In response to Aaron’s post about Buddhism and the problem of pain, I wanted to echo his sentiments by reposting my tale illustrating the same point.
Once upon a time there were three Buddhist monks who lived in a monastery. Each day, the monks would walk along a lengthy path to fetch water from a local well.
As they were walking one day, the monks met a Christian missionary, and they entered into a lively debate about spiritual principles, and the nature of God. They agreed on many things, including the importance of forgiveness and compassion, and about karma, which the Christian called “sowing and reaping.” However, when it came to the nature of God, and the life to come, they seemed to disagree.
I wrote this essay back in 2001 during my period of away from Christianity, while I was exploring Vipassana Buddhist Meditation.
Although it has been a few weeks since I did the 10 day course, it is still worthwhile to try and remember. In retrospect, I find Vipassana a premium tool for self-knowledge and control, though not comprehensive as a spiritual/emotional tool for healing and growth. In addition to yoga, devotional study, and prayer, it fills out (almost) a complete set of inner spiritual disciplines (don’t forget the outer ones of service, etc.)
The Christian Muslim Forum, an interfaith group, has released what it calls Ethical Guidelines for Christian and Muslim Witness in Britain (PDF). Interestingly, some more conservative Christians don't like a couple of the provisions because they fear that it could be used to stifle criticism or even moral condemnation of spirituality that contradicts what some would call basic human rights.
If you'd like to hear a spirited debate about the guidelines between a moderate Christian, a moderate Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, and a conservative Christian, check out the excellent debate at Muslim, Christian, Hindu debate on evangelism.
What some are calling Ten Commandments of Mission? are after the jump, with my highlights and brief commentary.
In Part I of this series, I examined Pascal’s wager as a risk calculation exercise. In Part II, I proposed some criteria by which one could evaluate various faith claims, even though those criteria were outside of direct empirical observation. In this part, I perform a heuristic, self-reinforcing example of how said evaluation might look when comparing the claims of Jesus, Buddha, Mohamed, Zeus, Superman, and the FSM.
Admittedly, I have not backed up my Yes/No assertions with argumentation and data, but for the sake of this exercise, that is unimportant – an actual evaluation may come up with different answers. The point is, when evaluated by important, empirical and non-empirical criteria, faith claims can be differentiated, and some may be eliminated as serious candidates for faith, while others remain under consideration.
No faith can be ‘proven,’ that is the point of having faith. But some may be eliminated as pretenders, as not worthy of faith. Click on the chart in the image to see a full sized version.
In Part IV, I address the host of minor objections.
The Council on Foreign Relations recently had a great three part symposium, and I wanted to summarize some of the great material from the transcripts. It covers such things as the economic progress brought by Protestantism as compared to Catholicism and other religions, as well as how literacy spread, not by the invention or availability of the printing press, but primarily by Protestant Missionaries who used it. And more. In this part, I’ll cover the comments of Lawrence Hamilton, Director, Cultural Change Institute and Lecturer, the Fletcher School, Tufts University.
One of my favorite pastimes is to regularly cull through the latest ultra bargains at Christian Book Distributors and order a bunch of books for an average price of $2 each. About 50% of them are usually gems, and one particular gem I picked up for $1 (regularly $7) was John Cobb’s Christian Faith and Religious Diversity.
Although Cobb is a Christian Progressive (not my camp, as you know ;), his book was filled with insights which I found illuminating and helpful in my own desire to learn from and appreciate other faith traditions, without having to be a syncretist.
This is the most important essay in the entire series, primarily because it outlines the assumptions upon which the rest of the series depends. Just as a house is only as good as its foundation, so philosophical, moralistic, and religious arguments are only as good as the assumptions they are founded upon.
World magazine’s culture editor, Gene Veith, has launched a new World blog on Christianity and culture. Cranach – named after the great Reformation artist Lucas Cranach – is a discussion blog on how Christians should approach cultural issues.
One of the first topics Veith has been discussing is The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. He asks the question will the film produce a better evangelistic opportunity than even The Passion. Will Narnia be better for shedding the light on God’s plan for salvation than Calvary itself?
When I was a kid, one of my favorite cartoons was Animaniacs. At the end of every episode, the Warner siblings (brothers Yakko, Wakko and sister Dot) would run back to the water tower on the Warner Bros. lot, from which they escaped. On their way back, they would always stop and spin the “Wheel of Morality” and chant “wheel of morality, turn, turn, turn; tell us the lesson that we should learn.” Upon stopping the wheel would spit out some off the wall, unrelated “moral” for that day’s episode.
While there may be no “Wheel of Morality” for life, many people feel as if they are trapped on a wheel of suffering with little chance of escape.
Critics of Christianity love to come up with reasons to call Christians hypocrites (sometimes with good reason). Of course, sensible Xians agree that hypocrisy exists anywhere humans exist, but it is not to be defended, nor is it a valid reason to reject an ideology – ideologies must be examined on their content. Their implementation is another issue.
However, just in case some other significant ideological groups think they are hypocrisy-free, I offer up these recent news events. Now, it may look like I’m just trying to be negative and argumentative, but really, I just want people to realize that hypocrisy is widespread, and we should all do what we can to eliminiate it, first in ourselves and the groups we participate in, and to not think that our favorite groups are above it. Also, I want to point out that hypocrites do not invalidate an ideology – but they do bring shame to it.