ZOROASTRIANISM AND CHRISTIANITY

The official starting point for Zoroastrianism is around 600 bc in what was known as Babylonia (present day Iran and Iraq) by the son of a camel merchant named Zoroaster or Zarathustra. Technically Zoroastrianism is claimed to be the primeval religion of man that was lost but eventually reclaimed by Zoroaster during a spiritual quest in which the true God Ahura-Mazda was revealed to him.

Like Muhammad, Zoroaster had little success in the early days of proclaiming the truth that had been revealed to him. Finally, a local king in northern Persia named Vishtap embraced his message and made it the official religion of the small kingdom. After his death Zoroastrianism eventually spread throughout the Persian empire and became its official religion for nearly 1000 years. Today there are less than 500,000 adherents worldwide who are called Parsis or Zarathustis.

Zoroastrian followers have two major goals as they live out their faith. The first is the maintenance of life. To do this adherents work the soil, raise cattle, marry and have children. Things like asceticism and celibacy are eschewed because they do not promote life. The second goal of the Zoroastrian is the struggle against evil. Evil acts and people associated with them are avoided. Because physical death came as a result of evil attacking the earth, disposal of corpses is carefully done under prescribed methods to avoid defiling members. Zoroastrianism is a very personal religion because each person must struggle against evil in his own way and will stand before God in the final judgment for his or her actions.

Zoroastrian theology claims to be monotheistic yet seemingly contradicts this in their world view. There is one God named Ahura-Mazda. He is the good and perfect creator who is all powerful, all knowing, all wise, perfect and beneficent. But Ahura-Mazda has an evil twin named Angra-Mainyu. Angra-Mainyu is co-equal and co-eternal with God and is the source of all evil and corruption. These two forces of Good and Evil are in a state of continual war and have their own angels and archangels in the battle as well. Humanity must resist evil as they participate in this battle as well.

Zoroastrianism teaches that heaven is achieved through doing good works in this life and resisting evil. When a person is deceased, they will be judged by Ahura-Mazda as to whether or not their lives were basically evil or basically good. The basically good will inherit heaven and the basically evil will be sent to hell for purification. Hell is not an eternal state but rather a place where justice is meted out and then the person is restored to God afterwards. While the emphasis is on personal responsibility rather than a savior of some kind, Zoroastrians are looking for a future Saoshyant (Savior) who will be born on earth to a virgin and will at the end of the world finally defeat evil and restore righteousness.

Zoroastrianism claims that all religions are equal because they lead people to goodness and faith in God and that is the goal of human life. Because all roads lead to God, Zoroastrians do not seek converts but rather seek to expand their numbers through marriage and childbirth.

When Zoroastrianism and Christianity are compared there are some points of commonality but mostly fundamental disagreement. On the fact that there is one God, good and evil that is to be embraced and shunned, and that there is an afterlife that includes heaven and hell there is agreement. But Zoroastrianism is in essence a religion of works. One earns his salvation through doing good and avoiding certain evils throughout his lifetime. Christian belief emphasizes that while man has the capacity for good, he is radically committed to doing that which is against the law of God. It is only through the restoring work of the God sent savior Jesus Christ that man can be right with God. Christians are expected to do good works as a sign of their faith, but their faith is in Christ not their goodness to save them from hell.

Another point of disagreement comes in the area of the struggle between good and evil. Christianity teaches the existence of Satan who is a fallen angel and the force of evil in the cosmos. But Satan is not equal with God and has circumscribed limits as to what he can do. He will live eternally in hell when God decrees the end of time and culmination of all things in this order of life.

Finally, there is disagreement in the assertion that all religions are equal and lead people to goodness and to God. Ostensibly, Satanism actually leads its followers to do evil and resist God. Buddhism is a world religion which has no connection worshipping any God. Hinduism is a religion with millions of gods but has no factual basis for most of them. All religions are not true nor are they equal. Religions are of value insofar as they lead us to a correct appraisal of reality and how we are to respond to it. It might be fun to build my own religion around worshipping my belly button, but it would do little to answer the questions of; why are we here? where are we going? and why are things the way they are?

Zoroastrianism answers some of these questions and admittedly has some similarities with the Christian religion, but in the end it calls men and women to trust themselves and their goodness to please a perfect and holy God. Given the reality of the human soul, it seems unlikely that this is ever achievable. Long before Zoroaster ever lived, God spoke to another man living in the exact same region. He told Abraham to leave his family and homeland and follow Him. God made a covenant with him that if he would leave his idolatrous people, he would make him into a great nation and through him all the peoples of the world would be blessed. Abraham entered into this covenant and through him the nation of Israel was born. It was through the lineage of Abraham that God came in human form. His name was and ever more shall be Jesus Christ. It is only through Him that we can truly battle evil and find true life.

” I am the way, and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father, but through me” 
–Jesus Christ (John 14:6)–