Nelsonsillustrated Guide To Religions Hardcover – May 19 2009
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About the Author
James A. Beverley is Professor of Christian Thought and Ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada and Associate Director, Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara. He has specialized in the study of new and world religions for three decades.
Top Customer Reviews
Beverley takes his cue on how to tackle each religion from the religion itself. For example, his discussion about the short-lived and relatively recent Branch Davidians cult is brief with a focus on news reports surrounding the controversial raid of their Waco Texas headquarters in 1993.
Buddhism, on the other hand, with its modern resurgence in the west and its history spanning centuries, gets much longer treatment and includes Beverley's description of his meeting with the Dalai Lama.
Information about each religion names its key people, describes the roles they played, details beliefs and worship practices, traces the religion's history in a time line, and suggests web sites and books to consult for more information.
The author makes no claims that this is an objective appraisal, however. In a must-read introduction he states that he presents his material from the perspective of an evangelical Christian scholar. He writes, "I realize that many readers will not share this paradigm or worldview....Read more ›
This book introduces us to the major religions in the world as well as their leaders, doctrines, beliefs and practices. The author also provides some criticisms on important points. I enjoyed reading about the religions I knew more like Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Islam and I must honestly say that I look forward to learn more about other religions in the world. This book is necessary I think for any Christians because it introduces us to the beliefs of other religions and gives us some material to work on when we interact with people following that religion. As Christians, I think it is important that we know our Bible but I think it is also important that we know what someone else belief if we are to have a good interaction about religion.
The author also presents various internet sources for the religions included in the book. These internet resources can also help us to identified sites that are not supporting the Christian belief. These sites are not always easy to identify sometimes. I'm glad that Mr. Beverley took the time to list these.
With each new chapter in the book there is a lesson 101 on the religion presented. I think it is important to get a basic level of what the beliefs of that religion are before starting to read about it.Read more ›
Postitively, I found Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions a very readable introduction to both the main world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and the mass of religious sects and cults in today's world. Its encyclopedic style, respectful treatment of all religions, lists of favourable and critical websites and readings, and comprehensive index make it a useful reference tool for anyone interested in contemporary world and American religious groups. However I'd suggest reading just the book's introduction and its chapters on religions that you want to know something about rather than reading through the whole book as I did.
Negatively, I was disappointed by the light treatment of the main world religions (see above) in Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions compared to the books on world religions that I used in university (Noss's Man's Religions and Ellwood's Many Peoples, Many Faiths). In comparison to them it seems more a scrapbook of religious groups, particularly sects and cults, than a guide to world religions. I was also disappointed by its unbalanced treatment of the religious groups that it considers. For example, it devotes more pages to New Age (over 100 of its 740, excluding the index) than to any of the religious groups generally recognized as world religions except Christianity.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
His topics range from Branch Davidians to Islam, Scientology to the Moonies. He also has separate chapters on the Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic churches. Why a group of a few hundred at most is considered alongside a group of one billion is somewhat mystifying. However, the introduction clarifies that he intends the book "as a guide to understanding some of the most controversial religious groups and issues." p.1 The rogue's list of Chrisitan Sectarian Groups in chapter 5 is depressing reading, especially the frequency of sexual perversion in these groups. He does not hold much weight in the concept of brainwashing, but he does think social pressure in high intensity religious groups is a serious concern.
I've done plenty of reading about Mormonism and engage the young missionaries whenever they come to my door, so I was interested in his chapter on them. He did an excellent job on their theology. I have an editing complaint however. He concludes the chapter with a discussion of the contemporary Mormon polygamous groups and places a picture of a temple of another sect of Mormonism that isn't polygamous, p.383, but is closer to orthodoxy than the LDS is, the Community of Christ. They are still unorthodox, but they only accept Joseph Smith's first book, The Book of Mormon, and not the later writings. It seems to commit guilt by association. He never gives an explanation of the significant history of the Community of Christ in the history of Mormonism either.
I found the Sikh chapter interesting. He provided nothing for points of discussion between Christians and Sikhs, which he provides in other chapters. There is also a serious editorial fail on p. 669. "On June 5, 1884, the Indian government orderd a raid on the Sikh Golden Temple...That led to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi..." This happened in the 20th century, not the 19th.
I like his internet links in the book as well as suggested reading. I also enjoyed, when he included them, talking points for Christians and those who aren't. I think this is a good starter book for a Christian who wants to learn more about their co-worker or neighbor.
The book does a good job of detailing the major religions of the world, including their history, theology and practices, major controversies, and more. There are many timelines and short biographical sketches of major leaders interspersed throughout the chapters. It also has an extensive chapter on various facets of "New Age" spirituality which are missing from older books.
This book does, however, fall short in several areas. First, it is not a "comprehensive" introduction as listed on the cover, for it does not cover every religion. Second, I was disappointed that the book was not unified or systematic in its approach. Essentially, this is actually 19 smaller books, because each chapter has its own approach and internal organization. There is a whole chapter on Branch Davidians for reasons that are unclear, unless the author just had a particular interest in them and had enough material for an entire chapter. Freemasonry is a subcategory in the New Age chapter, also for reasons that are a mystery to me. Some religions have a table at their end with such listings as typology, websites, and recommended reading, but the tables don't all contain the same entries. I would have also appreciated a systematic approach to listing how each religion answers basic world view questions.
Overall, I can recommend this book's extensive valuable and accurate information, but its shortcomings in organization detract from its value.
Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions covers more than 200 religions, sects, and cults, most of which the reader might encounter in everyday life. The information for the most part is fairly presented, and his research is well organized, which is impressive.
Features of this book include
1. Historical information on each of the major religions with detailed timeliness.
2. Profiles of each group's primary leaders
3. An inventory of key principles and beliefs of each religion
4. An analysis and critique of religions from a Christian Perspective
5. Opinions and commentary on the controversial issues related to specific religious groups
6. Recommended resources- bibliographic information and extensive internet sources for further study
7. Ten tests for truth in religion- a set of multifaceted tests that Christians should apply when approaching the faith traditions of others and their own faith.
8. Many photos and side notes related to the religion being disgust
I would like to note that this book is written by one man, and contains his opinions based on his research, and world view. If your looking for a guide to world religions this book may or may not be for you. At the end of each chapter is the author's opinions ,and critique of each religion from an Evangelical view point. Writings based on opinion have a tendency to get away from the truth and become offensive. The author at times presents himself as over judgmental, especially in regards to the Catholic Christian Faith.
My Personal Opinion.
I was looking for a book based on factual information about world religions, not a book clouded by one man's opinions. The author does very well with his information, and research. Though I must point out at times his information seems to have a slightly judgmental tone. In the author's opinions and critique section he often contradicts his own research. When one compares the Catholicism information section, to the author's opinions and critique section the result is very contradicting and condescending. The most offensive part of this section is the author's opinion on the pagan influence in Catholic Tradition. A Quote from Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions: by James A. Beverley "Catholic traditions have often been mixed with pagan customs in ways that detract from the main teachings of the gospel" As a Catholic Christian and as someone who deeply loves the Lord Jesus I find this very offense. All of the Catholic Traditions I am aware of, in one form or another directs one to Christ in a more intimate way. After seeing the author' negativity towards Catholicism and that certain views are altered by his opinions makes me question the validity of the rest of the book.
Though I am sure James Beverly has a comprehensive understanding of world religions it does not come out in this book. As a guide, it seems to focus more on controversial issues surrounding religions rather than giving good comprehensive information concerning their beliefs and/or history. Any "comprehensive guide" to religion should give the reader comprehensive information concerning the history and beliefs of religions. It would have been more accurate to title this book "A Comprehensive Guide to Religions and The Controversies Surrounding Them." The one redeeming quality of the book was in that it gives websites of the religions for further investigation.
Beverley is an academic and an evangelical Christian. He openly admits, or warns, that he wrote the book from his evangelical Christian perspective. He writes "I realize that my Christian perspective will create tensions at certain points with followers of other religions or with academics of no religious persuasion. My criticisms of various groups and leaders are offered with a deep recognition of my own fallibility."
According to Beverley, the book is an introduction to "all of the major religions of the world and hundreds of new ones." In addition to offering "bare facts about the various groups and leaders covered," Beverley "provides opinion and commentary both about many controversial issues related to the study of religion in general and specific religious groups" and what he believes "are necessary criticisms on relevant and important points." He adds, "negative statements are not meant to ignore or downplay the ways in which virtually every religion offers love, identity, and meaning to its followers."
The book's framework is based on ten principles that form the Christian paradigm for assessing religions that Beverley believes offers a proper Christian response to religions.
1. All religions and philosophies are to be measured by the final revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
a. Simply, the Bible does not teach that all roads lead to God.
2. Commitment to Jesus demands that the study of religions be carried out in love.
a. Christians should respond with love, not hatred, bigotry or ignorance.
3. Christian response to religions involves a commitment to truth.
a. This includes commitment to Christ as the Truth and avoiding lies, half-truths, and distortions.
4. Christians must recognize the contradictions and ultimate disunity that exist among the religions of the world.
a. The religions of the world often disagree on even basic points.
5. Disciples of Jesus must recognize every significant point of agreement with people of other religions and even those of no faith.
a. There is no harm in recognizing the goodness and truth in non-Christian paths.
6. Those who trust the gospel of Jesus must recognize the power of the dominant liberal perspective on religion and religious study.
a. The acceptance of all religions as paths to God has grown and confidence in the Christian gospel has eroded.
7. The Christian church must affirm that the mercy and love of God shown in Jesus are sufficient to answer all concerns about God's fairness in a world of religions.
a. Christians must resist attempts to down play the supremacy of Jesus in making Christianity more acceptable.
8. Those who trust in the Christian gospel must not forget the wrath of God that stands against the wickedness of a fallen world.
a. This applies to the secular and religious communities, for in both the Lord's name is taken in vain.
9. Christians must repent in sorrow for the ways in which we have not allowed the gospel to critique the church through the ages.
a. Religion can be unbelief even among those who claim to follow Christ.
10. A Christian response to religion must include respect for human liberty.
a. Since coercion is antithetical to Jesus' treatment of others and acceptance of the Christian gospel is only real if freely done, Christians must respect the freedom to reject any religion, including Christianity,
By proffering these principles, Beverley makes clear that his critical analysis of the world's religion is not a license for evangelical Christians to be bigoted or hateful against non-Christians.
Beverley offers ten multifaceted tests for evangelical Christians to apply "in approaching their own faith tradition and that of any religious group."
1. The God Test
2. The Christological Test
3. The Biblical Test
4. The Love Test
5. The Spirit Test
6. The Freedom Test
7. The Psychological Test
8. The Social/Political Test
9. The Prophetic Test
10. The Rational Test
The amount of criticism throughout the profiles makes clear that these tests are basically the "evangelical Christian tests" by which all other religions will fail.
Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions profiles more than 200 religions, sects, and cults, some of which are not well known. To some extent, each profile features historical information; timelines; photographs; side notes; leader profiles; key principles and beliefs; analysis and critique; opinions and commentary on controversial issues; and recommended resources.
When it comes to a review of people's belief systems and what gives them strength and hope, there is a fine line between academic analysis and the appearance of un-Christian-like judging.