A few weeks ago I was reading a book on Mormonism written from a Christian point of view. I read it while waiting to get my drivers license renewed and an older woman sitting next to me started to ask me about the book and I soon found out she was also a Christian. She then asked why I was reading the book, she was clearly puzzled. I explained to her that I enjoy studying other religions, apart from Christianity. She really couldn’t understand why a Christian would read about another religion as she was taught that it was not okay for Christians to learn about other beliefs since other religions may seem more appealing, prompting her to leave the Christian faith.
This woman’s fear is far too common in the church. I understand she was afraid that if she read about other world views that it would offend God or she would be seen as being a doubter. I don’t think she is the only one who feels this way but it shouldn’t be a taboo topic among Christians. As Christians we can be confident that we know the actual truth. After all, we are commanded to live without fear (1 John 4:18).
I want to briefly explain three reasons why Christians should be studying other religions.
1) Evidence for Christianity far outweighs any other religion.
2) Christians need to understand what others believe in order to effectively evangelize.
3) Studying other religions will help to build our confidence that Christianity is the one truth.
With that being said, Christians should be studying the Bible on a consistent basis. As we study other religions we will know what types of questions we should be asking others who aren’t Christians. Further, we need to stop classifying people as just unbelievers because they are more than that. Knowing some foundational beliefs of other world views will help us to articulate why other religions are false and help the unchurched person think through their ideas. It will also help you to define words such as God so that no one will make assumptions about what you are implying. For example, when a Christian and New Age believer talk about the word God they are talking about two very different ideas. When I first became a Christian I wasn’t aware of that and I made the mistake of assuming that we were talking about the same idea of God. In my experience, to the New Ager, God essentially means a higher version of themselves. Clearly, as Christians this is not what we mean when we talk about God, the creator. Don’t be afraid to define terms or to ask them to clarify what they mean.
All this is important as we are called to live out 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
It doesn’t offend God when we study other religions and he isn’t afraid of other religions in the world. However, he does want you to be confident in your Christian faith but you aren’t going to be confident if you are living in fear of opposing viewpoints. When my son is afraid of doing something I don’t allow him to avoid his fear. I help him to face it head on, so that he isn’t controlled by his fear. I can see the big picture of the situation when he can’t. And God sees the big picture when we get distracted by fear and can only see a fraction of what’s going on.
With so many competing world views it’s equally important to be aware how to communicate why you are a Christian. My hope is that all Christians will take the time and learn about the religions of our co-workers, friends, and family. It will help you to be able to ask the questions that need to be asked with gentleness and respect. By doing this we also show others that we have examined our own Christian faith along with other religions.