Saturday, June 11

The Lotus and the Cross by Ravi Zacharias

What would happen if two people, each one key to the following and faith in a different religion, were to have a conversation with each other?  Would the similarities be much greater than thought?  Or would the differences be vaster?  This is the scenario that Ravi Zacharias used to inspire this short book (97 pages), The Lotus and the Cross.   He imagines a conversation between Jesus and Gautama Buddha.

I read this book as a part of a World Religions class at my university when we started talking about Buddhism.  The Lotus and the Cross is written as a conversation, more like a play than a book, without description of movement/location.  They are addressing the concerns of Priya, who Zacharias read about in a paper while visiting and talking with Buddhist in countries where Buddhism has a strong following.  Priya was a young Buddhist woman who ended up in prostitution, contracted HIV, and ended up committing suicide through her frustration with life.  Zacharias wonders what Jesus would’ve told such a woman.  Then he wonders what Buddha would tell her.

Given its structure and its short length, The Lotus and the Cross is not a difficult read at all.  Zacharias has done much research into Buddhism and is known for his work in Christian Apologetics.  His contrast of Buddhism to Christianity is well done and strong to see.  Much of what is presented about Buddhism seems to be a much more readable version of what was in the textbooks I had for my class, and often The Lotus and the Cross was able to better show application of the Buddhist belief, especially contrasted to Christianity.

The one thing that was slightly annoying was the inclusion of some extra characters.  For much of the story Jesus and Buddha are set on a boat, and periodically the boat driver will interject, generally in an attempt for Zacharias to provide some humor to break up the constant discussion on the two faiths.  However the interjections feel extremely forced, break up the rhythm of the book, and were usually way too corny for my taste.

Still, Zacharias obviously has done his research.  This is a great book for those who wish to see the differences between Christianity and Buddhism as written from a Christian perspective.

3.5/5 stars

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