Theravadan Buddhists do recognize both a higher power (nirvana) and that there is something not right with their lives (desire).  There are ways to bring these recognitions to Christianity.  One of the reasons Theravadan Buddhists want to achieve this void of nirvana is because of its permanence.  It’s a secure destination to hope for amidst the chaos of daily life.  One can connect the permanence Theravadan Buddhists hope for in nirvana with the permanence of the eternal God who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  We can also point out that we can find peace in this permanence without denying the “existence and value of ourselves” (Halverson 65). Another connection would be to look at desire and the fact that desire causes suffering. Christians also believe desire can cause suffering. Since Theravadan Buddhists want to end all desire, one might question the possibility and extreme difficulty of this; isn’t desiring to end suffering still desiring?  One can gently point out that God doesn’t require the end of all desire, rather the right desire (Romans 7:18).

Theravadan Buddhists don’t have sin; they do have bad karma.  The question isn’t whether they feel guilty for what has caused their bad karma; the question is what they are going to do to make up for it.  One could then bring up that there is someone who can take care of the problem of their bad karma.  This would lead to Jesus’ substitution for the sins (bad karma) of the world.

Theravadan Buddhists don’t believe in the existence of God; they believe in an “abstract void” (WRI) or “an unknown quantity which defies explanation” (Eerdman 228).  This is known as nirvana, which literally means, “to extinguish”.   Buddha himself was only a man, not god.  He wasn’t concerned with the question of God (WRI).  The focus is on entering nirvana by one’s own work to dispel all desire according to the Four Noble Truths by way of the Noble Eightfold Path.  One doesn’t feel guilt, but strives harder to do more good than bad to escape the cycle of rebirth known as samsara (Eerdman 232). They want to earn karmic merit by having more good karma than bad karma (Halverson 61).  (JocR 3/01) We can testify that we cannot work hard enough to obtain release from the bad we have done.

Theravadan Buddhists do recognize that humanity has a problem.  Humanity suffers because they desire.  Christianity also believes that humanity has a problem that causes suffering. When one talks about suffering, they can then ask, “Can I tell you why I think people are like this?” and bring up man’s sinfulness.  Secondly, Theravadan Buddhists recognize there is a solution, but it’s the work of the humans in achieving that salvation.  Christianity also has a solution, but it’s the work of God.  A Christian could recognize the difficulty of their solution in achieving that much good karma and how much that must bind them in life. It would then be possible to talk about the freedom of salvation in Christ’s work.  Created by (From JocR 3/01)

Halverson, Dean C. The Compact Guide to World Religions. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1996: 54-67.

Various. Eerdmans’ Handbook to The World’s Religions. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994: 222-242.

World Religions Index. http://wri.leaderu.com/wri-table2/buddhism.html

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