Friday, 17 July 2009

Buddhism and the Bible

Every now and again I meet those who have been churchgoers for some time, who suggest Buddhism and Christianity are somehow consistent. Indeed, one old lady told me she was convinced she had been reincarnated.

For the record, here are some key ways in which Buddhism conflicts with Christianity:
  1. Buddah famously didn't believe in God, and so would reject the Trinity and so the true nature of the person of Christ too.
  2. Buddhism at its core rejects any attempt to grasp at permanence, such as the idea of living for ever. Indeed, it sees these sort of beliefs as one reason why we experience so much suffering. Instead it urges us to see all things, including the self, as transient.
  3. Buddhism holds to reincarnation rather than the Bible's view of death, judgement and then the afterlife for each individual soul.
  4. Buddhism teaches salvation, or attaining to Nirvanah, as reached through the eighfold path. It is therefore utterly inconsistent with a gospel of grace - the essence of Christ's message. Christ taught that in the light of judgement, we need God's forgiveness, and to rely on his obedience on our behalf. Buddah taught that there is no judgement day, no need of forgiveness, no God to forgive anyway, and the necessity of our right living if we are to release ourselves from the cycle of suffering.
It is clear then, we cannot hold both together. There may be ideas in Buddhism that are in common with Christianity, eg. aspects of its morality, the need to govern the mind as well as the actions etc. But this is far from saying the two systems are consistent. Rather, they differ at the very heart of what they teach. In truth, one reason that Buddhism is so attractive to the secular world, is that it's saving god is 'me.' This means that it ultimately falls into the category of 'idolatry.'