‘Before We Call Them Strangers’

Dybdahl book explores Seventh-day Adventist relationship to world religions

A new book, “Before We Call Them Strangers: What Adventists Ought to Know about Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus,” by Paul Dybdahl, professor of mission and New Testament, has been published by AdventSource.

Dybdahl was inspired to write the book after teaching the World Religions class at WWU. “I realized talking respectfully about other religions didn’t make students want to convert to a different religion,” he says. “Instead, it challenged them to be more faithful in their own spiritual journeys.” Dybdahl also was inspired by George Vandeman, longtime director of the It Is Written television series. In one of his books, “What I Like About—,” Vandeman looked at different religious groups and highlighted certain aspects he appreciated about each religion.

Dybdahl was born in Thailand to missionary parents and lived in Asia for the first eight years of his life. This instilled an affinity in him toward mission work. He returned to Thailand when he was a sophomore in college to teach English primarily to Buddhist students in a refugee camp for 10 months. During that time he lived with a Buddhist family and spent most of each day teaching Buddhist students. He says this experience pushed him to “consider his faith from a more global perspective.”

“From early on in life, I’ve had a missional interest in telling the story of Jesus in ways that make sense to those of other religions,” says Dybdahl. “In order to do that, I believe it is important to understand where others are coming from. If we are going to understand, we must listen.”

In his book, Dybdahl suggests that learning about other religions shouldn’t scare us, but should actually strengthen us in our walk with Jesus. “I think we tend to be afraid of people who are not of our religion,” says Dybdahl. “We don’t need to be afraid. If we listen, we can be blessed, and though we are different, there is much that we share.”

“I hope people who read the book will be more open to conversations with those of other faiths, and I hope their walk with Jesus will be strengthened,” says Dybdahl. “God so loved the world. He cares about other people and what they believe, and we should too.”

In February 2017, Dybdahl also presented a lecture on this topic for the annual Walla Walla University Distinguished Faculty Lecture. A recording of the lecture, titled “Barricade or Bridges: Adventism and the World Religions,” can be viewed at wallawalla.edu/DFL.

Dybdahl has been a professor in the WWU School of Theology since 2001. He has a bachelor’s degree in theology from WWU, a master of divinity degree from Andrews University, and a doctorate in missiology from Andrews University. He is the 2005 recipient of the WWU Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching and the 2013 recipient of the WWU Excellence in Advising Award.

The book “Before We Call Them Strangers: What Adventists Ought to Know about Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus” is available online at AdventSource.org.

Posted July 25, 2017

Photo of Paul Dybdahl wearing a black suit, sky blue shirt, and a plaid tie.
Paul Dybdahl has taught at WWU since 2001.
Cover photo for Paul Dybdahl's new book.
In his new book, Dybdahl suggests that learning about other world religions can actually strengthen our walk with Jesus.