I was eating a very bad breakfast with several friends at a cafe in Louisville, Kentucky. Several different religious denominations and groups were represented at the table, all of us enjoying the companionship.
My friend Anuttama, who is the communication director for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, paused between bites and asked, “Why do you Christians think that your Bible is the only holy book in the world?”
I was quick with the answer; “Because the Bible was given to men by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Even though it was written by many different authors over thousands of years, it agrees with itself from beginning to end. The stories are supported by history, and the teachings clearly describe God’s character so that we know how to live.”
Anuttama smiled and said, “That is also true of my Holy Scriptures, the Bhagavad Gila. It, too, was given to men by the Spirit and describes true events that teach us the expectations of God. How are your Scriptures different?”
I thought a minute. Then I explained how God included in the Bible all of the knowledge necessary for salvation.
“That is also what the Buddhists and the Mormons say about their Scriptures. How is your Bible different?”
I was beginning to sweat a bit, but I began describing how the Bible includes a trustworthy record of all God’s acts in history in a way that gives Christians a clear understanding of doctrines.
“Doctrines,” Anuttama responded. “Like what happens when the body dies, how to eat healthfully, when and how to worship? Those are doctrines, right?”
“Right,” I answered tentatively, worried that he was going to tell me that both Krishna and Koran did the same.
And that’s just what he did.
“The Tao te Ching does that for the Taoists. The Torah does it for the Jews. And the Quran does the same for the Muslims. How are your Scriptures different?”
I tried once more.
“The Christian Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, tell the same story about God’s character, a story that no other religion teaches, because no other Holy Scriptures teach anything similar.”
“What is that?” he asked.
“Grace,” I answered. “Only the Holy Bible teaches that God created us because He loved us, and that He still loves us so much that He let His Son die to take the penalty for our sins, so that we are totally, absolutely forgiven. The fullness of our lives today and our eternal destiny depend not on our behavior but on His character of love. There is nothing we can do to add anything to what He has already done for us, nothing more than accept His love and nothing less than accept His love.”
There was a long quiet around our table, and then my friend said, “The Bhagavad Gita teaches many good things about the Creator. It teaches us how to know God, how to live healthy lives—even to be vegetarian, like you—how to get along with others, how to evangelize the world for Him, and much more. But it says nothing about grace. Only your Holy Scriptures teach that salvation depends on God, not on us. You are right. Grace is what makes your Scriptures special.”
The rest of the meal was spent sharing stories from their Scriptures, and the morning was filled with friendly laughter and learning.
Later that day I opened the Holy Bible that the Gideons had placed in the nightstand beside my hotel bed. I read John 3:16, Ephesians 2:1-6, and Romans 12, all of which described, “grace” clearly. Then, after rereading the Creation accounts in Genesis, I said a “Thank-You” prayer.
This article originally appeared on LEAD magazine on Jan-Mar 2009 issue.