Friday, April 10, 2015

Jesus Among Other Gods | Ravi Zacharias

In 2000, the renowned Christian Apologeticist, Ravi Zacharias, published Jesus Among Other Gods. This is his attempt to address the dominating worldview at the end of the twentieth century. He realized that our culture teaches, “philosophically, you can believe anything, so long as you do not claim it to be true. Morally, you can practice anything, so long as you do not claim that it is a ‘better’ way. [And,] Religiously, you can hold to anything, so long as you do not bring Jesus Christ into it.”[1] He saw irony in the fact that in Western nations, spiritual ideas of the east are granted critical immunity while the traditions of the west are openly mocked.

 This mood of postmodernism crushes reason and clings to emotion. Yet, the truth of Jesus Christ still needs to be proclaimed and sustained. Ravi attempts to explain how that’s even possible in such a whimsical world. He begins by explaining that Jesus himself was not western, but eastern. But, just as the West has adulterated the message of Christ, the East has left too many religious beliefs uncriticized. “Every religion must face the responsibility of answering the questions posed to it.” “All religions, plainly and simply, cannot be true. Some beliefs are false, and we know them to be false. So it does no good to put a halo on the notion of tolerance as if everything could be equally true.” Christianity has been the strongest religion in standing up against criticism.[2]

 Ravi reviews six particular points that Jesus addresses in his ministry that no one else would have addressed in the same way. This proves not only his uniqueness, but also his persona. Jesus Among Other Gods then takes Jesus’ answers and compares them to other leading religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism in order to reveal the difference.

 One of the first points is that “The first casualty in such a mix [of cultures and religious revivals] is truth, and, consequently, the person of God.” Ravi continues that Jesus Himself made perhaps the most dramatic and daring statement that He is the way, and the truth, and the life, explaining that “’No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). Every word of that statement challenges the… entire world today.”[3]

Implicitly, Jesus is saying that there is only one way to God. This runs contradictory to universalism and Hinduism. He says that God is the Author and meaning-giver of life, this is denied by Buddhism. And, Islam cannot understand the fact that God can have a son. “Every claim that Jesus made of Himself challenged my culture’s basic assumptions about life and meaning.”[4]

Following, Ravi shares that Jesus’ ministry was “the one time in history… [a] person was essentially different from all of us.” He retells the story of Nathaniel explaining that Jesus in short, “said, ‘You are shocked because I revealed you to yourself? Wait until you see the full disclosure of who I am from and whence I come.’” This relates highly to Ravi’s own culture growing up as his identity was so closely tied to his family’s.[5] Jesus takes this aspect of His identity even further. The theologian explains that “to ask for the ‘where’ of Jesus’ home is the same as asking the ‘when’ of God’s beginning.” No other prophetic figure would have answered that question in the same manner.[6]

The third point addresses the Jews’ request for a sign. “Jesus gave the greatest proof of His authority by accurately predicting His death and the time of His bodily resurrection. Of all people, the temple authorities should have been alert to His promise, but they never dreamed that it would actually come to be.”[7]

Fourth, Ravi discusses the words of institution and Jesus’ need to “meet a greater hunger.” This “hunger of life… could only be filled by different bread.” This was hard to hear for a culture with such strict dietary laws.[8] As we dig deeper behind the scenes, “there is a second but not so obvious truth. ‘I am the Bread of Life,’ said Jesus.”

At the heart of every major religion is a leading exponent. As the exposition is studied something very significant emerges. There comes a bifurcation, or a distinction, between the person and the teaching. Mohammed, to the Koran. Buddha, to the Noble Path. Krishna, to his philosophizing. Zoroaster, to his ethics.

Whatever we may make of their claims, one reality is inescapable. They are teachers who point to their teaching or show some particular way. In all of these, there emerges an instruction, a way of living… By contrast, Jesus did not only teach or expound His message. He was identical with His message.[9]

Fifth, Ravi discusses Christ and suffering. “Every world-view—not just Christianity’s—must give an explanation or an answer for evil and suffering… The Christian world-view suggest that evil is better posed as a mystery than as a problem.”[10]

Finally, the author shares addresses Christ’s view of the kingdom of God. This is the reason Christ was born according to John’s account.[11] Yet, when asked of his origin, Jesus remains silent. “Jesus’ silence, with all of the implications… drawn, reveal[s] a contrast to others in similar situations who have claimed divine or prophetic status.”[12] This was far more humble than any historic figure of note.

Over all, the book was interesting and worth the read. It was encouraging to meditate on and reaffirm the truths of Christianity. He is very adept at understanding Scripture and relating its sense to every-day living. Yet, Ravi did not address the other religions as much as I had expected and this is an extremely brief summary... I highly recommend checking out the book... it's not too long.

“My earnest prayer is that when you read this, you will make your judgment of the Christian message based on truth, not the mood of our times. Moods change. Truth does not.”[13]

[1] Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods, vii. 
[2] Zacharias, viii, 3-4.
[3] Ibid., 4.
[4] Ibid., 4-5.
[5] Ibid., 27, 31.
[6] Ibid., 33-34.
[7] Ibid., 67. 
[8] Ibid., 79. 
[9] Ibid., 89. 
[10] Ibid., 108-109. 
[11] John 18:37. 
[12] Zacharias, 157.
[13] Ibid., x.

No comments:

Post a Comment