Reza Aslan’s new book, “Zealot” has sure been getting a lot of attention lately.
At first, it seemed like it was going to be one of those Facebook things that everyone would post, and then forget about the next day. You know the post—the semi-controversial Fox News interview where the interviewer asked over and over why a Muslim would want to write a book about Jesus. Although he answered her, he also later wrote extensively about why in a CNN blog.
Although the controversy over the Fox News interview seems to have waned some, the book has still gained much attention, and has continued its success at the top of the bestseller lists. If you are not yet familiar with the book, it is supposedly a more historically-accurate description of who the real Jesus was, plus how and why a religion was based after him. Sound familiar? It seems books such as these pop up every now and then—with a similar mix of fact, theory taught as fact and a presumably intentional omission of the arguments that point to the historical reliability of the gospels as well as other Christian apologetic material. These books will sometimes end up as bestsellers.
I was working as a sales associate at Barnes and Noble the time “The DaVinci Code” and “Misquoting Jesus” was flying off the shelves. But they weren’t the only ones. “The Purpose Driven Life” and the final installments of the “Left -Behind” series—plus their non-fiction counterparts and spin-off series—were also flying off the shelves. Not to mention the non-fiction Christian rebuttals of “DaVinci Code.” I was in charge of the Art and Religion section, and I remember we could hardly keep up with demand.
As one anonymous customer put it (paraphrasing), “You wanna stir up a bee’s nest, just the name of Jesus.”
After 2000 years, there is no other name that will spark a wildfire of controversy than the name of Jesus. This is, to me, an affirmation that there is a power in the spiritual realm that wants to squash this name—and this name only. That is because in the natural/physical realm, everyone wants to know who this Jesus really is—Christians want to know more, Buddhists want to know more, Muslims want to know more, atheists want to know more, agnostics want to know more—everyone wants to know more. Jesus is the most famous, most loved, most hated, most debated and therefore most curious man in history.
It is therefore, no wonder why this “Zealot” book has gotten so much attention. It is scholarly, regardless of whether it is accurate or not. And for those of us who truly believe there is a hidden agenda in the spiritual realm, this book contains a little bit of truth mixed with (presumably unintentional) lies; and unless we have the foreknowledge of where those lines blur, we will not be able to accurately combat those falsehoods to our curious friends and family who want to know the truth.
That is why I have put so much emphasis in this blog on apologetics. This is the era when curious onlookers are taking a scholarly look at all things Biblical. We must understand the arguments and give accurate answers. And if we don’t know the answer, we should have knowledge of resources that can help us point someone in the direction of answering their questions.
This is certainly not the only witness we have—and is not the only reason why people are leaving the church, as noted so well by Rachel Evans in one of her recent blog posts and in Tim Morey’s book “Embodying Our Faith,” which I have extensively written about. However traditional apologetics is an increasingly important component to effectively witness to our millennial/postmodern culture.
- Reza Aslan Hits No. 1 After Fox News Interview (mediabistro.com)
- The Aftermath of Reza Aslan’s Fox Interview (on.aol.com)
- Reza Aslan on his FOX News interview: “I completely understand where Lauren Green is coming from … I kind of feel bad for her” (piersmorgan.blogs.cnn.com)
- Reza Aslan Muslim misrepresents scholarly credentials during Fox News interview (fireandreamitchell.com)