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Unread 12-22-2010, 09:25 PM   #1
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studying other religions

Just a quick question.

do you think its good for christians to study other religions like islam, buddhism Athiesm, or judaism. Why or why not ?

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Unread 12-22-2010, 09:36 PM   #2
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Yes. At least, it's healthy for Christians firmly rooted in their beliefs to study other religions. I wish more would.

Many Christians have very little real knowledge of the beliefs of other religious groups. They tend to fall back on common stereotypes that are circulated in the mainstream and in Christian subculture. This can easily lead to ineffective ministry (as it's difficult to challenge the beliefs of others effectively if you don't understand them in the first place) and general ignorance. I think Christians are often perceived as naive and self-involved because they are unable to have honest, genuine dialogue with people of other religions because they don't understand them. As a result, they fall back on stereotypes, propaganda, and rhetoric - all ineffective ministry tactics.

Studying other religions for the purpose of informing yourself is not wrong or unwise; it's healthy. Learning about other religions doesn't mean that you approve of them, and as long as you approach them with a knowledge of the truth of God and His Word, there won't be any subversive brainwashing that occurs. However, I do think it's important that you know what YOU believe before you delve into the beliefs of others. If you don't, what standard do you have to measure dissenting beliefs against? How will you know what is false about the teachings of other religions, and why those ideas are false?
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Unread 12-22-2010, 10:00 PM   #3
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You might start with Huston Smith's The World's Religions. It's been a standard intro for 50 years. He smooths out some things here and there in a way that makes the religions seem a little more continuous with each other, but don't let that stop you because it's a great book. (More recent scholarship would highlight the historical connections between the world's religions that created additional resemblance; Smith wants to emphasize a more fundamental connection between them.)
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Unread 12-22-2010, 10:44 PM   #4
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Quote:
You might start with Huston Smith's The World's Religions. It's been a standard intro for 50 years. He smooths out some things here and there in a way that makes the religions seem a little more continuous with each other, but don't let that stop you because it's a great book. (More recent scholarship would highlight the historical connections between the world's religions that created additional resemblance; Smith wants to emphasize a more fundamental connection between them.)
so are you saying christians should study other religions because other religions are similar to Christianity ?
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Unread 12-23-2010, 09:08 AM   #5
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I think it would be a basis for finding a way to evangelize to them.
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Unread 12-23-2010, 10:07 AM   #6
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I wish more Christians would study their OWN faith. Most are woefully ignorant of their own Scriptures and history.
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Unread 12-23-2010, 10:35 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by OiBoyz View Post
I wish more Christians would study their OWN faith. Most are woefully ignorant of their own Scriptures and history.
Which, I would argue, is impossible without also studying other religions (to some degree).

Christianity did not develop in a vacuum. Throughout its history it's encountered other traditions (sometimes violently, sometimes not) and these encounters have, to some extent, impacted the historical tradition, as well as helped the Christian tradition clarify and solidify itself.
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Unread 12-23-2010, 12:44 PM   #8
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Yuck. Huston Smith? I'm not a fan of the book.
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Unread 12-23-2010, 04:45 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OiBoyz View Post
I wish more Christians would study their OWN faith. Most are woefully ignorant of their own Scriptures and history.
Quote:
Originally Posted by acrossthesirion View Post
Which, I would argue, is impossible without also studying other religions (to some degree).

Christianity did not develop in a vacuum. Throughout its history it's encountered other traditions (sometimes violently, sometimes not) and these encounters have, to some extent, impacted the historical tradition, as well as helped the Christian tradition clarify and solidify itself.
I'm not sure why it's impossible to study your Christian faith without studying other religions. In fact I think that statement is kind of silly. I can see a lot of benefits to studying other religions, I can also see how it might help you understand the history of Christianity. But the idea that it's impossible to study your own Christian faith with out studying other religions would imply that those of us who have done so have learned nothing and not grown in our faith -- since it's impossible to study your Christian faith with out studying other religions. It would mean that many of us today (and I would wager almost all of the previous generation) are ignorant Christians because we have not studied other religions.

Perhaps you didn't mean to say it was impossible.
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Unread 12-23-2010, 04:58 PM   #10
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I'm not sure why it's impossible to study your Christian faith without studying other religions. In fact I think that statement is kind of silly. I can see a lot of benefits to studying other religions, I can also see how it might help you understand the history of Christianity. But the idea that it's impossible to study your own Christian faith with out studying other religions would imply that those of us who have done so have learned nothing and not grown in our faith -- since it's impossible to study your Christian faith with out studying other religions. It would mean that many of us today (and I would wager almost all of the previous generation) are ignorant Christians because we have not studied other religions.

Perhaps you didn't mean to say it was impossible.
Maybe inevitable is a better word? -- that in examining your own tradition you will inevitably encounter other traditions, because the tradition you are apart of has made historical encounters with other traditions/religions.

I'm not saying, "people who don't study other religions aren't getting anything out of their own," because I don't think it's actually possible to do that.

I'm not talking about, necessarily formal study, nor even explicitly thinking "I'm going to study the historical relationship between Christianity and Islam." But simply telling the stories of Christianity (Scripture) will lead you to encounter different traditions (i.e. Jesus and the Pharisees, Paul and the Romans).
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Unread 12-23-2010, 05:24 PM   #11
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Maybe inevitable is a better word? -- that in examining your own tradition you will inevitably encounter other traditions, because the tradition you are apart of has made historical encounters with other traditions/religions.
Impossible was about right. How do you know what the hell Christianity is (outside of one-dimensional caricatures) unless you understand its relationship to the rest of the world? And as you say, it's inevitable that that includes other faith traditions.
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Unread 12-23-2010, 08:05 PM   #12
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I'm not sure why it's impossible to study your Christian faith without studying other religions. In fact I think that statement is kind of silly. I can see a lot of benefits to studying other religions, I can also see how it might help you understand the history of Christianity. But the idea that it's impossible to study your own Christian faith with out studying other religions would imply that those of us who have done so have learned nothing and not grown in our faith -- since it's impossible to study your Christian faith with out studying other religions. It would mean that many of us today (and I would wager almost all of the previous generation) are ignorant Christians because we have not studied other religions.

Perhaps you didn't mean to say it was impossible.
well its impossible to study christianity without first understanding judaism. Also most of the epistles were written to people of pagan origins. Paul frequently draws on pagan mythology or beliefs either to correct them or to draw an example. If you are going to study th eepistles you really need to undersatnd greek and roman paganism.

for example 1 Timothy 2:8 says
Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing

in roman religion , worshipers would pray with their hands to the ground when praying to the the gods of the underwolrd. this could be a distinct rebuking of this practice encouraging people to pray to heaven and not to hell.

furthermore many of the storyies in the bible a found in other religious traditions especially the quran. In essence islam is pretty much an extreem reaction to the idolatry of 7th century christianity and the quran frequently points out things that christians do which conflict with thier own beliefs. Jesus retold stories that was being spread by many other faiths including buddhism. However jesus always altered the message. For example read the buddhist version of the prodigal son and you can see so much more clearly the story of love and grace in the gospels

those are some of my thoughts
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Unread 12-24-2010, 01:28 AM   #13
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so are you saying christians should study other religions because other religions are similar to Christianity ?
No, he's just saying that that's the viewpoint the book is coming from. It points out the basic similarities between the world's religions. It's the book we used in my Western Religions course a few terms ago. ...Can't say I read much though lol.

But yeah, you should learn some about other religions. You'll find things like how judaism hasn't always existed since the beginning of time and was actually preceded by a couple religions. Small point, but yeah, like mentioned, when you learn about other religions, you learn how other people are seeing the world. There is even good literature in their holy books.
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Unread 12-24-2010, 08:50 AM   #14
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so are you saying christians should study other religions because other religions are similar to Christianity ?
Sorry, I wasn't being clear. I was basically assuming you already accepted that it's fine and indeed wise to learn about all people and cultures, and was offering a suggestion on how to do so.
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Unread 12-24-2010, 01:52 PM   #15
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Maybe inevitable is a better word? -- that in examining your own tradition you will inevitably encounter other traditions, because the tradition you are apart of has made historical encounters with other traditions/religions.

I'm not saying, "people who don't study other religions aren't getting anything out of their own," because I don't think it's actually possible to do that.

I'm not talking about, necessarily formal study, nor even explicitly thinking "I'm going to study the historical relationship between Christianity and Islam." But simply telling the stories of Christianity (Scripture) will lead you to encounter different traditions (i.e. Jesus and the Pharisees, Paul and the Romans).
I dare say you will misunderstand about half of the Old Testament or at least miss vast amounts of significance in it if you do not have a good grasp on the religions of the ANE. The plagues are a parody of the gods of Egypt, mocking the pantheon, and creation accounts are a very well versed mockery of the impotence of the gods of the nations and their powers. The Psalms as well.

Thessalonians contains many, many barbs at Roman Imperial religion. Indeed, the crucifixion and life of Jesus will largely be misunderstood. (because the Pharisees just become cranky legalists in the oh so familiar false picture we got in Sunday school amongst other things.) To seriously study the Bible, you have to be able to study it's world. To study it's world and worldview is to understand and be able to look through the eyes of ancient pagans.

Personally, to study other religions I would start with the ancient biblically relevant ones. I would in fact recommend some biblical background books by John Walton.
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