Posts filed under: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common World Religions?

There are countless religions in the world, with most religions having sub-sects within them. Generally speaking, all religions attempt to help people make sense of their purpose and existence in this world, explain what occurs in the afterlife, and declare whether or not there is a deity, and if so, how we relate to this deity. The seven world religions in the list below comprise over 95 percent of the world’s religious adherents. With each world religion is a link to a more detailed discussion of that religion’s beliefs and practices.

Roman Catholicism and Christianity
There are approximately 1.2 billion professed Roman Catholics worldwide. Though the Roman Catholic Church has always been identified with Christianity, there are clear and fundamental differences between the two. Roman Catholics generally identify themselves as Christians, but for the purposes of distinguishing the two divisions of the Christian faith, adherents of Roman Catholicism are referred to as Catholics, while non-Catholic adherents of the Christian faith are referred to as Christians. There are approximately 900 million people worldwide who profess to be non-Catholic Christians. The name Christian is derived from the fact that the early followers of Jesus of Nazareth were called Christians (Acts 11:26), which means literally “little Christs.” Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew Messiah, the “anointed one.” Although Christians frequently identify with particular denominations such as Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Pentecostals, and Nazarenes, they also universally claim the name “Christian” for themselves. Christianity is oftentimes collectively called “the church.” This is an indistinct term in that it is also the word used for local congregations and buildings as well as for specific denominations.

The word Islam literally means “submission,” and, as such, a Muslim is “one who submits to God.” Islam is based primarily on the writings of Mohammad, as recorded in the Qur’an. There are about 1.3 billion Muslims in the world today. Islam is represented all over the world. Though mostly associated with the Middle East, the largest Muslim populations are in Asia. Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India have sizable Muslim populations.

Hinduism is a word created by the Western world to encompass the dominant religious and social system of India. Traditionally, those we call Hindus refer to their religion as the dharma, which means “the way” or “the religion.” There are approximately 900 million Hindus in the world. Obviously, the greatest number of Hindus is located in India. Since Indians have emigrated all over the world, however, there are many Hindu communities in other countries. The total number of Hindus in India is subject to some controversy because it includes up to 300 million “untouchables” (dalits), who are officially counted as a part of the Hindu social structure but who are prevented from fully participating in Hinduism.

Buddhism is based on the teachings of the person called the Buddha, which means “enlightened one.” This religion has many different branches, but Buddhism is the only appropriate all-encompassing term, and its adherents, no matter how divergent in their beliefs, are happy to be known as Buddhists. Buddhism has about 360 million followers, placing it fourth, behind Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. Buddhism originated in India. It is dominant in its more traditional forms in Sri Lanka and much of Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia). Additionally, it has taken on various forms in many other Asian countries, most notably Tibet, Korea, China, and Japan. Today Buddhism is frequently adapted and adopted by Westerners, though often at the expense of faithfulness to the traditional forms of this religion.

The word Judaism comes from the name of the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve ancient tribes of Israel. So, literally, it is the religion of those who come from the tribe of Judah, who are (in English) called the Jews. However, being Jewish refers to an ethnic identity as well as a faith, and nowadays there are many Jews who do not practice the Jewish faith, even though they are happy to be known as Jews ethnically and culturally. It is estimated that there are about 15 million religious Jews in the world today, but many others do not practice any religion.

The term Baha’i literally means a “follower of Baha,” referring to Bahaullah, the founder of the religion. Baha’i has more than seven million members. Originating in Iran, Baha’i is represented in well over 200 countries in the world, behind only Christianity (in over 250 countries), but far ahead of Islam, which is in about 175 countries.


What was God doing before He created the Universe?

Our finite minds find it hard to comprehend that before the universe was created, God existed alone. We know from John 1:1 that Jesus also existed: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The preincarnate Christ was intimately united with the Father, so as to partake of His glory and to be appropriately called God. He has Himself explained it in John 17:5: “And now Father, glorify Me with Yourself with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

We also know that the Holy Spirit was present before we were created. Genesis 1:2 describes the Spirit “hovering over the face” of the dark and formless earth. So, before time even existed, God existed in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Trinity existed in perfect harmony and flawlessness, having all they needed in one another. David said in Psalms 16:11 that “joy and pleasures forever more” are in the presence of God. That means to be in the presence of God carries with it an overwhelming sense of joy, fulfillment, and pleasure. Before creation, God felt complete joy and fulfillment as He perfectly beheld and communed with Himself. God has and always will experience complete joy because He has complete and perfect knowledge of Himself.

So before He created the universe, God experienced absolute satisfaction in Himself. God dwelt joyfully alone in eternity as the Trinity. These three were together in fellowship with one another from all eternity. They loved each other. We know at some point they discussed the redemption of mankind (Ephesians 1:4-5; 2 Timothy 1:9; John 17:24), but everything else lies in mystery.


Why does God allow birth defects?

The ultimate answer to this difficult question is that when Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis chapter 3), they brought evil, sickness, disease, and death into the world. Sin has been wreaking havoc on the human race ever since. Birth defects occur because of sin…not because of sins the parents or the baby have committed, but because of sin itself. The hard part of the question is why God allows people to be born with terrible birth defects and/or deformities. Why doesn’t God prevent birth defects from occurring?

The book of Job deals with the issue of not understanding why God allows certain things to occur. God had allowed Satan to do everything he wanted to Job except kill him. What was Job’s reaction? “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15). “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21). Job didn’t understand why God had allowed the things He did, but he knew that God was good and therefore continued to trust in Him. Ultimately, that should be our reaction as well. God is good, just, loving, and merciful. Often things happen to us that we simply cannot understand. However, instead of doubting God’s goodness, our reaction should be to trust Him. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Ultimately, the answer to this question has to be “I don’t know.” We will never be able to fully understand God and His ways. It is wrong for us to question why God allows something to occur. We simply have to trust that He is loving, good, and merciful ” just like Job did ” even when the evidence seems to indicate the opposite. Sickness and disease are the result of sin. God provided the “cure” for sin in sending Jesus Christ to die for us (Romans 5:8). Once we are in heaven, we will be free from sickness, disease, and death. Until that day, we will have to deal with sin, its effects, and its consequences. We can praise God, though, that He can and will use birth defects and other tragedies for our good and His glory. John 9:2-3 declares, “His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’”


Who are the Black Hebrews/Black Israelite’s

The terms “Black Hebrews” and “Black Israelites” refer as a categorical whole to several independent sub-sects whose unifying characteristic is that their members are of black African descent who claim Hebrew / Israelite ancestry. Apart from this unifying characteristic, however, these sub-sects are very distinct from one another.

For example, members of the Original African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem (or the African Israelites, for short) believe that, after the Roman expulsion of the Jews from the land of Israel, many Jews migrated to West Africa. From there, their descendants were transported by slave ship to the United States, where the group began in the 1960s. According to this view, the biblical Hebrews of the Old Testament times had multiracial descendants.

Members of the Nation of Yahweh, on the other hand, believe that all of the Old Testament prophets, Jesus Christ, and God Himself are all black. They believe that all whites, but especially Jews, are infidels, whom they call “white devils.” Only blacks are “true Jews.” This group is considered a black supremacist group by many and has a history of violence and terror.

In 1966, African Israelite founder and leader Ben Ammi (then name literally means “Son of My People,” formerly Ben Carter of Chicago) claimed to have been visited by the angel Gabriel. According to Ben Ammi, Gabriel instructed him to “lead the children of Israel to the Promised Land, and establish the long-awaited Kingdom of God.” Ben Ammi then established the Original African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem and led approximately 400 members to the West African nation of Liberia for a two-and-a-half year period of purification. From there, those who remained for the entire two-and-a-half years began migrating to Israel in waves, beginning in 1969.

The authorities in Israel did not accept Ben Ammi and his followers as biblical Jews and did not deem them entitled to citizenship under the Israeli “Right of Return” law. Instead, the African Israelites were granted temporary tourist visas. Legal troubles ensued when it became apparent that the African Israelites had no intention of ever leaving. The Jewish authorities did not want to expel them, however, and face accusations of racial discrimination. After much perseverance, the group was finally granted residency in 2004. This allowed them to stay in Israel, but not as full citizens. In 2008, there were approximately 2,500 African Israelites living in Israel. They adhere to strict dietary and behavioral laws, which include veganism and Old Testament Mosaic Law.

These are just two of many Black Hebrew / Israelite sub-sects, each one distinct and independent from the others. Other Black Hebrew / Israelite groups include the Church of the Living God, the Pillar Ground of Truth for All Nations, the Church of God and Saints of Christ, and the Commandment Keepers. What they have in common is their race (i.e., black African descent) and their claim to have descended from the biblical Hebrews of Old Testament times.

Is it possible that Old Testament Hebrews left behind some black ancestors? Yes. Given Israel’s proximity to Africa, it is plausible that there are African Jewish groups, especially following the Roman expulsion and the Diaspora of the Jews. In fact, the entire Jewish nation spent four centuries in Africa before returning to the Promised Land (modern-day Israel), and interactions between the Hebrews and African nations are documented throughout the Old Testament.

There is a group of black Jews living in Africa today who practice a very ancient form of Judaism. Unlike the modern Original African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem, the Beta Israel group of Ethiopia is accepted by the majority of Jews and by the nation of Israel as being historically Jewish. When it comes to the question of Black Hebrews / Israelites, it is not so much a matter of whether there are groups of blacks with partial Jewish ancestry living in the world today. The question is whether these particular groups claiming Jewish ancestry truly are descendants of the biblical Hebrews.

Whether or not any of the Black Hebrew / Israelite groups have Jewish ancestry is not the most important issue. Even if it could be conclusively proven that a Black Hebrew / Israelite faction is partially genetically descended from the biblical Israelites, what these groups believe is far more important than their ancestry. Each of these groups, to varying degrees, have beliefs that are unbiblical. Above everything else, the most crucial error is a misunderstanding, or in some cases denial, of who Jesus Christ is, what He taught, and how His death and resurrection provide the way of salvation.


How Should a Christian Spouse handle an adulterous affair that has resulted in a child?

Marriage is a covenant that brings a couple together both spiritually and physically. Infidelity causes a devastating blow that tears through the oneness of marriage, often resulting in irreparable damage. This can be especially true if a child is conceived through adultery.

A parent’s responsibility to his child is not determined by the circumstances of the child’s conception. Bringing a child into the world through an adulterous act is unfavorable for all parties involved, but it is important to remember that the child is innocent and deserves to have two parents in his/her life.

That child conceived through adultery also has the right to be loved, protected, and provided for. Children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3). The child must not be seen as a curse, as a reminder of the sin, or as in any way less worthy. An adulterous affair generates much emotion, vented in many ways, but the child cannot be made the target of spite or ill will.

If the wife decides to remain with her husband even after his affair resulting in a child, she must be prepared to forgive the sin. If the husband decides to remain with his wife who is pregnant with another man’s child, he must forgive the sin. The Bible tells us that Christians are to forgive each other, just as God has forgiven us (Matthew 6:14-15). This means making the choice to put aside the feelings of anger and jealousy.

Ideally, the wife whose husband has fathered a child with someone else will be able to embrace the child as a stepson or stepdaughter, even if the child does not live in her home. She should not stand in the way of her husband forming a relationship with his child, even though this might be painful for her. He has financial, spiritual, and emotional obligations to all his children (Ephesians 6:4).

Conversely, the husband whose wife bears a child by another man should strive to see himself as a stepfather-or even an adoptive father, depending on the living arrangements. Of course, every situation is different, and there are always legal, familial, and personal complexities. But, as believers seek to follow the Lord, their response to adulterous affairs must include measures of forgiveness and grace and love and peace.

Adultery is a sin with the potential to break up families, but it need not be the end of a marriage. Instead, the couple should work even harder at rebuilding their relationship on the firm foundation of faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. Only the grace and mercy of God and strong faith in Christ will get a couple through this difficult situation. But grace, mercy, and faith are all the gifts of God through the Holy Spirit, and they are available from God to those who truly seek to glorify Him.