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This blog's opinion of ‘Dinner with a Perfect Stranger’

I’m on a panel for a monthly, locally televised book club that discusses books (mostly novels) from a Christian perspective. Most of the books we review are from Christian publishers, though we do branch out to others (like Peace Like a River, Da Vinci Code, the Harry Potter novels and, later this month, Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt). It is one of the more stress-free and fun things I do all month, if only because I get to sit with two dear friends (and sometimes an additional guest panelist) and talk books and faith for eight to twelve minutes. (Those eight to twelve minutes then run near the end of a show on a station run as a ministry at my church, Frazer Memorial UMC.)

Last month, we read and discussed David Gregory’s pseudo-novel, Dinner with a Perfect Stranger. Essentially, we panelists (which, besides me, includes a journalist and a TV producer/editor—who hosts the segment) agreed the book was an easy-to-read dose of simple apologetics packaged as a quick-reading novel (100 pages, which I finished it in less than hour). The plot devise is simple: an over-worked, skeptical businessman receives a dinner invitation from none other than Jesus of Nazareth, who hosts him in a suit and tie at a local, fancy restaurant. Their ensuing conversation covers topics ranging from suffering to world religions to basic Bible/church history and theology. While an easy read, the book is somewhat heavy-handed and often very simplistic, which has led some critics to call it misleading. Something in me always has hard time criticizing the efforts in the arts of fellow-Christians, but I must say I can see the point of these critics.

So, while I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone (it’s too simple for those who are truly skeptical of the church and/or Christianity or to answer in depth any of the questions it raises or addresses), I think it could be an easy way for those who honestly want to know more about Christianity and Christians themselves to get a handle on simple apologetic questions every Christian should be able to answer. (In fact, our guest panelist—Frazer’s contemporary worship leader and pop culture guru—gave away his copy the week before we taped the show to someone on a plane who was seeking to know more about Christianity.) In that way, it’s not a bad companion piece to read with The Da Vinci Code.

This book has been on my list to blog since we reviewed it last month, but it wasn’t until last night that I finally decided to do it. Why? Heh, I was channel-flipping (which I don’t do all that often ‘cause I have a very long backlog on my TiVo) and ran across a TBN station that was running none other than “The Perfect Stranger.” Turns out some Christian filmmakers made this book into a 90-minute movie. I came in on the last half, in which they stuck fairly close to the book (though the male businessman had turned into a female lawyer). From just that part of the adaptation, I’d recommend the book over it. You can read the novel in less time than the movie takes to watch. But I missed the first half, so maybe that makes it more worth considering.

At the end of our book club segment, we give our personal rating of the book using stars (from one to four). I give this one about one-and-a-half to two stars.

Next up, Rice’s Christ the Lord.

(Image: Amazon)