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That's a Good Question

Can Christians Learn from Other Religions?

November 7, 2023

Jon Delger


Ryan Kimmel

JonHey everyone, welcome to That's a Good Question, a podcast of Peace Church. This is the place where we answer questions about the Christian faith in plain language. I'm Jon, I serve as a pastor here at Peace and I also get to serve as the weekly host of this show. You can always submit questions at slash questions. We love to hear questions about the Christian faith so we can answer them, help people grow in their knowledge of the Bible and their walk with the Lord. Today I am here with Pastor Ryan.

RyanHello, and I just also want to say thanks to everyone who submits questions. Sometimes the questions come make us think in ways that we might not normally engage the faith. And so I appreciate some of the questions that come in. So keep sending them.

JonTotally. And I feel like today is one of those. Yeah. One of those questions. I'm excited to answer this one. Last two weeks we spent talking about Israel. So if you have questions about Israel, refer back to those last couple episodes. But today we're moving on to a different topic from a great question that came in a couple weeks ago. We haven't had a chance to get to it.

JonSo here it is.

JonThey start by saying, asking for a friend, which I think is hilarious. Asking for a friend. Asking for a friend. Classic. Which we don't have names, by the way, so it's okay.

RyanYou can just honestly ask your question.

JonWe don't know who you are, anyways.

JonYeah, just, yeah. So asking for a friend, is it okay for Christians to learn from other religions or religious leaders outside of Christianity? For instance, can we post things on social media from the Dalai Lama or from Buddha? Shouldn't we spend time learning from their wisdom, too? So, cool question, great stuff. We're going to break it down because you asked several questions, I think, within that question, and they're all good questions. So, let's break it down. Or their friend. Yeah, that's right, right.

RyanOr their friend asked them questions.

JonYeah, that's right. Their friend asked several questions. So, we're going to address those. All right, so here, let's start with this, Pastor Ryan. Is it okay to learn from non-Christians at all?

RyanYeah, of course it is. I mean, we do it all the time. And even when I was going through college and seminary, and Pastor Jon, I'm sure you probably had somewhat of similar experience. I took world religions class and actually went to other religious places of worship and sat with their religious leaders and learned about their religion, learned about their faith and what they believe about God. And so the notion of, can we learn from non-Christians or people outside the Christian faith? Yeah, of course we can. I mean, I'm sure at some point we'll talk about common grace and the notion that God's, there is wisdom to be had from people outside the Christian faith, I think.

JonYeah, let's real quick talk about that and talk about what that is. So yeah, so you started to say it. So common grace is the basic idea that God has not only given knowledge and wisdom to Christians, believers, but across the board. All human beings bear God's image. All human beings have the ability to learn. They know some truth. They have some wisdom. And so we can learn not just from Christians, but from non-Christians.

RyanYeah, absolutely. I mean, even the book of Proverbs, I don't believe Solomon wrote every single proverb that's in there and even says that this is a collection. And there's a great reason to believe that some of those proverbs, he might've even gotten from Egypt. There's records of Egyptian Proverbs that predate the Book of Proverbs that seem very similar that he might have picked up from there or just from traveling word. And so yeah, there's no problem learning from non-Christians. I think what we need to start to specify is obviously God's Word is our ultimate standard of what is right and wrong and God's Word is truth. But here's what we would say, all truth, all capital T truth, is God's truth, whether or not it's spoken from scripture or from someone quoting the Bible or a truth outside the Bible. If it's true, if it's truth, then it belongs to God. It finds its origin in Him.

JonYeah, the Bible is unique in that it's the only word directly from God that we have. There's no other religious books that compare to it. We believe there's one God and that he spoke through the Bible And yet there are truths that exist outside of the Bible and we can learn them from people that don't even know the Bible Or the Lord so take it to the next level is it okay to learn from non-christians about religion? About God about how to relate to God.

RyanYeah, that's where I think you're gonna start getting some You get into some dangerous territory. Of course we want to learn from other faiths about their faith. If I want to learn more about the Muslim faith then I should probably talk to a Muslim. So yeah, it's okay to learn from other religions about their religion of course, but to start learning from other religions about how to relate or find or know God, yeah that's where I'm gonna say, nope, not the way to go.

JonRight, that's where, so in some world religion classes in a university or somewhere, you're probably, many people have probably heard the parable of the blind men trying to talk about the elephant. Yeah, yeah. Where you've got all these, they say that this is what the world religions are like, is there's this one thing, there's this one thing, and all these guys, they can't see, it's dark, or they're blindfolded, and everybody kind of can touch a part of it and they say, I think it's this, I think it's that. And they're actually all touching the same thing and describing the same thing, they just have different parts of it. So that's kind of how the parable goes. And they say, so, you know, so Islam and Christianity and Judaism and Buddhism and Hinduism and just all these different religions, they're all describing one God, it's just different perspectives. That's what some would say and we would obviously say no that's not case. Yeah, there's I mean there's a lot wrong with that analogy.


RyanI mean that's just the fallacy of like they're they're wrong about what they think they're touching and Also the notion of that there is something that they're touching but it's someone outside of that who actually knows what it really is But I know that we're not going to get into that analogy, but that that whole analogy is common, but it's terrible It's a terrible analogy. And so When we talk about learning from other religions, I think that's kind of what we're getting to, that God has revealed himself through the scriptures, through his son coming to earth, and that's how we know who God is, and that's how we relate to God.

JonSo I think some of the things that we can learn from non-Christian religious people are things that are more what I would call proverbial wisdom, things about human life in general, or things about suffering, right? I think there's a lot of observations that, you know, so-called gurus or mystics, or those people can make some observations about life and suffering and death and things like that, that I think are interesting and helpful and insightful, and even like proverbial, meaning that there are things that human beings in general can be helped by and live by, but do they actually teach us something about God and how to relate to God? And that's where we come up against the problem that, so let's get back to the original question, Dalai Lama, the Buddha, here's the deal, they don't know God. They think that they do, but they don't know the one true God, the God of the Bible. They don't know Jesus. And so we're not, we can't really learn about the one true God and about how to relate to him from them.

RyanYeah, and just to, I think one of the, was it phrased in the question of can we post, you know, quotes from them or something? Here's what I'd say, it's like the Bible and to lift up voices that may have some level of wisdom. But here's the thing, when Christians start elevating voices, in a sense we're affirming and pointing to those voices. And so we've got to be very careful which ones we do. And like I was just saying a minute ago, the Bible gives us enough truth and wisdom to quote from for the rest of your life. There's no real reason to go outside of that because whatever they have to say, whatever the Buddha or Dalai Lama or whatever these gurus have to say, what we see in scripture is better. What Jesus has to say is better. Why waste our time trying to elevate voices for some sort of cultural appeal when we have the essence of truth and love truly manifested through the gospel. Let's just turn our attention to the scriptures. The reality is that even most modern day Americans aren't familiar enough with their Bible. Let's just point to that. Let's lift that up. 66 books, around 40 different authors, 1500 years at least of experience across different cultures. I mean there is a wealth of wisdom and knowledge and examples of love in the Bible. Let's lift that up, let's post that.

JonWell, yeah, right, there's an interesting point. So we already said, yeah, there's value in learning stuff about other religions, especially so we can share the gospel with them. But if you're saying, I want to read Dalai Lama, the Buddha, if you want to read stuff about the Islamic faith, have you read the whole Bible?

RyanRight, yeah.

JonYeah, that's a good place to start.

RyanThat's what I'd say a lot to people, is like, man, I really wouldn't mind learning about the Quran. I'm like, yeah, that's great. I have a couple copies of the Quran, but have you read the entire Bible first? Right. And also, the notion of learning from other religions or learning about what they believe, I think there's an exercise there. If you can learn to be able to engage those other religions from a biblical worldview and see where there's deviation, see where there might be some commonality as far as kindness and the human experience, that sort of thing, but it's actually a great exercise to kind of just sharpen your own biblical worldview. Can you point out where there are some very distinct and or maybe subtle differences, and can you point those out because you know the scriptures so well and you have a biblically shaped worldview.

JonTotally. Well, I thought it might be a little bit of fun, if you don't mind, to look at a few specific quotes from the Dalai Lama or Buddha and just see what we think and whether a Christian should post these on social media.

RyanOkay, before you do that, when I was a youth pastor, I used to play this game called Doctrine or Disney.

JonOh, nice.

RyanAnd we would put up quotes from the Bible and quotes from a Disney movie and see if people could determine.

JonJust follow your heart.

RyanJust follow your heart, yeah.

RyanYeah, yellow, yup.

JonYup, totally.

JonYeah, all right, well let's play a game that's a little bit like that. Okay. So here's a quote.

JonI'll tell you who it's from.

JonThis is from Dalai Lama. I just looked these up online. So it says, happiness is not something ready-made, it comes from your own actions. Happiness is not something ready-made, it comes from your own actions. So, here's one of those sayings that I think people might read and be like, wow, that's so wise. But as Christians, should we post that on social media and do we even agree with it? I'll start. Yeah, go ahead. So, happiness is not something ready-made, it comes from your own actions. So happiness comes from your own actions. As a Christian, I jump in and I immediately want to say, well no, actually happiness comes from God. It comes from outside myself. I can't, happiness isn't found by looking inward, happiness isn't found by something I do, happiness is actually found in God. That's where I get all of my joy. Now there are things that we can do to bring glory to God, to maximize our joy in God, but as a Christian, as you're thinking about what you want to write on social media, if you want to talk about where happiness comes from, this is definitely not how I would put it. I would want to point to God, to Jesus for happiness.

RyanIt's the, see, I think the general, the worldview that springs from is that you can create and you are the source of your own happiness. And that's where you kind of go back to the more fundamental level that that'd be a distinction between what he believes in what the scriptures teach. And so on the one hand, at a very surface level, can you do things that make you happy? Sure. I at some point when all my work is done and my kids are prayed over and in bed, I find happiness in playing a little at the Legend of Zelda in the few hours at night before I go to bed. So yes, I mean, I don't necessarily disagree, but this is where it becomes dangerous. It's like, what's the world view that is feeding and forming the framework from which you can say those things? And so I would say, I think their framework would say that the human is the source of happiness. We just have to figure out the key to unlock that. And that's where we would say, yeah, no, I disagree with that.

JonRight. All right. Just one or two more just for just for kicks here. All right. Here's another one. Dalai Lama, be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

RyanYeah, that's a great statement. I mean, that's a great statement in theory. Be kind whenever possible. And it's always possible. Well, on the one hand, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. You know, I mean, like there's there's a principle there that is, it seems like it's fine. Is it always possible to be kind? In the sense of another person's actions don't mandate or dictate your actions. That we are, you know, one of the great ethics of the New Testament believer is that we have self-control. That with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are in control of our own actions that others don't dictate how we respond to them, but the spirit does. And so, yeah, I mean, it's great. Yeah. I got no problem with that statement. Yeah. You know what I mean? It's like, yeah, I think it's, there's, but that's just, it goes back to one of those things. It's like, what's the purpose of pointing that? And isn't there something better that Jesus said that we can point to elevate and lift up? Right. I, this is probably, I'm probably being judgmental. I'll say that, but it seems to me like when Christians want to point things, post things like that, or point to things like that, it's for cultural appeal, not for the truth of the statement itself. Not that the statement doesn't have value, but it just I always, I begin to judge motives, I guess, and I need to get beyond that. And I confess that and repent of it. But at the end of the day, I'm like, there's enough that Jesus said, let's just point to what he said.

JonRight. So yeah, so we don't disagree with the statement, right? I mean, be kind, sure. We're all for being kind to people.

RyanKindness is a fruit of the Spirit. Absolutely.

JonSo, like, could you post it as a Christian? Sure, you could. But I think part of what you're saying is, you know, the people that you post, the names that you put behind quotes on social media, It means something. If you want to say to the world, your friends, hey, you should check out this person. Well, then I would pick Jesus over the Lama or one of these other people. Yeah, actually, before you throw this last one,

RyanI have this non-Christian friend on Facebook and they posted a meme and it was this very kind, gentle looking older Asian man. And then there was a statement next to him and it was a biblical proverb.

RyanI don't remember which one it was, but it was a biblical proverb. But it made it look like it was attributing to this older, kind-looking Asian man. And I pointed, I'm like, hey, that's a biblical proverb. And I decided what it was, I don't remember what it was. And like, the next day they took it down. And I was just kind of like, so it was okay when you thought it was a kinder-looking, older Asian man, but it wasn't okay once you found out it was actually from the Bible. Huh. And it just was again a reminder to me that people want to reject truth from the Bible. So that's what I'm saying. It's like if we're just posting things to get likes, man, the heart is wrong. Sure. But again, it sounds bad. I mean, I don't want to say like I don't disagree with that statement at all. I think it's a great statement. Again, that's one of those proverbial wise common grace statements be kind as often as you possibly can because it's there's always an opportunity to be kind and so. Here's the question though is like this is where I'm going to start getting probably too deep. Is there ever a time where kind the kindness isn't the proper response and that's where we start looking into some other principles of how do you respond to righteous anger. That's insane. Justice and that sort of stuff. Yeah. Or people's what people's definition of kindness actually is. Sure. So that's a good point. Maybe that's another podcast. Last one. And we've kind of already addressed some of this as we don't have to talk a long time. But here's here's one more. Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them. Yeah. No, that's not our prime purpose in life.


JonIt's a little bit like the Hippocratic Oath, right, is what it sounds like.

RyanYeah, yeah.

JonDo no harm is kind of what it sounds like. So, yeah, I think like we've said before, it sounds really nice. We do want to help other people, but actually our purpose in life, the Bible tells us, is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

JonAnd the best thing we can do for other people is actually to share the good news of Jesus.

RyanWell, here's what ends up happening in the world, is we take good things and we make them ultimate things and we just turn them into idols. And then they become destructive. And when we make helping others over and above glorifying God, that becomes an idol and it becomes destructive because it then becomes self-serving. So again, I just want to clarify and I don't know where this is going to come in. I just want to clarify about this real quick. We are not saying that helping others is a bad thing. We're actually saying that's a foundational thing to the Christian ethic. That we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves. What we're saying is it's not the single greatest thing that we are called to do. It's very close, but it's not the single greatest thing. And that's what we're saying when you put things out of order, they become destructive. And so that's the caution we have behind this. We are 100% saying, love your neighbors, serve others, be kind to others, help others, whether you believe in Jesus or not. But for the Christian and the Christian worldview, our primary objective is to glorify God and live for Him and love Him. And from that, from that river flows out the love for others and helping helping other people.

JonI think these have been some good examples. Hopefully, this has been good practical help for whoever's asking that question. Hopefully others who are thinking about it as well.

RyanI just jump in real quick and say this is that's a great exercise to take if you're a parent with kids, especially kids with the capacity for abstract thought the whole notion of looking at things that are posted like good quotes, but filtering those through a biblical worldview and trying to discern what's actually being said, what's the worldview from which that statement springs. And so that's a great exercise for parents to go on with their kids, is pull up some good quote memes and then process that through a biblical worldview.

JonYou brought up Disney movies before, we do that a little bit with our girls that are old enough that age where we can pause the movie and talk about what's going on.

RyanOr, Pastor Jon, what might be good for your family is a Harry Potter or the Holy Spirit.

JonHa ha ha ha ha! Oh, you're calling me out right here.

RyanBiblical quotes or quotes from JK Rowling.

JonYeah, yeah, yeah. That's right. Well, the Holy Spirit always wins over Harry Potter.

RyanHe does. Yeah, 100%.

JonBut Harry Potter's a little bit of fun. Awesome. Hey, thanks everybody for listening. Thanks,

Pastor Ryan.

RyanWell, thank you, Pastor Jon.

JonYou can always check out this podcast and ask questions at Thanks everybody. Thanks everybody. Have a great week.

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