In my last post, I argued that high school homeschool students from Christian families should take Bible courses. Worldview type courses shouldn’t replace in-depth Bible study courses. However, I firmly believe in the value of learning different worldviews. In particular, all Christians should learn the basics of a few world religions.
Why should we learn about world religions?
Think of it this way. People who only know about their own religion and discard all others are like people who’ve only tried one kind of salsa and disdain even the thought of another salsa. While these loyal salsa consumers know the ingredients, nutritional value, manufacturer, and flavor of their salsa, they don’t have anything with which to compare it. And comparing is crucial to understanding because it enables us to appreciate the distinctive flavors in our salsa of choice. For example, learning about reincarnation helps me to appreciate the Christian hope of the resurrection all the more. And understanding the law of karma makes me more grateful for grace.
Let me point out something else. There are ingredients in our jar of salsa which we think we understand, but we don’t know them as well as we think we do. We need to see tomatoes outside of our salsa jar to understand them as we should. The emphasis on compassion in Buddhism, prayer in Islam, and meditation in Hinduism, can help us grasp things we may have missed or underemphasized in our own faith.
“But” some may ask, “what if after tasting other salsas we don’t like our salsa as much as we used to?” To that I say, if you’ve really tasted the Christian gospel of grace, I highly doubt that you’re going to like the taste of another salsa more. And furthermore, fear is no excuse for remaining in ignorance. We live in a global melting pot and we simply can’t ignore others.
Others may object, “the Christian faith is not just another jar of salsa sitting on the shelf next to others. In fact, you can’t even find it in the store because it’s free and it’s a relationship.” To that I say, in that sense you’re right and my analogy isn’t perfect, but I hope it still conveys my point.
Ultimately we don’t need the salsa analogy, because the greatest argument for learning about other religions is the greatest commandment. Jesus commands his followers, “love your neighbors as yourselves” (Mk. 12:31). And since faith is one of the most important things to our neighbors, when we take the time to learn what they believe and how they think, we are communicating love to them and in that way we’re obeying the greatest commandment. So teach world religions to high school homeschool students, but don’t stop with them, teach world religions to all Christians.
*For an accessible and insightful overview of world religions see World Religions: An Indispensable Introduction (Nelson’s Quick Guides) by Gerald R. McDermott.