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New Birth or Rebirth? Jesus Talks with Krishna

By Ravi Zacharias

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Ravi Zacharias: Jesus Talks with Krishna

Courtesy of The B&B Media Group – World-renowned speaker and author Ravi Zacharias is a recognized authority on apologetics, comparative religions, and philosophy.  In his new book, New Birth or Rebirth? Jesus Talks with Krishna (Multnomah, 2008), Zacharias weaves an intricate and philosophically rich narrative that guides readers through the basic tenets of both Christianity and Hinduism. 

Drawing on the sacred texts of both religions, he has crafted an imagined conversation between Jesus, Krishna, and Subramaniam, a twentieth-century Hindu who has closely examined both faiths. Zacharias recently discussed his book.

Hinduism is an incredibly complex belief system.  As a Christian apologist, why did you decide to take on this particular topic?

Krishna is revered by millions of people worldwide, and writing on any figure honored that greatly is difficult.  But I am doing so because the one notion to which all religions subscribe (either explicitly or implicitly) is the notion of exclusive truth.  Populists like to deny that premise, but all religions either make this claim or try to covertly smuggle it in.  My premise is that the popular aphorism that “all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different” simply is not true.  It is more correct to say that all religions are, at best, superficially similar but fundamentally different.  I have, therefore, selected to write about what I consider to be the greatest differences between Jesus and Krishna.

What sources guided the tone and content of the imaginary dialogue between Jesus and Krishna?

As always, putting words in the mouths of historical figures is a challenge.  I have done my best to take ideas straight from what has already been quoted in each faith’s sacred texts and put them into context here. 

Besides Jesus and Krishna, are there any other characters in the book?

Yes.  I have introduced a third personality who can raise questions legitimately, since any known conversations between Jesus and Krishna do not exist.  This third character, Subramaniam, was a real person.  Born a Hindu in the early part of the twentieth century, his is one of the most remarkable stories I have ever read.  He challenged the religion of his birth and faced immense persecution for his actions, being ostracized and finally fleeing from his hometown to avoid death.  There is also a fourth character, Richard, a fictional traveler to India who converses with Subramaniam on the road to Mathura and later eavesdrops on the conversation between Jesus, Krishna, and Subramaniam.

How does Subramaniam’s story support the fact that, whether they admit it openly or not, all religions claim to have the corner on exclusive truth?

I have always marveled that so many religions exact such revenge against dissenters.  It only weakens the appeal of their faith and contradicts any claims they might have made that “all religions are basically the same.”  If all religions were indeed the same, why not let someone be “converted” to another religion?  I also marvel at the fury sometimes evident in those who attack others for examining and questioning their own worldview.  If the repercussions for converting weren’t so serious, it would almost be comical to see the animosity of the responses.  But what this revenge demonstrates so strongly is an inbuilt belief that conversion is wrong.  And why is conversion so forbidden?  It circles back again to the one notion that all religions ascribe to—the notion of exclusive truth.

This book compares two religions, and you believe that only one—Christianity—is true.  How did you ensure that Hinduism was presented fairly and respectfully?

It is easy to take the weakest aspect of a worldview and exploit it.  But that is not what I wish to do.  When one encounters expressions of belief that are openly affirmed and followed, even when they seem bizarre, one must ask the hardest questions.  One must examine the stronger aspects of any worldview as well.  I hope that the vast difference between Christianity and Hinduism will become very evident in this imaginary dialogue.  Yet it is important to remember that, as different as these faiths are, we must learn to accept those differences peaceably.

What is the main point communicated through this dialogue between Jesus and Krishna?

Hinduism is a complex belief system.  At times the conversation in this book is quite philosophical and intricate.  I would ask readers to be patient as we work through these areas of belief so that the truth and beauty of Christ’s gospel is fairly presented against the backdrop of Hinduism’s complexity.  To present either of these beliefs as simple is not to understand them fully.  Let us not be so mindless as to think that Christianity and Hinduism are saying the same thing and that, in the end, the differences do not really matter.  Both claim to be true and legitimate.  This rationally implies, then, that it does matter what you believe.  That is what this imaginary dialogue is about.

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