Why Jesus?: Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality Hardcover – Jan 25 2012
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"Ravi Zacharias gives a powerful defence of how Jesus Christ brings meaning and hope to an individual life."―Billy Graham
"Ravi takes a scholarly yet imaginative approach to aplogetics."―Bruce Wilkinson, author of the #1 "New York Times" bestseller The Prayer of Jabez
"The works of Ravi Zacharias are a vital resource around our house."―Frank Peretti
"I am not aquainted with a brighter mind or a more relevant and devoted defender of the faith than Ravi Zacharias."―Charles Swindoll
"To every generation God sends a prophet. Ravi Zacharias is that prophet for this generation. You must hear him."―Josh McDowell
About the Author
Ravi Zacharias is the founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with additional offices in Canada, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. Dr. Zacharias and his wife, Margie, have three grown children.
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Top Customer Reviews
I heard that Ravi Zacharias was a "good" author, and even told my friend that while we were browsing the Christianity section in the bookstore (yes, I bought the book at a real, "brick & mortar" store). But had not read any of his books myself. The subtitle grabbed me, "Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality." Interested in current trends and thought in a post-modern, so-called enlightened culture, I wanted to know what Mr. Zacharias thoughts were. I struggled through the first three chapters and finally threw in the towel part-way into Chapter 4, "From Oprah to Chopra."
The reason for my failure to continue is that Zacharias wasn't saying anything, at least, not anything worthwhile, yet I kept hoping that he would. The book is written as if he is talking, which doesn't make for good reading. The one thing I took away from the first two chapters was that the masses are being manipulated by the media; television being the main culprit, and forming their worldview from that media. The problem is that he could have said that in half as many pages (or less).
As I read, I wondered if he even knew what the words meant, such as "Electronic dissemination became the progenitor of the computer, and now the visual has gone viral with each person having his own network." (p. 28). Huh? What did I just read?Read more ›
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Because he was born in India, raised a Hindu and later converted to Christianity- along with his vast traveling throughout the globe, Ravi is able speak candidly in a way that is sharp and unapologetic, yet still above criticism of a narrow mind. He is respectful and even loving, but also far from politically correct. He even says: "I have been fairly blunt because I want readers to be brutally honest with themselves." (p. 230)
Early on he points out how television has changed our culture and even attacks, yes attacks, Oprah of all people. I mean, who doesn't like her? I was surprised, and my preconditioned - "try not to be offensive to anyone ever"- mentality was shaken. But as I continued to read, I began to understand why he would bother with Oprah or her philosophy. He explains that it is rationally "impossible to sustain truth without excluding falsehood. All religions are exclusive." He shows us how this is true and has a great understanding of Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other world religions.
I love the message of Christ, and the "good news," which it really is! I have never read a philosophy book that was so excited about God's love, and this book is definitely that. You can love God, Jesus and the Bible and not throw reason out the window. This book is not light reading but it is clear that Ravi loves Christ and is passionate about His truth. He says: "the message of Jesus is beautiful and magnificent and life-changing... Spirituality is not good enough. Jesus proclaims the truth- that is why it must exclude all that is contrary to it... his message bridges the greatest gulf within us- that is why it is relevant even today. (p. 269)
I will definitely read more of Ravi Zacharias' work. I have been a Christian for a long time, but I haven't been exposed to the gods of other world religions like I was in this book. I never fully understood how loving and gracious the God of the Bible is compared to the others. I will leave you with two, out of the many quotes I could have chosen, to show this point:
"...Belief in the equal value of every life is a bequest only of the Christian faith." (p. 106)
"God alone knows how to humble us without humiliating us and how to exalt us without flattering us... this is the grand truth of the Christian message" (p. 59)
In chapter one after a scintillating discussing of movie making agendas in the East and the West he writes, "Why are we always beguiled by something foreign? In the West, Eastern mysticism is `in' -chants, sounds, and practices with foreign words have made an appeal of culture-shifting proportions- while in the East, where these very same techniques have been tried for centuries, many are disillusioned and seeking solace somewhere else. Before me the entertainment elite of the East gave their full attention to a talk on `Why Jesus Is the Ultimate,' while in the West, entertainers are looking toward the East for their answers."
In the first half to about seventy percent of the way into the book Ravi tackles what he calls "Weastern" thought - a hybrid of western and eastern thought blended into one. He takes the time to demonstrate how eastern thought has penetrated the west, and how western thought has penetrated the east. He cogently and brilliantly synthesizes how this has taken place through the medium of television, philosophy, religion, and irreligion and highlights old and modern voices alike. Zacharias weaves the themes of induction, seduction, deduction, and reduction among these differing mediums of communication resulting in a "New Spirituality."
Ravi makes so many excellent observations with reference to the "New Spirituality" that it would make for a very long review were I to recount the excellencies of his presentation. On the postmodern influences of the likes of Michael Foucault and Jacques Derrida on "Weasternism" he writes about the authority of the "New Spirituality" in this fashion by way of a modern tale:
"In the beginning, God. God spoke. But that was a long time ago. We wanted certainty--now. For this, only Reason and Rationalism would do. But that was not enough. We wanted to `test.' So we went into the senses and found the empirical. But that's not what we meant by testing. We really meant `feeling.' So we found a way to generate feeling into the picture. Truth was framed into a scene. But the scene was left open to interpretation. Scenes are not absolute. So the story was told as an art form. But the reader still didn't like it, because he was not the author. So he read the story while he sat in a reconstructed and deconstructed cubicle to make of the story whatever he wished. But what does one do with the long reach of the empirical? The best way was to find a blend between the empirical and the satirical and end up with God again. The only difference was that God could not be the storyteller. We still needed God. So we became God."
Ravi talks about Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, and various other "isms" and demonstrates how people in the East like Deepak Chopra, and people in the West like Oprah Winfrey have developed syncretistic systems of thought that have blended eastern and western thinking and religion. One interesting example of this mixing is when he quotes Elizabeth Lesser when she writes of the difference between the "Old Spirituality" and the "New Spirituality:"
AUTHORITY: In the "old" spirituality authority is held by the church; in the "new" spirituality the individual worshipper has authority to determine what is best for him or her.
SPIRITUALITY: In the old spirituality God and the way to worship have already been defined and the worshipper just follows the rules; in the new spirituality the worshipper defines spirituality for him- or herself.
THE PATH TO GOD: In the old spirituality there is only one way to God, all else is wrong; in the new spirituality there are unlimited paths or combinations of paths one can follow...you can string a necklace all your own making.
SACRED: In the old spirituality parts of yourself are considered evil (the body, ego, emotions) and must be denied, transcended, or sublimated; in the new spirituality anything goes.
TRUTH: In the old spirituality truth is knowable and constant. Leading to the same answers at every stage of life; in the new spirituality you never quite arrive at the truth as it is constantly changing to accommodate your growth.
Zacharias responds to Lesser in this manner, "With the safety net she has provided for determining truth, who can ever fall? The evangelist from the Old Spirituality pleaded with his audiences to `invite Jesus into your heart'; the New Spirituality tell you to invite yourself into your heart."
Ravi spends the rest of the book answering the following questions: Why Jesus? What difference does it make what you believe? Is truth really even knowable? Could it be that postmodern spirituality is really the expression of a universal hunger rather than an answer to anything? What are the deep-seated questions that drive the quest for spirituality? Why is it that in the West we seem to have discarded the message of Christ, while in the East they have begun to realize that he is the one they are looking for?
Ultimately all worldviews and religions need to examine their beliefs and views and answer these three unavoidable questions: 1) How do they handle the question of exclusivity as it relates to their own belief? 2) What is the ultimate source of their authority for belief and behavior? And 3) How relevant is what they believe to the common experience and what difference does it make?
According to Zacharias correspondence to facts and systematic coherence are the test for any worldview. In constructing a good worldview they must consist of the following eight components:
"A good worldview must have a strong basis in fact. This point alone has a two-edged reality: First, can the assertion being made be tested against reality? And second, is the assertion clearly false? If one assertion in the system is clearly false or cannot be tested against reality, there is a failure to meet the test of truth."
"A good worldview must have a high degree of coherence or internal consistency."
"A good worldview must give a reasonable and logical explanation for the various undeniable realities that we sense all around us.
"A good worldview will avoid the two extremes of either being too complex or too simplistic."
"A good worldview is not explained by just one line of evidence."
"A good worldview must explain contrary worldviews without compromising its own essential beliefs."
"A good worldview cannot argue just on the basis of private experience, but must have some objective standard of measurements."
"A good worldview must justifiably explain the essential nature of good and evil, since those two alternatives are principal characteristics differentiating human beings from all other entities or quantities."
Two thousand years ago when Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah in Luke 4 on the Sabbath day in the Synagogue, and stood up and read, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed be to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. Then he rolled back the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Ravi comments on this passage and concludes in this manner, "This is the message of freedom for those in bondage, a message that will open the eyes of our darkened spirituality to the bright light of his grace, that will convince a Church to live the love of God by taking care of the poor and taking up the cause of the oppressed, that assures us there is an end of time where eternity awaits, and that all who long for his presence will live in the fulfillment of their faith to the grand consummation of seeing the Ultimate One, face-to-face....It is in him [Jesus] that we find it all."
Zacharias meticulously and clearly shows in this book the miserable failure of the "New Spirituality" to deliver on any of these 8 components that make up for a coherent and compelling worldview. On the other hand, in a very captivating manner he demonstrates how all of the best thinking of the west and east when brought together converge in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth - and the worldview known throughout the world as "Christianity."
I highly recommend this book because it makes a compelling case for the cogency of Christianity, and helps you to understand where eastern and western thought have large "holes" that can only be filled with the water of life by the same Jesus who said that in Him we will never thirst again - spiritually.
Ravi challenges the truthfulness of contemporary religion--mostly, what he calls "New Spirituality"--in the early pages of his book, and promises to steer us away from mass marketed shallowness toward the Truth. Capital T. It's a noble quest.
Says Ravi, "I have followed through on my promise to pursue truth and have devoted my life to the study and understanding of all the major religions and systems of belief in the world." He poses a question: "If the truth is so important [in the courtroom], how much more important is it in the search for the spiritual answers to our deepest hungers?" He quotes Winston Churchill: "The most valuable thing in the world is the truth." He concludes, "Nothing is so destructive as running from the truth."
With this intoxicating buildup, he raises our expectations for great revelation. Yes, Ravi! Bring us the TRUTH! Can I hear an amen?
Instead, Ravi embarks on a 272-page quest to discredit the competition (Ravi has a serious thing about Chopra and Oprah, and their feel-good religions; at least a quarter of the book is dedicated to the "deplorable and manipulative" Deepak Chopra). I kept waiting to learn about Jesus. Why Jesus? The best answer I could find is that Ravi likes Jesus-the-person, the man who befriended sinners and played with children on his lap. Jesus "makes reality beautiful." Well, heck, I think Jesus is cool, too.
Five stars if you love passionate ridicule and prefer attack to defense. One star if you're hoping to uncover a reason to turn to Jesus. Ravi keeps promising, but never delivers ... he actually never even tries, beyond a few of his own feel-good descriptions in the final few pages.
Tell you what--my next review will be a book with an identical title: "Why Jesus?" We'll see if a second attempt makes more progress.
The book begins in an engaging manner by opening with a description of the film Inception, linking the movie's dream-reality dilemma to our present situation with spirituality: What is real and what is imagined? As you can probably figure, Zacharias uses this as analogy to describe the dream that is New Spirituality, that it's an myth entirely based on fiction and contradictions, and over the time it has become so immersed into the minds of people in our society that it now appears to be a reality to many. In the next few chapters, Zacharias speaks about various New Age figures in the media today, including Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra. Zacharias explores each of their views and critiques them from a rational and sometimes philosophical mindset. Then in Chapter 6 and a few chapters after, Zacharias speaks about Hinduism and how much of the New Spirituality is basically Hinduism (and Buddhism) at its core, repackaged and represented to the Western audience, which really makes no demands on its participants, but caters more to psychological needs and is based on relativism. In the last few chapters, Zacharias explains the uniqueness of Jesus and how He is the answer to the human longing that New Spirituality cannot fill.
The book is a solid one. It is an excellent critique on New Spirituality and shows how that mindset is flawed and not grounded in truth. The author does an interesting job of exploring the influences of New Spirituality and linking it to its Hindu and Buddhist roots. However, the discussion on "Why Jesus" seems to be lacking a bit. The book seems like it could have been titled "The Silliness of New Spirituality" rather than a book about Jesus. Jesus was only discussed in depth in the last few chapters of the book. It would have been great to use Jesus throughout to illustrate who He is and how He would respond to the theories and philosophies of pop culture today. More importantly, the author should have talked more about the gospel message, because if this book is aimed at nonbelievers as well (with the hopes of bringing them to saving faith), we want to see why Jesus is so special, and the gospel message of His death, resurrection, and salvation has much to do with that. This is what distinguishes Jesus from the other religions in the world. Regardless, the book is still a very good one, well written and intriguing in many ways.
Overall, I give this book a good recommendation. You'll definitely like it if you want to know more about the truth of New Age Spirituality and why it can't compare to what Jesus offers in His salvific plan. I think this is a good book to give to people in New Age Spirituality who want to know more about the truth of their own practices and the truth of Jesus. I wouldn't say this book is the perfect evangelistic tool, but it's a good starter to start stirring up thought and curiosity.
Note: I received this book free from Faith Words for review on my blog. I was not obligated to write a good review, only my honest opinion.
I was raised in a very intellectual "open-minded" agnostic home. Jesus was a bad word in our house because of all the harm Christianity has caused, which Ravi does not deny.
My Jewish father disowned his own faith because as a child he was called a Christ killer.
As a child I was so hungry for rules and honesty, and found none. I became a worshipper of my own intellect. And there was no God in our home...only the vague idea of peace on Earth.
I must give Universalism some credit. I went to the Unity Church and for the first time felt the presence of God in my empty heart. I was elated. However, it was "everything is good"... it lacked what only Christianity offers; an honest look into one's selfish nature. I ended up getting a divorce...because it was all about my personal happiness. And secular counseling is the same way; proactive choices made in MY best interest.
I remarried and lived a life of "love" without logic. After that devastating divorce about three years ago, I was back on the internet with an offering of several old and new "Weastern" people. (You MUST read the book to fully appreciate this term.)
I spent ALOT of money and have more spiritual/self-help books then I care to admit. I was a self-help addict...just what the gurus wanted. And then I noticed something VERY interesting... all these gurus knew each other and sold each other's products. Alot of people are trying to get on this bandwagon... IT IS HUGE. Many Christians have marketed in the same way and were corrupt. Ravi talks about that too.
The only thing positive I have to say, is that in my purchases I did come across some very good and decent techniques for meditation and cognitive techniques that did help me to learn to quiet my mind. These and learning to be present in the "now" also assist in my walk with God. The Bible addresses all these necessary components, but it does not offer any of the techniques for practice. So I did at least get something for my time and money. I do use some eastern techniques... but only to aid my practice in a Christian doctrine.
I often wondered how to feel "love" toward white light. I love how Ravi explains the necessity to love "something". Jesus fits the bill 100% for the perfect parent(which we all need), and honest/loving friend.
The only thing I am sad about is I REALLY WANT RAVI TO MARKET THIS BOOK. I know he is in a catch-22. He cannot promote this book like the other gurus...because he will be accused of the same. I would love nothing more for than this book to be on the best-seller list. It won't be. Why? The same reason Jesus was crucified...honesty is not popular.