Internationally known evangelist and author Ravi Zacharias has never been one to shy away from difficult subjects. In his latest book, WHY JESUS?, he tackles a subject that is difficult primarily in its scope: four decades of American religious life that he says has resulted in an "a la carte" spirituality that runs counter to genuine faith in Christ.
"'We need to be grateful for at least one thing that the New Spiritualists have done,' he writes. 'They have awakened us to a place of our need.' Through WHY JESUS?, Zacharias does an excellent job of supporting that assertion."
Authentic faith in Christ, Zacharias writes, can be based only on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as revealed in the Bible, the only source of truth. But truth has fallen out of favor among the various forms of contemporary spirituality, with proponents of what he calls the New Spirituality encouraging people to discard faith, reason, relevance and truth and instead embrace relativism. In the process, Jesus has been demoted from His rightful place as the resurrected Son of God to the role of admired leader, wise teacher and influential prophet.
In making his point, Zacharias takes on some of the icons of Western culture, most notably bestselling author Deepak Chopra, who gets little to no sympathy from him. Chopra, a highly educated doctor, has used his extensive academic background and medical experience to lend credibility to --- and, as the author writes, make a considerable income from --- his theory of "quantum healing," a process in which the healing of the mind results in the healing of the body. Zacharias devotes a fair number of pages to refuting what Chopra teaches and even expresses how frustrating it is that he is not able to explore Chopra's philosophy in greater depth.
Zacharias also denounces others who have contributed to the popularity of "Weastern" (a mix of Western and Eastern) spirituality, including authors James Redfield, Eckhart Tolle and Rhonda Byrne, and, not surprisingly, mega-icon Oprah Winfrey. In most cases, the advocates of New Spirituality couch their message in such an unclear but lofty-sounding manner that Zacharias, who has studied their works for years, claims they end up saying nothing of substance. He writes that apparently "gurus can get away with saying nothing if they cloak it in ponderous terminology."
One of the most intriguing discussions in the book is Zacharias's examination of the ever-vanishing line between reality and fantasy, as portrayed in movies like Inception, in which dreams can be shared by people sleeping near each other, and in the lives of actors like Charlie Sheen, who defended his real-life behavior on the basis of his sitcom character's behavior. He also cites actor Heath Ledger's descent, right before his death, into an existence in which the line separating Ledger from his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight had all but been erased.
Zacharias also exposes the failed teachings of the New Age and human potential movements, the growing belief that we are all gods who need to unearth our own divinity, and the idea that Christianity is not unique among religions but is simply another path to God. But he also examines the failure of the church to respond to false teachings and to vigorously uphold the truth of Jesus' resurrection, as well as other beliefs that are unique to Christianity.
"We need to be grateful for at least one thing that the New Spiritualists have done," he writes. "They have awakened us to a place of our need." Through WHY JESUS?, Zacharias does an excellent job of supporting that assertion.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on January 19, 2012