Reza Reviewed

August 9, 2013

In my cultural ignorance, I had never heard of Reza Aslan until a couple of weeks ago when Sande Parks alerted me to some of his comments. I don’t know how I’ve missed him. He is everywhere. Right now he has the #1 New York Times bestseller. His book is entitled Zealot. I haven’t read it and don’t plan to. However, given the books prominence I thought I’d link to several critiques that might prove helpful to those who either have read the book or know someone who has read the book and found its thesis appealing. First, Justin Taylor helpfully cites a few Christian reviews and comments.  Second, Christian scholar, Craig Evans, weighs some of the books claims against current scholarship.

Popular books about Jesus are seldom Biblical or orthodox. The problem is that those who are looking for a way to dismiss the claims of Jesus are all to willing to believe a theory that is not grounded Biblically.

Given Aslan’s claims in the video below, it is helpful to hear from scholars who are familiar with the evidence that Aslan misconstrues. His PhD is in sociology and he is a professor of creative writing.

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4 Responses to “Reza Reviewed”

  1. phfs9 Says:

    Reza Aslan is Muslim….a fact I neglected to mention when I first spoke of him to you. What I found interesting about the man is that he was such a scholar. I find him well spoken in public also. He, at least, took the time to study the Christian Bible. On a particular public program when I heard him speak he defended people’s right to use the Bible’s teachings if that is what they believed in the same as one should be allowed to use the Quran. As far as I understand, most Muslims don’t defend one’s rights to practice or publically use whatever it is they believe in “if it aint’ Muslim”. He gave “his” views in his book on what “he” believed about his views of the Bible. I do not, as a Christian, condone his Bible views. I simply was in awe of his dedication to at least try to study other religions and other religious views and to defend “anyone’s” right to “whatever” religion they choose.

  2. phfs9 Says:

    For some reason my follow up comment would not post. Let’s see if round 2 will work. I have not read any of Reza Aslan’s works and don’t intend to. A long time ago I learned that for me personally it is a bad idea for me to read non-Biblically based literature. I end up with confusion and asking questions I should not have to ask if I were reading Biblically based literature.

  3. Mark Says:

    I’m glad you alerted me to the man. Like I said, I had never even heard of him before. We were in Mendocino yesterday and I walked into a book store. In my view, “Zealot” was the most prominently displayed book. It is obviously a hot book. Because of this, I posted what I did about the man. He is well educated but his field of expertise doesn’t seem to be the Bible (http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/07/29/digging-deeper-into-aslans-scholarship/). Again, you introduced me to someone I needed to know. He is certainly a media darling these days.

    • phfs9 Says:

      His character is just that “media darling” in my mind. There are, again, only 2 things that stood out to me – one is his scholarship and the other his national tv remark that everyone should be entitled to openly and publically declare and use in everyday life (including politics) their own religious choices whatever they may be. Naturally, as a Christian, I would love it if Christianity took the front seat in that behavior. Realistically, that is not so.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reza_Aslan

      Wikipedia gives detailed info about Aslan’s life. He is southern CA raised. To quote Wikipedia “Aslan (Persian: رضا اصلان‎; born May 3, 1972) is an Iranian-American writer and scholar of religions. He is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside, a Research Associate at the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy, and a contributing editor for The Daily Beast.” He didn’t get that far being a dummy or a fake scholar. Further quoting Wikipedia “Aslan’s family came to the United States from Tehran in 1979, fleeing the Iranian Revolution. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the age of 15 he converted to evangelical Christianity.[5] He converted back to Islam the summer before attending Harvard.[6] In the early 1990s, Aslan taught courses at De La Salle High School in Concord, California.

      Aslan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in religions from Santa Clara University, a Master of Theological Studies degree from Harvard Divinity School, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. Aslan also received a Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology, focusing in the history of religion, from the University of California, Santa Barbara.[7][8][9] His dissertation was titled “Global Jihadism as a Transnational Social Movement: A Theoretical Framework”.[10] In August 2000, while serving as the Truman Capote Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Aslan was named Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Iowa, becoming the first full-time professor of Islam in the history of the state.[11] Aslan lives in Hollywood, California.” His bio lends me to lean toward his character being a bit on the showmanship side. However, he is a scholar none-the-less.

      Just think how effective he could be as a Christian scholar! His views of the Bible would change drastically and being in the position he is in he would be able to publicly proclaim Jesus for so many to hear. But, our God works in strange ways. Perhaps God’s way of putting Aslan in the spotlight is to awaken proclamations for Jesus in others. Here is the last quote from Wikipedia on Aslan “Professional membershipsHe is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He has served as Legislative Assistant for the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington D.C., and was elected President of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, Harvard Chapter. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, PEN Center USA, and serves on the national advisory board of the Levantine Cultural Center.

      WritingAs Contributing Editor, Aslan has written articles for The Daily Beast. He has also written for various newspapers and periodicals, including The Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Slate, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Guardian, the Chicago Tribune, and The Nation. He has made numerous appearances on TV and radio, including National Public Radio (NPR), PBS, The Rachel Maddow Show, Meet the Press, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Anderson Cooper 360°, Hardball, Nightline, Real Time with Bill Maher, Fareed Zakaria GPS, and ABC Australia’s Big Ideas.[12]

      Analysis of War on TerrorismAslan refers to Al Qaeda’s jihad against the west as “a cosmic war”, distinct from holy war, in which rival religious groups are engaged in an earthly battle for material goals. “A cosmic war is like a ritual drama in which participants act out on earth a battle they believe is actually taking place in the heavens.” American rhetoric of “war on terrorism”, Aslan says, is in precise “cosmic dualism” to Al Qaeda’s jihad. Aslan draws a distinction between Islamism and Jihadism. Islamists have legitimate goals and can be negotiated with, unlike Jihadists, who dream of an idealized past of a pan-Islamic, borderless “religious communalism”. Aslan’s prescription for winning the cosmic war is to not fight, but rather engage moderate Islamic political forces in the democratic process. “Throughout the Middle East, whenever moderate Islamist parties have been allowed to participate in the political process, popular support for more extremist groups has diminished.”[13]” It’s a copy and paste so spacing and spelling is the responsibility of
      Wikipedia.


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