Student's Guide to Religious Studies

Student's Guide to Religious Studies

ISI Student Guides to the Major Disciplines

by D. G. Hart
1st Edition, ©2005, ISBN: 9781932236583
Trade Paperback, 90 pages
Price: $12.99

As with so much of his historical work, D.G. Hart opens A Student's Guide to Religious Studies with some important caveats and demythologizing of popular assumptions. For instance, while many of America's top universities were founded by Christians as centers of Christian education, sometime in the 19th century there was a clean break with the Christian tradition, and places like Harvard, Yale and Princeton were transformed into secularly-funded research institutes with a naturalist bias.

What does all that have to do with religious studies? Plenty, Hart argues. If, as the contemporary liberal secularists assert, the only way to accurately judge or evaluate religions is to stand above or apart from them, it's necessary to keep religious affiliation and education separate as much as possible. On the other hand, what if the only way to understand religious claims is to stand firmly within a particular religious tradition, and to observe and investigate from that vantage point?

Hart concludes this is, indeed, the best way to pursue religious studies. He goes on to survey the history of religious studies, offers a defense of studying religion at the academic level, and provides a short overview of the history of religion in the West. Hart is a Reformed Christian, but he is magnanimous and objective, and this will surely prove to be an excellent introduction for anyone wanting to engage religious studies at more than the surface level.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Summary Cogently argues that the only way to understand and evaluate religions is to stand firmly within one and be honest about one's presuppositions.

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