RELIGIOUS STUDIES: A BASIC, CONTRARY AND CHRISTIAN READING LIST
The following text is from Irving Hexham's Concise Dictionary of Religion, first published by InterVarsity Press, Carol Stream, USA, 1994, second edition, Regent College Press, Vancouver, 1999.
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Copyright © Irving Hexham 1994, 1998.
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For further information about the book and the sources used to compile this text see the PREFACE.
Healthy academic disciplines are characterized by vigorous debate. Look up any reader in Anthropology, History, Psychology, Sociology, or even Zoology and you will find conflicting theories and dissenting views. What is clear to one scholar is rubbish to another and in the journals people do not hesitate to criticize the folly of others. Indeed in some fields, such as History, entire libraries of books are devoted to such issues as Problems in European Civilization where the student is presented with a series of conflicting views that are expected to expose them to important academic debates with which any educated member of the profession ought to be familiar.
When one turns to Religious Studies, however, a very different picture emerges. With few exceptions the writers of monographs and textbooks in Religious Studies are very nice people who want to give every possible viewpoint a fair hearing. Such liberality is commendable in situations of religious intolerance and dogmatism and was justified twenty-five years ago when few Europeans or North Americans were familiar with religious traditions other than Christianity. At the time, against a background of a monopolistic Christianity, the need to develop sympathetic insight was essential. But, things are very different today.
Today we face a different situation. Many students know more about Buddhism than Christianity and are certainly far more sympathetic to Eastern religions than they are to their own Western tradition. Therefore, the old liberal approach is an anachronism. As a result this bibliography aims at presenting controversial books which students might otherwise overlook. It is provided in the hope that it will provoke a stimulating academic debate.
The following bibliographic sources are suggested to anyone writing essays, term papers, or theses in Religious Studies:
Leszek M. Karpinski,
Religious Studies Without Tears,
Reference Publications, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., 1970-1976.
An excellent set of annotated bibliographies in five parts produced by the University of British Columbia library.
David J. Dell. et.al.,
Guide to Hindu Religion,
G.K. Hall, Boston, 1981.
An invaluable annotated source for works on Hinduism.
Frank E. Reynolds, et.al.,
Guide to Buddhist Religion,
G.K. Hall and Co., Boston, 1981.
A companion volume to the one on Hinduism which is equally helpful.
When writing essays one way the serious student shows his or her command of their field is through their use of scholarly journals in addition to recommended books. In journals one finds the latest thinking in an area and many ideas which can take years to find their ways into books. The following journals will provide a basic introduction to this field:
The following texts should be read by any student who wishes to master the field of Religious Studies. The list provided here is an introductory one which is intended to introduce the reader to the field.
The World's Religions,
Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1989, pp. 578.
This is by far the best introductory text currently available in Religious Studies.
R.C. Zaehner, ed.,
The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths,
Hutchinson, London, 1959, pp. 435.
An invaluable reference work with essays by leading scholars in all fields. Although first published in 1959 the book has gone through many editions and is still in print.
The Wonder That Was India,
Collins, London, 1954.
An essential and highly informative introduction to Indian religions and civilization.
Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India, China, Tibet and Japan.
East West Center, Honolulu, 1964.
A valuable introduction to non-western ways of thought and action which provides an essential background to understanding religious behavior.
Reasons and Faiths,
Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1958, pp. 211.
An excellent philosophical introduction to inter-religious dialogue and understanding.
Doctrine and Argument in Indian Philosophy,
George Allen and Unwin, London, 1964, pp. 256.
Essential reading for anyone interested in Indian philosophy and religion.
Yoga, Immortality and Freedom,
Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1958, pp. 536.
This is the classic introduction to Yoga. Critics may find fault and some of the material may be outdated but it is a must for anyone approaching the religions of India.
The Sacred and Profane: the Nature of Religion,
Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1959, pp. 256.
Although a considerable improvement of Joseph Campbell this book, like Eliade's many other works on mythology, does not show his vast scholarship at its best. Nevertheless, it ought to be read because your professors will want you to know about the great man's ideas on the subject of myth. You ought to know, however, that Brigitte Berger has recently published some very disturbing papers where she argues that Eliade was a fascist who spied for the Nazis.
Oxford University Press, London, 1968.
An excellent, if philosophical, introduction to the religion we know as Hinduism.
The Hindu Religious Tradition,
Dickenson Publishing Co., Encino, California, 1971.
A good general introductory text.
Buddhism: It's Essence and Development,
Bruno Cassirer, Oxford, 1951, pp. 212.
No other work approaches Conze's genius for conveying the feel of Buddhism as well as the facts about the Buddhist tradition.
Buddhist Thought in India,
George Allen & Unwin, London, 1962.
A much neglected work which Conze viewed as his greatest contribution to Buddhist studies.
H.A.R. Gibb and J.H. Kramers,
Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam,
E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1953.
An invaluable text for understanding Arabic concepts that shape Islamic theology. This is particularly important for anyone studying Islam which is a religion that claims to be based on a sacred and untranslatable scripture.
The Event of the Qur'an: Islam in Its Scripture,
Allan and Unwin, London, 1971.
A useful study which sets Islam firmly within its own scriptural tradition.
The House of Islam,
Dickenson, Belmont, California, 1969.
A good popular introduction to Islam.
David H. Smith,
Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1968.
This book is regarded by many as the best survey of Chinese religions available.
Charles A. Moore and A.V.. Morris, eds.,
The Japanese Mind: Essentials of Japanese Philosophy and Culture.
East-West Center, Honolulu, 1967.
A stimulating work which emphasizes the diversity of Japanese thought.
H. B. Earhart,
Japanese Religions: Unity and Diversity,
Dickenson, Belmont, California, 1969.
A good general survey.
F. B. Welbourn,
Atoms and Ancestors,
A.J. Arnold, London, 1969.
The style of this short book easily misleads the uninitiated. Nevertheless, this is by far the best introduction to African religions. A revised edition is being prepared by Irving Hexham.
East African Rebels,
SCM Press, London, 1961.
Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand inter-religious contact, religious change, and the impact of missionaries on traditional religions.
Religion in Four Dimensions: Existential, Aesthetic, Historical and Comparative.
Reader's Digest Press, New York, 1976, pp. 490.
Princeton philosophy Professor Walter Kaufmann is a figure whose work ought to be known by every Religious Studies student. An iconoclast, of Jewish descent, his writings are a delight to anyone seeking a different perspective on religious issues. This book is no exception. Instead of presenting the usual clone of other Religious Studies texts Kaufmann has written a hard hitting book which is highly critical of many religious traditions. Readers many have difficulty with some of his conclusions about Christianity, but, to be fair he spares no one. Every Religious Studies student ought to read this book alongside other introductory texts for an alternative viewpoint.
Critique of Religion and Philosophy,
Faber and Faber, London, 1958, pp. 325.
A must for anyone interested in the philosophy of religion or Biblical criticism. Kaufmann takes an uncomplimentary look at contemporary theological fads and makes some devastating criticisms.
The Lotus and the Robot,
Hutchinson & Co., London, 1966, pp. 296.
Don't mention this one to your Hinduism professor. Perhaps its not the most reliable book on Indian religions. Nevertheless it provokes thought and is worth reading for a view that is usually dismissed by academics.
The Logic of Gospel Criticism,
Macmillan, London, 1968.
This book presents the reader with a logicians examination of the arguments used by Biblical critics. The conclusions are devastating. No wonder it is ignored by Biblical scholars, including many evangelicals.
The Synoptic Problem,
Collier-Macmillan, London, 1964.
Equally telling as Palmer's logical analysis is Farmer's introductory essay in this thought provoking book which deals with the social construction of the synoptic problem. A must for all students of the New Testament and anyone interested in the sociology of knowledge.
Shamans, Mystics and Doctors,
Beacon Press, Boston, 1982.
Essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the social dynamics of Indian religion. A challenging and provocative book.
Dojo: Magic and Exorcism in Modern Japan,
Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1980.
A classic study of a new religion in Japan which raises many problems of interpretation and questions about the over reliance of Religious Studies on written texts.
Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey,
Penguin, Harmmondsworth, 1981.
A disquieting look at the Islamic world.
India a Wounded Civilization,
Penguin, Harmmondsworth, 1979.
Like Koestler's work this book is hated by many teachers of Religious Studies. Nevertheless it presents a perspective which must be taken seriously.
Rahul Sankrityayan, et.al.,
Buddhism: The Marxist Approach,
People's Publishing House, New Delhi, 1970.
A very different approach to Buddhism which provokes thought.
SOME CHRISTIAN RESPONSES:
David Hugh Freedman and David Freedman,
A Philosophical Study of Religion,
The Craig Press, Nutley, New Jersey, 1964, pp. 267.
Written from a distinctly Reformed Christian viewpoint this work raises many issues normally overlooked by more liberal scholars. As such it is a good complement to Kaufmann's more caustic writing.
Christopher Dawson, edited by James Oliver and Christiana Scott.
Religion and World History.
Image Books, Doubleday, New York, 1973.An excellent introduction to religious history by an insightful Roman Catholic historian. This book is very well worth making an effort to read.
Lectures on Calvinism,
Wm. Be. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1968, pp. 199.
Originally the text of a series of lectures delivered at Princeton University these essays provide a framework within which Christian students can begin to tackle the immense problems of religious diversity and cultural pluralism.
Principles of Sacred Theology,
Wm. Be. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1968, pp. 683.
Although a theology text many parts of this work apply to issues in Religious Studies, especially Kuyper's stimulating discussion about the meaning of "faith."
The Christian View of God and the World,
Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1948, pp. 480..
Although somewhat dated owing to its original date of publication in 1891, many of the discussions, particularly those found in the extended footnotes apply directly to issues in Religious Studies.
The Philosophy of Revelation,
Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1979, pp. 349.
Another theological work with important implications for the study of religion written by Kuyper's colleague Herman Bavinck in 1909. Although dated it is still a valuable resource for the Christian student.
An Introduction to Reformed Dogmatics,
Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1981, pp. 403..
A French Calvinist's approach to the study of religion and theology which has stimulating discussions of Durkheim and various other figures whose work affects our thinking about the nature of religion.
Man: The Image of God,
Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1962.
Essential background thinking for a Christian interpretation of other religious traditions.
Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1955.
This should be read alongside Berkouwer's book Man: The Image of God. It deals with Biblical approaches to revelation outside the Bible.
Arthur F. Holmes,
Contours of a World View,
Wm B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1983, pp. 240.
Apart from knowing about other religious traditions it is important for Christians to have a broad vision of their own religion. This text provides such a vision and helps the reader find other sources for information on Christianity.
Religion and the Christian Faith,
Lutterworth, London, 1956.
An excellent survey of Christian approaches to non-Christian religions by an outstanding Dutch scholar.
World Cultures and World Religions,
Lutterworth, London, 191960.
A valuable work which places the study of religion within its social context.
Zen Way-Jesus Way,
Charles E. Turtle and Co., Rutland, Vermont, 1976.
A remarkable book by a Southern Baptist missionary.
Eric J. Sharpe,
Faith Meets Faith: Some Christian Attitudes to Hinduism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,
SCM Press, London, 1977.
A very useful survey which sets inter-religious discussion in its historical context.
Eric J. Sharpe,
Not to Destroy but to Fulfil: The Contribution of J.N. Farquhar to Protestant Missionary Thought in India Before 1914.
Swedish Institute of Missionary Research, Uppsala, 1965.
A valuable, in depth, study of one missionary's interaction with Hinduism.
Wm. Be. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1978.
The value of this book lies in the wide range of topics covered and its excellent bibliographies.
Christ and the Faiths,
Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1986
A modern Christian approach to other religious traditions.
The Church Between Temple and Mosque,
Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, n.d.,
A stimulating and orthodox Christian attempt to interpret the reality of religious pluralism.