Sunday, December 9, 2007

Buddhist Christian

A lecture by an ordained minister who calls himself a “Buddhist Christian” confirmed my ideas about God and the relationship between Christianity and Buddhism. At St. John’s University, John Butt described his experience of living with Theravada Buddhism in Thailand for many years.

Although Buddhists deny that theirs is a religion, John Butt calls Buddhism a religion. He explains that they have faith. They deny it because they identify faith with belief, as do many Christians—inaccurately.

Faith is trust. As I explain in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky, when my professors at the School of Theology separated faith from belief and gifted me with faith as trust, they liberated me. I could let go of anxiety, worry, fear.

And I could see that all spiritual traditions are based in trust. The 8-fold path of Buddhism begins with trust, said Butt. Christians are saved by faith, and Buddhists are saved by wisdom, but they’re the same thing. Both are based in trust.

Buddhists say they are atheists, but this also begs for elaboration. They are indeed a-theists with no belief in a god, no external deity, but they relate to a transcendent Ultimate Reality more beautiful, more powerful, more ALIVE than anything imaginable. Other names for this reality in Eastern spirituality are the Tao of Taoism and Brahman/Atman of Hinduism.

Butt disparaged the small Christian idea of God, the personal and childish image, which he said is destined for extinction because it is inappropriate to the modern world. Buddhists regard it as mere sophisticated animism. I add that Christian mystics and saints have always known that what we call God transcends, infinitely, the puny image worshipped by many Christians.

It was satisfying to have a “Buddhist Christian” affirm me so fully. He went so far as to refer to “the big guy in the sky,” echoing my title.

2 comments:

Irving said...

The Sufi mystics also say that whatever you can conceive of as God is not God, for God is beyond human comprehension. Yet humans persist is their comforting idolatry. If it leads to goodness and charity and mercy and love, then God bless them.

Peace and Many Blessings!

Chris said...

Jeanette,

Respectfully, even from a non-Western perspective, it is unfortunate that you can't perceive the complementarity of bhakti and jnana.