What do I think of Timothy Tennent’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
In the past, a Christian growing up would likely never encounter a Hindu, a Buddhist, or a Muslim, at least in a place like America. Now, you encounter them in a wide number of places. A church my wife and I attend has a ministry to Indian people in the area. Many Hollywood celebrities practice Buddhism. Oprah Winfrey regularly shares Eastern thought on her broadcasts. Islam seems to always be in the news and 9/11 has a permanent memory with many of us.
Even if a Christian lives out somewhere in the boondocks surrounded by Christians, if they get on the internet, they will encounter other worldviews. Nowadays, learning about other worldviews for a Christian is not just an option. It is mandatory.
Fortunately, Timothy Tennent has written a book where he does interact with other worldviews from the perspective of one who has spent some time in serious study of those worldviews. Tennent gives a brief explanation of major ideas in Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic thought. Then he has a dialogue with holders of those worldviews and lets us see how the interaction is to take place.
He also has three bonus sections at the end that aren’t dialogue, but do look at how one interacts with other religions and how some have done it in history. Anyone interested in interacting with this kind of thought needs to go through this area as well. There is also a section beforehand on different views of exclusivism and inclusivism so Christians can see where they fall on the spectrum.
The information in the book is certainly excellent. Be warned that when many of us read sections on Hinduism and Buddhism, self included, it is easy to get lost. This is because you really do get to see how different Eastern thought is from the way that we generally think and the terminology is terminology that we are not familiar with. I don’t think this is the fault of Tennent at all when it’s sometimes hard to follow. I think it’s just that we’re so far away from the system that we don’t know how to process it.
Some people might be surprised that the information on Islam doesn’t cover terrorism. The book was published after 9/11, but I suspect Tennent wanted to focus more on the doctrinal issues than that. That could be a good topic of further dialogue in the future if one is interested.
If anything would be changed, I would have liked to have seen some names attached to the participants in the dialogue and perhaps rather than just long pieces, have more immediate give and take like a conversation. Names would have made the dialogue seem more personable. Perhaps we should have some sections of longer parts and some of shorter parts. For shorter parts, I think of the writings of Peter Kreeft he has, such as those with Socrates.
Still, if you want some good information on these beliefs, this book is an excellent place to go. You will walk away with a better understanding of these worldviews. Again, you have to have this knowledge if you want to be effective today.