by Dean Halverson, ed.
This book is primarily a handbook on how to win adherents by logical reasoning to the evangelical Christian faith.
Bethany House Publishers, 11400 Hampshire Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55438, 2003, 284 pages, $19.99.
—Reviewed by Stan Guthrie, associate news editor of Christianity Today.
When I was a student at the University of Florida, my experience was not unlike that of the Apostle Paul at the Areopagus. Orange-robed followers of Krishna with shaved heads gave plates of rice to perpetually hungry students on the lawn in front of the library. Brother Jed and Sister Cindy made regular visits, routinely consigning their amused hearers to hell. Some professors mocked the historic Christian faith, accepting a materialistic worldview as gospel. Islam, Hinduism, New Age and other faiths were all there.
I was a relatively recent convert to Christ, still getting my discipleship legs under me. Eventually, I found a home in the InterVarsity chapter and discovered that evangelism was an expected part of being a Christian. I dutifully read Paul Little and shared my faith. While I had some good experiences, I wish I had had a copy of The Illustrated Guide to World Religions in my backpack.
This volume, a revision of The Compact Guide to World Religions (1996), was originally intended to equip staff and volunteers with International Stu-dents, Inc., an evangelistic ministry.
The book is primarily a handbook on how to win adherents by logical reasoning to the evangelical Christian faith. On that level, it succeeds quite well. While other books on world religions have been written from a Christian perspective, it is safe to say that few are as appealing and readable in our visual age as this one.
Besides helping Christian students, The Illustrated Guide to World Religions will help pastors and members of missionary support teams to get a handle on what people of other faiths believe and how to reach them. It will also help prospective missionaries find out what is “out there,” sparking their interest.
I have a few quibbles with this book, however. It does not address the challenges to Christ’s uniqueness from scholars such as Wilfred Cantwell Smith, John Hick and Paul Knitter. This seems a rather glaring omission from a book born in the trenches of academe. It also does not delve into how people actually live their religions. People rarely follow textbook descriptions. Some of the book’s descriptions of other faiths seem a little too simple. While the format does not easily accommodate itself to nuance, I wonder whether followers of other religions would agree with all the characterizations of their faiths here.
While experienced missionaries will need more detailed and individually tailored evangelistic instruction for the various religions elsewhere, this is a handy one-volume reference to many of the worldviews they may encounter along the way. The book’s suggestions for further reading are helpful.
In all, The Illustrated Guide to World Religions is a helpful manual for aspiring evangelists, students and committed supporters of the missions enterprise. May it equip Christ’s followers to give reasons for the hope we have.
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