Christian Book Reviews, Author Interviews, Excerpts

Great Conversations Continue in Zacharias' New Birth

  • Annabelle Robertson Contributing Writer
  • 2008 4 Sep
Great Conversations Continue in Zacharias' <i>New Birth</i>

Author:  Ravi Zacharias
Title:  New Birth or Rebirth?  Jesus Talks with Krishna
Publisher:  Multnomah

When considering the validity of different religions, the most common belief is that they are all fundamentally the same and only superficially different, says Ravi Zacharias.  Zacharias, however, believes otherwise.  The Indian-born scholar and apologist insists that all religions are, at best, superficially similar but fundamentally different. 

If not, he asks, then why would so many religions exact revenge on dissenters?  Why not let someone “convert” to another religion?  And why become furious when others examine or question that worldview?  It all comes back to the premise, however uncomfortable, that all religions subscribe, either explicitly or implicitly, to the notion of exclusive truth.

Based on these observations, Zacharias, an international authority on comparative religions, cults and philosophy, created his Great Conversations, a series of nonfiction teaching books in which Jesus carries on fictional conversations with renowned religious and philosophical leaders.  The first book in the series was The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha.  It was followed by The Lamb and the Fuhrer: Jesus Talks with Hitler and Sense then Sensuality: Jesus Talks to Oscar Wilde on the Pursuit of Pleasure.  Now, in this fourth installment, Zacharias creates a dialogue between Jesus and Krishna, a deity worshipped across many variants of Hinduism, as well as Subramaniam—a real-life Hindu who challenged the religion of his birth and faced immense persecution.

By drawing on the sacred texts of both religions, yet wrapping it around a fictional, modern-day encounter, Zacharias explains a number of Hindu traditions and beliefs, often contrasting them with Christianity.  For example, “Subra,” as he is called, tells Richard (another character who eavesdrops on the conversation) that, according to custom, his father was not allowed to touch him until eleven days after his birth.  The reason for this is that he, a baby, was considered “impure.”  During the ceremony which cleansed him, Subra’s mother was not allowed to be present, because she was considered “unclean” for another 30 days.  Subra also describes in great detail the caste system as well as other interesting ceremonies and rituals.

The most significant portion of the book is dedicated to the dialogue between Krishna and Jesus—and it is here that Zacharias shows his true skill as an apologist.  True to character and Scripture, Zacharias has Jesus sidestep many issues while still maintaining his authority and challenging illogical belief systems.  He quotes Scripture, but he also “argues” his case in surprisingly engaging ways.

Asked who he claims to be, for example, Jesus says merely, “I am.”  He then places Krishna in the kind of double-bind that characterized so many of Jesus’ biblical encounters with skeptics.

It is a huge challenge to portray Christ outside of Scripture, in an imaginary setting.  But it is even more of one to do so in an antagonistic situation.  Zacharias clears these hurdles adroitly and delivers a conversation that is packed with information, and that only occasionally feels false. 

Christians who want to know more about other religions will likely enjoy this, and reach for the other three books in the series.  Hindus who want to know more about Christianity will likely ponder the merits of Jesus’ case, within the framework of their own faith.