By Beth Groh
How strange to see our Christian faith presented as a topic for a possible multiple choice test question.
“Jesus is a central figure for: (a) Judaism, (b) Islam, (c) Christianity or (d) Buddhism?”
OK, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But the point is that I discovered last week our son’s seventh grade secular world history textbook has a section on comparative religion.
Bad idea? Not really. Our children do need a working “vocabulary” of world religions. That exposure may come in a public school classroom, around the table in your home school, at a Christian day school or, perhaps, at Sunday school.
No matter what the source or setting, comparative religion should be welcomed by parents who want to instill a biblical worldview in the hearts and minds of their children – so long as a few red flags are flapping in the wind!
My “Proceed With Caution” light flashed as Ryan and I read through that section of the textbook.
My “Type A” parenting side wanted to jump in and tell him what I thought of the other religions and the spiritual implications for those outside of a faith in Christ.
But the Holy Spirit must have zipped my lips just in time. Instead of offering opinions, I posed questions. This was a God-given opportunity for the Lord to train Ryan in how to heed the advice of the Apostle Peter (1 Pet 3:15) and “[a]lways be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have...”
(Taking some liberties for a flawed memory, I’ll share my best recollections of how our question session unfolded.)
“Ryan, the book uses a big word called monotheism. Do you know ‘mono’ means ‘one’ and ‘theo’ relates to religion?”
We then talked about other words that contain those roots—such as a monopoly and theology. (Why such details? I wanted him to be very aware of that word so that his red flags would raise someday if he took another religion course on world religions.)
“If the teacher talks about monotheism, could it mean that there’s only one ‘god’ and all religions are all talking about the same thing, only with different names and traditions?”
Hmmm… an honest pause from a 7th grader who was looking for help from Mom on how to answer…
“Let’s think it through this way… if a Muslim prays to Allah, is that God?”
Again, he hesitated and said he didn’t see how it could be, but explaining why seemed like a tall order for a 12-year-old.
“Is God just ‘God’ or is He more?” Ah, the light bulb went on and he told me about the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. (Our church’s emphasis on foundational creeds paid off!)
“If another religion denies God the Son, can God deny one part of His being? Is God 'God' if He's not inseparable from the Son and Holy Spirit?”
We talked about the illustration our pastor often makes around Easter, using an egg as a representation of the Trinity. The egg’s three parts—shell, yoke and whites—make up the whole, but individually would not be considered an egg. (A messy, but effective, children’s sermon!)
“If a teacher or book ever says that all religions are the same—and all will just be ‘true’ in the mind of each believer—is that correct?”
“Can all religions be true when Jesus said, ‘I am the way…?'”
“Is there a way you can be respectful and raise those questions in class?”
Heavy talk for an afterschool homework moment! But, oh, so important.
In today’s secular humanist society and educational system, we must arm our children to stand up for God—and not bow down to the ‘god’ of political correctness.
Often without realizing it, well-meaning Christians deny the very Deity of Christ with an “I’m OK, you’re OK” theology that makes Christianity just another religious belief system to pull off the shelf—a faith of equal merit and relative “truth” as those other beliefs.
Whew… a heavier lesson than I expected when helping our son fill out a study sheet for class. But what a blessing when God opens a door to prepare our children for an increasingly hostile world taking aim at His truth.