Book Review: “Why Jesus?” by Ravi Zacharias (2012)

“Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality”

Image result for why jesus? raviSomething that drives me back again and again to Ravi Zacharias—whether it’s his books, sermons, or Let My People Think radio program—is his unique tendency to defend the Christian faith by first dismantling some of its alternatives. The common saying goes, “The best offense is a good defense”, but I think that Ravi Zacharias has proven to the world that “the best defense is a good offense” as well. He generally spends the opening 80-95% of his works with deep discussions about the errant underpinnings of world philosophies or religions, so that with this as his foundation, he then need only to say but a few words about Christ and the Truth of Scripture to drive his ultimate point home. I love this about him!

Zacharias’ books have become an invaluable, indispensable source of learning for me, because his reason and apologetics have been tested and proven by time and within many of the world’s top universities. I don’t have time to read everything that Freud or Oprah or Hindu gurus have written or taught through the ages, but then again, I don’t need to. I can trust Ravi’s thoroughness in research, his analytical and philosophical mind, and his unwavering loyalty to the written Word of God enough to know that his conclusions about the falsehoods in these errant worldviews matched against the truths of Christ are spot-on.

In this particular book, Zacharias attacks “the New Spirituality,” which covers mostly the polytheistic influences of Eastern mysticism which find their fullest freedom in Hinduism, but which was has also eked its way into Western thinking and spirituality. His introduction to the current state of Hinduism in its various forms was extremely interesting, especially as related by a man who grew up in India, albeit as a nominal Christian. But perhaps the most striking facet of this discussion was his dissection of why people are so distracted by “anything foreign”: Westerners who view ancient Eastern practices like yoga and oils as the cure-alls (despite the fact that these have failed to cure India’s own spiritual/physical diseases and poverty), while Easterners strive after all the pleasures of life the West has to offer (despite the fact that Westerners are no “happier” than anyone else). Using the Beetles’ short fascination with Indian gurus as an example, he pointed out the disillusionment of “foreign spirituality.”

For skeletal support onto which Zacharias can then hang both the delusions of the new spirituality and the truths of Jesus Christ, he spends a number of chapters establishing the backgrounds, tenets, and greatest errors of two leading modern spiritualists, Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra. As noted above, I have zero interest in ever reading books by either charlatan or in ever watching their programs and interviews, so I’m grateful to receive their “resumes” second-hand and filtered through someone who shares my own worldview. While not too many Christians would look to Chopra for advice of any kind, I fear that Oprah has held the ear of many a Christian woman throughout the past decades, and many have likely been duped by her constant affirmations of whatever she find wholesome and healthy (that week). For a healthy smack up-side the head, any such woman should get a taste of this alternative opinion from Dr. Zacharias.

This book really hit home with me the more I read it, not because I personally struggle with drawing lines in the spiritual sands, but because so many of my old college friends do. In fact, when he noticed me reading this book and asked about its content, one such friend (who has himself dabbled in “silence sessions” in Buddhist monasteries in order to rejuvenate himself spiritually) scoffed: “Ravi Zacharias writing about Buddhism!?”

His response angered me, because he—like so many others—has been duped into thinking that the so-called “openness” and “universality” of the new spirituality is somehow more Truth-sensitive (i.e. less contradictory) and more tolerant of other faiths than Christianity is of them! But as Zacharias points out, modern spirituality’s own philosophy of relativism and tolerance falls flat on its face when contemplated with an even remotely rational mind. For one example, how can polytheistic Hinduism and godless Buddhism be equally valid? How do they answer the Buddha’s own rejection of one in favor of the other? If the New Spiritualists were to truly tolerate all faiths, then they would tolerate not simply the contradictory religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, but also Christianity. They would tolerate our rationalistic thinking and rejection of their relativistic. They would tolerate our belief that Christ Jesus is the only Truth and that all else is error. They would even tolerate our evangelism! But of course, they do nothing of the kind. They despise the Word of God, they reject its teachings, they castigate true believers in Christ (especially those who shamelessly proselytize), and they do so on the basis of our intolerable intolerance. How does this not make their own tolerance a sham? And if tolerance, reason, and Truth are absent from the new spirituality, then what in the world is left to admire?

My friends have been blinded. Having grown up in ultra-conservative, fundamentalist Christian homes, they’ve “matured” enough to recognize the legitimate failures of their parents’ denominations, but they’ve also let the pendulum swing way too far in the other direction. Rather than rejecting merely the external flaws of a denominational outgrowth of Christianity, they’ve rejected Christianity entirely (even if they tell me, “I’m simply not that kind of Christian anymore). They’ve rejected Jesus (or at least the Jesus of the Bible, though Chopra’s own “three Jesuses” are still open for debate). It’s been a heartbreaking decade watching these once-logical buddies of mine slowly slink off into the mire of the world, all because they’ve replaced the Word of God with smartphones and their fellow-Christians for drinking buddies, Their biblical worldview has been secularized, their spirituality has been modernized, and their God has been minimized. To paraphrase Psalm 34, they cry: “Oh minimize the Lord with me, and let us diminish his name together!”

Why Jesus? is a blinding light which shines into the darkness of our generation’s unbelief. It’s well worth the read.

©2017 E.T.

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