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Question
Hi. I am writing an essay comparing my religion (Pure Land Buddhism) to Christianity. I was surprised by the similarities (compassion, salvation through faith), but there is one point I'm unclear on. In Buddhism (this is true for all sects) we are saved from suffering that arises from ignorance and craving that binds us to the wheel of rebirth. What do Christians believe they are saved from?

Answer
Sakura,

Thanks for your question.  As an college instructor of world religions, the question you are describing sounds a lot like an assignment I often give to the students in my classes.  

For Christians, the thing that one is saved from is eternal punishment.

Christians believe that humans live only one life, and at the end of that life, they are judged by God.  The standard for this judgment is perfect obedience to the laws of the Bible, so based on their own performance, every human would be condemned to eternal punishment.  

The one exception is Jesus, who is fully human, but also fully God, and born without a human father, because God was His father and He was born to His mother, Mary while she was still a virgin.  Christians believe that Jesus did live a perfect life, but then was executed by crucifixion even though He was innocent.  While He was dying, God the Father abandoned Him, therefore He endured the punishment (death and abandonment by God) that is deserved by all humans.  

As a result, any person who trusts in Jesus to forgive their sins against God's law will be judged as if they were perfect, because He becomes their substitute.  Anyone who relies on their own ability or any other god rejects salvation and is eternally punished, because their own efforts were imperfect.  

This eternal punishment is described in various ways in the Bible, but they involve such things as pain, sorrow, fire, and torment.  On one occasion, Jesus compares it to a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem that is constantly on fire and stinks of rotting and burning flesh.  

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Rev. Jason P. Peterson

Expertise

I welcome the opportunity to answer questions regarding the beliefs and practices Lutheran Christians, especially questions comparing Lutherans with other Christian denominations or questions which contrast between various kinds of Lutherans. I am especially familiar with the more conservative Lutheran denominations (LCMS, ELS, WELS, etc.). I also take a great interest in examining new Christian movements and popular trends in Christianity from a Lutheran perspective. In addition, I can answer most questions about the original Greek text of the New Testament and its meaning, as well as questions regarding liturgy, evangelism, and preaching. A special area of interest in my ministry is race track chaplaincy/ministry, and I would love to provide information and guidance for anyone interested in this area.

Experience

I have been a pastor in the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod for the past six years at St. John's Lutheran Church in Burt, IA. I currently serve as chairman of the Commission on Ministerial Growth & Support of the Missouri Synod's Iowa District West and as Track Chaplain at Algona Raceway in Algona, IA. I also write as a religion columnist for two local newspapers.

Organizations
Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Publications
Algona Upper Des Moines (newspaper) Bancroft Register (newspaper)

Education/Credentials
B.A. Concordia University - Ann Arbor, MI (Biblical Languages) M.Div. Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN (Exegetical Theology, Pastoral Ministry & Missions)

Past/Present Clients
Zion Lutheran Church (Columbia City, IN) Zion Lutheran Church (Altamont, IL) St. John's Lutheran Church (Burt, IA) Zion Lutheran Church (Lu Verne, IA) Algona Raceway (IA) Fairmont Raceway (MN) Hancock County Speedway (Britt, IA) Clay County Fairgrounds Raceway (Spencer, IA)

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