Christianity and World Religions: An Introduction to the World’s Major Faiths

by Derek Cooper

In the 1970s, about the time that I started paying attention in our youth group Sunday School class, we studied Fritz Ridenhour’s book about world religions: So What’s the Difference? In those days, however, most of us thought of people of Jewish faith, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Muslims as exotic “over there” people. They lived in far-away places with unusual foods, attire, and worship centers. I daresay there was no one in our suburban youth group who actually knew a follower of these religions.

P&R Publishing, PO Box 817, Phillipsburg, NJ 08865, 2013, 240 pages, $19.99.

Reviewed by Paul Borthwick, mission consultant; mission instructor, Gordon College.

In the 1970s, about the time that I started paying attention in our youth group Sunday School class, we studied Fritz Ridenhour’s book about world religions: So What’s the Difference? In those days, however, most of us thought of people of Jewish faith, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Muslims as exotic “over there” people. They lived in far-away places with unusual foods, attire, and worship centers. I daresay there was no one in our suburban youth group who actually knew a follower of these religions.

How things have changed in forty years! Our pharmacist is a Sikh; our neighbors are Muslims; the Boston Buddhist Center is in our town; and the Indian restaurant in the town center is dedicated to the Hindu deity Ganesha. (On these “world-that-has-come-to-us” lines, see Cooper’s book, pp. xix-xx.) All of which points to the need for a basic global religious understanding—whether we live in Middle America or we are training people who will go to the places where these religions dominate. It is this basic foundational understanding that Derek Cooper offers in his well-crafted and remarkably concise book, Christianity and World Religions: An Introduction to the World’s Major Faiths.

Christianity and World Religions introduces us to Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism, Judaism, and Islam. Some would question the absence of Sikhism or Jainism, but any volume on world religions must be selective. Cooper chooses “the six rival stories of the world” by comparing creation accounts, beliefs, writings, worship practices, and more. Add to this an exceptional glossary and the reader completes the book with a solid foundation for building relationships with followers of other religions.

Each section ends with an excellent “point of contact” summary to foster Christian dialogue, discussion questions, and a suggested reading list. These in turn complement what might be the best feature of the book—the Appendices. Cooper reveals his commitment to the classroom with appendices on “Projects, Essays, and Worldview Questions” followed by “Online Links to Religious Writings,” and “A Guide to Visiting Non-Christian Worship Spaces.”      

Cooper frames his book with a clear declaration that he is viewing these world religions through a Christian lens. The concluding chapters—biblical and theological responses to world religions—give the reader an excellent tool for analysis. He also gives us a clear understanding of the diverse convictions regarding salvation for adherents of other world religions.  

Christianity and World Religions offers a significant and readable text for the classroom, in a church Sunday School class or as part of basic missionary training. It serves as basic preparation for the pioneer to Yemen or for the layperson looking to understand his or her Hindu co-worker.

Check these titles:
Corduan, Winfried. 1998. Neighboring Faiths. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Fernando, Ajith. 2001. Sharing the Truth in Love. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Discovery House Publishers.  

EMQ, Vol. 50, No. 2, pp. 240-241. Copyright  © 2014 Billy Graham Center.  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.


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