When engaging in evangelism and Discovery Bible Studies (DBS), it is important to be mindful of our posture towards other belief systems. The assumptions we hold and how we present our perspectives can either build bridges towards or alienate those we are seeking to reach. I also believe that our role as believers is not to help people change their religious “brand” to our particular expression of Christianity. Rather, it is to introduce Jesus to them in such a way that they use Scripture and the person of Christ as the grid through which they evaluate their life and beliefs. We walk with them on a journey in which both of us move on a trajectory of faith as we learn to live out our faith in a way that corresponds to God’s revealed desire for us. This will challenge the assumptions we have been enculturated into, whether that comes from Christian roots or from another belief system.
My approach to the followers of other religions is based on a personal theology of religions. We all have a theology of religions. Although seldom articulated and often muddled, our view of the validity of other religious beliefs, how religions function and how they ought to be addressed affects our relationship with believers in other traditions. I would encourage all those relating to people from a different religious background to become mindful of their personal theology of religions that determines how they engage others. To aid in the process, please consider the following definition of a theology of religions from a Christian perspective followed by a series of questions that can guide you in that task.
A theology of religions from a Christian perspective is a reflection on how the worldview, beliefs and values of other religions intersect with biblical faith. It includes conflicts, areas of agreement and, in particular, how the Gospel message and God’s mission to the world guide Christian believers in how they are to respond and relate to the followers of other belief systems. The goal is to develop a deeper level of understanding of and appreciation for how others find meaning in life, as well as establish an appropriate posture for the Christian who proclaims the Gospel of Jesus. “Theology of religions also aims to formulate principles and guidelines regarding the practical coexistence, witnessing toward and dialogue with members of other faiths.”1
Questions that can be used as a guide in this task:
- How are concepts of the Absolute consistent with and how do they contradict the biblical revelation of God’s nature?
- In what way is the mission of God reflected in the other religion?
- What descriptions of the nature of humanity resonate with the biblical picture? How can the contrast be described and addressed?
- What are the big questions of life being asked by the other religion and how compatible are they to the big questions addressed in the Bible?
- Does the “problem of the world” addressed by the other religion reflect the biblical focus?
- How does the solution to the “problem of the world” correspond with the story of the cross of Christ?
- How do answers in the other belief system resonate with the Christian faith, and how do they “miss the mark”?
- What language (e.g., terms for God, worship, etc.) can be used that communicates in a receptor sensitive way while maintaining integrity with the biblical record?
- What form of interreligious dialogue is appropriate and profitable? Why?
- How do the followers of another belief system view Christianity? Why? What are the implications for interreligious dialogue?
- What posture should a Christian have towards other belief systems and their followers? How is that posture to be expressed and developed?
- What priority should be given to an understanding of and appreciation for religious thought outside of Christian faith? Why?
- What kind of participation in other religious practices is appropriate for a follower of Jesus? Why?
- How do the perspectives on God, humanity and the big questions of life in the other religion help shape your own personal theology?
- Beyers, J., 2017,‘A historical overview of the study of theology of religions’, in HTS TheologicalStudies/Teologiese Studies, suppl. 12, 73(6). www.ajol.info/index.php/hts/article/viewFile/164941/154437. Page 3.