Thursday, September 07, 2006

Book Review: A Tapestry of Faiths

Winfried Corduan's book A Tapestry of Faiths: The Common Threads Between Christianity & World Religions is one of the freshest books I have read on comparative religion. Reading it has given me new insights into the perspectives of other major world religions besides Christianity; the uniqueness of Christianity and other world religions; what it means to dialogue with other faiths; and much more. Corduan is deeply respectful of different world views and rigorously tries to understand them on their own terms rather than making the mistake of constantly evaluating them in terms of Christian faith. Too frequently, Protestants (in particular) assume that, for example, because Christianity is a religion based on and defined by its Scriptures, that one can understand the essence of other religions by merely evaluating their Scriptures. For Corduan, this sort of approach is at the heart of Protestant/Evangelical misunderstandings of other peoples' faith. Although Corduan wants to, ultimately, draw comparisons between other faith traditions and Christianity, he genuinely attempts to understand them first on their own terms before making the comparison. This is the real strength of this book. There is no doubt that Corduan writes from a Christian perspective. He is interested in what is common and different between these other faiths and Christianity. But he carefully avoids construing them in ways that distort their perspectives and his discussion is finely nuanced as he takes us on an empathetic journey into other faith traditions. A diverse range of issues is explored including general revelation and original monotheism (Corduan argues that monotheism was the original religious perspective historically); special revelation and the nature of non-Christian Scriptures; morality and guilt; creation and redemption; the debate over grace and redemption; and eschatology. In addition, he offers a fascinating model of religious experience that identifies what is common in all religious experience. Corduan's overall purpose is not just to describe the differences and commonalities between religious faiths. His practical aim is to "find fords [the things that divide] and build bridges [across the fords]" that allow genuine dialogue between those who take their faith seriously. He offers useful advice for living out the implications of his discussion in the real world. His aim is apologetic but with an absolute commitment to respectful dialogue. This is a great book which left me with a new appreciation of other religions, my own religious beliefs, and inspired a commitment to really listen to those who take a different perspective on faith. I won't be the same after reading this book -- nor will you.

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