By John D. Pierce
Not everyone is curious and questioning. Some settle for easy, insufficient answers rather than digging a little bit deeper for truth.
For the curious-minded, however, good answers are not always hidden. It’s just a matter of looking in the right place.
A great place to find clear, thoughtful understanding of religious matters is Sherrill Stevens’ excellent book, The ABCs of Religion: The Origin and Development of Religious Thought and Practices (2016, Nurturing Faith).
Such clarity, however, should never be confused with shallow thinking. Stevens exemplifies loving God with heart, soul and mind as he examines the religious development from primitive people through the rise of monotheism and on through the shaping and expressions of Christianity.
He rightly notes that while religion has to do with the supernatural, it is “a personal response of trust,” and that religious institutions “are not the essence of religion” — but “channels for religious experience and expression.”
So, to what kind of questions does Stevens give insightful and helpful responses to those eager to learn?
Here are just a few examples:
Why did ancient people worship the moon?
How does culture shape religion?
From where did the practice of burning offerings come?
Who recalled and recorded the things Jesus said and did?
How did the Christian Bible come into its current form?
The format, however, is not Q&A, but an engaging and unfolding story of how and why religions have developed through history — with insights flowing from each page.
Concluding chapters on “seeking a personal faith” and a critique of traditional Christianity allow readers to examine their own embrace of religious faith and practice — with a heightened awareness of the factors at play.
The larger question to many pertaining to religion that this book helps to answer is “Why?”
Stevens’ purpose for writing this needed volume is “to encourage readers to make a sincere effort to understand their personal faith.” And understanding the origins and development of religious thought and practice is a good way to do so.
Want to better understand the shaping of your own religious faith and practice — or just be smarter when holiday conversations turn to religious topics? It’s as simple as A-B-C.
Get The ABCs of Religion in print or digital at this nurturingfaith.net link.