Written By Joshua Woo
Formerly a pastoral staff of a Presbyterian church in Singapore, Joshua Woo is now a political secretary to a Member of Parliament in Malaysia serving in a multi-religious constituency.
I recently attended a religious ceremony at a Siamese Buddhist temple as part of an official visit by my MP. Several Muslims and Christians were also at the ceremony, as they had been invited after having helped the temple to solve some issues.
With the different religious groups not only living peacefully together but also helping to improve lives in one another’s community, some people might be led to think that aside from their beliefs and rituals, there is no fundamental difference between the different religions.
We might then ask: How do we know that Christianity is the truth?
This question prompted me to think about my own faith journey.
I was born into a family that followed traditional Chinese religious customs. My parents burned joss sticks and hell-money as offerings to our ancestors, and offered food on an altar in our home on certain religious occasions.
When I was about 12 years old, my parents started to practise Mahayana Buddhism, and I followed their lead and became a devout Buddhist. I was taught to follow Buddha’s teaching to attain “enlightenment”, which was supposed to free me from the cycle of reincarnation know as samsara. This meant doing good deeds and avoiding bad deeds, which would affect what happened at the next reincarnation.
In trying to attain “enlightenment”, I even became a novice monk, which involved shaving my head, going on a strict vegetarian diet, staying in a temple, and observing over 200 rules. I wanted to be freed from samsara, so I thought I would be a Buddhist my whole life.
When I was 17 years old, however, I started to struggle over the possibility that I would not be able to attain enlightenment because of the many bad things I had done. Perhaps, I thought, there was no way I could be freed from samsara, and would be stuck in the perpetual cycle of reincarnation. This created much uncertainty about my eternal destiny—until I accompanied a friend to his church.
That day, I learned that God came into our world through Jesus Christ to liberate us from the consequences of our bad deeds. It was a message that resonated deeply with my need for liberation. The same evening, I accepted Christ as my Savior.
That was how I became a Christian. It started with the realization that I couldn’t do anything to save myself, and ended with the experience of being loved, forgiven, and accepted by God, despite all that I had done. In a way, Buddhism had helped me to realize my need for divine grace, which led me to Christ.
Making Sense of Life
For a long time, I was also constantly feeling restless. Regardless of what I did, I felt that something significant was missing in my life. Initially, I thought it was companionship, so I got into a relationship. But the restlessness remained. Then I thought it was the lack of achievement, so I went to do certain things that I had always wanted to do. Yet I still felt restless. And I just couldn’t make sense of it.
After I became a Christian, I started to read up more about my newfound faith. Several books helped me to make sense of life and see it from a Christian perspective. In Mere Christianity, for example, C. S. Lewis wrote about his own sense of restlessness: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
That statement completely resonated with me. Finally, it all made sense. I realized that we are always restless in this world because God has created us for another world.
Christianity speaks to my innermost sentiments and helps me make sense of them. As Lewis wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
However, religious experience and making sense of one’s own feelings are not enough for one to be certain of the truthfulness of Christianity. Our faith, after all, is built on the claims and actions of one person, Jesus. So, in order to be certain, we have to be convinced that Jesus really existed.
There is a big debate about this: some people believe that He is real, while others think otherwise. There are also some who accept He existed, but don’t believe what He said or did—including dying on the cross and rising to life.
There is sufficient scholarly persuasion, however, that provides a strong case that Jesus was real and that all He said and did were true. For example, we have the Gospel accounts—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—which testify about the life of Jesus. While some scholars have cast doubt on the Gospels’ reliability as they are based on the authors’ memories, others have argued otherwise, saying that the Gospels should be read as ancient biographies, and are essentially eyewitness accounts. A study of church history show that the four Gospels in the New Testament were accepted very early on as authoritative records of Jesus’ life.
In summary, these are the three reasons that show me that Christianity is indeed the truth:
(1) My experience of God’s love through the liberating message of the gospel.
(2) The realization that Christianity helps me make sense of my life.
(3) The confirmation that Jesus’ life and actions are true.
Of course, knowing all this does not mean that we put down other religions. In my own faith transition, I have learned that there are elements in other religions that God can use to lead people to Him. While we remain convicted of our own faith, we can learn to appreciate and be open to learning from others. At the same time, we can remain steadfast in our faith, knowing that Christianity is the truth.