Nelson’s Illustrated Guide To Religions: A Comprehensive Introduction To The Religions of the World is a helpful reference book. It presents the reader with a good introduction to each major religion of the world, including historical background, the current state of the religion today, and the appropriate Christian response to said religion. It’s a bit difficult to just sit down and read though. There are some great things about this book, and some things I might have done differently.
First the things I like about the book. The print quality is excellent. The pages are made of nice paper with attractive color printing for graphics and photos. The book is well put together and feels good in your hands. Each religion is briefly introduced and then the reader is given a section in which the basics of that religion are presented in list form. This is the 101 section of the religion, i.e. Islam 101 in which you are given a brief overview of the five pillars of Islam, their beliefs about Muhammad “The Prophet” and the Qur’an, their sacred writings. Following the 101 section is more detail on each of these topics and more. Historical accuracy is considered, a timeline is presented, various branches of each religion are explored, any major issues related to the religion are discussed, and finally a section is given with what the author feels is the appropriate Christian response to the religion. At the end of each chapter is also a list of books and websites for further reading. Altogether, a very nice presentation is given for each religion, which should educate the reader sufficiently for most purposes.
There are a few things I dislike about the book though. Many of the Christian Cults are not treated as such. The chapter on Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, does not include the section on an appropriate Christian response. The only reason I can see for this being left out, is that the author groups the cult with other Christian denominations and therefore does not see a need for such a response. The same is true for all the Christian cults such as Mormonism and for the Christian sectarian groups as well. I regard this as an undue level of toleration for heresy. These groups are cults and the true Christian needs to be instructed in how to respond to them, every bit as much as Hinduism.
The one other thing I might have done differently is in the way the book is organized. It’s completely alphabetical. Every major religion is given a full chapter, and these are arranged alphabetically. One chapter is devoted to Christian sectarian groups and they are arranged alphabetically within that chapter. I understand why it was done this way. It makes it easy to find any particular religion you might be looking for. I think I would have done things differently myself. There’s a table of contents and an index to assist with finding the religion of interest. I would have arranged the various religions so that if a reader chose to read strait through the book from cover to cover, as I did, related religions would be grouped together. Reading the chapter on Christian sectarian groups can be confusing because many of them are related to one another having branched and split from each other over the years, yet these are not grouped that way, but instead are arranged alphabetically making it difficult to follow the progression from one group to another. Then the major religions, represented by an entire chapter, are grouped oddly because of this alphabetical arrangement. Your read about Islam, then Jehovah’s Witnesses, then Judaism, then Mormonism, then New Age, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, and then Roman Catholicism. I would have arranged those much differently.
In the end though, this really is a reference book and not one most people are likely to read start to finish. So I can overlook the arrangement issues. I like the overall presentation and treatment. My only concern is the toleration shown to heretical Christian cults. Still, this is a valuable resource for those wishing to education themselves on the historicity and major beliefs of the world’s major religions.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”