Dr. Ninian Smart,
Chair, Dept. of Religious Studies,
University of California,
It is obvious that as we move into a world civilization, in which so many
cultures and spiritual traditions will impinge on one another, it is vital
for us all to have an understanding of one another. This does not
necessarily mean agreement--how could it given the diversity of human
values evident in the world? But it can mean some growing convergence and
complementarity between the faiths, large and small, of our shrinking
planet. It is therefore good to have sources of comparison between
traditions: and one obvious place to look is in the scriptures and sacred
writings of the various cultures.
Dr. Andrew Wilson supplies us here with an admirable assemblage of
quotations from the holy texts of the world. He approaches his systematic
task from a broadly theistic angle. As he says in his introduction,
others (say, Buddhists) might prefer a different articulation of the
material. As he rightly points out, they should create their own books of
world scripture. Our world is surely hospitable to a variety of
approaches. This way of treating the great traditions could be paralleled
by others. But I think that the consequence of his systematic arrangement
of themes and texts is that a logical and orderly way of looking at the
wide range of material comes through. Dr. Wilson therefore has put
together a collection which is illuminating.
It is the kind of anthology which will be of interest in various areas.
First there are those people whose genuine concern for religion and
spirituality will be further stimulated by having easy access to so many
scriptural traditions. Second there are many students of the comparative
study of religions or history of religions who may be able to use this
book in the classroom and beyond. Third there are many religious
professionals, whether Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or whatever, who
will find this a good reference book.
After all, every tradition has in today's world to take account of the
other traditions. What does the Buddhist say about Christian theism? What
does the Muslim say about Chinese traditions? What does the theist say
about non-theistic religions? These are vital questions, if men and women
in the world are to take both their own traditions and those of others
seriously. This anthology will help to guide their path and to spark
questions. It is compiled in the spirit of reverence for all spiritual
paths. This is a needed spirit if we are to live at peace with one
another. That is not always easy: I would not underestimate the tensions
which in actual society can occur between sisters and brothers of
apparently rival faiths. But gradually we shall overcome such tensions,
and learn to converse and argue gently with one another. An anthology
such as this will help such conversations.
I am therefore very glad that Dr. Wilson has taken so much trouble in
bringing this book to publication. We can all learn from one another.
J.F. Rowny Professor of Comparative Religions
University of California Santa Barbara