Biblical Faith and Other Religions: An Evangelical Assessment. Edited by David W. Baker. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004. Paper. 176 pp. $12.99.
Biblical Faith and Other Religions is a compilation “of written records of oral presentations” from six different authors (p. 9). These topics were presented at the 2002 Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting. David M. Howard Jr., who wrote the intro to this book, was the Chairman. The title of the 2002 Annual Meeting was “Evangelical Christianity and Other Religions.” Therefore, anyone who desires to understand the quality of discussion and scholarship that took place that year will get a thorough glimpse by reading this book. The content is academic, with varying degrees of practical discussion.
The book is comprised of six chapters; each chapter is an essay by a certain scholar of his topic presented at the 2002 ETS Annual Meeting. Howard points out that “each author comes at the question of how true biblical faith interfaces with other religious systems differently” (p. 16). He also explains that the purpose of the book is not only to present academic discussion, but so that “the church at large will attain better understanding of different faith traditions as it engages with them at numerous levels” (p. 9). The basic concept is that we live today in a religious pluralistic society, which Harold Netland defines in the first chapter as the idea “that the major religions are all to be accepted as more or less equally legitimate ways in which culturally and historically conditioned humankind responds to the one divine reality” (p. 24). Therefore, based on the religious ideals that are prominent in today’s society, the book contains relevant information.
The book as a whole is fairly understandable; however, as with any book, the reader will find a few confusing assertions. For example, in the chapter entitled “Biblical Faith and Islam,” J. Dudley Woodberry describes the parallels between the beliefs of Christianity and of Islam. Most of his statements are accurate and quite insightful, but some of them are not as clear as they could be. At one point he says, referring to both Christians and Muslims, “We are both missionary religions with a message for all people.” First, it is unclear to assert that Christianity is a “religion,” and secondly, it doesn’t seem fair to claim that Islam has a message for all people, being that it is a deterministic belief system. Another unclear statement deals with the contrast between Christianity and Islam’s view of salvation. He states “the Muslim sees forgiveness and the law as sufficient, for the kingdom can come by the habit of following the law. Conversely, the Christian sees the law as insufficient. A transforming new life is necessary (John 3:3, 5 Acts 2:38; Rom. 8:2-3, 9-11).” Of course, from a Free Grace perspective, it would not be accurate to use transforming new life as a synonym for forgiveness.
Living in the midst of pluralism, this book is very informative. Each author makes interesting assertions as to how we should view other religions in light of Christianity. Some of the essays are harder to follow than others, but the book being comprised of only six chapters makes it fairly readable. I would recommend this book for apologists, Bible scholars, and pastors. It probably would not appeal to the average reader.
Th. M. Student
Dallas Theological Seminary