Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.98 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
Christianity and World Religions: An Introduction to the World's Major Faiths Paperback – January 18, 2013
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"Christianity and World Religions is a special book. . . . It is an easy read, not because the material is easy, but because of the authors engaging, clear, and concise style. Any Christian who reads the newspaper on a regular basis will want to read this book in order to relate to current events." --Paul D. Kooistra, Coordinator, Mission to the World, PCA
"This text functions very well as a handbook of religions and Christian responses or as an introductory textbook in a Christian-oriented class on world religions." --Dennis Okholm, Professor of Theology, Azusa Pacific University
"Peppering it with engaging personal anecdotes and supplementing it with helpful charts, tables, and sidebars throughout, Cooper has authored a truly helpful book." --Michael Lodahl, Professor of Theology and World Religions, Point Loma Nazarene University
About the Author
Derek Cooper (PhD, Lutheran Seminary; MA, MDiv, Biblical Theological Seminary) is assistant professor of biblical studies and historical theology at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where he is also the Director of the LEAD Master of Divinity Program. He is the author of So Youre Thinking about Going to Seminary? and a volume editor in the forthcoming Reformation Commentary on Scripture.
Top customer reviews
Derek Cooper is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies and Historical Theology at Biblical Seminary. His Doctorate of Philosophy, which was on the history of Christianity, was fully funded by a scholarship at Lutheran Theological Seminary, according to his curriculum vitae.
Apart from the Introduction, Conclusion, Appendices, and Glossary, the heart of the book resides in primarily two parts: “Part 1: The Six Rival Stories of the World” (3-130), and “Part 2: Christian Responses to these Stories” (131-69). In the first part, the author discusses six world religions which are spread across five chapters: (1) Hinduism (pp. 3-23); (2) Buddhism (pp. 25-49); (3) Confucianism and (4) Daoism (treated together, pp. 51-75); (5) Judaism (pp. 77-99); and (6) Islam (pp. 101-29). In the second part the author provides, across two chapters, “Biblical Responses to Other Religions” (133-49) and “Theological Responses to Other Religions” (151-69). The three appendices (pp. 175-201), are (1) “Appendix A: Projects, Essays, and Worldview Questions,” (2) “Appendix B: Online Links to Religious Writings,” and (3) “Appendix C: A Guide to Visiting Non-Christian Worship Spaces.” The Glossary is a helpful list of terms associates with the discussions from both Part 1’s world religions, and Part 2’s responses.
The author examines each religion according to six points: (1) the religion’s beginning story, (2) its historical origin, (3) its writings, (4) its beliefs, (5) its practice of worship, and (6) a shared point of contact with Christianity.
In chapter one, the author treats Hinduism with great care and success despite the religion’s vast nature. Mention is made of the four layers of Hindu tradition, which are broad categories for understanding the religion’s historical development (8-12). In the point of contact section the author contrasts Christianity’s teaching of salvation from sin and death with the Hindu teaching of liberation from samsara (21-22). In chapter two, Buddhism, the author neatly identifies the two primary traditions (i.e., Theravada and Mahayana) before continuing to the many schools belonging to the latter tradition (34-36). Associations with Hinduism are indicated where relevant, as well as the Four Noble Truths (38), the Noble Eightfold Path to enlightenment (39), and the notion of anatta (i.e., the non-existence of one’s self, 39-40). The point of contact with Christianity is a positive correlation between bodhisattvas (i.e., a Buddha-in-the-making who willingly abstains from nirvana in order to help others also achieve nirvana) and Jesus, with sacrificial giving being the connection (47). Chapter three addresses Confucianism and Daoism, which, when taken together, helpfully aids in the understanding of each. The extensive nature of filial piety in Confucian thought and its unmistakable influence throughout the Southeast and Far East is traced (52, 58, 63). Daoist religion is seen as a criticism of Confucianism, valuing passivity as a virtue rather than the here and now actions of Confucianist teachings (56-8, 61-7). Where these two religions make contact with Christianity, according to the author, are in the eternal nature of the Dao with the eternal preexistence of Christ is discussed, though the impersonal nature of the Dao is contrasted with the personhood of Christ (74). The chapter on Judaism, chapter four, emphasizes the transformation of Judaism from the Israelite religion of the Christian Old Testament to Rabbinic Judaism, which is primarily teaching-centered (82, 86-88). The Talmud and Rabbis are highlighted. The point of contact here is also helpful. It reminds Christians that Jews do not need to give up their heritage or identity in order to come to Christ; Jewish identity is rather fulfilled since Christ has fulfilled the Law (98). Lastly, chapter five is on Islam. Emphasis is on the historical origins and development (103-114), and the discussion is balanced, though nothing was said concerning present day Islamic terrorism plaguing many parts of the world. The point of contact between Islam and Christianity is a somewhat parallel eschatology, since each religion is looking towards their respective messiahs to return, and the understanding of an eschatological divine judgment (127).
Part 2 involves, again, the biblical and theological responses to the world religions discussed in Part 1. Since Part 2 is the subject of so much of the critical evaluation, it will be treated below in greater detail.
There are both positive and negative comments to be made concerning Cooper’s book. As far as the negative, the reader might point out the reluctance of the author to posit his own particular thoughts and conclusions in the two carefully developed discussions of Part Two. These two discussions are, respectively, the reality of other gods, i.e., whether they exist or not, covered in chapter six, and the relationship between Christianity and other world religions, which is found in chapter seven.
Beginning with chapter six, the author invests significant labor in presenting the discussion of whether or not other gods exist according to Christian biblical teaching (134-49). He presents arguments both for (134-9) and against (140-7, passim) their existence, using both Scripture and the work of scholars such as Richard Hays and Clinton Arnold. While the discussion is rich and carefully balanced, Cooper concludes “Finally, the Bible can be interpreted differently when it comes to understanding the identity of the beings worshiped in other religions and the power behind them” (148). While the discussion is, again, careful and fair, the reader discovers no firm answer to the question. Does Scripture teach that other gods exist or not? This may invite a relativistic attitude on the part of a reader who may feel privilege to choose which answer they think, or like, best. Admittedly, this was my own temptation while studying the book. However, it would be best to observe the passages that explicitly state that there are no other gods (other than Yahweh), as an appropriate foundation upon which to interpret the passages which do mention other gods, since the latter may be anthropomorphic language for the Israelites who are frequently engaged in the practice of idolatry. From the perspective of the Israelite who is engaged in idol worship, other gods are in fact involved, and Yahweh’s prophetic word may be an accommodation to ANE understandings.
The second discussion is located in chapter seven and concerns inclusivism, exclusivism, pluralism, universalism, and, more recently (164), particularism. Again, in this section, extensive care and labor is made in presenting a fair hearing for each view, though criticisms against pluralism and universalism do reflect an evangelical theological worldview. However, despite the careful handling of the discussion (152-68), the author only narrows the options for evangelical Christians down to exclusivism and inclusivism, while also noting that “Representatives of each of the other positions claim Christian proponents in virtually every era of the church” (168). Again, the reader is left to decide for herself/himself which of the views is correct.
While the author has done a remarkable job in handling the different world religions, the noticeable absences of firm conclusions within Part Two’s biblical and theological responses does put Cooper’s readers at a disadvantage. By contrast, the study of Winfried Corduan, Neighboring Faiths, though significantly lengthier, does offer an angle on the discussion of world religions in light of original monotheism, which is the theory of William Schmidt that a vestige of monotheism exists in most of the world’s religions, usually found in their earliest strata, and that the God of this theism has remarkably Christian characteristics. This puts Cooper’s work somewhat at a disadvantage since he has chosen not to offer conclusive Christian responses by which to biblically and theologically engage other world religions.
On the positive side, and as mentioned already, Cooper’s work is very balanced and fair. While this fairness is found especially in the treatment of world religions, it can also be observed within Part 2’s discussions. This invites trust on the part of the reader, as well as the desire to read further into the religions (in which case Appendix B’s directory of websites may be of further use). The author further writes compellingly of world religions, and inspires the student to learn more.
There are many surprises in Cooper’s book, which invites curiosity as to where the author found the extensive training needed in order to write on world religions. The surprises, however, are mostly positive. The book carefully explains and presents the six religions discussed above and the data is efficiently covered and easily accessed. In addition, there are many helpful charts and figures illustrating more crucial aspects of the religions. Though valid criticisms have been made concerning the open-ended responses to questions raised, in the end the book remains a very useful work on the subject, meriting its own place at the table of more brief treatments of world religions from a Christian perspective.