Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Karma of Jesus: Do We Really Reap What We Sow

By Mark Herringshaw

The Karma of Jesus begins with Pastor Mark Herringshaw recounting a conversation he had with a young postmodern who had attended one of his talks at the behest of his mother. The young man had recently been in rehab, where he discovered Eastern religion and became a believer in Karma.

The young man asks him the question "Why did Jesus die?" and that was the beginning of the journey that would become this book.

It was also the beginning of my disappointments in this book.

The format of the book makes it both tedious and frustrating to read. It is normal in a nonfiction book for the author to begin with propositional statements (truth claims) and then give evidence to back up their claims. However, Herringshaw does not do this. As he puts it, "it's a conversation" (p 183). Chapter after chapter rambles on with tidbits of his conversation mixed with his own thoughts and stories. By chapter five I was ready to throw the book. Five chapters of conversation sprinkled with illustrations that don't often seem to "illustrate" anything. Were I not committed to writing a review of the book, I would have given up and gone on to something better.

The lack of  footnotes /end notes is also frustrating. It appears at first that Herringshaw has completely neglected to cite his sources, but if you do manage to finish the book you will find a "notes" section with page numbers at the end. There are no super-scripted numbers indicating in the text that there are notes to be found.

I was also deeply troubled by theological problems in the book.

By looking at the title "The Karma of Jesus: Do We Really Reap What We Sow" one might expect Herringshaw to open the Bible and prove that the Eastern idea of Karma (which seems entirely contrary to sound Christian doctrine) can be found in Scripture. Or perhaps he might use the idea of karma to illustrate how our faith should be evident in our lives by the good works we do.

He does neither. Instead he engages in a conversation with the young man that left me feeling that it was Herringshaw who ended up being "converted."

There is very little Scripture used, and what he does quote is taken from the New Living Translation - a paraphrase - not a literal translation of the Bible. I was left completely unconvinced that there is any Biblical evidence for Karma.

He also does very little to prove that there is any reason for Christians (or anyone else) to believe in karma. His teaching on karma is brief, and when compared to what true Buddhists and Hindus believe it really isn't their true doctrine of  karma at all.

If you can make it to chapter six, you will be rewarded as he begins to bring Christ into the "conversation." Chapter seven begins with the comment by Andrew, "You're making karma out to be what you usually call sin." and with that I breathed sigh of relief - sort of. While the verbal slight-of-hand involved in switching "sin" to "bad karma" is disturbing, it does lead to a discussion of the atonement. I would have loved his treatment of the blood atonement if he talked about SIN, not karma. He covers the three major views of the atonement in detail and even perfectly describes our need for atonement.  However, it is our sin that was atoned for, not bad karma. And to say Christ had "good karma" is also in error. He was perfectly righteous, holy, and sinless. That is not good karma, it is deity. He did not obtain deity through good karma, as the Buddhists might teach, but always was God. Karma is an impersonal force. It does not love you. Jesus died for your sins that you may obtain His perfect righteousness through His shed blood when you repent and trust in only Him for your salvation.

Please, Pastor Herringshaw, you are a pastor at a prominent Lutheran church. I beg you, return to the Reformation doctrine of Scripture Alone.  All that we need to know about God is contained in His holy Word. We do not need to borrow terms or doctrines from other religions. Preach the gospel as it is in God's Word and people will be converted and will receive the atonement they need.

- I must note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House for review purposes.

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