A comparison of Buddhist compassion to Christian love : an apologetic study
McCoy, Daniel James
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The purpose of this thesis will be a contrast of the Buddhist and the Christian responses to this-worldly suffering. Many scholars have proposed that the best way to create a better world with less suffering is to make Christianity more like Buddhism, so that an interfaith synthesis between the two religions results. These scholars’ proposals are described in Chapter 2. However, what these scholars desire (i.e. less this-worldly suffering) will not logically result from the solution they suggest (i.e. Buddhicizing Christianity). For to make Christianity more like Buddhism in its essentials would render Christianity less potent to oppose this-worldly suffering. The thesis will thus contrast Buddhism with Christianity in five crucial areas, namely, their viewpoints on ultimate reality, ultimate attachments, ultimate aversions, ultimate example, and ultimate purpose. These five areas provide the content to accurately define Buddhist compassion and Christian love. Chapter 3 describes Buddhism’s struggle to ground love of neighbor ontologically, whether by the ontological givens of dependent co-arising or nirvana. Buddhism struggles to ground not only whether we should love our neighbors, but also whether we can do so. Christianity, on the other hand, proves entirely capable of grounding love of neighbor—whether should or can—given its theistic ontology. Chapter 4 describes the Buddhist and Christian responses to suffering when it comes to attachments. Buddhism asks us to let go of rigid attachments to persons, truth and goodness. Meanwhile, Christians are to cling to God, and as a result of loving God, they are to love people, hunger and thirst for the good, and rejoice in the truth. These ultimate attachments to persons, truth, and goodness help overcome this-worldly suffering. According to Chapter 5, Buddhism and Christianity differ sharply when it comes to aversion to and grief over sin. Buddhists cultivate equanimity toward the sin, reasoning that the problem is not actually the person’s fault and, furthermore, that the problem is not really a problem. Christians, however, are to love people enough that they hate the sin which destroys them. In hating evil and restoring people, Christianity undermines immense worldly suffering. Chapter 6 contrasts Gautama and Jesus as examples of combatting suffering. At each juncture, Jesus offered more to actually fight against suffering than did Gautama. Incredibly, the interfaith scholar who would Buddhicize Christianity’s ultimate example would mar the portrait of the paradigm who exemplifies the very qualities the interfaith scholar wants to emulate. Chapter 7 examines the Buddhist emphasis on “thusness” and the Christian emphasis on purposefulness. Insofar as the interfaith scholar would Buddhicize Christianity’s ultimate purpose, the robust purposefulness that gives one’s life meaning and motivation would erode into a purposelessness which, however emancipating, leaves one comparatively impotent in the face of this-worldly suffering. In light of these five contrasts, Christian love and Buddhist compassion are able to be defined and contrasted. The logical conclusion drawn is that to Buddhicize Christianity’s ultimacy would be to truncate Christianity’s efficacy, a result which should motivate these interfaith scholars to reconsider their proposals.
- Theology