Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Snap: Clinton Chisholm's "Revelations on Ras Tafari"

From the February 2009 E-Block.


I first encountered the work of Clinton Chisholm some years ago when doing my research on Rastafarianism for this article. Little did I know at the time that Chisholm was "THE MAN" for Christian apologetics when it came to this topic. Even less would I know that he'd one day write me e-mails, and even become a near neighbor of mine (we'll be having lunch someday soon).

Chisholm has impressive credentials as an apologist -- he's attended Biola University as well as special seminars hosted by John Warwick Montgomery. So while you'll find this book to be an excellent tool for addressing Rastafarian claims, you'll also see Chisholm dipping into other wells, too, and doing it in a way that I deeply appreciate. Chisholm digs deep into sources and knows how to use the scholarship. (Ah....someone else who cites Ben Witherington! And I guess I should note this too...he also cites my article on Pope Leo X. Why does he does that in a book on Rastafarianism? Heh heh, just wait and see...)

The first few chapters deal specifically with Rastafarian truth claims and how they are rebutted:

  • The Rasta movement traces its origins to specific beliefs about early 20th century Ethiopian leader Haile Selassie. Unfortunately, they do not even get basic information about Selassie, upon which their beliefs are based, correct: particularly matters concerning alleged divine titles he held, and a reputed biological connection to King Solomon.
  • The Rasta movement bases some of its beliefs on incorrect ideas about Biblical geography, the fate of the Ark of the Covenant, and the origins of Christianity.
  • The Rasta movement bases some of its practice on incorrect understandings of the pronunciation of the name of Jesus, and upon the idea that Jesus was a black man.

As part of his study, Chisholm turns as well to arguments that are not specifically Rastafarian, but which are borrowed by their apologists from other sources as a way to respond to orthodox Christianity. Rastafarians make extensive use of revisionist "Afrocentric" apologists (such as Yosef ben-Jochanon) for such issues as the reputed etnicity of ancient Egyptians, and also dip into other resources of questionable credibility. Yes, that's where the appeal to my article on Pope Leo X comes in. A leading Rastafarian apologist, Ikael Tafari, in a debate with Chisholm, made use of (hold on to your hat) Tony Bushby as a source. To that extent, much of Chisholm's volume records the bankruptcy of Rastafarian apologetics as well as it documents the thin foundation upon which Rastafarianism itself rests. (But really, this is hardly surprising, given the Rastafarian, postmodernish rejection of fact that we've documented in my own article.)

We highly recommend Chisholm's book as a source for those interested in the Rastafarian movement's truth claims.


  1. Forgive me for asking, but what exactly is the big deal with Ben Witherington? You seem highly enamored with his scholarship.

  2. BW is one of the few scholars whose knowledge base is so broad that he's adept at cross-fertilization of concepts. He's also a prolific and clear writer with a concern for education.

    Read a few books of his and you'll likely be spellbound. :D

  3. As with Mormonism, I find it quite mind boggling that anyone falls for this nonsense.

    With Rastafarianism, though, its understandable as there might be some "herbal" substance helping to facilitate the ideas' acceptance.