Thursday, April 5, 2012

Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message, by Ravi Zacharias


This is a difficult book to summarize.  Well-known Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias ostensibly wrote this book to distinguish the claims of Christianity from those of other major world religions.  At least, that's what you would expect based on the title.  But the title isn't really accurate.  Other religions are mentioned, albeit in passing, but Zacharias' treatment of other religions is cursory and selective at best, and his normally incisive reasoning seems muddy.

I've enjoyed hearing Zacharias speak, and have great respect for his intellect and his logical abilities.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, those abilities do not seem to be on display here.  Zacharias seems to flit about up in the air without ever landing on any solid conclusions, and the conclusions he does reach don't seem to follow logically from the statements and arguments and observations that precede them--even the statements I agree with seem to hang out there unsupported.  Indeed, if I didn't already agree with him, I doubt I would be persuaded.

I often found myself suspecting that he had perfectly sound reasons for particular conclusions, but that he wasn't, well, 'showing his work' for lack of a better phrase.  Maybe I'm not clever enough to follow his argument, but I suspect I am not the only one, and I think the book could have been much better if he'd spelled things out more clearly.

I suppose this could be the result of differences between Eastern and Western thought processes and argument styles--I do find C.S. Lewis' down-to-earth clarity much more persuasive than Zacharias' untethered mental wandering--but the book seems to be written explicitly for Western readers, and I've never had any trouble following his reasoning in radio talks and lectures.

Ultimately, I have no idea what this book is about--other than 'Christianity'--or what point Zacharias is ultimately trying to make.  This is my first exposure to him as a writer (as opposed to a speaker), so I remain hopeful that this lackluster work is an aberration.

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