Written from a Christian point of view, Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions by James A. Beverley is a thorough and objective guide covering everything from the largest mainstream religions such as Roman Catholicism and Hinduism to the most obscure such as Rastafarian. Ancient religions as well as modern religious trends such as Wicca, Vampires and the New Age movement are covered in systematic detail. Cultic groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Satanism and Aryan Nations are discussed as well.
Each religion, sect or cult included, is also analyzed in the light of Christianity. You will not find any relativist concessions or excuses claiming all religions lead to truth. Beverley makes it very clear that there is one truth and that all religions must be investigated in light of objective, scriptural truth. Pluralism is rejected in recognition of the fact that many religions do contradict and conflict with each other in their basic theologies. Biased misconceptions are left out as this book. For example rather than condemn Roman Catholicism altogether, the author concedes without revisionist compromise, that the history of the Catholic Church and its ancient leaders such as Aquinas and Augustine, have in fact contributed greatly to Christian theology and apologetics of today. Furthermore, while popular misconceptions of the Catholic Church are refuted in a Question and Answer format, non biblical doctrines are listed and explained. In general the Q & A formats, timelines, and the bulleted summaries, make the information in this book easy to read and retain.
Naturally, with a project of cataloging religions, there will be some overlap and difficult decisions as to where to place certain sects. For example I believe that the Worldwide Church of God would have been better suited in the Christian Sectarian Groups chapter rather than the Protestantism chapter. Additionally, Jehovah’s Witness, Scientology, Mormonism, Branch Davidians, Christian Science and Unification Church would have been more appropriately grouped together under the Christian Sectarian Groups. Furthermore, Taoism is relegated to the appendix rather than the main body of the book. The description of the Satanist brand of witches in the Witchcraft chapter provides a very good summation of the Satanic belief system which would be more useful in the Satanism chapter. If any subsequent editions are produced, I would like to see a chapter on unbelief which would include humanism and atheism (which are included in the chart in appendix A, but not discussed). Nevertheless, these minor details do not detract from the overall book.
In sum, Beverley’s intellectual honesty is to be commended. This book fairly and accurately represents the religions and sects covered. The information is very well documented. Web sites are available so that the reader can investigate and compare for himself, the authenticity of information presented. As a member of the Thomas Nelson Review Blogger program http://brb.thomasnelson.com/ , I would highly recommend this guide for anyone interested making sense of all the religions in today’s world.