What a Savior?

I recently received a comment someone wanted me to respond to.  They’ve been learning that, in Jesus, God relates to us in a unique way as Savior, and that this is a uniquely Judeo-Christian concept.  They wanted to know what I think about this.

It is!  It is a uniquely Judeo-Christian concept. 

Among the Major World Religions, there is only one thing that even comes close.  One of the two major streams of Buddhism, Mahayana—otherwise known as “popular Buddhism”—turns Siddhartha, the Buddha, into a savior figure after his death.  He becomes the one who draws the world to the liberation found in Nirvana, i.e.,Enlightenment.  There’s a major issue with this, though.  The Buddha himself was an atheist as far as a personal God is concerned.  Accordingly, when he was alive, Siddhartha categorically rejected every hint or suggestion people made that he was in any way a savior! 

The idea of God as Savior is totally unique to Christianity.But what does this uniqueness prove? 

Being so closely tied to several other key Christian teachings that are also utterly unique, such as salvation by grace, it either proves that Christianity is true, or complete nonsense!  Because every other major religion—not to mention most of humanity—says that salvation is essentially up to us, Christianity is way out on a limb here.  However differently they construe salvation, everyone else thinks of it as something we accomplish, usually by being “good people”, however they define this too.  So, either Christianity is right and everyone else is wrong, or everyone else is right and Christianity’s notion of God as Savior is way off.

Lamin Sanneh is a Yale professor. He’s a fascinating person.  He grew up in Africa as a Muslim.  But, as he was coming of age, he eventually converted to Christianity.  It was a daring and dangerous thing to do in that culture, the country he was raised in. 

As a scholar, he’s focused much of his attention on African Christianity and is well respected for his tremendous expertise on the subject.  Christianity has exploded in Africa over the last century or so.  One of the central questions Sanneh has sought to answer is: Why?  Why this explosive growth?  After years of research, he’s concluded that one major reason is that Jesus, like no other, fulfills the African longing for what he terms an “invincible savior”.  Despite the massive diversity that exists among Africans, not only from country to country, but also from group to group, for centuries they have all shared this deep yearning for an invincible savior that no one has been able to fulfill—until they discovered Jesus.  Africans recognize that Jesus is the invincible savior all their different traditions, beliefs, practices, and experiences have been pointing to all along. 

Christianity isn’t just exploding in Africa.  Over the last century, it’s also experienced explosive growth throughout the world, especially the Southern Hemisphere.  It would seem this longing for an invincible savior has something to do with that.  It would seem that this longing for an invincible savior is pretty much a universal human longing.  Despite all our protests about being good people (according to our own definitions of good, of course), we seem to have a profound, visceral sense that we need a savior who can rescue us from our broken condition, from suffering, evil, and, ultimately, death.

Once I (reluctantly) came to the conclusion that Christianity was true—I preferred several other religions at the time, including Islam and Buddhism—there was still one thing that really bothered me.  I noticed that other sincere seekers who, like me, tried to examine the evidence behind each religion objectively ended up following many different paths.  What bothered me more was that the paths these other sincere seekers ended up following seemed to be largely determined by the culture that were raised in.  Those raised in India, for example, tended to conclude Hinduism was true.  Those raised in the Mid-East, Islam.  Those raised in the West, in America—like me—Christianity.  If Christianity is true, I thought, then shouldn’t the majority of sincere seekers gravitate toward it regardless of what culture they were raised?

This still really bothered me until about eight years ago.  It was then that I first came across the statistics showing where in the World Christianity has been rapidly growing and how this compared with the other major religions.  I discovered that Christianity is the only religion with a Worldwide reach.  It’s the only religion that has been able to cross cultural divides and convert significant numbers of adherents the World over.  These statistics reveal that sincere seekers from many different cultures are gravitating toward Christianity, and in overwhelming numbers!

Surely, one major reason for this has to be our universal longing for an invincible savior.  In Jesus, sincere seekers are finding the One who can save them from all their failings, all the misery this world foists upon us, and, above all, from death itself.

During this pandemic, as we’ve watched so much of what we thought was invincible come crashing down, we are left with an overwhelming longing for something we can count on, something solid, something invincible. 

The truth is that there is only one thing, one person, that is invincible—Jesus and the salvation he offers.  He alone has conquered death.  He alone can triumph over all that ails us.  And He alone can give us that profound peace that passes all understanding, that joy which no circumstance can take away.

Oh, whata Savior we have in Him!

So, what do you make of this unique Christian idea of God as savior?  Do you think it means Christianity is true, or utter nonsense?  I’d love to hear your comments!  You can leave them on the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website.  In the midst of this crisis, I pray that you will know theunshakable peace and unspeakable joy Jesus provides.

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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