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God's Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions? Insights from the Bible and the Early Church Paperback – March 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"God's Rivals presents in engaging, lucid style considerable biblical and historical information unfamiliar to most evangelicals. McDermott helps believers see how they can interact significantly with people in other religious systems." (J. Scott Horrell, Bibliotheca Sacra, October-December 2008)

". . .highly recommended for students and Christian leaders and should be required reading for missionaries and evangelists." (Glenn R. Kreider, Criswell Theological Review, Fall 2008)

"Every chapter starts with a short summarizing view on the chapter's topic or main protagonist; afterward, step by step, he describes the most important things to know, starting with an interesting example or invented dialogue that easily catches the reader's attention and offers him exciting access to the topic." (Kjathrin Wanner on Chrisendom, April 6, 2008)

". . .a timely, readable book dealing fruitfully with an issue of increasingly critical importance." (Henry Rowold in Missiology, Spring 2008)

". . . A timely, readable book detailing fruitfully with an issue of increasingly critical importance." (Missiology, October 2007)

"It is this perennial--and perennially controversial--question that McDermott’s new book, God’s Rivals, addresses with the same winsomeness and user-friendly clarity that made the earlier book [Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions?] a success." (Steven Boyer, Prism, Nov/Dec 2007)

"This is a fascinating summary and examination og the origin of world religions and how the Bible and the early church fathers perceived them. God’s Rivals provides helpful perspective on sharing Christ’s primacy with clarity and sensitivity." (KPQX-AM, June 2007)

"Gerald McDermott's God's Rivals makes a substantive contribution toward a Christian theology of religions. His appeal to the patristic use of the New Testament's category of 'powers and principalities' is exemplary retrieval from our own tradition to address a contemporary issue. The result is a proposal that guards Christ's primacy while it espouses charity and sensitivity. I commend the book both for classes and for scholars in the field." (George Sumner, Principal, Wycliffe College, Toronto, Canada)

"God's Rivals brings vividly to life religions and divine providence at work in our world, as explored and debated in the Bible and early church. McDermott compellingly brings home to us the importance of taking gods and goddesses very seriously; we are engaged in a continuing drama of divine action in our midst, and must be on watch to avoid reducing it to vague concepts and placid words. Whether we agree or not with McDermott's conclusions on today's religions, we must be grateful to him for reminding us so clearly what is at stake." (Francis X. Clooney, S.J., Parkman Professor of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School)

"While in recent years the theology of religions has risen to the center of theological reflection and there is a steady flow of publications on various aspects of the topic, McDermott is writing about an issue so crucial that it can be easily missed, namely, Why has God allowed religions? This is the first major work on the topic essential to all interested in the relation of Christian faith to other faiths. Building on a careful scrutiny of biblical and some patristic sources, McDermott has produced an intriguing book meant not only for specialists but for everyone wanting to know more about religion's role in a Christian perspective." (Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Professor of Systematic Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Docent of Ecumenics, University of Helsinki)

"God's Rivals continues Gerry McDermott's fascinating exploration of the theology of religions in his characteristic style: erudition without ostentation, courage balanced with prudence, and faithfulness to tradition tethering an eagerness to explore. This is a significant book that will alter the conversation." (John G. Stackhouse Jr., Ph.D., Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology and Culture, Regent College, Vancouver, Canada)

About the Author

Gerald R. McDermott (Ph.D., University of Iowa) is professor of religion and philosophy at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. He is also a Teaching Pastor at St. John Lutheran Church. His other books include Living with Cancer, Dear God, It’s Cancer, Cancer, One Holy and Happy Society, Jonathan Edwards Confronts the Gods, Seeing God, Claiming Christ, Understanding Jonathan Edwards, Baker Pocket Guide to World Religions and Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 181 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic; 2.4.2007 edition (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830825649
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830825646
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #255,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Alan Pieratt on April 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is an important work that deserves a wide reading for two reasons. First, it does a good job treating the key issues that surround the question of the Christian understanding of salvation and world religions. The author condenses a lot of material on this subject and offers it up in an easily readable fashion. Secondly, and I think more importantly, this book deserves a reading because it re-examines the worldviews of both the Old and New Testaments for their understanding of the existence of a "middle realm" of gods and powers and spirits. There is in the Bible "a whole class of intermediate beings between the high God and his human creatures" (p. 45). For the biblical authors at least, such entities play an important role in the lives of men, cultures, nations and world religions. Can this be true? If it is, it demands a substantial rethinking of the world religions and our modern, Christian worldview. [Disclosure: This reviewer is a personal friend of the author.]
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David C. Cramer on May 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book came highly recommended to me by a respected professor, so my expectations for it were high. Unfortunately, the book failed to live up to those expectations. Given my expectations, the following review will be a bit on the critical side, but I nonetheless think this book might be a worthwhile read for those interested in the question posed by the subtitle: "Why has God allowed different religions?" I also think that McDermott's approach to answering this questions is a good way to go. As the sub-subtitle describes, McDermott addresses this question with "Insights from the Bible and the early Church."

In the introduction, McDermott explains his primary thesis: "If there is one theme, or red thread, that runs through the following chapters, it is this: the biblical authors and early church theologians saw the religions not simply as human constructions but as spiritual projects as well" (11). Based on this insight, McDermott attempts to find the happy medium between the "fundamentalist extreme" that views all non-Christian religions as entirely demonic and "religious relativism" which views all religions as equally salvific ways to God.

After laying out the primary issues he wishes to address, McDermott takes a chapter each to discuss the Old Testament and New Testament views on other religions, followed by a chapter each discussing the views of church fathers Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. Finally, in the last chapter, he ties together all the data from these various sources to address the questions: What are the religions? And why are they there?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rodney Wilson on September 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book presents an evangelical-Christian take on why religions flourish in light of the evangelical view that the only completely true religion is the one of the Christian's. God's Rivals is a follow up of sorts to McDermott's Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions, published seven years earlier. In God's Rivals, McDermott takes what was one chapter in Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions and writes an entire book on the attitudes of the church fathers concerning the world's religions. He expounds on the "scandal of particularity"; the biblical tradition of God among the nations (Gentiles); the Israelite understanding of the gods of its neighbors; the NT (particularly Pauline) understanding of the powers of darkness that some say may have manifest themselves in other gods; and finally the heart of the book -- a chapter each on Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Origen, and their understanding of the other-than-Christian religions.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William A. Fintel on March 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
Dr. McDermott has written extensively on the world religions from the orthodox Christian perspective. God's Rivals sets forth to answer the questions of whether or not there are other gods, and more importantly Why? Past that the questions really flow, and I personally love his style of giving enough facts from the Bible and historical writings to let the reader begin to form his or her own opinion. The "continuous red thread" is a helpful concept guiding this reader through a difficult forest. Bill Fintel
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
To write another book after his award-winning, well-reasoned yet provocative volume "Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions? Jesus, Revelation & Religious Traditions" (IVP, 2000) was, no doubt, a daunting task for Gerald McDermott. Nevertheless, his most recent offering on the theology of religions does not disappoint.

God’s Rivals, as its predecessor, takes a thorny, debated subject and – through thorough research and explication – elucidates a topic that many just shake their heads at and wonder about: “In the providence of God, why are there other religions?” As the back cover of the book continues, “Was the God of the Bible wise in allowing them? Can they serve any purpose?”

After broaching the subjects of “the scandal of particularity” – the idea that God has only revealed Himself to certain particular times, peoples and places – and the perhaps surprising recognition of profound knowledge of God among biblical personages who were outside of Israel and the Church, McDermott proceeds to carefully survey the Old and New Testament data regarding the existence of other gods, the so-called “excluded middle” – real, spirit beings with real power and authority. Following his review of the biblical record, he faithfully presents the usually insightful perspectives of some of the early church fathers (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Origen) on other religions and gods.

McDermott’s desire is that his study should truly enlarge our view of God, but not as a pluralistic, anything-goes, pseudo-deity. Yes, he encourages the study of other religions, but with a caveat: “Mature believers can discern truth from error in the religions. But younger believers are often confused...
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