Derek Cooper is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies and Historical Theology, Associate Director of the D.Min program, and Director of the LEAD M.Div program at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. Somewhere, in the midst of all of that, he has managed to put together a fine book: Christianity & World Religions: An Introduction to The World’s Major Faiths.
This book makes an ideal textbook, or at least I’m hoping so since I’ve decided to use it in my apologetics class. In the course of the book, Cooper covers Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism/Daoism, Judaism, and Islam. Conceiving of each as a “story,” he elucidates the following elements for each:
- The beginning of the story
- The religion’s historical origin
- Its religious writings
- Worship practices
- Point of contact with the religion
In his understanding, each of these religions is attempting to tell a kind of story about the world and how to live in it. Here’s how he sees it:
- Hinduism: The story of diversity and devotion
- Buddhism: The story of enlightenment
- Confucianism/Daoism: The stories of order and nature
- Judaism: The story of tradition and identity
- Islam: The story of submission
His presentation of each is nuanced to avoid “flattening” each religion, but no so nuanced that it is hard to follow. In other words, he gives readers enough of a handle on the diversity within each “story” to avoid stereotypes, but in such a way that unity is not compromised. At the end of each chapter he provides discussion questions (or as I see them, homework assignments) and resources for further reading.
All of these stories together comprise the first part of the book. The second turns to first a biblical response to these stories (chapter 6), and then a theological response to the issues brought up by the mere presence of other world religions (i.e. religious pluralism, universalism, etc.). He then offers some brief thoughts on engaging the other religions using Acts 17 as a jumping off point. Included as well are appendices with potential projects, essay questions, and worldview questions; online links to other religions’ religious writings; and a guide to visiting non-Christian worship spaces.
Though I read a lot of apologetic books, I haven’t done too much reading in world religions. Because of that, I found Cooper’s book very informative. Since I’ve at least studied these religions in other contexts (I took classes on Islam and Judaism and am familiar with the basic contours of the others), I was able to at least tell that Cooper was doing a good job of explaining them to a lay audience in a nuanced way. I think his overall presentation is an excellent way to approach teaching world religions. His concern is to understand them well on their own terms and to also see them come to faith in Christ. He offers sage advice on how to go about this, and readers who would like to be both world religion conscious and evangelism savvy will benefit from Cooper’s work.
- Author: Derek Cooper
- Title: Christianity & World Religions: An Introduction to The World’s Major Faiths
- Publisher: P&R Publishing (January 18, 2013)
- Paperback: 240pgs
- Reading Level: General Reader
- Audience Appeal: Anyone, especially students, interested in learning about the major world faiths and how to make fruitful contact with them
- Gratis Review Copy: Yes (courtesy of P&R Publishing)
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