Religious leaders who are not strongly attached to biblical Christianity have on occasion recommended a so-called “universal” religion synthesized from elements of all the world religions. This proposal can be buttressed by the allegation that Christianity itself is a synthesis of borrowings from earlier systems of worship. The idea of the Virgin Birth, it is said, has been copied from the story of Buddha’s birth or from Greek mythology, and the doctrines of Paul are explained as adaptations from the Greek mysteries. Macchioro even asserts that Paul was an initiate to the pagan rites. Conservative Christians, on the other hand, maintain that Christianity is unique.
For example, J. Gresham Machen in his monumental work, The Virgin Birth of Christ, produces evidence to show that the original account of Buddha’s birth contains no extraordinary factor, and that only after Christianity had come on the scene were those stories altered in the direction of a virgin birth. The same author in The Origin of Paul’s Religion, and other authors as well, explode the theory that Paul borrowed from the pagan mysteries. Thus Christianity has been defended as unique.
Such studies are all to the good. Christianity would be compromised if it could be shown to be a mosaic of borrowings. Yet, the fact that Christianity is unique is subject to an exaggerated evaluation. For, when one analyzes the situation, it will be discovered that every religion is unique—Buddhism and Islam as well as Christianity. In fact, failure to recognize this results both in a misunderstanding of Christianity and in a false philosophy of religion as well.
THE ERROR OF SYNCRETISM
Nearly all volumes on the philosophy of religion assume that ...1
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