Is it fair for me to expect a “satisfied” adherent of another religion to investigate Christianity, while I am not necessarily motivated to pursue their religion?
The short answer is this: only if Christianity is true.
This answer, however, begs the question of whether Christianity is actually true, and how a person could possibly know this if they’ve never thoroughly investigated all the alternatives.
For example, if I never seriously pursued Islam or Hinduism in a thorough manner — including the doctrines, claims, histories and practices of these religions — can I claim to be a “well-informed” person before embracing Christianity?
However, am I obligated to understand all the alternatives out there before deciding on a belief system?
Also, probably not.
Most of us have jobs and busy lives and we simply can’t know everything about every possible worldview before choosing a worldview of our own.
So let me suggest a charitable solution for thoughtful Christians, that comes in two stages:
1. Case-making: I must know the main arguments for my worldview, in this case, Christianity. Lee Strobel has aptly entitled this endeavor The Case for Christ.
2. Dabbling along the way: By dabbling, I mean taking an interest in other religions even if you’re committed to your own (which I am). That is, one need not withhold belief in a worldview such as Christianity until all alternatives are exhausted.
I think it’s OK to stand within a tradition (Christianity, for me) while examining other traditions. I believe it’s wise — and intellectually honest — to know something of neighboring faiths, whether it’s the two religions mentioned above or others such as Mormonism, Judaism or Buddhism.
To the original question then: Is it fair to expect others to investigate Christianity if I don’t investigate their religions?
Well, I think it’s fair to expect them to investigate Christianity if I think a good case can be made for its truthfulness.
But I also shouldn’t let myself off the hook. I shouldn’t just dwell comfortably in my own worldview if I’m trying to be a thoughtful and charitable Christian.
Minimally, I should dabble in what the others are saying so that I am at least conversant in the faiths of my neighbors.
Neighboring Faiths: A Christian Introduction to World Religions by Winfred Corduan
The Compact Guide To World Religions ed. Dean Halverson
A few years ago our SS class used a book that was a study of several different religions. I can’t find it now, evidently I loaned it out, so I can’t give you the name or author, but it was very interesting. As you said above, it is good for us to try to understand what others believe and/or practice in their religion.
Thanks for your comment, Lee. I find that it takes extra work to learn about the practices of my Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Mormon friends. But it’s always worth the effort, and it opens up fruitful conversations.