- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Baker Books (January 31, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0801016908
- ISBN-13: 978-0801016905
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.7 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 39 customer reviews
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God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader Paperback – January 31, 2017
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From the Back Cover
Was Jesus just a spiritual leader, like Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, and Muhammad?
Or is he something else entirely?
In God among Sages, Ken Samples presents a biblical and historical portrait of Jesus, grounded in the claims Jesus makes about himself. Then he compares and contrasts Jesus with Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, and Muhammad and explores the competing philosophies of religious pluralism, inclusivism, and exclusivism. The result is a clear understanding of what sets Jesus apart as not simply a teacher to follow but God himself, worthy of our full allegiance and worship.
"Well informed, wise, and sympathetic, this is a readable volume for those interested in exploring world religions and what makes Jesus so unique."--Paul Copan, Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University; author of A Little Book for New Philosophers
"This is not the typical world religions volume that simply provides an information-filled survey of major faith options. Rather, Ken Samples emphasizes an interactive approach, done in a comparative fashion that contrasts strengths, weaknesses, philosophical implications, and historical foundations. I recommend it wholeheartedly."--Gary R. Habermas, distinguished research professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy, Liberty University and Theological Seminary
"There has been a crying need for a book like this, and Ken Samples was clearly the one to write it. This book would be my top recommendation for any Christian, church, or Bible study group that wanted to learn how the Christian faith stacks up against the other great religious traditions."--Craig J. Hazen, professor of comparative religion and apologetics, and founder and director of the Christian apologetics program, Biola University
Kenneth Richard Samples is a senior research scholar with Reasons to Believe, the premier science-faith integration ministry. An adjunct instructor of apologetics at Biola University, Samples is the author of Without a Doubt, A World of Difference, and 7 Truths That Changed the World.
About the Author
Kenneth Richard Samples is a senior research scholar with Reasons To Believe, the premier science-faith integration ministry. An adjunct instructor of apologetics at Biola University, Samples is the author of Without a Doubt, A World of Difference, and 7 Truths That Changed the World. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.
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Citing nearly countless sources that have done deep-dive studies on each of these prominent figures, he demonstrates how comingling them all with Jesus turns out to be a category error. That is, though they were all significant leaders who still influence millions, none of them can be rightfully placed alongside Jesus in terms of their ultimate impact on humankind. Acknowledging indisputable historical facts, contradictory truth claims, different self-stated missions, and radical differences in how their earthly lives played out and ended compared to Jesus, each of these human leaders turned out to be, well, human, and therefore flawed. And it is Jesus alone who demonstrably rises to the level of his own claim to be God incarnate—therefore flawless, victorious over death, and the exclusive path to salvation for all humanity.
Historically fastidious and duly charitable toward these rival teachers and leaders, Samples helpfully assesses them from many angles—their historicity, character, mission, role, and more—and then shows how they stack up to Jesus in the same categories. For example, Muhammed is a historical figure, but the account of his life in the Qur’an is mixed with legend and myth. He claimed to be merely a human prophet and example whose mission was to promote submission to Allah. His moral character was questionable as a polygamist and plunderer, then he died and remains dead. By contrast, the life and work of Jesus is rooted in testable history. He claimed to be God incarnate. His mission was to redeem sinful humanity. He lived a morally perfect earthly life then validated his claim to be Lord and Savior by dying and rising from the dead.
One of the fetching features of his book is how Samples offers summaries of his key analyses in table and chart form throughout for ease of reference and memory—like I will do here to make the key points of this review:
HOW GOD AMONG SAGES IS MOST HELPFUL
• Provides fair and balanced historical portraits of founders of Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Islam
• Neatly shows how major religious leaders’ lives and contributions compare to those of Jesus
• Makes a clear-eyed case for why the person and work of Jesus make him—literally—incomparable
Worth the price of the book by itself is his chapter on religious pluralism. This currently fashionable point of view that we can all find our own equally valid ways to God—politically correct though it may be—gets exposed by the pen of Samples to be deeply flawed and logically absurd.
God Among Sages is a precision instrument for the apologist’s tool kit. If you’re a Christian, this book’s capsule pictures of rival religious leaders will bolster your confidence in defending your faith against advocates for the alternatives described. If you’re not a Christian, reading this book will clarify for you the nature and origin of rival claims and promote your journey toward the truth.
I would probably give this book 4 stars, except for his inclusion of chapter 10. But let me extol some of high points of this book first.
I appreciate and value the time and organization Samples put into presenting a detailed understanding of who the Jesus of the Bible (the historical Jesus) really is and was. Since so many people and religious groups like to borrow and recreate Jesus, it becomes crucial (for Christians) to critically evaluate and evidence Jesus' true identity. Once this is accomplished, then can we articulate the notable differences suggested by other worldviews. IN this book Samples presents a nearly systematic overview of who Jesus is and his defining attributes. Many Biblical passages are offered to demonstrate that Jesus and God (from the Bible) share the same privileges, power and authority.
Other sections help the modern reader to properly identify Jesus as the Messiah, expose false (incompatible) views of Jesus as both Divine and human and some historical non-Christian sources that identify Jesus as a true historical person (with attributes matching those recorded in the Bible). Although not all religious bents are reviewed here, some important history and doctrines are offered concerning major religious and philosophical systems. Wading through religious of philosophical systems is very difficult, and presenting both a summary and critique even more so as so many sub-groups and interpretations exist; come and go - over time. I believe Samples did justice to the groups he addressed, and if you are left dazed and confused by Buddhism or Hinduism - let that be a lesson in the reality of trying to live by an illogical belief system that does not match reality, the rules of logic or the deepest needs of human longing.
I would have preferred a more in-depth analysis of the term Messiah, and how Jesus truly fulfilled this OT prophesy. As in other books that define Jesus as God, it might have been helpful to recreate the cultural and religious context of Jesus' time - and then explain how Jesus did actually make His claims to being God. In other words, what did His :I am" statements mean to that original audience; from what OT passages were they derived etc...
Overall a good compendium of proofs for who Jesus truly was/is and could easily be used in a classroom setting. I might have been pleased with entire book, save the author's expression of his personal doctrine in the 10th chapter. It is here that his 5-point Calvinism came into view, and clouded all his best evangelistic intentions. In his attempt to answer skeptics or questions about the fate of humanity and who might have heard the Gospel, Samples reduces himself to outright MacArthuran dogma. In the process his answers smack of arrogance and must reject or reinterpret all the Scripture that states God's love, sacrifice and offer of salvation "TO ALL" people.
Having chosen to elevate God's sovereignty even above God's love or mercy - Samples suggests that humans cannot seek God, cannot hear, perceive nor come into a saving relationship with Jesus - unless God uniquely selects them from the rest of humanity and first, change/regenerate their hearts and minds. For the rest of humanity well - who are we to judge God? Samples goes further to discredit God's unchanging character by asserting the reports of the Holy Spirit prompting and drawing sinners to Christ in our present day is based upon very rare and only anecdotal accounts. Suggesting that God might be calling people to Himself through visions, dreams or the miraculous is to Samples: not to be expected, extremely rare and contrary to Scripture - so he asserts in chapter 10.
I suggest Samples needs to walk out those Calvinistc doors and spend time with Christian missionaries of different backgrounds. He might find the Holy Spirit is active just as in the Church of Acts. If God is unchanging as this author has stated and supported in this book, then why must we believe God (the Trinity really) acts any differently towards humanity than before? Samples again asserts that "...it is presumptuous and contrary to Scriptural statements to think that..." God would give special (direct) revelation to modern sinners. In fact, Samples continues by stating that "most people who are exposed to the Gospel reject it...". Though Scripture may attests to this truth, neither Samples nor any mortal could amass the necessary empirical evidence to state this. Using this as an argument for being unconcerned with "those who have never heard the Gospel" is incredibly arrogant and lacks Christian love.
Samples should have resisted the urge to present Calvinism in his otherwise good Apologetic book. His last chapter simply creates a capricious God, and does not rightly assess the weight of Scriptural statements concerning God's love for All, and his sacrifice and offer of salvation to All people (1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:14, John 3:16-17, John 4:42). Salvation is absolutely contingent upon a person's faith - belief; but It is my studied opinion that to state that salvation and God's love are not offered to all/everyone is also, contrary to Scripture. 2 Peter 3:9