Fifty years ago, if I wanted to carry on a serious dialogue and apologetic debate with Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, and Muslim scholars I probably needed to go overseas. But with the emergence of the internet and influx of immigration in America and other parts of the Western world, all of that has changed. Great religious diversity now exists in America, especially in its large urban centers.
Even with the growth of secularism, we still live in a largely religious world. In fact, if current trends continue, by 2050 there will be nine billion people living on Earth. Approximately three billion will be Christians, three billion will be Muslims, and three billion others will represent various beliefs (both religious and secular).1
Because I have dialogued and debated with scholars from various faiths,2 people often ask me for recommended sources on world religions. In my personal library I have dozens of books that discuss the religions of the world, but there is one that stands out among them.
The Author Winfried Corduan is a leading Christian scholar, philosopher, and apologist. Born in Germany, Corduan grew up in America. He taught at Taylor University for more than 30 years and led study trips abroad to learn about the world's religions firsthand. He is the author of numerous books on religion, theology, philosophy, and apologetics.Neighboring Faiths by evangelical scholar and author Winfried Corduan is arguably the best Christian introduction to the world's religions available today. And given that the Western world is now a truly global society with all the religions present, it is imperative that Christians have a basic knowledge of the religions of the world. I can't think of a better book to read and study on this critical topic than Corduan's work.
Neighboring Faiths is a robust Christian introduction to the world's religions. Nearly 500 pages in length, the work contains 14 chapters and covers such world religions as Judaism, Islam, Bahaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, and the Chinese religions of Daoism and Confucianism. It also contains chapters on the study and practice of religion, along with an examination of the traditional religions of Africans and Native Americans.
Corduan's book includes two helpful chapters on Islam. The first chapter covers Islam's basic history, doctrines, and religious deeds, and the second explores radical Islam in light of the events of 9/11. Here, he explains the meaning of jihad (holy war) and evaluates key groups and individuals within this political-religious side of Islam.
Corduan's work reflects a careful summary of the world's many religions. In a scholarly but readable manner, he explores their beliefs, practices, and values. Yet while Corduan is deeply committed to the unique truth of historic Christianity and evaluates the different religions from a Christian perspective, he nevertheless treats each religion with fairness, respect, and empathy.
Below, Corduan briefly describes how his book relates Christianity to the religions of the world:
The discussion in this book proceeds from an evangelical Christian perspective, which sees interreligious encounters as opportunities for sharing the gospel of redemption. Consequently, this book goes beyond descriptions and summaries, and identifies points of contact and cultural opportunities for gaining a hearing for the Christian gospel.3
Golden Rule of Apologetics
For many years I've taught courses on world religions and comparative religions at the college and university level. Neighboring Faiths is my favorite textbook on the subject. What I deeply appreciate about Corduan and his book is that, while he is firmly committed to the truth claims of Christianity, he nevertheless treats other people's beliefs the way he wants his treated. Every school, church, and personal library should have this book.
Reflections: Your Turn
What world religion do you consider to be Christianity's greatest competitor in the marketplace of religious ideas? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.
Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org
Pew Research Center, “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010–2050,” (April 2, 2015), https://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/.
For my debate with a Hindu scholar, see "Krishna, Christ, and Hinduism Debate—Ken Samples and Dipen Rajyaguru," on Unbelievable? March 4, 2017, https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Krishna-Christ-and-Hinduism-debate-Ken-Samples-and-Dipen-Rajyaguru. For my debate with a Buddhist scholar, see "Buddhism, Christianity, Nirvana, & Salvation—Alex Crowe and Ken Samples," on Unbelievable? May 27, 2017, https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Buddhism-Christianity-Nirvana-Salvation-Alex-Crowe-Ken-Samples.
Winfried Corduan, Neighboring Faiths: A Christian Introduction to World Religions,2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2012), 21.