites the fact that God is Creator of all men and all peoples as the reason why we are without excuse. He has already said in this portion that God has written His law on the heart of every man. He can be seen in creation, He can be seen in conscience, later he's going to talk about the revelation of the Gospel through Jesus Christ - but in creation and conscience God's word says man is without excuse. Now if men get to such an awful state like Hinduism, the reason is that they have suppressed the knowledge of God in their heart and in their society to such an extent that they don't even know who the true and the living God is. Verse 21 testifies to that: 'Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened'. Verse 22: 'Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools'.
Now this portion has nothing to do with Hinduism, but in a general sense that could be a verse specifically speaking of this 'Vidas', this 'wisdom', this 'knowledge'. Men, taking upon themselves a way to God, have become fools. And we see that the outcome is universal in whatever religion you go to, verse 23: 'They changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things'. We see this, perhaps more than in any other religion, in Hinduism: worshipping animals as gods, whether they be manifestations of the one god or not matters not. Here is the consequence in verse 24: 'Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves'. I couldn't mention tonight the sexual immorality and perversions that took place, and still take place, in the worship of Hinduism - but it is there. God gives people like this up - now I'm not saying that they're beyond redemption, I'm not saying we shouldn't send missionaries and preach the gospel to them, and I'm not saying Hindus cannot be saved, far from it. I'm saying that there's a progression here: God allows individuals and civilisations, to an extent, to be given up when they give God up.
They change the truth of God, verse 25: 'into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever'. The Bible teaches us, not only in Romans 1 but right throughout Old and New Testament, that the one true and living God is the Creator God of Genesis 1 verse 1, who existed before anything else existed. That rules out pantheism: before there was a world, before there was a universe, before there was another principality or power - that rules out polytheism and monism - there was God and God alone. He is always presented in Holy Scripture as distinct from His creation, the book of Numbers tells us that God is not a man that He should lie. Oh, what serious consequences there are, verse 28, when we reject the knowledge of the true Creator God: 'Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient'.
They broke the first commandment and the second commandment, they put other gods before Jehovah and along beside Him, and they fell down in idolatry and worshipped idols, figures and forms of created things. Our Bible tells us that behind every idol, whatever that idol be, is a demon. Hinduism, I say it very tenderly, as much as it's possible to say it tenderly, Hinduism in its essence is demon worship. In fact in their own book, the Bhag-a-vad Gita, in chapter 10 Krishna actually declares of himself, and I quote: 'I am the prince of demons'. There it is in their own Scriptures, whereas the Bible testifies that there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. He is God's Son, and the Greek word is unique that is used of Him, and let's not drop it from any of our translations: He is the only begotten Son of God, God of God - not, as Hindus say, an enlightened holy man like one of these Sadhus wandering through India. He is God's very word, the expression of His person. He is God's way, He is God's truth and life.
'How can you be so certain?', a Hindu will say, or maybe someone from the New Age philosophy, 'It's only your word against the Hindus, it's your book against the Hindus'. Well, the fact of the matter is: we can be sure because Hindu truth, so-called, is relativistic, it is relative - that means it changes under circumstances - but the Bible truth, the Christian truth is absolute. The clarion cry of our age today is: 'All truth is relative, your truth is not my truth, and truth is different as you go from one civilisation and religion to another'. Yet they don't even realise that the very statement that they make, 'All truth is relative', is an absolute statement in and of itself - that all truths are relative. It's a nonsense statement, a self-defeating, meaningless statement; for if there is no absolute truth, you can't say all truth is relative. The fact of the matter is, relativism is logically unsatisfactory, it doesn't make sense in other words! It doesn't satisfy the intellect, you have to shut down your mind and leave it at the door of a Hindu temple when you go in. But that is not the case with Christ, John 1:17: 'For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ'. He is the truth of God, He is the word of God manifest, the only manifestation of God's truth. In John 17:17 He said that His, God's, word was truth. That is the true and living God, the God of the Bible.
The second thing where our Bible doesn't fit into Hinduism, obviously, is that sin is not an illusion. Hinduism claims that sin is an illusion. In fact, this man that spoke at the Parliament of Religions in 1893, Vive-kan-anda, actually is quoted as saying: 'It is a sin to call a person a sinner'. Did you ever hear a contradiction in terms like that one? 'It is a sin to call a person a sinner'. They believe that part of God is actually in you; man's greatest problem, they say, is that he doesn't believe or know that he is divine in and of himself. Is that man's greatest problem? Man's greatest problem is that he is far from being a god, as the Bible says: 'None is righteous, no not one' - all of us, no matter what caste we may belong to, all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. In fact, Jesus in John 8:44 spoke to the Pharisees, religious men of the day, and said: 'Ye are of your father, the devil; and the deeds of your father you will do'. My friend, Hinduism, like all false religions of the world and confusing cults, has no answer for sin. They might call it 'bad karma', but they haven't an answer for it either. How can anyone, in this day and age, reasonably deny the existence of sin?
Well, thirdly, salvation according to the Bible is available as a free gift upon a finished work. That's why the Bible cannot assimilate and syncretise with a religion like Hinduism. Salvation is available freely by grace upon a finished work, Christ on the cross. If you are even eligible for salvation in Hinduism - if you belong to the right caste - all you can ever hope for is an unending cycle of reincarnation that will perhaps, only perhaps, one day for you with good karma end up in nirvana, where you'll just be puffed out of existence and all this suffering. Now friends, reincarnation is a very common belief in our day and age. It is supremely problematic. Let me give you two reasons why it is: one, if the purpose of karma and reincarnation is to rid humanity of its selfish desires, and that's what it claims to do, why has there not been a noticeable improvement in human nature after millennia of reincarnation? Why is it that we're all as bad as we've ever been? In fact, arguably we're worse. If karma and reincarnation is to make us better, what's going on?
The second reason that is an offshoot of that: if reincarnation and karma are so beneficial on a practical level, as Hindus claim it is, how do they explain the immense and ever worsening social and economic problems widespread in the continent of India where this has been taught almost from India's inception as a nation? I've seen it: widespread poverty, starvation, disease, horrible suffering. Yet reincarnation and karma has been taught systematically in the nation of India, but it doesn't work because it's not true! Hinduism is false, and the Bible teaches that once you're on earth you have one life, and you will die once, and then you will face judgment. Hebrews 9:27: 'it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment', and there are no second chances, there's no reincarnating into another body to have another shot. 'How do you know?', you say. Christ has risen from the dead, and that is not a theological theory or philosophical ideal, that is a historical fact. It can be proven historically. Acts 1:3 tells us: 'To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs'. That same Lord Jesus Christ in His word promises that those who believe in Him and die, as He lives, they shall live also. To die as a Christian is to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord - but to die without Christ, Christ is so distinct, so specific when He tells us in Luke 16 that there is a hell. There is a heaven, but there's also a hell, and Jesus taught that the place and the time that any man or woman - whoever they are, wherever they come from - will decide their eternal destiny is in the single lifetime that God has given them.
That's why Paul emphasises: 'Today is the day of salvation'. I think you can see very clearly that Hinduism is false when we align it with God's word. But the fact of the matter is, most Hindus are still working for their salvation by one means or another. But I have to interject here and say that although their religion is maybe very different from many Western faiths and cults, are they really that different? Most people in our world, one way or another, are still working for their salvation. Most Hindus have no reality of forgiveness of sins in their life, they're striving towards a goal rather than realising that something has already been accomplished in order to save them. The one major difference of Bible Christianity with any other religion or cult in the world is that Christianity is the only faith that begins at the end. 'It is finished!', Christ said on the cross. We begin where Christ finished the work, and what a message to share with a world that is lost: Christ, the sinless Son of God - here's the answer to Hinduism and Buddhism - He took the suffering of the world, He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. Through faith we can be delivered from all those sufferings. The true enlightenment that God, the living God gives is through His Son Jesus Christ, the One who said: 'I am the light of the world, he that followeth shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life'.
My friend, if you have the Hindu struggle with self - you mightn't admit it as sin - but if you have that struggle with self, whatever creed or culture you have the fact of the matter is: the only way to get rid of sin and self is the Saviour of Calvary's cross. Remember what Paul said who struggled, he was a religious Jew but he struggled with sin and self, but in Galatians 2:20 what does he say? Realising the Christ of God on Calvary died for him, and was a substitute, and that his sin died with Him on the cross, he said 'I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me'. What a challenge to all our hearts tonight.
Mahatma Gandhi once said: 'I shall say to the Hindus that your lives will be incomplete unless you reverently study the teachings of Jesus'. The fact of the matter is, all men's lives are incomplete until they put their faith in Him who is the only Saviour. Have you done that? Child of God, what about the 700 million Hindus who don't even know there is a Saviour? May God bless His truth to our hearts.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twelfth recording in his Strongholds Shaken series, titled "Hinduism" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word. The inclusion of images and diagrams in this transcript is done without intention to breach any copyright restrictions. If this has been done in any instance, please contact us and we will willingly remove the offending item.
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