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1. I understand that Christians believe that theirs is the only religion that gives them a ticket to heaven, but isn't what's really important is just believing in a "God"?

There’s probably an important foundational question to ask before I can answer this intelligently. Were we designed by God, or products of a godless process of time and chance (i.e., the atheistic version of evolution)? Since you’re coming from the viewpoint of believing in God, I’ll assume you also believe He had some role in creating us. But for others who might read this response, there is no reason to get specific about God if we are products of evolution. If evolution happened, spirituality is a human invention. Who your god should be, then, is up to you.

So, I’ll assume you believe in God. Have you ever noticed the specific ways things work in God’s creation. Specific actions will get you specific results. Other actions get you other results. Specific DNA creates specific creatures. Other DNA generates other types of creatures. When baking cookies, it’s very important to use the right, specific ingredients and directions. If you don’t, the delicious cookies you want will not be the result! I’ve made cookies like that before! When traveling somewhere, you have to use a specific set of directions. You can’t just wander randomly and expect to get there. To communicate, you have to put together a specific set of words. I don’t think anyone would disagree with this. Yet for some reason, spirituality seems to be the only area of life where this “law of specificity” doesn’t apply in many people’s minds. So, let me submit to you that a specific way to heaven is consistent with how the world works.

The Bible, the sacred book of Christianity, shares the story of the God of the universe who has specific characteristics and outlines a specific way of salvation. It is different than other ways of salvation. So it is not accurate to say that different expressions of God in different faiths are simply different names for the same being, any more than another person who looks and acts differently than you do could show up at your school or work and claim to be you. There are huge differences between the God of Christianity and other gods. For example, according to Islam, Allah is completely transcendent. Human beings cannot approach him or expect him to care about them individually. A person does not have a relationship with Allah as much as they simply serve and revere him. However, the God of the Bible is one who relishes interacting with human beings, choosing many of them for an especially close relationship, and even sending His Son to be one of us in order to teach us, lead us, set an example for us, and ultimately die and rise for us. These are very different expressions of God. They cannot be the same.

There is not enough space here to explore all the specific differences between the God of Christianity and other gods, but here’s a general rule of thumb. Every world religion except Christianity teaches that people must earn the favor of god or gods by good works, sacrifices, rituals, obligations, etc. Earning this favor is the key to any reward, including heaven. Christianity is the only world religion that tells us the amazing news of a God who couldn’t love us any more than He already does no matter what we do. Because of this love He has offered to do everything for us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which we call grace – the free gift of God. The way we receive this grace is simply by believing it (see Ephesians 2:8-10 in the Bible). Our good works do not earn God’s favor. Instead we do them as a way of saying thank you to God, and the best way to thank God is to imitate His character in everything we do.

The Bible claims that the God it reveals is the only true God. That may be a hard pill for many people to swallow. But I hope you can see that Christianity’s teachings regarding the way to heaven are totally unique, and therefore, worth consideration, and that the Christian God is specific and different from other “gods.”

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