Book Review of Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and Christian in Dialogue

Title: Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and Christian in Dialogue
Authors: Philip Johnson and Gus diZerega
Publisher: Lion UK, 2009

Review: This book was actually loaned to me by a Wiccan friend who knew I would enjoy it. The subject matter of the book echoed many of the debates and discussions my friend and I have had and the authors were obviously well informed and knowledgeable regarding their faiths. The book strives to create an atmosphere of “dialogue” rather than “debate,” and achieves that goal well. I thought Johnson represented the Christian viewpoints with love and respect towards his counterpart and that diZerega presented his [Wiccan] thoughts with a great deal of intelligence despite my disagreement with his views.

My biggest complaint regarding this book was in its layout. Each chapter covers a different topic and gives the floor first to diZerega to present the Wiccan vantage point and then to Johnson for a Christian response. In each chapter, Johnson was given the advantage of reading diZerega’s essay before writing while diZerega was never given the same opportunity. In my opinion, this gave Johnson an unfair advantage. However, even with this advantage, Johnson never really blows diZerega out of the water … even though he was given ample opportunity (and ammunition) to do so. Given the polite forum of this discussion, I suppose neither author’s goal was to destroy his counterpart; however,  I still think Johnson played it a little too nice. diZerega seemed far more pointed than Johnson in his critique of Christianity and it is my opinion that Johnson missed several opportunities to point out weaknesses in diZerega’s views.

I did find it interesting that, once again, the Wiccan in question seems to have formulated his opinions of Christianity as a result of a bad experience with Christianity in his younger years. I often find myself wondering if Christians who represent their faith poorly aren’t the chief cause of Wicca’s current popularity.

I recommend this book highly for anyone interested in the subject matter. Due to the flaws in the layout of the book, I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is on the cusp of making a decision between the two faiths, but it is interesting and informative.

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