No Other Gods: Christian Belief in Dialogue with Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam

Article excerpt

The work presents four neatly drawn comparative analyses of four major world religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. As the author remarks in the preface, the title, No Other Gods, can be read in two ways: with an exclamation mark or with a question mark. Read with a question mark, the book might appear to emphasize the Christian claim for uniqueness; the exclamation mark would suggest that the religions deal with the same God. The author leaves it to the reader to judge his approach. It is evident, though, that Vroom takes up the second meaning, although theological discussion of Christian uniqueness is not altogether absent.

Vroom's work is a fine example of an interreligious, dialogic approach in the present-day intercultural context, done with open mind and heart, trying to understand the other rather than criticize another person's beliefs. The author notes the four important steps of what he terms critical dialogue: examination of the content of the partner's belief, articulation of one's own belief, readiness to accept the truth of the partner, and open discussion on mutual criticism.

The author's comparison and analyses of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam are primarily on the theme of God. He discusses "No-Self and Emptiness" in Buddhism, "Many Names" in Hinduism, and "One God and Prophet" in Islam. He brings in as well a vast number of other important, connected issues like wisdom, love, compassion, and the meaning of suffering (Buddhism); world order and reincarnation (Hinduism); and Jesus, Koran, and the cross (Islam). He notes with care points of mutual understanding and mutual enrichment: "Buddhism provides answers to problems that the churches have neglected for a long time" (p. 10), notably in questions related to our basic attitudes toward world and matter. …