Review: Introducing World Religions

22504659Charles E. Farhadian is professor of world religions and Christian Mission at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. Farhadian has studied at Seattle Pacific University (BA), Yale University (MDIV), and Boston University (PhD). He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Christianity, Islam, and Nationalism in Indonesia (Routledge, 2005), Christian Worship Worldwide: Expanding Horizons, Deepening Practices (Eerdmans, 2007), The Testimony Project: Papua (Deiyai Press, 2007), Introducing World Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), and the Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion (Oxford University Press, 2014). Most recently, Farhadian has released what is sure to be the standard undergraduate-level introduction to world religions from the Christian perspective—Introducing World Religions: A Christian Engagement (Baker Academic, 2015).

Introducing World Religions begins with an excellent introduction to prepare the reader for the forthcoming journey into the religious landscape of the contemporary world. This initial section, the persistence of religion, appropriately positions the reader and introduces the study of religion as an academic discipline. First, Farhadian acknowledges the difficulty that arises when one seeks to definitively define “religion.”  Consequently, Farhadian follows the eight characteristics of religion articulated by Watson King (Encyclopedia of Religion, “Religion,” 12:284): (1) traditionalism, (2) myth and symbols, (3) ideas of salvation, (4) sacred objects and places, (5) sacred actions, (6) sacred writings, (7) sacred community, and (8) sacred experience. Second, Farhadian briefly explores the numerous contexts in which the study of religion is discussed (psychological, social, cultural, historical, and environmental), as well as the various theories of religion (psychological, sociological, anthropological, and economical) articulated and affected by figures such as Sigmund Freud, Emile Durkheim, and Karl Marx.

Introducing World Religion covers eight major world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism and Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and dedicates an entire chapter to new religious movements (i.e. Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, etc.). Each chapter has four dedicated sections (contemporary snapshot, origins and concepts, worship and practice, and modern movements) and closes with an annotated timeline, key terms, and a further reading bibliography. Throughout each individual chapter, the reader will encounter a number of important terms that Farhadian has highlighted and defined. These terms are also listed at the end of each chapter and included in the glossary with a brief definition for quick reference. Also, as the subtitle alludes, the reader will encounter frequent “Christian Reflection” sections in which Farhadian helps aid the reader to think through various issues from a Christian worldview. These sections are brief and differ in usefulness, but the reader is sure to appreciate the sensitivity of their inclusion for the overall purpose of the book.

There are always limitations with the amount of content that can be included in an introductory work such as Introducing World Religions. This is especially the case when an author is looking to engage with other religious systems from a specific worldview. Still, I believe that Farhadian has maintained the needed balance between introduction and reflection with precision, and the reader will benefit greatly from his attention to detail. Furthermore, consistently Farhadian exhibits a clear desire to engage the landscape of world religions from a Christian worldview, and do so in such a way that the reader is encouraged to think critically as they interact with other religious systems near and far. The content within the book is clear and well organized for this task. Add a whole host of full-color illustrations, photographs, tables, maps, and sidebar discussions, and you have the recipe for a world-class textbook.

If you are a teacher or professor looking for an engaging textbook that will help you students shape a Christian worldview while engaging world religions, then Introducing Word Religions by Charles E. Farhadian is certain to be a welcomed addition to your course curriculum. If you are a student, pastor, or interested layman who is looking for a solid introduction to the religious landscape of the contemporary world, then Farhadian has provided a top-contender. Introducing World Religions is clear, stimulating, and bursting with useful information for readers of all backgrounds. It comes highly recommended.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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