Questions from Buddhist point of view


(Layminto Jubilee) #1

Dear RZIM,

I have a lot of Buddhist friends and relatives. The more I talk to them, the more I realise the main reason why they still prefer Buddhism to Christianity.

Asians are concerned a lot of the after-life doctrine and the emotion attached to it.

For them, the idea of reincarnation means repeated chances for a person who made mistakes in life.

And the idea of a God who let His Loved Ones go into hell (even just because the mistake of not being able to be convinced to believe in Christ) is very repulsive.

Someone even asked, if God truly loves human, why doesn’t He just destroy the spirits/souls that disobey Him rather than allowing them to suffer forever in Hell.

How should I approach those subjects above.

I even heard of devour Christians who re-embrace Buddhism because of the matters above.

Or, they would prefer to join catholics because at least there is the concept of purgotary which evangelicals do not have.


(Andrew Bulin) #2

This is a great and insightful question in my opinion. At one time I puzzled with this idea why a great God would give His people one shot, whereas other beliefs cater to multiple chances. However some reincarnation beliefs say that you don’t really know how well you do and you could come back as a lower species. And then you may accidentally do worse as that lower species and come back as an even simpler creature. I could be doomed to return for all enternity and not even know it!

I believe man fails at a works-based salvation because we cannot be good enough or consistent enough. The confusing part with Buddhism is who am I being good to and for? Who am I praying to and why?

The beauty of Christianity is that God had a plan to remedy the endless cycle of failure with a solution that is final and total. So what about the one shot? I believe we get more opportunities than we care to believe but we may just be unwilling to submit. As soon as we do truly accept Jesus as Lord over our lives, we don’t have to continue questioning the completeness of the gift of salvation.

Unfortunately, the Bible says that this pervasiveness to go on rebelling against God is so strong that we would deny it if someone was raised from the dead to tell us so:

Luke 16:27-31 NASB
[27] And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house- [28] for I have five brothers-in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ [29] But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ [30] But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ [31] But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” …

Christ Jesus has risen from the dead and we are His witnesses. The Spirit moves and bears Him witness also. People are then left to believe it, or go on rebelling.

Have you had a chance to read Ravi’s book, The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha? Since this topic is so close to you and your family, i would highly recommend it if you have not read it (it’s fairly inexpensive). There may be an Audible book available (depending on your region).

The conversation in the book is candid and hypothetical, but does a good job, I think, of teasing out topics in Buddhism that fail the tests of logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. Here is an excerpt:

Jesus: Isn’t this also a core difference, Gautama? Just as the call of karma demands payment of a debt when there is no creditor to receive it, so with the desire of your followers to make a petition for their needs, there is no one to whom they can go. My prophet Isaiah talks of a man who went to sleep hungry. He dreamed during the night that he was at a banquet, feasting, only to wake up and find out it was a dream. Your followers meditate, they chant, they try to empty their minds of all desire; yet how does prayer slip in when there is no God to pray to?

I really enjoyed the book, and the approachable language is quite conversational. It may give you interesting questions to reason out different aspects of Buddhism and Christianity together with your loved ones.


(Layminto Jubilee) #3

Hi Andrew,

Thanks. I find the book to be useful as well (read few months ago).

However I still cannot find satisfying way to reply why doesnt the Loving God eternally kill the sinners/unbelievers souls? Or in other words, why God prefer to see them suffer than eliminating them?

I can only tell them I dont know how God will deal with the damned souls. But I trust in God’s love: He loves them (your grandparents etc) more than you.


(C Rhodes) #4

@ljubilee. Perhaps in a belief structure that relies upon self-directed good deeds, it is difficult to imagine a justification for eternal hell. We are all too familiar with the need to redo and regroup after our failures.

Maybe it would help them to understand that the sacrifice of CHRIST provided the qualifier for our human efforts. GOD requires holiness, but GOD has provided the coverage that makes our attempts at correct living holy in His sight.

Just loving GOD and living in relationship with Him gives us all the reincarnation we will ever need. Hell is reserved for all who reject this gift of recharge, redo, retry in this reality. We can live our very best incarnation right here, right now. We don’t need an additional lifetime to get it right. JESUS has provided the avenue, now.

Shouldn’t the access close once we reject the remedy that such loving sacrifice has provided? What is left once we reject the opportunity for the ultimate reincarnated life?


(Layminto Jubilee) #5

Yes. Really only by grace a person can come to Jesus.


(Dennis Gladden) #6

@ljubilee you have raised several challenging questions about issues that, as a long-time Christian, I tend to take for granted. Thank you for prompting us to think through what we believe. I would like to respond to just one for now — reincarnation.

I think that those who believe in reincarnation and we who believe in resurrection desire the same thing: We want to enter a better life after this. Reincarnation and resurrection approach this differently and are mutually exclusive. The question is, which one is true?

Reincarnation is a closed system, and therefore without end and without hope. As you said,

This means I enter this particular life flawed and leave it, maybe better, but still flawed. The process relies on those within it to improve themselves and itself is powerless to cure them. At best, each reincarnation offers not only an opportunity to improve but also the opportunity to make more mistakes, which we all know we keep on making. So we must come back and try again — endlessly.

In this sense, reincarnation is much like the Old Covenant law in the Bible, where worshipers had to sacrifice repeatedly because of their endless sinning. “These same sacrifices which they offer continually year after year can never make those who approach perfect” (Hebrews 10:1).

The Law with its sacrifices and reincarnation with its cycles are closed systems — there is no breaking out of them because we are left with our proneness to sin. Neither system perfects us. All these can do according to Hebrews 10:3 is leave us “with a reminder of sins every year” (or every life time, in the case of reincarnation). We need a way out, we need something that will take away sin.

This brings us to the gospel and resurrection. Jesus does what The Law and reincarnation cannot do. He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus purged our sins (Hebrews 1:3), he sets us free from sin (John 8:34-36) and by his death Jesus shed his blood for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28). All of these are ways of saying that Jesus “now, once in the end of the world, has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

The Law and reincarnation remind us there is no end to sin and we’ll always need another sacrifice, another reincarnation, but Jesus says, “It is finished.” There is an end to the law (Romans 10:4), and an end to life as we know it — life where sin goes on and on. In Christ, old things pass away and all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). We no longer need to practice sin because Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:7-9). And we therefore do not need to return to this life repeatedly. One resurrection into eternal life is sufficient.

A better life — eternal life — not only is possible, but has been secured by the gift of our heavenly Father, who so loved us that he gave his only Son. To those who long for a way out of endless striving, Jesus proclaims, “I am the door. I am the way. I am the resurrection and the life.” In him the endless has an end, and we are given a new beginning.


(Roger Greene) #7

I don’t have a complete thought here, but I’ll throw out the beginnings of one and see what you all have to say about it.

It sounds as though both Christians and Buddhists can agree of the eternal nature of humanity. In the Christian view humans will go to heaven, and ultimately the new Earth or Hell. In Buddhism to reincarnation and so on.

If humans are meant for an eternal destiny based on their choice (God or no God), wouldn’t God be violating a person’s choice by annihilating them? I mean, if you willing choose to live without God, to have him subsequently deny you the eternity of your choice seems wrong.

I’m not certain where that argument would lead.


(C Rhodes) #8

@rgreene. Great question. It prompts additional questions in my mind.

“Wouldn’t GOD be violating a person’s choice by annihilating them? If you are willing to choose to live without GOD, should He subsequently deny you the eternity of your choice?”

I paraphrased some of the order of your original statement, but I think I “get” the implications.

I would have to request clarity on either the definition of Hell or “No GOD.” Sometimes I believe that people may not understand the full gravity of their choice. Perhaps in the short-term, it may seem doable. But the true definition of Hell is to be permanently removed from the presence of GOD. Truth is, we have never known existence without GOD. The gift of free will allows us to choose, but the impact of our choices are not fully realized in this life.

The question becomes, having made your choice is it wrong for you to live with your choice? Perhaps a better way to understand the impact of our choices is to understand that Heaven nor Hell are established because we made our choice. But rather, Heaven and Hell are the places where we get to live out our choices.

The true horror of Hell is the absence of GOD. That only leaves Evil. And there is nothing beneficial about that. But, we do get to choose.

How does GOD feel about Hell damnation?

2 Peter 3:9 King James Version (KJV)
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Should we be angry because GOD respects our right to exercise free will, despite a heart that reaches for each of us, every day? We get to choose, we don’t get to select the place we live out our choices.


(Layminto Jubilee) #9

Hi thanks for your inputs.

Maybe the last question would be the most challenging, and may be it is the reason why Catholicism is more popular with Asians due its belief in Purgatory. (Though I am not a Catholic myself.)

Btw the last question that I mean is:
Why God allow Hell instead of destroying the souls that He loves, knowing that they will suffer forever?

Recently I read the book the Great Divorce. I understand that it is not a doctinal book, just a philosophical fiction.

The idea that the Hell itself is still open, i.e. for the people there to get out of there if they really want to, and that God’s love will never reject… is quite sensible to me (coherent with the truth of God’s love).

Any suggestion?


(Andrew Bulin) #10

That is a very challenging question. As much as we have a hard time understanding why a loving God would involve Himself with the concept of an eternal place like hell, I think we also have a hard time fully appreciating the nature of sin and our own unrighteousness. Here are some resources @SeanO has posted that you may also find of use:

Francis Chan’s book (in the above) is an easy read and provides many scripture references. For example: 2 Peter 2, Jude 7, Mat. 25:46, Ezk. 32:17-32, Dan. 12:2