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Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths Kindle Edition
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|Length: 353 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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One of the uniquenesses of Connecting Christ is Metzger's inclusion of written responses from leaders in each of the religious traditions he surveys. The critiques themselves are somewhat less charitable than Metzger's various essays, but Metzger clearly welcomes the dialog in any style and form. The communication itself is key; when the conversation ends, then so does hope.
A similar approach to relational-incarnational apologetics can be found in the story of St. Patrick. (See The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George G. Hunter III.)
I am an educator at a Christian High School and I use this book in my World Religions course. When I first read this book in Seminary I knew I was going to use it in the classroom when I became a teacher. I’ve read many different books on religion during both my undergrad and grad years and have never found a book quite like Connecting Christ. It is different on many levels. Rather than surveying the various religions by providing background info or dates and facts, Paul Metzger has integrated the core essence of the World Religions by engaging a leader from within each Religion. This not only helps to communicate what these religions are all about on a personal level, it allows one to sit in on a healthy conversation between a Christian leader and the various World Religious leaders. It is kind of like being a fly on the wall. We’ve all wanted to and now we get to!
While I teach at a Christian high school I do have international students who do not claim to be Christian. I find that these students really appreciate Connecting Christ. One student from South Korea has always felt bogged down with religious jargon and negative interactions with people wanting to force her to believe one way or another. One of her reflections on Connecting Christ was titled “Sunshine from Metzger.” In her reflection she shared an old proverb detailing a dispute between Wind and Sun. The proverb goes something like this. Sun and Wind were having a dispute. Whichever force was able to take the coat off an approaching traveler won the dispute. So Sun hid behind a cloud while Wind blew as hard as it could on the traveler. The harder Wind blew the stronger the traveler’s grip on his coat. After a few minutes Wind gave up. Then the clouds broke open and Sun began to shine down on the traveler. The warmth from Sun caused the traveler to let go of the tight grasp he had on his coat and it soon came off. Sun won and Wind lost. In other words kind-heartedness and gentleness effects more than severity and harshness. My Korean student said for the first time she was able to take her coat off in this conversation of religion. Connecting Christ proved to be a comfortable environment not only for her to express her own thoughts but also listen to a Christian perspective without feeling belittled. To me, this is beautiful, this is positive growth, movement in the right direction, and demonstrates how we ought to be engaging one another in hard conversations of comparing and contrasting the World Religions.
After having read this book with my students I feel like I have equipped them to take the Gospel to whatever career that awaits them. The more I read this book the more I realize it is simply a commentary on Christ’s words, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mark 12:31). Paul Metzger is holding a lamp on a path that is sometimes overlooked simply because it is hard to walk down. This path that I am speaking of is dialoguing with our religious neighbors in a constructive and compassionate way.
Metzger provides a compelling process, relational-incarnational, for evangelism by anchoring it in the Trinity. This roots the motive and "methodology" solely in who God is, while distinguishing it from heterodox views of Christianity (e.g., mormon/LDS and jehovah's witnesses).
The relationships Metzger has with people from other faith traditions means these are not faceless people he is talking about. His friends have heart-felt attitudes that mirror his own attitude toward Christ. What he writes and believes will likely be read by these friends. Misstating what they believe and/or inconsistency in speech, conduct and text, on his part, would have real consequences on his real world relationships.
I particularly enjoyed hearing from other faith adherents. Metzger gives other faith traditions the last word by inviting them to respond to his work. While agreeing to disagree, Metzger and those who respond are not disagreeable. Metzger models a refreshing approach for evangelism that is welcome in a climate that seems to be increasingly strident in spheres such as religion, politics and nationality.
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