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Karma and Christ:  A Dialogue
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Mark Herringshaw
The Karma of Jesus:  Do We Really Reap What We Sow? (Minneapolis, Minnesota:  Bethany House, 2009.  207p.)

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Are we really responsible for the consequences of all our actions?  Is what happens to us really the result of our own past deeds?  Does the balance of good deeds and bad deeds mount up over multiple lifetimes?  Modern western eclectic views have popularized the term Karma.

Does the traditional or the modern popular idea of karma, from a Buddhist and Hindu context relate to the biblical idea that we reap what we sow?  And what about one stream of Torah thought that states that the results of actions carry down to the 5th generation that follows?

Karma versus Grace
These are the basic considerations that arise in the consideration of Mark Herringshaw's reflections about the question of fate and karma versus grace and forgiveness.  His discussion arises out of actual dialogue with young westerners wrestling with such moral questions, and out of his own experience with grief and disappointment, personal failures.

Many readers will appreciate the fact that this author does not feel compelled to give a definitive answer for every question that arises.  Rather, he helps refine the questions, and the considerations that go into pursuing an answer.

Evidence versus Proof
He honors the Torah and New Testament value of humility by reminding us that we cannot expect to know everything, and that evidence is not the same thing as proof.  But we can confirm the validity of some claim in our personal or communal experience.  It is in this relational level of experience that he shines forth the light of Good News, pointing out that grace is an experience not just a philosophical principles.

Consequences we can never envision are entailed in every action.  Herringshaw finds that Quantum Physics provide a dynamic perspective to understand the dynamic unity of the universe and life as a whole.  The interconnectedness of the whole universe indicates that every action I commit affects the whole universe and all those around me.  Thus he concludes that it cannot be possible to every "make up" for the bad karma from bad deeds by simply committing matching good deeds.

But forgiveness takes a different approach, and God is active, not a passive impersonal mathematical formula of good balanced against bad.  There is some deep thought here in this deceptively simple book.  You'll enjoy reading it and you'll want to stop and think a bit at certain points.

This is an excellent read, written in a flowing style that sweeps the reader pleasantly along on the wave of the author's reflections in "real-time" as it were.  The format is engaging; Herringshaw tells us the story of conversations he has had with various people in his role as a teacher of religion.

Questions asked by students or audience members become the frame for his topics.  The substance of his previous knowledge on a question and his current ruminations as he considers how to answer all flow in the "gaps" in the dialogue.  This is a bright and engaging format, lively and spicy.  We the audience get to be inside the head of the teacher-writer as he thinks through the questions.

We are privileged with a backstage pass to the workings of the show watching the author-thinker discover connections on the spot, and engaging the new challenge of the dialogue creatively as he goes! Thus the bulk of the book is played out in slow motion between the fast-paced exchanges of the real-time discussion.

Creative and effective!  The back story is “stuffed” into the reflective breaks between exchanges in the discussion.  So we are carried along with the author's own thoughts as he goes through backgrounds and possibilities to consider the questions and thoughts as we go.

We don't get opinions and clichés here, but substance built out of honest wrestling with serious questions.  This author has studied the religions of the world and the diverse streams of thought that make up western philosophy and popular culture.  Yes, he is a professional, but he speaks as an humble seeker, only too aware that life and learning are a lifetime of slow discovery, not a quick dogmatic mastery of all there is to know!

Thinking critically, creatively and analytically, Herringshaw draws on current news stories, historical perspectives from important personages in history, characters and situation in popular entertainment, and the personal back story of the people he is engaging with.  He intersperses his thoughts and the pertinent technical background in small relevant doses that inform his personal reflections and help answer the questions being considered.

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First review notes written 27 July 2010
Reviewed on Amazon 28 July 2010
This version posted on Thoughts and Resources 30 July 2010
Last edited 24 March 2011

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2010 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

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