There are some books I hate to review. Some are books I disagree with, the other are books that are very badly written, whether theologically or just plain bad. I hate to review these books because these review will hurt the authors and the publishers, but reviews exists for a reason – to help potential buyers discern whether to buy a certain book. So it is with this intention in mind that I pen this review.
First, let me say what is good about this book. I like how the book decided to cover a whole spectrum of religions. I’m quite certain most readers will not be well-versed with at least some of the religions mentioned in this book. Philip Wogaman, handles the religion with tact and thoroughly, he does not skip over the surface but interacts with the different faiths carefully. Wogaman also reminds christians that when comparing or studying other religions, we must be careful not to compare the best of our faith to the worst of their faith. This often is one of the weakness of evangelical christians, Wogaman should be applauded to point this out to us.
Similarly, I found the chapters on Islam and Hinduism very well written compared to some of the other materials that one might find usually. However, this is not to say that this book is not without fault.
Wogaman firstly does not trust the reliability of the gospels by saying that “there is more than a little doubt whether Jesus himself ever uttered those words.” (p. 1). Next, Wogaman thinks that Jesus is not the only way to God, this can be found in his own summary at the end of the book “The Christian view of Christ as the way to God can be interpreted through the love of Christ as a manifestation of the love of God, so that love—not exclusive adherence to Christianity—is the way to God. That love is also to be found in other religions.” (p. 126).
Similarly, there are even more troubling things that one can find in this book. In the section where Wogaman talks how Muslim finds it hard to accept that Jesus is God, he talks about how Jesus ‘claims’ not to be God. Wogaman uses Mark 10:17-18 (“Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”) to substantiate his point. Next, he writes that “Christians can continue to believe that Jesus was a very good man and that his goodness is a decisive clue to the nature of God. I certainly do. But the point is that Jesus clearly was not claiming to be God!” (p. 35).
Next, he makes his point explicit by adding this “Muslims similarly are entitled to believe that Muhammad was a very good man… But Muhammad also did not claim to be God. There remains a difference between the two religious traditions, for Christians believe that God was expressed in and through Christ… But the point to be gained is that while God was expressed in and through Christ, Christ was not, himself, God.” (p. 35). Maybe the author meant that Christians do not worship Jesus as the Father, that I wholeheartedly agree. But the passage is so poorly worded that it might meant something theologically flawed. It might mean that Jesus is not fully God. That will never be accepted in any evangelical church.
This is where I find this book such a mixed bag. Quite ironically, I do not think the author even represents the best of christianity. And if that is so, should I therefore trust the author to teach me about other faiths? I find myself wary to believe everything that is written by the author.
I think this book can only be recommended for those who are discerning. Those who are able to shift the wheats from the tares. It is sad that such a book has to receive this review. I was honestly looking forward to gaining valuable insights from this book, but I went away wanting. Perhaps someone else will fill this gap that still lingers even after reading this book.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review