Sunday, June 7, 2009
Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions
Thomas Nelson sent me this reference guide as part of the Book Review Bloggers Program. I’ve always been interested in religions – the variety of them in the world, their founders and claims and skeletons in the closet. So although I was probably, as they say, interrogating the text from a different perspective from the author’s, I found this an interesting read on the whole.
The front cover of Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions says it is “A comprehensive guide to the religions of the world”, and that’s quite accurate. This book covers all the religions I’ve heard of and dozens I haven’t – splinter groups, sects and cults of every kind, from Scientology to Buddhism to the Heaven’s Gate cult. The histories of such faiths, their core tenets and problems caused by their precepts are laid out in an easy-to-grasp format, with plenty of illustrations as well.
All this is presented from an evangelical Christian point of view, so there’s a short section in each chapter where each faith is stacked up against Christianity (and is found wanting to a greater or lesser extent). I think the author attempts to present other beliefs, or at least the people who follow such beliefs, in as reasonable a light as he can. So for instance, he makes it clear that Wiccans are not Satanists and that Satanists don’t sacrifice babies, though the introduction alone contained a line that would have discouraged me from buying this book.
No harm exists in seeing God’s common grace at work in the religions and peoples of the world. Thus, atheists can love their children.
Yes, it is within the realm of possibility that atheists might love their children (as opposed to abandoning said children near the gingerbread house in the forest). The other statement which gave me pause was a claim that Jack Chick had published “many fine tracts and comics that present the basis of the gospel”. That these tracts present heaven, hell, original sin and John 3:16 isn’t in doubt, but the fineness of them is more open to debate.
To summarize, this book would probably be a worthwhile addition to the libraries of Christians, but I’d advise non-Christians to balance the objective and the subjective in the guide before deciding whether or not to acquire a copy.