Book Review – So What’s the Difference?

So What’s the Difference? A Look at 20 Worldviews, Faiths and Religions and How They Compare to Christianity

By Fritz Ridenour
256 pages, Bethany House Publishers ISBN 9780764215643

Goodreads rating: 3.71 out of 5

When I was in university, there was a compulsory subject called Comparative Religion. I didn’t particularly enjoy the class, as it was basically listening to the lecturer deliver his slightly warped views of religions (other than his own). But actual comparative religion delves deeper into the superficial. It strives to understand what makes each major religion different or similar to others, it requires a comprehensive understanding of diverse fields like geo-history and textual criticism.

In the context of the Malaysian church, the importance of understanding the difference with other religions is more important than ever. As PJEFC strives forward with our Community Transformation, this will greater assist us as we endeavor to reach the unreach, save the unsaved and minister to those who are hungry for God’s love.

This book gives attempts to give a concise summary of what the key points of 20 different world religions. From there, it also compares these religions to Christianity, and how each of them are similar or different from the faith that is taught by the Bible. The book is written from a mainline Protestant viewpoint, so it starts with a summary of Biblical Christianity as a yardstick.

The second part deals with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

The third part moves further on to the four major world religions – Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.

The last part of the book gives a quick run-through of cults, new age religions and the occult, like Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Freemasonry, Baha’i, etc.

Trying to summarize complex religions with a thousand year history in a few pages is maybe too ambitious, but here the writer does a valiant job. The chapters on Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are especially well-written and informative. The chapters on Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism should serve as a starting point for the reader to do further study.

The later treatises on smaller ideologies like Postmodernism and Unitarianism are maybe too brief and not quite relevant to the Malaysian church.

There is a useful appendix where further study resources are listed, and readers encouraged to use them rather than be satisfied with superficial knowledge of our neighbour’s faiths.

Yes this is easy to read, written in simple English and with concise writing. They do a good job of simplifying advance concepts to the reader.

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