Though in many places Beverley sounds like he’s trying to be cooly objective and present both sides of an argument in a diplomatic way, in others he is outspoken in voicing his opinion. For example, after quoting a criticism of Brian McLaren (Emergent Church) by R. Albert Mohler Jr. of the Southern Baptists, he says, “This is far too harsh and distorts McLaren. However, McLaren should be more aware of the epistemological complexities …. and be more careful in argument, rhetoric, and treatment of major Christian doctrines." (p. 538)
For the Christian reader, it is exactly Beverley’s bias that makes Guide to Religions valuable. For included within the discussion of each religion is his evaluation of how it relates to Christian orthodoxy as he understands it. We may not agree with him, but he has done his part to make our choice easier with his explanations and analysis.
Also included in the book are several valuable lists: 10 things to consider when studying a religion, 10 points of Christian response to religions, 20 basic tenets of the Christian faith, and 10 tests for truth in religion. The book ends with four appendices and an exhaustive (100+ page) index. Color photographs add information, interest and beauty. From the viewpoint of design, though, the shaded fill of the text boxes and the blurred borders of the photos give the book an old-fashioned look.
For me, a layperson and no student of theology or world religions, Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions is a most helpful reference. Though not exhaustive, its information about the world’s main religions and their offshoots is more than adequate to give me an understanding of the faiths of my neighbors and friends. Should I want to find out more, I need only consult the book’s numerous lists of resources for further study.
This readable reference book would be a valuable addition to any home, school or church library.