Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why Christians should study other religions (Part I)

Most Christians would benefit from taking the time to learn about different religions. This does not mean that they need to become experts in other faiths nor that they should make it their greatest priority. God has given each of his children different passions, talents, and spiritual gifts, which enable them to further his kingdom within their own spheres of influence. Nevertheless, all Christians would benefit from studying other faiths. Here are three reasons: (This list is by no means exhaustive. I will include 3 more in Part II of this post)

1. Helps us love others: Christ commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is especially difficult to do with those who are different from us. We have a tendency to feel threatened by those we do not understand. We either fear them or look down on them. This often leads us to dehumanize those of other faiths and make a strong distinction between “us” and “them.” As you study other faiths and gain a better understanding of their beliefs and practices you will be less likely to feel threatened by them and thus, more likely to love them as those who have also been created in the image of God.

2. Helps us understand God’s world better: Religious beliefs have shaped human history and continue to do so to this day. This is evident in that three of the most influential individuals in world history have been three religous figures: Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Muhammad. If we believe that world history has a purpose, that is, that it is unfolding according to God’s plan to a determined end, then we should place value in understanding the world we live in. Studying the major world religions that have shaped the world will surely deepen our understanding of the world that God is working in.

3. Helps us evaluate our own commitment to Christ: As you study people of other faiths, you will be challenged to look at yourself and evaluate your own commitment to Christ. The high level of devotion that many people of other faiths demonstrate should inspire us to pursue Christ with even far greater fervor. Although we might disagree with their theology and many of their practices, we can still learn from other people of faith, be it their discipline, simplicity, devotion, etc.

To be continued…

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