Originally posted by epiphinehas
I'd like to broach the difficult subject (from a Christian's perspective anyway) of comparative religion.
As a Christian I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). I know there are many in these forums who would take issue with Christ's declaration and that's fi ...[text shortened]... ndoning belief in a religion other than Christianity? I believe, yes.
Well, you asked...
IMO, it is imperative that Christians be intimately familiar with all the religions of the world, out of respect for those people who may genuinely and wholeheartedly believe in them. Can this be done without giving the impression that we (Christians) are condoning belief in a religion other than Christianity? I believe, yes.
I think this is what inspired Paul's famous speech to the Athenians, the "Unknown God" reference he used to draw parallels from their supposed beliefs to reality... and we know how that turned out.
Paul came to understand that such an approach was useless, and determined instead...
"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."
Although the Bible is pretty clear on what our approach is to be, I also consider the opposite proposition in two parts: what if another
system besides what I believe was the correct one, and how would I want them to approach me in their attempt to not only dissuade me of my beliefs, but persuade me of the reality of theirs?
To dissuade me of my beliefs, they would necessarily be familiar with intimate details of mine--- just as you suggested you ought to do with respect to learning other religions. Humanly speaking, such an endeavor on their part would turn into a pissing contest, as my confidence in the facts of my beliefs would trump nearly every attempt at informing me otherwise. That sounds like arrogance. However, that confidence stems from years
of study (which some may call indoctrination), literally daily practice of walking a certain path.
That is not to say that some neophyte might happen along and challenge my perspective on the grounds of my endemic laziness, appealing to 'first things afresh,' as it were. Such a scenario would require the neophyte at least knowing of
first things, in addition to said complacency. However, that situation would only apply to reinforcing my beliefs by inspiring me to get back to those first things... more of a challenge of my practice, rather than my beliefs themselves.
A threat to my beliefs would need to be at the foundational level, which a neophyte would be ineffectual in addressing. His "attack" would be akin to an entry-level math student challenging a college-level calculus professor's take on an algebraic equation: the student doesn't even know what he doesn't know.
To become 'well-versed' in another's belief system, IMO, smacks of either naiveté, arrogance, or possibly both, but certainly disingenuous. It assumes that I'm going to know more about their religion than they (or, at least as much) and that said knowledge will assist me in convincing them of something they (clearly) overlooked. Convincing is the Holy Spirit's job, not mine. Plus, I would never presume that I can find some 'thing' another has overlooked; I'm operating under the assumption that every person with whom I come into contact is already trying to do their best
Paul came to understand that his pathetic attempt of relating what he thought he knew about what the Athenians believed could somehow relate to what he knew to be true was a waste of time. He found out that he missed the mark because he related their understanding about the "Unknown God" and other aspects of their held system to his
perspective, not theirs. Me? I just ain't smart enough to know the links another may have to their religion; I just don't get the value system they're using. Thankfully, we have an Advocate who does.
Again, the Holy Spirit gets it: He knows exactly what buttons to push with each person... provided we speak the lines written for us.