Jesus and Buddha
In Defense of the Faith
Friday, September 09, 2016
What do Jesus and Buddha have in common? Well, lots of things....at least according to some people.
Some time ago my wife received a health news email promoting an event called "Rediscovering the Buddha and Jesus." The catchy teaser asked: "Buddha & Jesus: Cross -Training with Both?"
I guess cross-training is all the rage these days.
The salesmen are New Ager Andrew Harvey and Buddhist Robert Thurman. Yes, they are $elling a product. But you'd be better off buying a dodgy, rusty used car which rattles and blows smoke from its loosely hanging exhaust pipe. Better the car dies on you than you risk your eternity.
It isn't uncommon for "spiritual master teachers" to co-opt Jesus' name. It's a clever marketing strategy designed to attract western followers. Paramahansa Yogananda made it an art form. He wrote volumes of falsehoods about Jesus even while copiously quoting Scripture. I was once a member of his organization.
Thurman and Harvey tell their course readers that when you scratch below the surface, there are common teachings between Jesus and Buddha. Their material isn't new. Here's an example of an old and oft regurgitated lie:
[Christianity] is a major faith that has inspired billions with its message of putting our love of God into action in service of healing and social change - though sometimes at the expense of individual awakening. This may have been a result of the brief duration of Jesus’ teaching career, which was cut short by the crucifixion, preventing the future establishment of schools of more advanced spiritual practices.
One might find superficial similarities between Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and some Buddhist tenets. However Christianity isn't about social justice. Social change can certainly be a byproduct of people being saved by the gospel, but this isn't its purpose. Also, unlike Buddhism, Christianity isn't a self-help faith either (Isaiah 40:31; Eph 6:10 etc).
Contrary to Thurman's spiel, Christ's life wasn't arbitrarily "cut short." It doesn't take much digging below the surface to arrive at this biblical truth. Who hasn't heard of John 3:16? 1 Cor 15:3-4 isn't as well known, yet you'd think "master teachers" $elling their wares would know their subject. In fact they willfully ignore the truth (Rom 1:18-19).
One Buddhist teacher-blogger claims to have spent years studying the Christian faith. Presumably he went to the biblical source and saw the relevant verses. Yet he thinks Christians are hypocrites if they think Buddhism can't enrich their faith.
In response, one man wrote that he believed Christ died for his sins. He added that he wanted to incorporate Buddhist practices because "God wants us to practice faith with an open heart and mind." Doesn't Buddhism's denial of Christ's identity and mission raise red flags for a professing Christian?
Then there's Professor of Theology, Paul Knitter who wrote the book No Other Name? Knitter is a pluralist who believes in many paths to God. He also wrote: Without Buddha I Cannot Be a Christian.
Knitter prefers to self-identify as a "Buddhist Christian" rather than a "Christian Buddhist." Buddhism comes first. Apparently his study makes it clear that there's "something missing in this Jesus." He even admits that if someone can prove that the Christian experience is incompatible with Buddhism, he'd have to abandon Christianity.
Harvey Cox is another pluralist professor of theology. He wrote the book When Jesus Came to Harvard. Jesus may have visited Harvard once, but His teaching isn't welcome there. Cox shuns the exclusivity of the gospel and the problem doctrines of sin and hell. In a defense of how modern Buddhists view Jesus he writes:
Christians have never been unanimous about who he [Jesus] was, and this is one of the healthiest features of Christianity.
The Bible contains sixty six books written by forty different authors of over a period of 1,600 years. It has diversity of authorship and language, yet never contradicts itself. The unique message of the Bible is consistent. The world was created by Christ who came to deliver us from eternal death because of sin, and also redeem creation (see John 1:1-14; Rom 8:22; 2 Cor 5:17; Phil 2:5-12; Col 1:15 and Rev 21:5).
I recommend David Limbaugh's book The Emmaus Code. Limbaugh takes its title from Jesus' words to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:25-27). He shows how Jesus is found throughout the Old Testament. The OT Bible prophesied the first coming of Christ as well as His future Kingdom. See also CRI's article Jesus and Buddha - Two Masters or One?
Jesus and Buddha are incompatible. One lies dead in his grave. The other rose from the dead and will return as conquering King.
Popular blogger-speaker Glennon Doyle Melton says we shouldn't teach our kids that people who don't believe in Jesus go to hell. We must tolerate and embrace any person's sexual orientation and practice. She knows there are NT texts which suggest otherwise and justifies leaving out the bits which don't suit her. Interestingly, she also writes:
We read about Buddha and the Koran and the Bhagavad-Gita and we are comforted to see the same truths repeated again and again throughout every great religion. (Emphasis mine)
The highly popular Rachel Held Evans' move away from evangelicalism to the Episcopal Church was prompted by her embracement of cultural diversity, same sex marriage and gender issues etc. She justifies all these, including a cross-less salvation, via a low subjective view of Scripture. Denny Burk has responded to her:
...Evans says something that is very telling. She says that she tries to defer to Jesus in order to figure out which parts of the Bible “apply” today. She says that’s how she decides which parts of the Bible she’s going to practice... Her canon within the canon allows her to subjugate the black letters of scripture to the red letters with a disastrous result - a functional overthrow of the authority of scripture.
Evans believes the Buddhist practice of mindfulness can be helpful to Christians. Former New Ager Marcia Montenegro warns against this in her article Mindfulness: No-Mind Over Matter:
The techniques of mindfulness meditation lead one to enter an altered state; the same state one is in when under hypnosis. In this state, the meditator's critical thinking and judgment are suspended, and anything can enter the mind.
These people don't want the Lion of Judah. They prefer a cuddly kitten which can be safely set aside as it suits them. They want a soft Jesus, Buddha and the world - the biblical Jesus, not so much. They are idol worshipers.
John MacArthur's short video The Narrow Gate spells things out clearly. As MacArthur notes, it isn't enough to selectively admire the ethics and teachings of Jesus (as many Buddhists and professing Christians do). You must enter through the Narrow Gate.
There is only One Way to salvation, and it is through faith in Christ.
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Act 4:12
Do you want the world or will you choose the Lord (John 14:23)? You can't have both.
Now is the time to choose. Later may be too late.
About Alf Cengia
Last week: A Heavenly Mind
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