Relating World Religions to Christianity

Many Christians want to know what Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus believe. They want to learn how these and other world religions began and how they compare and contrast with Christianity. The technology of our time has shrunk the globe and put us in closer contact with people of other religions. Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States, percentage-wise. Hundreds of millions of people world-wide, especially on the Indian subcontinent, claim allegiance to Hinduism and Buddhism. Judaism is the primary source religion of Christianity, and we have many Jewish friends, yet we know little about what they believe and how their religion works. We will not attempt to cover religions native to China and Japan. The purpose of this workshop is to acquaint Christians with the history, literature, practices and beliefs of most of the world’s major religions and to show the likenesses and differences of these religions as compared to Christianity. In the process, we will look at how religions get started, including the factors behind the formation of Christianity.

Session 1
"An Overview and Time-Line"
A look at the geographical and chronological factors which define the major religions of the planet. Participants receive maps and charts to help place religions in perspective. A discussion of prehistoric and tribal religions, including present-day Native American religion, as precursors of world religions.

Session 2
"Hinduism and Christianity"
The world’s oldest surviving "organized" religion is either the most polytheistic religion in the world or the first monotheistic religion with millions of different manifestations of God. Participants will explore whether there is a difference between a "religion" and "a way of life," and how this applies to Christianity.

Session 3
"Buddhism and Christianity"
Comparing the life and teachings of Siddhartha Gautama with the life and teachings of Jesus and finding remarkable parallels. Participants will deal with the question of the Buddha’s motives, whether he intended to reform Hinduism or create a new religion. A close look at the various branches of Buddhism in existence today and how Buddhist theology converges with and diverges from Christian theology.

Session 4
"Judaism and Christianity"
When did Christianity’s mother religion actually become an organized religion? Were Abraham, Moses and David adherents of Judaism? What was the Judaism of Jesus? Was Jesus trying to reform Judaism or create a new religion? Participants will grapple with these questions. The discussion will also turn to the role of Jewish Christians in the early Church, the development of animosity of Christians toward Jews, and the organization of Judaism in the present day.

Session 5
"Islam and Christianity"
The "baby" of world religions was started by Mohammed around 600 of the Common Era. How he was influenced by Judaism and Christianity will be covered in this session. Is Allah the same God Christians worship? Why is Jesus considered the second greatest prophet of Allah, next to Mohammed? Why do Muslims look forward to the "Second Coming" of Jesus? Participants will examine the explosive expansion of this religion during its first 100 years, as well as its tremendous growth in modern times, and look at the reasons for this growth.

Session 6
"Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism and Christianity"
A wild card session about a Persian religion and a Greek thought world, both of which had major theological impact on formative Christianity. Zoroaster, or Zarathushtra, founded the religion named after him just before Cyrus the Great conquered the Babylonians and sent the Jews home from exile, carrying with them Persian ideas. The Greek Gnostics gave the Greco-Roman world of Jesus’ time the words and thought forms used in writing the literature of the era. Participants will become acquainted with these two influences on Christianity, particularly the New Testament.

Sharing in the leadership of this workshop will be Dr. Donna Dykes, Professor Emerita of Hebrew Bible and World Religions at the Wimberly School of Religion of Oklahoma City University. Dr. Dykes received her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Religion of Vanderbilt University in 1976, the first woman to receive that degree in the area of Old Testament from Vanderbilt. She also received her M.A. (en passant) from Vanderbilt. Prior to Vanderbilt, she was a special student at Duke University for one year, after receiving her B.A. from Shorter College in Rome, Georgia. She is a native of Georgia. She loves to play golf.