I have a dear friend of mine who is a Buddhist. We have had countless discussions about God and faith but there is one recurring theme that he cannot seem to reconcile within himself. I would appreciate peoples thoughts and opinions on how to approach this.
Coming from a Buddhist background, he believes that all will be free from suffering eventually. Everyone will find their way to peace and “heaven” in the end and there will be no eternal suffering for anyone. From this worldview, looking into Christianity can be a very harsh contrast where those who don’t choose the path Jesus has offered us will spend eternity suffering in the absence of God.
I have tried many approaches but this seems to be a road block he cannot pass.
I look forward to reading new approaches and advice anyone could offer please
@Chickaly Praying for your friend @Lakshmismehta may also have some great thoughts on how to share truth in love with your friend. A few thoughts I have are:
it is not necessarily the case that those who reject Christ suffer eternally - it might be worth watching the movie “Hell and Mr. Fudge” and seeing if you think it would be good to watch with your friend or not… The movie also highlights the importance of grace in Christianity, which brings me to my next point.
In Christianity, we recognize there is nothing we can do to earn salvation - it is a free gift for all who come. What could possibly be more loving than that? Also, who is really righteous enough to earn their way in to Heaven?
because Jesus is the very image of God, we can trust that God’s judgments will all flow out of love just as Jesus’ life was lived in love - we don’t know how God will judge every individual, but we can know the God of all the earth will do what is right
Hope some of that helps
One thing to keep in mind that I like to point out - if God is the source of all life (Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life”) then rejecting God is the same as rejecting life itself. To separate yourself from God is to separate yourself from life - so eternal death - whatever that means - is a natural consequence of rejecting God. It is not a choice God is forcing on us - it is a root reality that we are, of our own free will, choosing death if we reject God because life is in God. There is no life apart from Him.
So the atheist makes it sound like God is forcing us to make a terrible decision. He is not. It is we who are making a terrible decision and God who is doing everything He can - even sending His own Son to die on a tree - to demonstrate that He is life and we must come to Him to live.
The three views of how God handles sin ultimately are:
Eternal torment - some form of eternal suffering or separation from God
Conditionalism - those who reject God are judged and then cease to exist
Universalism - sin is real, but all people will eventually be brought to repentance
Hi @chickaly, I appreciate your patience in hearing from me since the post by @SeanO. I do not come from a Buddhist background but there is much overlap between the different strains of Buddhism and those of Hinduism. I can share some of the information I have come across in the process of learning about Hinduism. Some similar concepts in the two religions are - the view of the world as a place of suffering, the problem of man as material attachment due to illusion about self, the concept of absolute reality/an intelligent impersonal force that pervades the universe both living and non-living, the idea of karma, reincarnation, the belief of living buddhas i.e. enlightened saints in some forms of Buddhism, the training in moral virtues and meditation and the goal of spirituality as escape from suffering.
Since your friend is concerned about suffering, that may be a place to start the conversation. Here’s what LT Jeyachandran from RZIM says about reaching out to Buddhists in one of the chapters of the book " Who made God"
We need to help our Buddhist friends become capable of identifying with the real problem of suffering and indicate to them the connection between suffering and the existence of moral evil as a state of rebellion against a holy God”.
Some questions to explore together may be:
Is this world only a place of suffering? The only reason we can even recognize suffering is because of the pleasure we have experienced. When we view this world only as a place of suffering, aren’t we failing to acknowledge its Creator for all its beauty. Aren’t we diminishing the good acts that people do towards us?
Should our goal even be to escape all suffering? Is there ever any value in suffering?
Does all craving always lead to suffering or is it only inordinate craving that leads to suffering? Any act of compassion toward another satisfies some material need of the other person. How can something that satisfies craving of another be a moral virtue in a framework where craving leads to suffering? The problem of inordinate craving that is rooted in the love of self seems to be the problem over just any craving.
The relinquishment of craving is considered as a solution to suffering. LT Jeyachandran writes how relinquishment of craving is itself a desire! An existence without desire is an existential as well as a logical contradiction. What we need is not relinquishment of our desires but we need to focus our desires on something worthy of our desires (Ps 27:4). When we are lost in nothingness or become one with the higher reality ( an impersonal force) there is no one to enjoy the nirvana/bliss.
When everyone reaches self-realization of the one higher reality or unity, where is the possibility for love? By definition, love needs more than one person.
If the higher reality is not a personal God whom we are accountable to, why do we even care to be morally right or wrong? Karma involves decisions about people with consciousness. How can an unconscious impersonal agent make decisions on conscious agents?
The hope that everyone will be able to escape suffering one day is resting on the idea of karma and reincarnation. The reincarnationist believes that one lifetime is not enough to purify self. What is the guarantee that we can purify ourselves in multiple lifetimes when born under illusion? ( Rom 3:10-12).
Christ was not born under illusion and was not looking to escape suffering. He claimed to know where He came from and where He was going. He showed love by enduring suffering. He promised an end to all suffering through faith in Him. When all desires are according to the holy will of the Lord, there is a peace and love we can experience without losing our identities. There is a lot of good evidence for the idea of resurrection over reincarnation.
Here’s an article on Stand to Reason that you may find helpful.
Previous discussions on problems with the idea of Karma and Reincarnation here on Connect may also be something that may be helpful in your conversations.
Even if we have all the right arguments, unless they see something good that they haven’t experienced in their own faith, its likely they will not be interested. May the Holy Spirit guide you in your conversations with your friend. I hope this gives some ideas for further thought.