Len Woods has served in the pastoral capacity for nearly thirty years. He holds a “degree in journalism from LSU and a Masters Degree of Theology from Dallas Theological seminary.” He has written many books and continues to write full time. Currently he and his wife are blogging together. Considering that this text contains fifty religions one can only imagine the amount of time Woods invested in research. The book has an extensive bibliography indicating extensive research.

The introduction to every book normally contains the purpose and intent of the author. Woods identifies that everyone believes in something, an obvious truth. However, there is the challenge everyone faces as they must deal with those nagging questions about life. Woods makes it clear that each religion will only include a synopsis and falls short of an extensive study. He also is disinterested in “bashing” other religions, but he does clarify that the book will be written from a Christian perspective. (iv)

In the conclusion of his introduction he establishes two conclusions from his research. He writes, “the human race is thoroughly religious (some skeptics prefer to say “incurable”) … I am struck by the uniqueness of the Christian faith. The Gospel (literally “good news”) of Jesus really does stand apart from all other religions of the world.” (v) The main difference, a merit system contrasted with grace. (vi)

The succinct explanation of each religion includes a quote by either the founder, or a leader within. Each religion is contrasted with basic Christian beliefs and this addition is helpful to the reader enabling the recognition of likeness or difference. The comparison and contrast includes, “sacred text(s), nature of God, Jesus Christ, human nature, about human need, salvation, and the afterlife.” (vi)

Each chapter is the same, examining the number of followers, major figures/prophets, short history, basic beliefs and values, view of God, worldview, worship services, and important dates. The chapters are color coded and includes a diversity of colors adding to the aesthetics of the book, it also helps the reader to find specific information quickly. Signs and symbols for many of the religions are also included within the chapters.

The writer is true to his word; the fifty chapters include a summary of the religion. It was very difficult to read because the reading became repetitive. It is amazing how many different religions overlap one other, but it led to tedious reading. This book would be better used for research; it was not an enjoyable or easy read. It was not complex or overly academic, much of the information overlapped and mentally it begins to run together.

Woods provided some great information and his research was thorough. However, some of the information was unnecessary. For example, in some cases he included (with several religions) the celebrities who follow the particular religion. The secular world loves to dive into and divulge the personal affairs of famous people and Hollywood celebrities. What celebrities do and believe seems rather important to secular media and magazines, the reason why is unclear. It is even more disappointing that a Christian author had to include such unnecessary information. Why would the reader care what religion celebrities practice?

Another unusual occurrence was examined within the church of Satan. This particular section is already slightly burdensome because of the belief system. It should make any Christian a little uncomfortable to read this chapter. Particularly, it was odd that Woods recorded a ritualistic satanic chant. It is abnormal (for me) to neglect reading a portion of the book. However, this section I skipped over. I cannot understand what profit exists in recording this chant, and I felt very uncomfortable as I almost accidentally read it. I had chills as I read this chapter. Perhaps self inflicted, but as it is, anything that revolves around the worship of Satan makes me very uncomfortable. It is clear that this chapter must be included, but not everything needed to be included.

The book concludes abruptly with no appendixes, glossary, or dictionary. The book contains an extensive bibliography, but the system was unlike any other. The sources are documented one right after the other with no designation other than the name of each religion. All the information is crammed together and there are no footnotes or numbering within the chapters. Woods only writes, “an online source.” This method can be rather than confusing for some readers. Woods did provide photo credits, which is rather unusual, but an interesting resource.

Woods has certainly done his research. Researching and documenting fifty religions is a monumental task, not one that I would like to tackle. Readers are indebted to him. I am indebted to him. The book will remain a valuable resource. In the future I would rather not read such a book straight though. As I already mentioned, it was a tedious (and at times a boring) task.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-World-Religions-Bible-Based-Illustrated

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