29 Nov 2011

The Author

Bronwen Henry is a mom of two, an editor for New Church Connection (www.newchurchconnection.org), and a member of a team developing small group programs that are for a new kind of Christianity. Bronwen delights in the exploration of different religions, and embraces that she has yet to master any herself.

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Jesus Is A Buddha
Buddha_Statue

While recently visiting a (Won) Buddhist temple, I heard one practitioner refer to Jesus as a Buddha. I was struck by the generosity of calling the leader of another faith one’s most cherished, revered term. In Won Buddhism, as I understand it, there is an effort for each person to embrace their Buddhahood and see the Buddha in another, so the statement was not at all unusual in that context. However it did lead me to a place of introspection about my own faith path. Could I, raised a Christian, return the favor? Could I say “Buddha is a Savior, Redeemer”?

I have been frustrated and turned off by the churches I have visited that seem to place their God high above any other God. If there truly is one God, isn’t that one God as high as any God can be?

I recently attended a conference at a megachurch in the Midwest. And I was disturbed by two of the things I experienced there. One of those things was the lead pastor (who I have followed and respected for many years) saying that “Christianity was the only Religion about Love”. Really? Really? Have you explored any other religions? My personal experience with other, non-Christian religions is they really are about love. They are about getting out negativity so the love can flow in. The second thing that disturbed me during my megachurch experience was surprisingly, the music. Although the music was inspiring and energetic, the lyrics were anything but. One song in particular featured the message: “Our God is stronger than your God, Our God is greater than Your God, etc.” Really? Are we in seventh grade or something? Are we really that competitive?

To me it seems when you have to tell someone your God is better, stronger, greater, more loving…than perhaps deep down you have some doubts on this topic?

What if there is only one God, and this one God is manifested in many beautiful names? Those names could include Jesus Christ, Wonderful, Counselor Allah, Buddha, and scores of other names.

If we believe in one God, let’s start living and talking like it, and stop being so competitive. Start accepting that that one God is so brilliant that he made many ways to show himself before us all.

There are passages in the Bible that really resonate with me around this issue, for instance, this one from John (10:16) As Jesus said, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd”.

Perhaps the variety in religion is part of God’s big plan, and we should start showing some respect. Why wouldn’t God show up differently in the varied landscape of world culture. In this quote by theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (Divine Providence 254) he seems to call this idea out quite clearly. “When a religion has been implanted in a nation, the Lord leads that nation according to the precepts and dogmas of its own religion. He has provided that there shall be in every religion precepts like those in the Ten Commandments….The nation that regards these precepts as Divine and lives according to them from a religious motive is saved.”.

44 Comments
44 Comments
  1. Bronwen,
    Thank you for sharing your experience and reflection. I also have sensed and been kinda grossed out by the seeming arrogance of the ‘Our God’ thing. I’m curious what conclusions or new questions arise for you when you contemplate the seemingly exclusive declarations of both Jesus and His disciples found in the N.T.? I’m thinking ‘Only way to the Father’, ‘Name above every name’,’Only name by which one can be saved’ etc.
    I look forward to your response!

    Sincerely,
    A.j

    • A.J. Thanks for your comment. To me when I read, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)…I reflect on Jesus as the Way as the path we are to follow. I think the only way any of us (of any faith) will know divine peace within us is by following the way that Jesus (and others) taught. The way of compassion. The way of surrender. The way of courage.

      • Bronwen,
        Thank you for offering your interpretation of John14:6. I’m curious if you’ve contemplated some of the other verses I referenced? Some would say the Uniqueness and Divinity of Jesus is paramount, this being a common thread through the N.T. as God reconciling the world to Himself(salvation) through Jesus.

        If this has been some of the roads you’ve been down in your journey I wonder if you’d be so kind to share your working response to such claims?

        -a.j

  2. Thank you Bronwen for this insight. I tell people that the only reason Buddha was not a Christian was because he was born before Christ. To be a good Buddhist one must be a good Christian. To be a good Christian one must be a good Buddhist.

    It seems that Jesus taught unconditional Love and The Buddha taught enlightenment. The emphasis is different depending on ones intention.

    • Thanks Jonathan. I have had a similar thought!

      • Yes, and I have come to believe that I would not be able to be a healed, whole, ‘good’ person and citizen of this planet if I didn’t have Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Shamanism informing my life. I’m sure there’s more but I haven’t had time for all of it yet! :)

  3. Thank you for this powerful message! I am noticing that the more I learn about other paths and religions, the more sensitive I am to any language that seems to “one-up” “our” God to someone else’s. The amazing thing to me is noticing that my awareness of God just keeps getting bigger and bigger as I see more and more ways that God manifest in people’s lives and various religions.
    Thanks for sharing these insights and stirring my mind and heart.

    • Thank you Anna. Your comment reminds me of something I heard Brian Mclaren say which is that if anyone excludes you draw a bigger circle that has the love and compassion to include them (even as they exclude you). I’m sure God’s love and presence in this world is far bigger than I could ever conceive.

  4. I hear you on this one Miss Henry!

    My wife and I left the church for various reasons. However, for me, one of my “Ah ha.” moments came at a time during the Da Vinci Code success. The leader of our congregation sermonized for over and hour and a half at the dangers of the Da Vinci Code. That’s when it dawned on me. I was forced to ask myself, “why is nearly every sermon an apologetical teaching in defense of Jesus the Messiah and my God is bigger than your god?”

    Either Jesus is the Messiah or not. Either God is God or not. But to constantly drum that message into the heads of Christians smacks of brain washing. And it seemed to me that perhaps Christians are not as confident in their beliefs as they think.

    Let’s be honest. It has been over 2000 years since Jesus’ death. Perhaps he’s not Messiah? Then what? Is God still bigger than others? Yes. Is he not also just as merciful? Of course. To me the greater teaching should be about kindness, mercy, peace, hospitality, etc. Or better yet. I like how it is quoted in the movie Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure: “Be excellent to each other and…… PARTY ON DUDES!”

    Excellent observation.

  5. Thanks for the post. This is a good discussion and you bring up some excellent points. I totally agree in terms of the mystery of who God is, how big God is, and how much I don’t understand. Derrick C. Brown – one of my favorite poets has done an amazing video called A Finger, Two Dots, Then me and I feel like it is a profound look at how big God is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwQJHx615eE&feature=share It’s about 8 minutes long but so worthwhile! Way better than church :)
    Here is where I struggle – if two views about God and the way to God contradict each other, which one is correct? It defies logic that all can be correct. I grew up in the Muslim world, lived there as an adult and still travel there often – if all ways lead to God then surely the terrorists from 9/11 are in Heaven. They were zealous for God and carried out their actions in the name of God. If we go by the dogma that all ways lead to God – then surely this group cannot be excluded. I would also add that if Jesus called himself God, and he’s not – then he is not a good guy. He is someone who purposely deluded people and laughed in the process. He is not the way of compassion, but rather the way to a deadly delusion. Could it be that there is one way to God, but many ways to Jesus? Sorry this is so long but I do a lot of thinking about this subject and your post is great food for my thinking!

    • Marilyn,
      Thank you for taking time to leave this comment (and that link! wow!). The perspective I hold is that many ways/paths CAN lead to God. It doesn’t mean they do! It is the practicing, the living, the embodying of everything good in a faith path that leads one to salvation (imho). Oh, I very much puzzle over the same questions you pose. To me what is more important than ‘who’ is right, the exact nature of Jesus’ divinity, etc. is how we hold it. I think when we hold our faith (whatever it is) in a way that we think we are better than others, it is a dangerous path, one that separates rather than unites. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts.

      • You said this, “It is the practicing, the living, the embodying of everything good in a faith path that leads one to salvation (imho).”

        How can you earn your own salvation?

        • Thanks for your comment Taara. I do not see salvation as something I (or another) can earn and yet at the same time we must work/live/practice as if our actions could make a difference…and they will lead (along a path) in which salvation is possible. I personally believe the Divine is eager to save everyone and is constantly working towards this end no matter the religious path we are on. What is your view?

          • Taara, I also wanted to share this quote I recently read (which studying in the Bible on forgiveness) “It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’” (Luke 24:47) . To me it relates to the conversation.

  6. Hi. I appreciate your interest in the diversity of religious expression and the usefulness of terms and persons from one to understand another. I’m wondering if, contrary to your position, all religions might not be wrong. I wonder if John Lennon was more like Jesus than we give him credit for. Religion seems to be opposed to God, and only occasionally becomes a door into God’s world.
    I also wonder if it’s not a western syncronizing tendency to lump religions into one ball, using categories from one to fit elements of others into. Nirvana is not heaven is not eternal life. Buddha is not a redeemer in part because Buddhists do not perceive a need for salvation like Christians do. The relative truth of each approach is debatable, but it’s hard to make them work together.
    All that said, I do appreciate your caution against tribalism and dominionism. Thanks.

    • Ian,
      Thank you for this point! Samir Selmanovich’s work (It’s all about God) first introduced me to this notion that ‘we are all wrong’ and I love it! I think it is an important reminder, one that can unite people of all religions (atheists included). Have you read any Peter Rollins? He also has a lot of cool ideas about the very nature of God is to be concealed (not ‘revealed’)…and it is through His mystery that we learn so much (very poor paraphrase here! Peter’s words are much more brilliant!).

      I hear your caution on not equating religions. And on my journey I have found great richness in trying to elevate my mind above the specific word choice of a faith path, and TRY to get in touch with the heart/the intent/ the message. It is somewhat easy (for many) to divide religions, but for me, I find such deep peace in recognizing (and even accepting) the unity present.

      I very much benefited from a concept I learned at a Buddhist temple, that ALL our words will fall short of the divine and that we must not get caught up (attached) to the words themselves.

    • One of the deep connectors between Buddhism and Christianity (or the work of Jesus) is the alleviation of suffering.

  7. Scott, thank you for sharing some of your journey.

  8. I am going to actually have a slightly different voice in this conversation, for I actually come from a background in which I was not always a Christian. First and foremost, I was born and raised Jewish. Secondly, however, I opted to leave Judiasm at the age of 20 to explore the avenues of Paganism that lead me down a six year path in the realm of witchcraft. Toward the end of my time practicing such a life, I found myself in the practices of Buddhism. The reasons I did this was to basically start segregating myself from Paganism because I had a very negative experience with it right before I embraced such ways into my life…and for a year prior to my accepting Christ, I was deeply involved in the Buddhist studies and practices.

    From such an experience, I learned one thing in reference to what you are asserting here…God is a jealous God. While other world religions preach the life of synchronicity…to have all of us live harmoniously as one…Jesus didn’t come for such goal.

    “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34 NKJV)

    Those are pretty intense words straight from Jesus’ mouth Himself. God Himself.

    The crying out in praise that God is above all other gods…is scrituprual. Going all the way back to Exodus in which we are informed…”thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Again, God is a jealous God…and will not be shared with another. No matter how nice another person in another religion speaks of Jesus.

    He is not about making nice here…He is about penetration of the sinful hearts of mankind so they will be saved. Period. Love…grace…mercy…kindness…compassion…allieviation of suffering…they all reside in Him. Anything else that touts otherwise, is truly outside of God and not how He instructs His children to live.

    I understand this viewpoint rubs against the very grain of society…but when push comes to shove, God cannot be watered down to satisfy the opinions we hold even as Christians ourselves.

    He is almighty God…el shaddai. And if we can get out of our own way to truly embrace this truth, casting aside even what we think we understand, and our own opinions, about how we are to articulate and live out life as Christians, it is then we will experience the true freedom He tells us about in scripture…the only true freedom found in Christ.

    So why not proclaim from the rooftops this truth? Why not sing it, preach it and live it? We are different in Christ because He is not of this world…and we were not created to be a part of this world, but in His everlasting embrace. The created harmoniously unified with our Creator…that is what this is truly all about; not if, and how, we should be unified with other religions in this world.

    • Marnni,
      Thank you for taking time to share some of your perspective. I honor your journey and respect your opinion. I think you will find you are not alone in your opinion, and perhaps some readers will find comfort in your comment.

      To me, i do not think Jesus’ ‘sword’ was opposing the good/true/beautiful things of other religions (Judaism included of course)…but opposing selfish, worldly desires present in all of us (Christians/ his followers included of course). If we summarize Jesus’ teaching as the two greatest commandments (Love the Lord & Love your Neighbor)…then I think that just may include living in unity with our neighbors (of differing religions).

      • I would also suggest that Jesus was deeply informed by Judaism, and it creates the basis for our understanding of Christianity. And what I think Bronwen is suggesting is that we have lots to learn from other faiths as well. Every major and minor faith has love at its core.

        • I certainly agree to this, Jonathan – for the foundation of the Christian faith is truly rooted in Judaism. You can’t have one without the other. I also agree that we can definitely learn from others’ of other faiths – for, alone, at the core of the monotheistic Judaism, Christian and Islam) religions, there is one father; Abraham. Also, including other faiths outside Christianity, human beings truly are all of God’s creation – so almost by default there will be elements of truth woven in other worldly religions belief systems. Yet, even considering these things, though we are to respect others of differing beliefs, Christians aren’t called to forego the commission we have been given by God Himself (to spread the gospel unto all the nations).

          We encounter a slippery slope when the lines are blurred between respecting others of other faiths…and embracing, or even agreeing in mutuality, the truths they ascribe to as “truth”; and this plays with a line that honestly is extremely tempting to cross.

          We, as Christians, need to be very careful of just what we let into our hearts as truth – for as the sinful creatures we are in our natures, what tends to sound good, really isn’t good. It’s kind of like candy. It tastes really good, but in the long run – it isn’t the best for us (especially in copious amounts).

          This is the division I firmly believe God is asserting here in the scripture I referenced above. The sword will divide, and it’s intended to…but it doesn’t mean we can’t respect one another. We can, and should, certainly do such a thing…but we need to truly keep our eyes and hearts focused on Who holds the absolute truth above all – and follow Him.

        • “I would also suggest that Jesus was deeply informed by Judaism”

          You do realize that Jesus is God Himself in human flesh, right. He is the only authority by which a man may come to salvation (cf. Acts 4:10-12).

          • I didn’t say otherwise.

          • Ken, while what you state is truth…the truth of it still is He was also still very human. This is the very reason it is nearly incomprehensible for the human mind to embrace a complete understanding of how He can be both God and human. But the truth is…directly revealed in scripture…He was indeed both. Therefore, while still God, Christ was born into a Jewish family, raised on Jewish traditions and He honored them. It isn’t distinctly worded in scripture, but looking underneath the layers of Christ’s actions…it’s evident His embrace of the Jewish life into His human side was multi-fold. But mainly it was to honor the covenant that God made with Abraham, Issac and Jacob…and to have Him relate to humans so they knew God desired relationship with them. There is always reason for why God does what He does…and He will always reveal His ways in scripture…maybe not word for word, but it will be revealed in what He teaches, how He teaches and how He related to His children while walking this earth.

            So Jonathan definitely speaks of truth when he states what he does concerning Jesus being highly informed by Judaism. It is all encompassing concerning the God-Man…Christ.

  9. I believe strongly that there is one God and that He saves people from all different faith traditions.

    Also, I think humans always get into trouble when they start comparing themselves to each other as if they have different intrinsic worths.

    I think it was Rabbi Wolpe who said, “its not my job to prove the superiority of Judaism, but its excellence.” I like that and its disarming.

    However, I really do think that Christianity, (on its good days when it is about Christ) has something uniquely important to offer. (almost) All religions have the concept of the Divine, but Christianity teaches how that divine is manifest as a human. In Christianity we have the opportunity to worship a knowable God. This is the reason that I won’t trade Christianity for anything, even though I am confident that Jesus Christ can save people born into any religious tradition.

    ..

    • Brian, thanks for your comment. That is a beautiful quote from Rabbi Wolpe. I appreciate your passion. I am interested in learning the challenging path to walk with humility and confidence.

  10. I live and work in a majority Buddhist nation and study Buddhism as it is taught and practiced here on an ongoing basis. I have dedicated by life to understand the Buddhist here in Southeast Asia as well as work to build bridges to understanding rather than walls.

    That being said, I feel that this article is simply sloppy and displays that the author does not truly understand her own Christian faith as well as the faith of most Buddhists. In speaking like this, she dishonors both.

    First, Buddha could never be a savior because his primary teaching is that there is no savior but oneself. “Depend on yourself” is the mantra of Buddhist teaching. This is completely antithetical to Jesus who told us “without me you can do nothing.”

    In Buddhism there is no room for or belief in a Creator God who is the highest God. “gods” (if one chooses to incorporate this view into their understanding) in Buddhism are just like humans in the sense that they too are subject to the law of karma. Buddhists would call God “awija” or ignorance, from which we must escape.

    Christianity is about love: Love God supremely and love others as yourself. (To me, this can include speaking the truth in love). Islam is about “submission.” Buddhism emphasizes “compassion” for all sentient beings but in the end, you are on your own, subject to your own karma. For instance, if you are handicapped or a child with Aids, then it happened because of your own deeds. To the Buddhist, love itself is a form of karma and is something to be eradicated on the pathway to Nirvana, ie) nothingness or being extinguished.

    We can be respectful of other people and their culture while still contending for truth. This is true love and not the easy way out like saying “all roads lead to the same place.” In fact, it would not be loving at all to have the truth (Jesus) and then to act like there are other equal truths. He is above all (name above every other name given among men whereby we MUST be saved).

    Swedenborg is saying that a nation can be saved by keeping moral precepts?? If this is the case, all nations including Buddhist nations are doomed! The scriptures do teach that God has given general revelation and common grace to all peoples, but the New Testament also says that he has “overlooked the times of men’s ignorance, but now he commands men everywhere to repent because he has fixed a day when he will judge all of mankind through this one that he has appointed, Jesus the Chist.”

    Morality is not the Gospel at all. The keeping of rules and laws is not good news. It is a burden that no person can carry in his own power.

    The Gospel is that there is nothing that we can do to be saved in and of ourselves yet God made a way for us through sending Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of us all. However we must hear his offer of salvation and place our explicit faith in him alone. God has called his people to this challenge in their generation. (Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 24:14)

    God Almighty has fully revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures tell us that “in Him (Jesus) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form.”

    Buddha taught many great things based on the insights that he had in his generation. He saw that the world is suffering and that our desires (even the desire to love) causes suffering, he believed that suffering and dissatisfaction could be eradicated by a faithfully consistent adherence to an eight fold path. He knew what he knew, but it was not enough.

    Jesus is enough, both philosophically and in reality. Until you are certain of that fact, you will stay wishy washy and not really able to help anyone find true enlightenment and the freedom that comes through reconciliation with the God who created us…on his terms, not ours.

    • John,
      Thanks for taking time to share this comment and your perspective. I will try and steer clear of your criticism that you begin with and focus on the heart of your thoughtful message. In my article I spoke from experience, and my hope was to pose questions and provoke thought not to draw specific conclusions about either religion.

      I am interested in what it means to walk humbly with our God. How does one follow Jesus Christ with humility and confidence? (I pose these questions to myself, more than to any specific reader).

      Tell me more about your thinking on all nations being doomed (if salvation is, as Swedenborg says, ‘by keeping moral precepts’)? I don’t think I understand your disagreement with that notion.

      Can someone do the work of repentance without direct access to the New Testament gospel (knowledge of Jesus & his journey)? I think that they can. And from my experience (not scholarly training on Buddhism), I observe buddhist doing important work of repentance of trying to shun/let go of negativity and open up to a positive force AND be a loving/positive force in this world (these are my words/paraphrase, not direct buddhist teaching).

      To me, seeing the beauty of what the creator is doing through all religions does not dishonor the role of the Lord God Jesus Christ, but in fact elevates it to being so impactful, so transformative, that the influence of Jesus Christ is not limited to the Christian walk.

      • I would also add that before someone is a Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, or Hindu (or any category for that matter) one is first a human being created in the image of God. What i think, and clarify me if I’m wrong Bronwen, is that you are suggesting God is at work in the person regardless of their practice. And what you found beautiful is someone recognizing that beauty in your faith.

        Grace is established by God, not in the belief of the person. if it was, it would be works. Grace is simply recognized in the belief of the person.

        I personally have a lot of friends who are Buddhist and they would whole heartedly disagree with your assessment John. I don’t doubt that this is YOUR assessment. Just be careful not to assume it is the practice of everyone.

        • You guys are good at being respectful and I respect that, honestly I do.

          The Apostle Paul, writer of 2/3 of the New Testament…(who was confirmed in his position as a true Apostle by the Apostle Peter himself (2 Peter 3:15), who was chief among the Apostles that had personally been with Jesus)

          asks the key questions of “HOW?” (see Romans 10:13-15) which leads to action to be taken by the church of Jesus to fulfill his command of Matthew 28:18-20 and other such similar commission verses.

          We know that the nations have enough general revelation to make them accountable to God, but not enough to save them. (see Romans 1:18-32). Since we all have sinned against God and there is none that is righteous in God’s sight (Romans 3:10, 23), we must come to God, lay down our arms of self righteousness and pride (religion included), and humbly confess with our own mouths the absolute truth of his message of the resurrection of Jesus and his perfect and absolute Lordship (Romans 10:9-10).

          Our (personal and innate) sin has separated us from God (Rom 6:23), so from what I understand, we all have a disease sin (“harmatia”: missing the mark of perfection) and nothing imperfect or not perfectly holy can be in God’s presence. The only cure is Jesus Christ, being sent as God’s perfect substitute and cure for the common sickness of all mankind. For his work to be in effect, we must “receive” him and be saved from the “wrath to come.” (Acts 4:12, John 1:12, I John 5:12-13, I Ths 1:10)

          May God’s true enlightenment be upon your path as you search out the truth.

          • John, I created Provoketive to be a space of healthy dialogue without judgment. Something good happens when we’re honest in our thoughts without getting angry at each other. Your voice is always welcome here.

            I also appreciate your thought process. But I wouldn’t share one of your (historical) assumptions. You said, “and nothing imperfect or not perfectly holy can be in God’s presence.” This is a fallacy that the entirety of Scripture debunks, beginning with the first moment of sin in the Garden. God shows up immediately to restore. It is humanity that consistently makes the assumption we can’t be in God’s presence, as seen in Adam and Eve’s hiding from God. If this idea were actually true it would limit God and debunk the idea of grace, which existed before time (2 Timothy 1:9). Grace was always present. It was humanity that couldn’t see it.

            And you said, “May God’s true enlightenment be upon your path as you search out the truth.” How very Buddhist of you. ;-P

  11. Jonathan, for some reason I had always heard (or percieved, even taught), that because God is holy, sin separates us from him and he can’t have relationship with us until we accept Christ as our Savior and mediator to him, thus covering us with Jesus’ righteousness which then allows us to be included in the family of God and receive eternal life, and be intimate with him. So are you saying that it is really because of our shame over sin that we are separated from him? Not because he is holy? Shame does definitely separate us from God and each other.
    These might seem like rambling thoughts . . . and maybe they are. : )
    I guess I am still learning about his grace. I like your perspective, that God showed up immediately after Adam and Eve sinned, to restore.
    I too have studied (a little) other religions and what stands out to me, is God’s grace reaching out to us, not us trying to reach or work our way to something.
    What was it about Paul and so many early Christians who suffered persecution for their faith? Did they suffer because they took a firm stand about the good news of Jesus? Not that we try to incite others’ anger over our beliefs, but I wonder if respecting other religions can cross the line to compromising the gospel. There must be a fine line somewhere.?

    • Ruth, I wrote an entire book on debunking that myth (that God is defined by our actions and can’t be in the presence of sin). The problem is sin, but not in the way you’ve probably heard. It is about shame and losing site of God’s original judgment of good.

      http://www.amazon.com/Discovering-God-Imagination-Jonathan-Brink/dp/0615513956

      What I find liberating is beginning with God’s original reality in creation, that we are all human beings created in the image of God. Grace is always there because it’s within the fabric of creation. So it allows me to see with love, in spite of what someone believes.

  12. Bronwen,

    Thanks for taking the time to post this article it definitely has been through provoking.

    On one hand I agree with a lot of what you say. I think many world religions actually do espouse love as a high ideal. I think followers of Jesus should strive to love other people, regardless of what world religions they claim. I have studies many major world religions, read various sacred scriptures of other religions, visited various worship centers and have always found parallels and connections with Jesus teachings or other teachings in the Bible. I think someone can be a follower of Jesus and stay culturally Muslim or culturally Jewish, etc. (In other words I believe in things like the Insider Movement. http://biblicalmissiology.org/2011/03/20/the-insider-movement-a-brief-overview-and-analysis/) I have also encountered many Christians who worship a very weak God and feel the need to protect God. For example, I have been many times counseled to not question God. As if God is scared of my questions. I find many practices of the Christian religion to be misguided to outright against the teachings of Jesus and am deeply troubled by this.

    All that being said, I share many of the concerns A.J. and Marni have brought up and some other ones. I’ll try to touch on them in no real particular order.

    While some religious people might vehemently defend their God because they are insecure, there are many times in the scriptures where God takes actions to directly prove God is stronger than other gods. For example, during the Exodus each of the plagues stepped on the domain of an Egyptian god. Famously at Mt. Carmel Elijah challenged several hundred prophets of a false God and God showed up miraculously. So it appears sometimes God does show up other gods in “power-contests.” What do you make of these?

    The best summation of your position is in your own words I think. “The perspective I hold is that many ways/paths CAN lead to God. It doesn’t mean they do! It is the practicing, the living, the embodying of everything good in a faith path that leads one to salvation (imho).”

    While I want to respect your opinion and the journey that has taken you to it, I do not think this opinion can be reconciled with the Bible, the message of the Gospel, history or the message of Jesus.

    First, the Bible is consistent in its call to monalatry, that is the worship of God alone. No where does the Bible suggest that worship of other gods/idols might lead to the LORD. In fact many evils and punishments are traced back to the followers of God worshiping other gods alongside the LORD or other gods instead of the LORD.

    Second, salvation (whatever that means) is never promised to people who have are practicing a good faith path. Romans 1-4 appear to make it clear that all people are incapable of righteousness apart from the righteousness made available through Jesus. Jesus himself says, in John 15, that apart from Him we can do nothing. Jesus talks about the road to destruction being wide.

    Third, if Jesus teachings were ultimately to set up people on a right spiritual path, why were followers of Jesus persecuted? Numerous cults and religions that searched for the personal salvation or enlightenment of its members existed within the Roman Empire that were never persecuted. It is my understanding that early followers of Jesus took the Lordship of Jesus Christ and refused to participate in the cult of the emperor (and other religions/cults) and saw Jesus as their only true Lord and master. This is why the Roman Empire persecuted them. If Jesus was just a good moral example to follow, or even a God who had no problem if you worshiped in other religions because some of them might lead to Him, why would anyone persecute people like that?

    I guess at the end of the day I feel that to hold your opinions you would have to disregard much of what the Bible says and much of what Jesus Himself taught.

    I hope this does not come off as an attack in any way. I am trying to understand your position better.

    You have provided your interpretation of John 10:16 and Matthew 10:34, but I’m curious if you could explain more of your faith journey that brought you to this point, your understanding of the verses A.J. brought up regarding Jesus name being above every other name, and clarify if you claim to be a follower of Jesus and what you think about the Bible. (This to me was unclear from your post.)

    • Kevin,
      Thank you for your thoughtful responses. I love the humility of this journey of posting to a blog (this if my first time post for me :P ), I am learning so much through people comments and questions…about other viewpoints and helping me to clarify and articulate my own…so thanks for kindly engaging in the conversation with me!

      Thanks for reminding me of the ‘god’ power contests in the Old Testaments. I think that it is important that ‘God’ overthrows the false gods we have in our lives. The god of selfishness, of needing to look good, of needing to be right, of needing to be wealthier. I am NOT EVEN REMOTELY (did that add enough emphasis? I want to be sure!) an old testament scholar, but I wonder if the ‘gods’ that were being overthrown were symbols of gods of selfishness etc.? I think if there is goodness in a religion that God is there working through it, trying to turn us away from the false gods of love of self/dominion etc. [This does raise the important question of HOW can one know if there is goodness in a religion.]

      I have recently come to the conclusion that my biblical knowledge/understanding has expired. So, even though I’ve been familiar with the Bible for my whole life, I feel I am exploring it a new for the first time. I deeply want to know and follow the way of Jesus and I have many questions, doubts, and uncertainties. And I think God can handle these.

  13. I would just like to add, that there are many paths in christianity that don’t lead to God either. It is my humble opinion that all religions are just attempts to construct our own towers that reach toward God. Rob Bell calls it Brickianity. The Good News is, He doesn’t live in the tower. Won’t we all be shocked when we get to the gate, and find a fat guy sitting lotus and saying, “Welcome, my name is Jesus, I am the gate, I’ve been dying to see you.”

    • A great reminder, that communicated truth and made me smile. Thanks Wayne.

  14. I’m a little late to this party, but I thought I would post anyway :)

    From the post: “Christianity was the only Religion about Love”. Really? Really? Have you explored any other religions? My personal experience with other, non-Christian religions is they really are about love.”

    I understand and appreciate your perspective here Bronwen :) But actually I do have to say that the speaker who said this wasn’t too far off, given this quote (I don’t know the rest of what he said). It really boils down to how that religion defines love.

    Jesus defined love by going to a cross, to show just how much God loves us and how unconditionally He loves us – without the need for us to make atonement. If you look closely at the system of Karma, however, you realise just how short it actually falls in forming a healthy relationship with God or a healthy relationship with ourselves. I can’t see Karma as anything close to love; it’s a system, a machine, that we must try and manipulate to find salvation. (I’m using Western terms for ease of understanding.)

    Because Karma is all about you, as a person, finding a way to atone for your sins so that you can eventually escape this life and enter Nirvana. We are reborn in many lives so that we may eventually atone for our bad deeds by offsetting it with good deeds.

    Jesus makes things different because the relational aspect becomes central – as Romans 3 says, a righteousness has now been revealed as apart from the law. That ‘righteousness of God’ is grace, not law, not Karma, no longer Torah, but grace and mercy and peace and love and communion and union and joy and mystery.

    Karma offers no love, only deeds. At its core it offers no grace – you either win or you lose. And you have to work very hard to win.

    Secondly, knowing people who live in Buddhist nations, they have seen some horrific things in the name of ‘love’. Because very often the way we ‘atone’ (I use that word simply for ease of understanding) for our bad deeds in the system of Karma is by going through suffering. In other words, the suffering we see in the world is seen as Karma putting things right, and therefore we must go through suffering in this life to have a better life in the next. So, in an orphanage they found the caretakers were abusing the children and claimed that this was done ‘in love’ because if they caused these poor orphans to suffer even more in this life, then the orphans would have a better next life.

    You can understand the logic. But I juxtapose that against Jesus and I see two very different kinds of love operating. I put Jesus next to Karma and I see a very different kind of love operating.

    I know many buddhists would disagree with the way I’ve outlined this idea above, but that’s OK. Much like Christians, many Buddhists no doubt have their own way of processing and understanding the teaching.

    I like how CS Lewis worked this topic out. Rather than thinking Christianity as completely and utterly different and exclusive, he calls it a more ‘mature’ view. He takes the idea that in every religion there is some truth, but in Christianity all the Truth comes together in a much more mature understanding, because all Truth points to Jesus Christ, the person. This means we needn’t be unloving towards people of other faiths and we can learn from them, but as long as we don’t lose sight of Jesus as central and the climax of all journeys towards God. The person of Jesus is salvation, not the system of teaching that goes around Him (Christianity, or Christendom).

    The way you’ve interpreted Jesus saying “I AM the way, truth and life” I think misses the glorious point of Jesus, the person, being the way, the truth and the life. To relegate it to simply his way of life and teaching is to put oneself back under a religious system rather than a religious (devoted) relationship. Ironically, doing this probably does the very opposite I think you’re trying to achieve.

    Jesus shows us who God is and opens it up for us to commune with this God. Karma, however, does not show us who God is. Karma is a kind of justice system that falls short of God’s righteousness, which is grace and peace and mercy and sacrificial love.

    I hope I don’t come across as disrespectful here, but I did feel it would be good to bring these points up. Grace and peace.

    • Dear Ryan,

      I come from a family that bridges both religions, being Christian on my mother’s side and Buddhist on my father’s. I count clergy of both Christian and Buddhist faiths among my near relatives, and have studied the scriptures of both.

      With every respect, I do not think it philosophically correct to put Jesus’s love side by side with Karma in a comparison of the two religions. It would be correct to put Jesus’s love side by side with Buddhist compassion for all things; and it would be correct to put the Christian religion’s belief in a punitive Hell/Limbo side by side with Karma. Karma in Buddhism is seen not as a prescriptive teaching from the Buddha but as a natural law of this universe. It is not an equalizing force that corrects or balances, but is best thought of as simply a law of causality: if I eat a rotten apple, I will get sick; if I do not walk into the river, I will not get my shoes wet. Christianity in Karmic terms would be: if I sin, I will be punished in Hell; if I sin but repent in the name of Jesus, I can find redemption.

      Buddha did not teach people to obey Karma. That is tautological since Karma operates anyway, being conceived as an ineluctable natural law. Buddhism is about breaking the Karmic cycle: the endless causal loop of action-consequence-action, first by realizing that one is responsible for one’s actions and hence one’s consequences, and then through a path of compassion (which can only be interpreted as love) replace a vicious cycle with a virtuous one. This is not very different from one coming to terms with and acknowledging one’s sinfulness and taking the necessary steps to return to God.

      The two religions are of course different in many aspects, both in detail and broad alignment, and there is much which is unique about each. But we should not see the drawing of similarities or discovery of common ground to be a threat, nor should we see differences between the two to be reason for exclusion or rejection.

  15. Bronwen, I loved reading your story, and loved to hear of you having an open mind not hanging on so tightly to your beliefs that you couldn’t see the divine outside of your belief system. My own journey has reflected this and each religion has a similar core and they simply look at the whole thing of love – love for oneself and love for the people around us. I have been impressed by people from different religions exemplifying the virtues of compassion such as was taught by Jesus in ways that would put a lot of Christians to shame. The more we unite and let go of what we hold onto so dearly the more likely it is that we will come into a better understanding of the core of many faiths – compassion for ourselves and then others.

  16. Yes, there is only one God and He isn’t Buddah. Sometimes to be all inclusive is to be ridiculous.

    • I find it really unfortunate to find when an individual’s (or a group of individuals) firmly held belief must become by default everyone else’s belief.

      Inclusion is not, has never been, and will never be ridiculous. Just ask Jesus about his inclusion of women, Samaritans, lepers, etc. etc.

      Thankfully God is bigger than all the limitations and labels we humans choose to place.

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