There is a perception among Christians that to learn about other religions is a waste of time. Others may even go so far as to slander those who study other faiths and to impute to them the false motive of encouraging idolatry.
How do we deal with Paul? Paul, who entered the city of Athens and had his spirit provoked within him by a country rife with idols? Paul observed the setting he was in. He spent time understanding it. He even goes so far in his introduction in Acts 17:23 to state, “For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship…” He would then go on in his speech at the Areopagus to show much more than a mere superficial understanding of the Athenian culture, literature and idolatry. He used his thorough understanding as a springboard for conveying the Gospel message.
In short, Paul studied other religions. It is impossible not to do so when all around you the world is seeking out other gods.
Consider the plight of a missionary. They are placed within a culture that is isolated by the Devil through their language, their religion and their fundamental stories and communication concepts. Without understanding these, the missionary finds their work almost untenable since the very terms they use instantly get re-interpreted into the cultural context. I posit to you that in our cultural context that now resembles that of the first century in its polytheism and multiculturalism that we are truly missionaries attempting to bridge the gap of understanding.
If one is provoked by a country of idol worshippers (idol worshippers like the ones that we live next to every day of our lives as Christians), they will find themselves moved to action. They will have a burning desire to see Christ highly exalted above all gods and pretenders.
Psa 96:4 – 5 “For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.”