124 of 128 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2005
I'm a skeptic when it comes to little books that are supposed to pack a big punch. They seem shallow, glib, and over-simplified. Usually.
I read "Dinner with a Perfect Stranger" in one sitting. Yes, it's short; yes, it's simple; but it's also profoundly moving. There are no big surprises--a few little ones--and no hit-you-in-the-gut emotional twists. Instead, the author moves us through this meal with Jesus in such a way that I wanted to kick back and have coffee and dessert too. I wanted to meet Jesus face to face and ask some of my own questions.
The author handles many subjects within his dinner conversation, and he does so with grace and wisdom. Nick Cominsky, our main character, deals with Jesus in sarcastic tones, and Jesus responds in ways that seem downright believable, wise, and funny. I liked this realistic tone of the dialogue. Sure, the author could've gone much deeper into certain issues, but he leads us to the bottom line of Christianity: a personal relationship with Jesus based on faith instead of good works.
If you believe the Bible, this book is a breath of fresh air; if you don't believe, this book may cause you to reconsider things. Either way, it's well done and well worth an hour of your time.
137 of 147 people found the following review helpful
I received this book from an aunt who has recently "rediscovered" her Christian-self and ever-since has been proselytizing to me, in an effort to convert me I suppose. While her intentions are pure and her motivation is love, I must confess I wasn't exactly excited to hear she had another book for me.
I almost tossed this book to the side, but upon inspecting it further - it looked like a quick read. I skimmed through it a bit, and the premise seemed at once both intriguing and a bit silly. But after thumbing through some pages and finding enough food for thought to at least catch my interest for an afternoon I actually ended up reading it in one sitting.
I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. The book is told from in a first person narrative form, as an average modern man receives a dinner invitation from Jesus. He thinks it is a practical joke, or a ploy from a local church - but later finds it is the real deal.
As another reviewer noted this book is really not much more than a sermon disguised as a story, but as sermons go this one was enjoyable, and thought provoking. I'm an agnostic myself, so I never claim allegiance to, nor deny any religion in particular. I found the view of Christianity portrayed in this book to be much less harsh than I expected. Very little in the way of guilt, god-fearing, bible-beating or any of that evangelical non-sense. In fact there's no fire and brimstone at all. While the book does present a clear-cut view, and certainly positions it's own view of Christianity as THE truth, it's more centered around the true values of the religion of Love, Trust in God, and God's compassion and love for us all, rather than focusing on the evils of sin and using guilt and fear. It draws readers in and uses the main character to invoke both empathy and critical thinking.
This less-conservative view is really more about the essence of Christianity, and less about the formalities. There's little in the way of preaching exact rules, and at times even puts down church hierarchy and organized religion. It very much stresses a personal relationship with God and Jesus - and in that sense could have been written by Martin Luther himself as it seems to have a very protestant informal view of the religion.
It does in the first half present a logical basis for both 1) The existence of God, and 2) that Christianity is the one true religion. Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam are all discussed in one way or another and are ultimately discredited. Islam in particular is dismissed as being misinformed, hypocritical, and plain erroneous in it's teachings. Buddhism and Hinduism and other religions with a pantheistic view are dismissed on flimsy argument that the universe MUST have a creator and that all cannot be one - something with which I disagree with personally. Jesus gets our story teller to admit that modern science proves the universe had a set beginning - which I really don't believe coincides with modern physics which has many theories which suggest the universe is a constant cycle of explosion and implosion. Judaism is never really referenced, because Christianity stems from it - but there is a discussion on how we can be sure Jesus really is/was the messiah, which seems to indirectly address modern Judaism which essentially just denies Jesus being the son of God and rejects the new testament.
While it successfully pokes holes into other major world religions and does do an ok Job addressing the most common questions and logical problems/misunderstandings of Christianity, I found the totality of its argument to be less than infallible. Those holes are where Jesus stresses trust. Paradoxes abound, we are never given complete answers - but the holes here we are told to just have faith, while the holes in other religions are used as proof for their being inherently flawed.
Still, I found the book enjoyable, interesting, and refreshing in a sense. Sure it's a sermon in a story, but it's a good-hearted one. And at least it's vision of Christianity is quaint and true to the quintessential nature of itself. The image of Jesus sitting down and dining humbly with an ordinary man, the emphasis on love, and the constant insistence that God's ultimate desire is not to be worshiped or to have you earn your way to heaven but to have you accept his free gift of forgiveness and love is very warming in an age where fundamentalism in all religions seems on the rise. Only momentarily does the book discuss hell or provoke any sort of fear or talk of damnation and it doesn't really go too much into that. Whether that is just to try and get you in the door or whether that is the author's view on his faith - that love and compassion, not fire and brimstone are what jesus was about - that's to the reader's own opinion.
All in all, if you're in the mood to contemplate religion, or want a glimpse of a humble and (I believe) more true look at what Christianity really is (or should be) all about - then read this book. This book may be selling something, but it's no telemarketer or car salesman - it's more of a helpful clerk in the electronics dept that will tell you just what they really think and let you decide for yourself. While I did not like how easily the book was willing to toss aside other schools of thought, nor how the book made it seem that evidence (historical and physical) was so clear-cut in Christianity's favor, I did enjoy reading it and if nothing else it reminds me just what a beautiful religion Christianity really is, something that can get lost on many in a day where the loudest voices are those of Jerry Falwell, the Christian Coalition and other militant conservative extremists.
My Aunt may be a long ways from converting me, but if she had to give me a book Im glad it was this one, as I did enjoy it over-all and found it an interesting read.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2005
The invitation came to him at the office. Perfect in every respect from the Crane stationery it was embossed on to the choice of place-an upscale Italian restaurant. Only one problem, the invitation is from Jesus. It has to be some sort of joke. If it is, it's an expensive one.
Nick Cominsky is a 30-something strategic planner with a lovely wife, Mattie, and a toddler daughter, Sara. Life should be great, but it's not. His 60-70 hour workweeks have stressed his relationship with Mattie. And there are things going on at work that just aren't right, but Nick feels powerless to do anything about it.
So Nick spends the next three weeks thinking about the invitation, wondering who sent it, and saying nothing to anyone. And on the day of the dinner invitation he goes-more out of curiosity than anything else. And he meets a man his age in a blue suit who answers to the name Jesus and claims to have been born in Bethlehem.
For the next several hours Nick has more than a meal. He throws up every objection he has to organized religion in any form-and gets no argument from Jesus. Instead he gets answers to all the things that have caused him pain and grief in his life. That includes what he can do to heal his marriage and most of all what it means to have a way to God, rather than a path-and why the difference is so important. And he learns who put his dinner guest up to sending him the invitation in the first place.
For the reader who has had more questions than answers about God-this book is for you. For the reader who has found God, but doesn't know how to answer the question-"Why should there be only one way?"-this book is for you. And to readers who want their walk to match their talk-this book is for you. I highly recommend it.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2005
I picked up this book becuase of two things (1) it sounded interesting and (2) having been a little out of sorts with my faith I was hoping it would help awaken my desires for Christ. well it didn't fail on both levels, this book is maybe the best way to present the Gospal story to anyone who is curious about Jesus, or God and that is dabbling in what is called "Vending Machine Spirituality" which is being spiritual when it best fits a personal agenda. David Gregorie's story of Nick meeting Jesus for dinner and having a dinner conversation and getting to ask and test Jesus about the hard questions is brilliant and is in line with true Christian and Biblical Doctrine, unlike the best selling Conversations with God series by new age Author Neal Donald Walsch.(be afraid very afraid)
This book also serves as a return to the truth book for someone who maybe has lost their way (as I was!) in the sense that it reintroduces the main fact of christianity that god loves and never leaves us and has our best at heart in all things ( even those that we can't seem to understand)
This is an easy read as i was able to put finish in just over an hour but it will serve as a book that you will refer to again and again. makes a great gift for that someone in your life that either needs to know God for the first time or needs to be re-introduced to him in a whole new way.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2005
I found this book at a local retailer and gave it to myself as a stocking stuffer. It is December 26. I read the book in one night! It had me in tears on a couple of occasions because of the truths that are in the book that I needed to hear. It really is a great read for believers and no-believers alike. There is so much information in this book that has been historically and scientifically documented... Mr. Gregory really did his homework! I already have a couple of people in mind that I am going to loan the book to! Highly recommended!
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2006
"Dinner with a Perfect Stranger" is a charming little book, easily read over the course of several evenings or even one sitting. It provides a pleasant little story about a man who shares a dinner conversation with Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
The concept is clever, and the dialogue is sufficiently engaging. I suppose that my primary disappointment was the lack of depth in their conversation. Maybe this speaks to my own expectations of Christ more than anything else, but I would expect a hour of conversation with Jesus to hit some harder issues than this book covers.
The critique of world religions seemed a bit too quick and contrived.
And my biggest irritation is the praise of the book on the first page that puts it in the same category as "Mere Christianity." That's a stretch if ever I've heard one. "Mere Christianity" is truly one of the most profound and resilient Christian books written in the 20th century. David Gregory's fictional dinner story will simply not have such a legacy.
The best part of this book is the personal character of Jesus that shines throughout the entire evening. I could see from this account why He drew thousands to Him when He lived on the earth.
I'm glad that I read this book, as it gave me another touchpoint into the person of Christ. However, I will put it on a bookshelf and eventually forget about it, as it lacked sufficient depth to really engage and captivate me.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2005
A coworker loaned me the book. The book presents Jesus in a non-threatening way. Jesus cares for the protagonist in a personal way as he explains who he is and why he is the most important person in history. Jesus rebuts a few attacks related to other religions and not forcing himself on us. All this through a dinner conversation. In the end, the book is a good evangelistic tool that presents Jesus in his fullness, but more of a loving warm fuzzy than a judgmental hammer. I liked it so much that I ordered five copies to give away to searching friends.
Basically, a lite read as well. And the author has much the same gift that Rick Warren shows in "Purpose Driven Life", in that he takes complicated principles and simplifies them down to easy-to-understand truths without any dilution of meaning. You'll love it, whether you are a Christian (any denomination) or not.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2007
Author David Gregory asks a unique question in this fine novel; would you agree to an invitation to have dinner with Jesus?
Nick Cominsky, the main character in the novel, must answer that very question for himself. Nick is a successful businessman who has a loving wife and young daughter. But, he works many hours each week, and he has very little time for his family. Mattie, his wife, tries to understand, but its clear that Nick's large number of hours away from her and their daughter is beginning to take its toll. Nick realizes this, and he is reluctant to accept a dinner invitation he just received, because he knows it means another late night away from his family.
However, he is intrigued by the invitation. The name on the card says "Jesus". Nick immediately suspects a prank by some of his colleagues, so he heads to the appointed restaurant with much skepticism. Upon arriving, however, he sees no hint of any of his friends; only a man dressed in a suit and tie waiting for him at a table.
Upon taking his seat, the stranger introduces himself as Jesus. Nick is surprised, but its clear from the outset that he doesn't believe that this man could possibly be Jesus. However, what unfolds over the course of the evening soon transforms Nick. The two men discuss everything from world religions to the existence of heaven and hell. Nick's skepticism disappears, being replaced by questions of his own morality and ultimately, his own place in God's kingdom.
As the evening ends, Nick feels completely different. He realizes who this person really was, and he rushes home to his own Bible. There, he begins reading from the book of Revelation, which says: "Here I am! Stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me". Nick knocked on that door.
This is an excellent book. I became engrossed in it as soon as I opened it. I enjoyed watching Nick's transformation from unbelieving skeptic to new believer. The author's depiction of Jesus as an ordinary person was pure genius, because that's exactly the way Jesus wants people to view him. I wish the story could have went on longer.
I give this book my highest recommendation. There are many questions which are revealed and discussed between Jesus and Nick which will leave the reader with something to think about, but I was most impressed with the design of the story. What a clever way to discuss Jesus' relationship with people.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
In many ways, I found this book interesting. The idea of the conversation over dinner is a good one, and trying to present Jesus in an accessible, personable and personal way. However, as I read through the details, it seems that, unless one starts from the standpoint of having faith, this won't be too convincing. I would hate to think that faith rests primarily on the simple lack of ability to ask more penetrating questions.
This is a book that those with a conservative, more fundamentalist outlook on Christianity will find enjoyable, and perhaps even useful in crafting their own arguments and points for discussion amongst themselves and with their friends. It is not a book that is likely to convince those who don't already have a predisposition toward sola scriptura Christianity.
There are a few things that disturb me a bit in this book. The first is that Gregory seems to take a high-school debate approach to many of the conversational pieces. In fact, Gregory admits through the speech of his character that some of the conversation is likened to that. Gregory hopes that it will go farther than that, and in some cases, it does, but in others, he uses very traditional argumentation, both in substance and method, in an attempt to prove his case.
One such example of this deals with the resurrection itself - Gregory has Jesus asking, in different ways, what the disciples would have to gain or what motivation they might have in perpetuating a falsehood, that Jesus was raised from the dead. Unfortunately, the discussion ends with a topic-shift into some of the worst bits of Christian history (Crusades, Salem witch trials, Inquisition, etc.) before coming to a conclusion. In fact, even the gospel writers knew that there were tales circulating about the resurrection being a fraud; hence the inclusion of the stories about the Temple hierarchy being worried about this possibility. The truth is, the resurrection is not a matter for logical proving, but rather a matter of faith. There is something of a disservice here in trying to make it something one can rationally prove.
One other item that disturbs me somewhat is Gregory's portrayals of other religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam are presented almost as straw-man characters to be pushed aside quite readily. While Gregory's Jesus argues the Second Law of Thermodynamics to disprove the Hindu concept of an eternal universe, there are two problems that arise - one, that modern science might ultimately settle on another theory of cosmic origins and maintenance than what we have at present, and second, that the idea of a non-eternal universe simply shifts the question from 'what is the origin of the universe?' to 'what is the origin of God?' To then simply say that God is self-sufficient begs the question. To point out the faults of other religions to then be able to dismiss them, but then not dismiss Christianity over its own difficulties (even when they are freely admitted) again raises the issue that this is written by a writer who is already so much in the faith that his objectivity cannot be engaged in this regard. He misses his own assumptions in this regard.
This is not an impartial meeting - the Jesus Gregory's diner meets with is a decidedly fundamentalist Jesus. Gregory betrays his more fundamentalist interpretations of the bible in subtle ways - that Gregory has Jesus stating that the Bible had over 40 authors, all of whom had a consistent message, speaks to a more fundamentalist interpretation of the bible in several ways. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with this view of the bible necessarily, but it does make one wonder if a person is trying to present a conversation as not being tied to a particular religious framework, why he makes these kinds of statements that clearly place him in certain interpretative camps.
The book reads a bit like a play, or perhaps a kind of performance-play sermon. I could see it easily being used for adult study groups as well as for individual reflection and reading. Gregory's writing style is engaging, and he gives a good dialogue and good descriptive narrative throughout this tale.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2005
This book is absolutely incredible. It is about a dinner invitation, which takes place now in time, from Christ himself to a man he chose. In that dinner they discuss Himself and compare other religions to Him. What comes in place is fantastic.
I encourage Christians and non Christians to read this for reenforcement and to clear doubts.
God has superblessed the author.