Is it our job to prove other religions wrong?
What should we do about all the religions are out there? Can we logically know Christianity is true until we have examined all other possible religion? If we are Christians does that mean we have to be able to smack down all the other religions out there? Should we share our beliefs with non-believers, or leave people alone and let them worship whatever they want to? If somebody is happy in their belief system, isn’t that good enough?
People generally say that you shouldn’t call anyone else’s beliefs wrong. But this is a self defeating statement; they claim that you are wrong in calling someone else wrong. They might assume that truth is personal and not objective. Truth is like of favorite flavor of ice cream to them. Many people assume that if somebody is happy with what they believe then nobody should say anything against it. (“That’s okay if the ice cream is poison, it’s the flavor they like.”)
I have to say something about the necessity of truth here. With the question of whether somebody is happy in their belief system, this doesn’t have any bearing on truth. Truth is reality and conforms to that actuality. Something cannot be both true and not true. Truth remains constant and does not change based on someones perception of it. With this clear, if something is true then things that do not line up with it are not true. Things that are not true, no matter how they make you feel, should not be believed. Therefore somebody should not hold something in a higher regard simply because they were “feel good things” they were taught as a kid. If somebody could find out that their religion was false then they shouldn’t be upset, but should be joyful that they are learning and conforming to what the truth really is. They could, on the other hand, be upset that they didn’t find out sooner or that many people that they know and love still do not know. So, if a religion is proved wrong, maybe that isn’t such a hateful thing but actually an act of love and concern.
So the nature of truth and the use of logic seems to indicate it is okay to try to share the truth so that people can know it and believe it. This ought to point us in a humble direction as we seek to speak the truth. If we keep it about truth, which glorifies God, then that will help keep ourselves out of the way. It is much easier for us to be a hindrance to the truth then ministers of the truth. As we share or attempt to disprove a worldview we need to stay on guard with a sense of vulnerability and desperation for the author of truth to be the 1 making truth known.
Of course, if it is true that we are supposed to disprove other religions in world views then the Bible ought to instruct us to do so. Throughout the Old Testament the nation of Israel was constantly destroying the altars that were set up for the worship of idols. They violently tore down the false religions. This is obviously not appropriate for our current society, since we are not a theocracy, but the concept is still appropriate.
The concept of tearing down strongholds is taught in the New Testament too. There it is given the context of what our warfare is really against- not against physical alters, but spiritual strongholds. The weapons of our warfare are not worldly- not people or buildings- but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. The strongholds are defined in Ephesians 6:12 as rulers, authorities, world powers, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.
1 Corinthians 10:4- We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ. What kind of things are set up against the knowledge of Christ and the knowledge of God? Is it not vain and empty philosophies? Is it not lies that have been set up with a grain of truth (candy-coated poison)? Is it not false world views? False holy books, false prophets, false teachings about Jesus, false method of salvation? Is it not false religions?
There are several examples of Apostles in the book of Acts refuting judaism and false religion. For now, let’s focus on Apollos as an example in Acts 18:28- [Apollos] “vigorously refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating through the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.” In light of this, we are not supposed to just sit by and let people be content in their false religion. Notice 3 things and then the conclusion. First the word vigorously- apparently Apollos didn’t come off too gentle. I bet he was more concerned with the truth then the feelings of the person he was debating against. The second word- refuted. He didn’t just come to some compromise, but he disproved it. A good knowledge of what you are sharing, as well as a knowledge of the other person’s view is necessary in doing this. The third word- public. He wanted to do this somewhere where a lot of people could learn this truth. If somebody is spreading a false view in a public, that person should be refuted publicly. The conclusion and goal of the refutation is to show that Jesus is the Christ of God. It is very important that we keep that as the main focus. If Apollos is a good example, and I have every reason to think he is, then it is a good thing to refute a false religion publicly, so that many people can know the truth.
Now let’s look at the instructions that Paul gave to Titus, who was an overseer of a church. Titus 1:9-11- “[The overseer needs to hold] to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it. For there are also many rebellious people, full of empty talk and deception, especially those from Judaism. It is necessary to silence them”. Paul gave Titus 2 reasons for knowing the Word. First, Titus had to be able to encourage, or strengthen, the people that already believe. Second, he also had to destroy the arguments of those that don’t believe and contradict. We are to use the Word to maintain accurate doctrine and belief. Any teaching that is not in line with the Word should be exposed by the Word. The shepherd, or any church leader, should be able to use the Word to expose false beliefs. Unless you want false beliefs creeping into your church and into Christianity as a whole, we need to encourage the practice of tearing down false world views and beliefs. We shouldn’t just encourage it, we should be living examples of people that are able to refute false teachings.
There are so many barriers to belief in Jesus. Often these barriers take the form of false religion. If we are able, we ought to take them straight to the truth of the Gospel. Even if they’re in a false religion, if they are willing and ready to accept the Christian gospel then their false religion will fade away as they embraced Jesus and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This is not always the way it works, though. Often times a person needs to be stripped of their false ideas before the message of the Christian gospel can even be heard in a meaningful way. For instance, in many cultures they add Jesus on as just another deity or guru alongside Vishnu and Shiva, or alongside their other tribal/ cultural gods. They do not give Jesus the place of preeminence in their life, even though they say they accept him.
We have to keep a clear distinction between tearing down principalities/ false doctrines and tearing down people. This is probably the cause of people’s dislike toward religious disagreement and refuting- that people have, in the past, done it with an arrogant attitude, tearing the person apart without properly addressing the false beliefs. Unfortunately, Christians often resort to slanderous talk because they don’t properly understand the other person’s worldview or they are not interested in interacting on a logical or evidential (or even loving) level. This would leave them no closer to accepting the truth of the gospel.
So, is it the Christian’s job to disprove other religions? Ultimately, our job is to glorify God and be his disciples. I don’t doubt that at times this will entail exposing and disproving a false belief. The Christian is encouraged by examples in the Bible to tear down idols and false beliefs in order for the true gospel to be presentable. If you don’t know how to present the true gospel, get that down first before you ever start worrying about disproving another religion. Know what you believe and why it makes sense, then know what others believe and why it doesn’t make sense. Maintain a heart of love for the person while not compromising truth. Glorify God through your speech and conduct. Stick your neck out in this way and you will make a difference.