A Buddhist’s Objections to Christianity

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Below is a translation I did of a posting made by a Buddhist on an Internet message board. (A link to the original post in Mandarin is at the bottom for you other Sinologists to critique the translation, if necessary.) Here is what an objection to Christianity by an average Buddhist might sound like:

A Refutation of the Article “How to Share the Gospel with Buddhists”

When I read “How to Share the Gospel with Buddhists” recently I was totally disappointed.

Why?

It’s because some Christians use the name of Jesus to go to “heathen” places and people to preach and continually destroy other people’s religious freedom and peace. Have you seen other religions going to “heathen” places and people to preach? As it is, only Christians go about destroying the religious freedom and peace!

A true Buddhist would never accept any other evil, foreign “truth”, but would instead learn the truth about life and the world from Buddha. So, the benefits of being a Buddhist far outnumber a Christian’s. Why keep trying to coerce other people to leave Buddhism? Is it that the more you preach, the more protection you get from Jesus Christ?

And actually Christianity doesn’t abide by the five precepts of Buddhism at all.

1) Don’t kill. (YHWH massacred innocent people.)
2) Don’t steal. (The Bible has stolen all the works of ancient and modern sages and integrated them into itself.)
3) Don’t engage in improper sexual conduct. (Passages in The Bible have a lot of obscene things in them.)
4) Don’t make false statements. (Some Christians use the name of Jesus to go to “heathen” people and places to praise the “greatness of the Lord”.)
5) Don’t drink wine or alcohol. (The Bible doesn’t advocate that people not drink wine.)

So, how in the world can a religion that is not better than Buddhism have the right to say that Buddhism is wrong, or contradicts this-and-that, or it’s nonsense?

Though I’m not trying to attack Christianity, after seeing how some Christians use the name of Jesus to go to “heathen” people and places to preach, I feel lucky to have never “believed in the Lord”!

Well, I hope that everybody can understand all of the truth, reject Christianity, and become rational, accomplished people!

source: http://bbs.qoos.com/thread-1375628-1-19.html

I haven’t personally read the article that the post’s author refers to, “How to Share the Gospel with Buddhists”, because there is more than one with the same name online. Have you? It would be interesting to see what methods they suggest and whether or not those methods have been practiced in the real world of people (and their results). However, let me pose questions to you, the reader, for your consideration. (Please feel free to add your own.)

Questions to Consider

1) Do Christians merely “go to ‘heathen’ places and people to preach”? Or have they, in fact, done much more than that, historically speaking?

For example, how many hospitals, schools, and orphanages have been started by Christians who, when encountering suffering in life didn’t just throw their hands up and resign from the world, but, instead, went about to be part of the solution to that suffering that even Buddhists rightly noticed?

2) Does Christianity really destroy “religious freedom and peace”? What are some examples, if any?

3) How can someone learn about “life” from any monk, who, by definition, is someone who retires from the real world to live in solitude from it?

4) Do genuine Christians try to “coerce” people to leave Buddhism?

5) What part does the individual’s decision play in conversion?

6) Who thought up the 5 Precepts of Buddhism and why should I listen to them?

7) Why stop at just 5 when you’ve got 8 precepts and 10 precepts and some more strict sects have thousands of rules to follow? (Different Buddhist sects have their own lists.)

8) The original author uses the phrase “all of the truth” (Mandarin: 「一切的真理」) in his closing sentence. What if that “truth” excludes the claims of Buddha, but establishes the claims of Jesus?

9) What are the benefits of being a Buddhist?

10) Do those benefits really amount to benefits?

11) What motivation does a Buddhist have for following the 5, 8, 10 or more precepts of Buddhism? Are not they, in the final analysis, merely selfish?

A Few Thoughts

The Bible, in fact, does not prohibit drinking wine, but it does speak out against drunkenness (Luke 21:34; 1 Cor. 5:11; 6:10; Gal 5:21; Eph. 5:18; 1 Tim. 3:2–3; Tit. 1:7–8; 2:2–3). The Bible does have a lot of obscene things in it. The same is true of the evening news. A person can’t make a genuine record of humanity without recording the obscene the infects it.

If you’re a practicing Buddhist of any branch, feel free to share your thoughts.

If you’re a Christian, how would you approach someone with the reaction above?

Thank you,

Joshua

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14 comments on “A Buddhist’s Objections to Christianity

  1. J.W. Wartick says:

    “1) Don’t kill. (YHWH massacred innocent people.)
    2) Don’t steal. (The Bible has stolen all the works of ancient and modern sages and integrated them into itself.)
    3) Don’t engage in improper sexual conduct. (Passages in The Bible have a lot of obscene things in them.)
    4) Don’t make false statements. (Some Christians use the name of Jesus to go to “heathen” people and places to praise the “greatness of the Lord”.)
    5) Don’t drink wine or alcohol. (The Bible doesn’t advocate that people not drink wine.)”

    ————-

    1) No one is innocent.
    2) Where’s the evidence?
    3) Description is not Prescription. http://jwwartick.com/2011/02/01/desc-not-presc/
    4) Huh? Is this just an assumption that Christianity is false?
    5) Okay. The Bible does, however, condemn drunkenness.

    Of course, assuming that Christianity must conform to Buddhism is a very odd assumption to begin with.

    • Hi, JW!

      I see that the comments of the original poster puzzled you, too. But they do show us that some Buddhists’ object to Christianity because they actually consider the teachings of Buddha (assuming they really originated with its founder) morally superior. And, to me at least, I think this highlights the whole problem with any sort of self-induced asceticism; fulfilling the rules and regulations gives people a sense of superiority. They play into the pride and selfishness we humans so easily bow to. “Everybody, look at me!”

      But God has many varied ways to keep His children humbled.

      Joshua

    • 1) Buddhism rejects notions of depravity. The mind is inherently luminous. People are basically good, therefore god did massacre innocent people.

      1a) Christians have killed in the name of god. You may not agree with them, their reasoning, or their doctrine, but it is true.

      2) Check out “Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament with Supplement” by James Pritchard

      2a) Christians have stolen.

      3) God got another man’s wife pregnant.

      3a) The list of Christians who have committed sexual immorality need not be enumerated here.

      4) There are many falsehoods in the bible, among them that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds.

      4a) Some christian somewhere composed the lie that is the sutrapridot. I’m not saying that all Christians are liars, but Christians do, have, and will lie to further their witness, and no obfuscation can change that fact.

      5) The bible does not condemn intoxication.

      5a) Many Christians drink.

      • Thanks! You are showing that all religions could not be equally true because there are very, very distinct differences.

        1) People are basically good, therefore god did massacre innocent people.

        Do you have a reference for that? The world I live in, I’ve concluded that Jesus correctly assess the human condition. No one is good, not even me myself (Mark 10:18). I’d also like to know about the concept of justice from a Buddhist perspective.

        1a) Christians have killed in the name of god. You may not agree with them, their reasoning, or their doctrine, but it is true.

        Can you show me where the New Testament teaches that it is acceptable and / or necessary?

        Besides, I’m sure you know Buddhists have killed in the name of Buddhism. There are Buddhist racists who incite violence and killing, like U Wirathu. Chinese history is full of episodes where jealous Buddhists did all sorts of things to other groups and people that sought the ear of the emperor. If I may use your own words: “You may not agree with them, their reasoning, or their doctrine, but it is true.”

        People killing in the name of a religion has no bearing on the truth of that religion.

        2) Check out “Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament with Supplement” by James Pritchard

        I haven’t ready Pritchard’s book, but I’ve read plenty of books on the Old Testament.

        2a) Christians have stolen.

        This is going to sound somewhat childish, but I have to say it: I could point out the same of Buddhists. People who claim to be Christians and steal are breaking the commands of Jesus. In contrast, if a Buddhist steals, what ethical / moral imperative are they breaking? And who did it come from?

        3) God got another man’s wife pregnant.

        A gross misunderstanding. You have Christianity confused with Mormonism.

        3a) The list of Christians who have committed sexual immorality need not be enumerated here.

        Once again, I could point out the same of Buddhists. People who claim to be Christians and commit sexual immorality are breaking the commands of Jesus. In contrast, if a Buddhist does those things, what ethical / moral imperative are they breaking? And who or where did they come from?

        4) There are many falsehoods in the bible, among them that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds.

        That’s from Matthew 13:32. You’ll understand that I take exception at you saying my Lord, Master, and Teacher, Jesus, is a liar. His audience was local people, not botanists. You did know that the mustard seed was, actually, the smallest seed that a first-century farmer in Israel would be familiar with, right?

        4a) Some christian somewhere composed the lie that is the sutrapridot. I’m not saying that all Christians are liars, but Christians do, have, and will lie to further their witness, and no obfuscation can change that fact.

        For the third time, I could point out the same of Buddhists. People who claim to be Christians and lie are breaking the commands of Jesus. In contrast, if a Buddhist lies, what ethical / moral imperative are they breaking? And who or where did it come from?

        5) The bible does not condemn intoxication.

        Yes, it does: Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Corinthians 5:11.

        RE: Ethical / Moral Imperatives

        As you’ve probably seen, I’ve asked you the same two questions 3 times. Explain for us what moral / ethical imperatives Buddhism insists upon (references?) and where or who they came from.

        Note: What I’m getting at is that, speaking as a Christian, we have an actual historical event to appeal to — the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It was His resurrection that was witnessed by His students and proved His claims about Himself. This makes His teachings authoritative. This is in addition to the multitude of written texts and evidences outside the New Testament which verify, at the very least, the central claims of Christianity: That Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected. Collectively, we have a reliable, accurate record of the central historical event of Christianity and in all of history — the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

        Simply put, with Buddhism, you’re left with claims that, by their very nature, are without evidence. We are expected to take one person’s word for everything, independent of history, geography, etc. In fact, it is this very fact that readers will see when I finish translating the testimony of a literary scholar and former Buddhist of 20+ years who left Buddhism after investigating it and finding that it lacked any actual verifiable evidence for its claims. (This will be posted in parts in the very near future.)


        5a) Many Christians drink.

        Yes, but that isn’t the same as drunkenness. And as a Buddhist, you’d say that drinking alcohol, wine, etc. is wrong, right? By what standard?

  2. Hello again. Fascinating questions all. Would you mind if I tackled them at some point? A few of them require lengthy answers to which I can only give my perspective as an educated layman in the Theravadin tradition.

    • That’d be fantastic. This blog is all about growth and learning, so I’d really like to hear a Buddhist’s honest response to the questions. Also, since you say your responses to some would be lengthy, maybe you could make them posts on your blog so that other people could read them? (This way they wouldn’t potentially be overlooked in the comments section.)

      Thanks!

      Joshua

      • On the subject of growth and learning, have you read the book “God’s Chinese Son?” If you’re working as a mission in that field, I think it would behoove you to become familiar with past efforts and the fruit of past efforts.

      • This is something I can address presently.

        I haven’t read the book, but as a student of Christianity in China, I’m vaguely familiar with Hong Xiuquan. To call what he did a fruit of Christian missionary work, which is how I understand your comment, would be an insult to the centuries of records that show it was Christian missionaries who brought all sorts of new, beneficial things to China, including medicine, sanitary practices, etc. People like the incredible Hudson Taylor (founder of the China Inland Mission), Timothy Richard (who did many things to save lives during a great famine), Gladys Aylward — the list could go on and on. If I might speak personally for second: Where I live, Christian missionaries established the first hospitals, the first school for women, the first printing press, and literacy among people. Yes, even something as simple as seeing women as equal creations in the sight of God, our Creator, was among the things centuries of Chinese philosophy and religion never did. As Chinese scholar and atheist Hu Shi noted:

        “‘Let women serve as oxen and horses.’ This saying is not sufficient to describe the cruelty and meanness with which Chinese have treated women. We ‘let women serve as oxen and horses,’ put on yokes, wear saddles, and as if that were not enough, spurs and horse shoes, then chased them out to work! Our holy Scriptures [referring to Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian writings — RRR] were of no saving value. For a thousand years, Confucian philosophers talked about love and benevolence day after day, yet never noticed the cruel and inhumane treatment of their mothers and sisters.

        “Suddenly from the West a band of missionaries arrived. Besides preaching, they also brought new customs and new ways of looking at things. They taught us many things, the greatest of which was to look at women as people.”

        And let’s not forget that native Chinese Christians have done so much as well. For example, Xi Shengmo cured many from deadly opium addictions during the mid-to-late part of the 19th century. I could go on and on about this point, but with all due respect, I hope that you haven’t read that one book and then come to the conclusion that it represents an entire or even true picture of the teachings of Jesus in Chinese history. Time and space constrain me to refrain from commenting on how much native and foreign missionaries do in China these days, even under violent persecution and government regulations.

        I’m familiar with past efforts / fruits and involved in current ones. :)

        Joshua

  3. “To call what he did a fruit of Christian missionary work, which is how I understand your comment, would be an insult to the centuries of records that show it was Christian missionaries who brought all sorts of new, beneficial things to China, including medicine, sanitary practices, etc.”

    Please forgive me, as that was not my intent. I was not clear, and that is my fault. In a funny way this has a bearing on the conversation. I was thinking specifically of the foreword to the book where the author notes:

    “Writing about Hong, I learned almost immediately, was writing about texts as much as about a man, and most especially about what many regard as the text of texts, the Bible. Since I am no Bible scholar, and make no claims to be, this was a daunting prospect. But I was raised for over a decade in schools where the Bible was read daily, and I could see that there was no denying the strength, the inspiration, and the sense of purpose that Hong derived from the Bible, even though his response was intensely personal. Partly this was because the Bible was mediated for him in the Chinese language, either through Chinese converts to Christianity or through Western Protestant missionaries with some knowledge of Chinese who had settled in China’s southeast coastal towns.The fact that it was these random acts of translations, with all their ambiguities, errors, and unexpected ironies, that brought him to his faith and his own sense of destiny, rather than any formal religious instruction, was doubly intriguing to me. It not only reasserted the extraordinary dangers that may flow from the unguided transmission of a book so volatile, and thus highlighted the central importance of the West to Hong’s story; it also helped me understand how Hong, when he at last acquired the bible, made it so peculiarly his own. And because it was his own, after a period of reflection, he felt free to alter it, so that he could pass God’s message on to his followers in an even “purer” form.”

    I bring this up in light of our conversation begun because of Wukong’s Dilemma and the need to understand with whom one is speaking. I’ll admit that Chinese Buddhism is quite different than my own, but they do have much of the Pali Canon in common in addition to the Mahayana sutras.

    I was going to politely suggest that your first task should be learning about Buddhism, and I don’t mean in just an academic way. Find out how a Buddhist understands and sees it since it will be different than how, say, a philologist would view those same texts. This is how Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera was able to crush the missions in the Panadura debate.

    Are you familiar with the Pure Land sutras at all or at least the basic doctrine and textual history?

    • RE: Hong Xiuquan

      No problem. I hope I didn’t seem like I was accusing you of ulterior motives. That certainly wasn’t my intention. I may have to get the book and read more about Hong Xiuquan. As far as I know, there was doubt to whether or not he was even baptised, let alone how well he actually knew the Bible, as your lengthy, fine quotation points out.

      RE: Pure Land Sutras

      I’m vaguely familiar with a few of the Pure Land writings. I think Christian missionary Timothy Richard was the first to draw parallels between some of their text and certain Christian themes in a very eclectic book that I have in my personal library called, “The New Testament of Higher Buddhism”. (Note: After studying Richard’s translation of “The Journey West” (西遊記), a book which he thought was written by a Nestorian Christian as a missionary tool, I think he had the tendency to find parallels where they were not. The same may apply to his translations of the Pure Land texts.)

      My approach to studying Buddhism was a more pragmatic one given my limited time. There is a vast canon of texts that Buddhists consider point to the truth, no? (At least that was my experience.) So, instead of reading thousands of texts from various sects, I tried to narrow it down to things that I assumed Buddhists from any sect would agree upon. Namely: 1) The 4 Noble Truths; 2) the sayings of Siddhartha Gautama; 3) 修行 (which I think translates as “practicing / pursuing [the path / way of] Buddhism” in English). I also read publications by Buddhists about things as diverse as dietary restrictions and motivation for charity. In fact, I recently resigned as a translator for a major Buddhist television station, a job which I took in order to better understand Buddhists. (The stuff I was given to translate started sounding more and more like commercials.)

      RE: Buddhist Objections to Christianity

      May I ask you a personal question? Do you object to Christianity’s truth claims? (Claims including the origin of the universe / world, people; the claims of Jesus resurrection from the dead and His Lordship over the Universe; the true path to salvation and restoration of the relationship between God and humans; etc.) If so, what might those objections be? And why?

  4. May I ask you a personal question? Do you object to Christianity’s truth claims? (Claims including the origin of the universe / world, people; the claims of Jesus resurrection from the dead and His Lordship over the Universe; the true path to salvation and restoration of the relationship between God and humans; etc.) If so, what might those objections be? And why?

    S

    I reject them.

    Origin of the universe: Many short suttas in SN 15 begin with “”From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident…” this ties into the rejection of notions dealing with “fortuitous origination” and the idea that there is a creator of the world (see DN 1 for both of these wrong views).

    People (I’m assuming this is referring to the doctrine of original sin/depravity): AN 1.49-52, the mind is inherently luminous.

    Resurrection: Snp 807, “Just as a man, awakened, does not see whatever he met with in a dream, even so one does not see beloved people when they are dead and gone. ”

    Lordship over the universe: AN 3.61

    True path to salvation, etc: DN 16, “Now, then, monks, I exhort you: All fabrications are subject to decay. Bring about completion by being heedful.”

    Snp 773, Having desire as their fetter, bound to the pleasures of existence, [people] are hard to release, [and] indeed cannot be released by others…

    Dhp 276, You yourselves must strive; the Buddhas only point the way. Those meditative ones who tread the path are released from the bonds of Mara

    The views you hold are not conducive to the cessation of suffering.

    • Thanks for your reply. I certainly appreciate the valuable references. However, I’m sure you do understand that making a claim is not the same as demonstrating it is true. For example, you citing of sutras to back up the Buddhist position on the non-origin of the universe. How would the person you quoted prove themselves privy to that knowledge? What credentials did the person you quote have to demonstrate that we should take their word for it?

      At the end of the day, we’re forced to rely on one person’s word for the claim about the non-origin of the universe. I think these same questions / criticisms apply to your other claims, too.

      You’ve got the added difficulties: Buddhist texts. The Buddhist texts that I’ve read offer very little substance; there’s very little, if any, history, geography, or otherwise in them. This should not surprise us since Buddhists are trying to escape this reality / world, I think.

      So, essentially, we’re left with vague statements from various people that often make very little sense and are of very little, if any, practical benefit. (For example, the Sutra of 42 Chapters. I challenge anyone to read the first chapter and make some sense of it.)

      The views you hold are not conducive to the cessation of suffering.

      I strongly disagree. In fact, personally speaking, faith in Jesus rescued me out of a pit of suffering. In fact, the teachings of Jesus and people working in His Name have brought relief to a lot of suffering people around the world. As I demonstrated earlier up in the thread, Christianity came to China and brought with it things that centuries of Chinese religions and philosophies, including Buddhism, failed to. (See my previous comment for details.) This shows, at the very least, Christianity is conducive to the cessation of suffering in the here and now.

      Joshua

  5. Alan.R.Dent BA(Hons) says:

    Hello Joshua your article made me think about some interesting issues. As a western buddhist aware of past lives in Asia I find the Dharma more relevant to real life than christianity which I am finding from research may have been the result of historical accidents. Asoka Maurya’s peace,trade and missionary policies brought about a budbdhist presence in the west which by Roman times extended as far as Britain and could have led to more religious diversity. The plagues late 2nd century disrupted trade,took a heavy toll in lives and collapsing economies with the result that christianity eventually would dominate the west thanks to a ruthless “Sun worshipper” seeking a suitable religion to unite the empire. As an undergraduate I knew the late Ray Billington, course advisor author of “The Christian Outsider” and raised questions on NT “authenticity”. I follow the Mahayana which is secular in orientation Ch’an is a practical approach and compose music, as well as write. I would appreciate comment. Thanks Alan.

    • Joshua says:

      Hi, Alan. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I certainly appreciate it.

      There are several claims in your reply, but in order to stay on topic, I’ll just focus on one: your claim that Dharma is more relevant to real life than Christianity.

      Please provide evidence for this claim.

      PS – Do you live in a Buddhist country? If you don’t, then the Buddhism you embrace may be a cleaned-up, Westernized version. (I live in a Buddhist [35%] / Daoist [33%] / non-religious [18%] country.)

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