Sunday, June 28, 2009

Book Review

Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions is an encyclopedic work that could well have been the product of a team of writers. It is the, however, the work of one individual. James A Beverly has contributed a massive amount of research in this 850 page volume.

The “illustrated” aspect of the book contributes to its readability. Throughout the volume one finds informational boxes, biographical sketches, photographs, and time lines. Many of the important features of the religions that are covered are bulleted for ease of reading. The style of writing will appeal to everyone – academics, pastors, and laymen.

Beverly admits that he writes from the perspective of a conservative, evangelical Christian. Yet, I found his treatment of other religions to be fair and even-handed. He is careful to mention some of the positive aspects of various religions, when possible. It is refreshing to find someone who can deal with “cults” (a pejorative term, I realize) and yet debunk some of the misinformation and conspiratorial ideas that have been associated with other belief systems.

The section on the New Age is one of the longer parts of this book, and one of the more interesting. He is very thorough in dealing with the more popular groups as well as those which are lesser known.

In an age of runaway pluralism, this reference would be a great asset.

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