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World Religions class anyone? Why would anyone want to teach their highschool student about the religions of the world? There are many religions, but really only one truth. Therefore, learning about the religions of the world serves as an aid to teaching my lad discernment. In the process he will learn more about how people think.
Why Study World Religions
It’s a fair question. In a day and age when people seem to believe anything they want and call it religion or faith, why study it? Wouldn’t it be a futile gesure? You’d never truly finish.
But you know what? You don’t need to study them all to gain a
- the faith of others better understood
- understanding of your own faith (if any)
- understanding of the global village
- a multi-disciplinary approach to study
- a better understanding of history.
Understanding the many religions of Others
If the only people who can understand Christianity are Christians, or the only ones who can understand Islam are Muslims, of what benefit is it? Seriously? If you can’t stretch yourself to understand how others think, then you miss out on opportunities to further understand each other. You will lose chances to reach for compromise, friendship and more. Our religious identities often influence our actions upon the world and it’s people around us.
Understand your own truth better
As you learn about the belief systems of others, you are often drawn to compare their understanding with your own. If you compare say the Islamic belief system and honestly compare it to the Word of God (the bible) you can see where it differs, and perhaps where it is the same. You will better understand when the bible says that the truth of God resides in us all. It will lend further credence to the bible.
We do take the risk that some individuals might be drawn to a different belief system, a different world-view than what they currently possess. That can be both a positive and a negative, all we can do is have open and honest discussions, pointing people to the truth found in God’s word.
Studying world religions shows us often what people do when they use general revelation to understand more about who God is. Viewing the natural world brings us to understanding God. The twists in logic sin causes as people seek to understand God without the understanding that his specific revelation gives us. Ligoniers has a good article on this point.
Scripture itself not only tells us how the heavens declare his praises, but also that “Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy (Acts 14:17)”.
The Global Village
Truth be told, different world-views surround us, and this world is becoming smaller and smaller all the time. We get to hear about Tsunami’s in Japan, government collapses in other countries, economic collapses, missing children, politics, terrorism etc. It surrounds us everytime we turn around. To help us make sense of it all, knowing what makes people tick would be a good help don’t you think?
For instance, knowing some of what I do about Hinduism and Buddhism makes me wary of the increasing populary of the mindfulness movement and the growth mindset. I have yet failed to see any biblical application of this movement. It’s good to understand it though, as understanding where it differs from the world of God gives me talking points with those espousing it.
Understanding the faith of others helps us to live out the scriptural mandate to show kindness to others and to show integrity as we live out of faith. The other week I wished someone Merry Christmas and she mentioned she didn’t celebrate it but enjoyed the festiveness of the season. I followed that up asking about what she celebrated and learned alot about Ramadan. Stuff I didn’t know before. We had a great discussion and hopefully left each other inspired by the stories of each other.
Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Study
Since belief systems influence cultures, politics and lives, understanding them is important. Understanding the Islam belief in Jihad helps us better understand the 9-11 attacks. It helps us to understand the threat felt by those who would ignore the word of God and impose their own belief set. Explaining the threat felt by leaders in other faith systems when their people turn to the Lord and so persecution of believers happens. Learn to understand how religion influences culture, and ergo the actions that people take. We can see it in political actions, in stories written, the examples used in math, how people interact with each other, and the art they draw.
The more you see the connections between all fields, the more you will see the connections to be found. a more holistic understanding of whatever subject you are learning will make your studies more enriching. In our studies of science and history over the years, we have seen many times how faith influences actions and the directions people take in their research.
History More Clearly Understood
One of my favourite things to do is visit museums and other places of history. The faith that people holds in evident in much of what we save. It can be found in the art, the artifacts, sculptures, paintings, figurines, pottery, and statues. Religion can be found in almost everything from stories written, the sacret texts pulled together. Their convictions are based on what their belief systems are. Religion pervades society and it’s actions in so many ways, we can’t always get a clear grip on it.
Some resources we are contemplating as we draw nearer to our world religions studies.
- No God But One.
- The Universe Next Door.
- Comparative Religions.
- Christianity, Cults and Religions.
- Handbook of Today’s Religions.
The More We Understand
How others think and why they think as they do, the better we are able to show others the truth of God. It gives us a broader view of the world we live in, in a way that devotionals can’t always. Help your students engage in the broader world, strengthen their faith, and teach them to discern truth. Learn how one truth is found as the basis for many religions.