After finishing off the second of a two-part class on Islam (which is woefully inadequate time to do justice to the subject) someone came up to me to establish whether it was a good or a bad thing to be exploring other religions.
This is a good question, which I thought I’d try to answer it in this way.
Firstly, a bit of context is called for. The classes mentioned are part of an eight-week Family Bible Hour course called “Confronting Cults and Other World Religions.” This is an important point to note because, as the class name suggests, we are not exploring but rather confronting. But the confronting is not so much about going out looking for confrontational encounters with those of other religions or those caught up in cults. The purpose of the class is to equip the saints at BBC who live in a world where they will inevitably be confronted with other world religions. I trust the distinction is clear. We are not seeking confrontational crusaders but rather equipped evangelists.
Secondly, it does appear to be helpful that one would have a reasonably credible understanding of another’s worldview when seeking to engage in matters of religion and faith. Therefore, it becomes necessary to enquire, observe, read and understand where people are as they grope for God—or don’t. We have taken as a model the apostle Paul, who was able to quote the Athenian poets of the day as he engaged in evangelistic dialogue with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers while in a hiatus in Greece (see Acts 17:16–34). This would mean that, at the very least, he had observed and even noted some of Athenian literature, and quite possibly their arts and culture. The point is, he reasoned with the aim of persuasion, from where the Athenians were at. He, as it were, stepped into their worldview to proclaim the sovereign salvation of God through Christ.
Thirdly, an exploration for the sake of exploring is not good in the realms of claims to truth and error. The task is much more serious than that, and the endeavour too sobering to be frivolous with it.
Why? What harm can be done? Aren’t we all on a search for truth after all? Well, no, actually. And this is where the first distinction is necessary. We are not exploring other religions because we are lending credence to them, hoping to find more truth therein.
In many ways, we are conducting piecemeal reconnaissance missions into enemy territory in order to rescue those who are held captive to the father of lies. With that in mind, no general would send a rookie soldier into strategic enemy territory to gain intel. In much the same way, no pastor wants his people randomly digging into error in order to broaden their perspectives and to feed their enquiring minds. We must be aware that Adam and Eve both had a sense of enquiry as they saw that the tree was desirable to make one wise (Genesis 3:6–7). And look what that left us with!
But God has made His children with hearts and minds that want to know and rejoice in truth and especially in the God of truth. I think that the matter is one of priority. As a matter of first importance, we ought to work hard to know God through His revelation—the Bible—and then, from there, work hard at knowing Him through His creation. After all, all truth is God’s truth.
But, equally let us also remember that even the devil knows truth but does not use it truthfully.
Ultimately our pursuit of truth using our God-given enquiring minds must terminate somewhere and that must be on the one who is the embodiment, essence and person of truth: the Lord Jesus Christ.