Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book Review: Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions

Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions: A Comprehensive Introduction to the Religions of the World
by James A. Beverley (Thomas Nelson,2009)

I have read several books that cover the world religions. This was the first I've read from a Christian viewpoint. As I read the introduction I began getting the feeling I would not like the book. It first sounded like a lecture on how we should view world religions. I got the feeling the writer assumed I was simple minded and ignorant about world religions in general.

However, when I began reading the descriptions themselves, my opinion changed. I found that the author engaged world religions from a Christian viewpoint in a way that challenged me. He also showed how each religion varied from Biblical Christianity. Understanding these differences is critical in helping us understand our neighbors of different religions.

Some of the book spent too much time on what seemed to me to be irrelevant details. The discussion about who in Hollywood follows the Dalai Lama was not useful to me. I found the long section on Tibet and its history were also unhelpful. Information on the various Buddhist leaders did help me to differentiate between the various groups. The lengthy section on the Branch Davidians should have be shorted into a sub-section under Davidian Adventism.

The book presents many resources using timelines, more information tables and references to other works. It does not read like an encyclopedia. One can simply turn to a specific religion and read that entry. But that entry is written in a more engaging style than a list of facts.

This work is very up-to-date. I was especially helped by the discussion of the issue of violence in relation to Islam. The role of women and an overview of the Quran were both good as well. It was refreshing to read a reference of this type that clearly was informed about the religions of today.

This guide might be well used as for a Bible study group dealing with world religions. It would be quite possible to use it as the primary text. It is also quite good for personal study. I might not recommend it as a primary, authoritative reference on world religions.

(This post is done as part of the Nelson Book Review Bloggers. Visit their site to discover how you can get copies of books to review.)

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