book report - Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions by Beverly

James Beverly has put together an 800 page reference for Evangelical Christians titled, Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions, A Comprehensive Introduction to the Religions of the World. Beverly is Professor of Christian Thought and Ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario. He's published other titles on other religions previously.

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 Christian 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 ordered 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 with those who aren't. I think this is a good starter book for a Christian who wants to learn more about their co-workers or neighbors.


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