Sunday, August 24, 2008

Two New Reviews: Beyond the Burning Times

Two new reviews have surfaced on Beyond the Burning Times (Lion, 2008), written by Pagan reviewers.

The first comes from Jason Pitzl-Waters of The Wildhunt blog in a review posted at

A milestone in Christian-Pagan dialog, August 21, 2008
By Jason Pitzl "Jason Pitzl-Waters" (Urbana, IL) -
I think I can whole-heartedly state that this is the best book of its kind (so far), and should be read by as many Pagans and Christians as possible. It represents a quantum leap forward in Pagan-Christian relations. I'm very pleased that Gus diZerega was chosen to represent a Pagan perspective and treated as an equal. His history of interfaith work, and deep understanding of Pagan theologies, makes him a perfect representative. Obviously, as a Pagan, I agree far more often with Gus than I do with Philip, but that is to be expected. I appreciated Philip Johnson's calm and even-handed responses to Gus, and his love-centered view of the gospels. There were a few instances where each"talked past" the other, but I suspect that is a normal hazard of such dialogs. If you are a Pagan with Christian relatives, this is a great "first book" to give them. Likewise, if you are a Christian trying to understand a Pagan friend or relative I would urge you to turn to Beyond the Burning Times before heading to some of the more sensationalistic Christian-penned works.
This second review is by Michael Gleason and it was posted on the Earthwise Yahoo! group. One correction is in order in that Philip Johnson is in fact a conservative evangelical, not a liberal Christian:

This book is going to make everyone uncomfortable, and that is a good thing. It will force both Pagans and Christians to confront what they think they "know" about the other side of the debate. Neither side is composed entirely of "virtuous" or "nasty" individuals.

Gus diZerega (a Third Degree Gardnerian, with a Ph.D. in Political Theory) and Philip Johnson (a liberal Christian) engage in a give-and-take dialogue on topics ranging from the nature of spirituality to nature, and on to Paganism, Christianity and the Culture Wars. There is an abundance of courtesy evident throughout this book. The dialogue shows that it is possible to be on opposite sides of this divide and still remain civil while considering the other side's position.

Of course, Mr. Johnson's positions do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of all Christians, just as Dr. diZerega's do not represent all Pagans (or even all Witches). Regardless, these two gentlemen show the best of their respective belief systems.

It is impossible to read this text without encountering ideas that force you to look at your own beliefs. Whether that confrontation leads you to change your thinking is irrelevant. The examination is the important aspect. This book should be read by every Elder (Pagan and Christian), every Priest (ditto), Priestess and Minister.

I hope, and expect, that it will lead to some interesting discussions at inter-faith gatherings. Such discussions should lead to better understanding and more tolerance among members of such groups.

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