Frequently Asked Questions
(Buddhism and Christianity)



Q: What elements of Christianity are similar to Buddhism's Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path?









The main body of this article focuses on comparing the beliefs of conservative Buddhists and conservative Christians. From that analysis, we concluded that it really is not possible to be both at the same time. But what about other pairings, such as:
    —A liberal Christian and a liberal Buddhist?

    —A liberal Christian and a conservative Buddhist?

    —A New Age believer in Christ Consciousness and a Buddhist?

Through considering possible answers to frequently asked questions, we will explore the degree of compatibility (or incompatibility) of each of these pairings.


Liberal Christians and Liberal Buddhists

What of liberals from both religions? There is a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices among liberals in each religion, making comparisons uncertain. Nevertheless, an analysis is attempted below.


Q: What are the primary differences between conservative and liberal Buddhists?

Huston Smith, in his book, The Religions of Man, summarizes the two great branches of Buddhism by the following table of comparisons.





Given the above, it is clear that liberal Buddhists are much more similar to Christians than are conservative Buddhists.


Q: What are the primary differences between conservative and liberal Christians?

Christians also tend to fall into two categories: conservative and liberal.






It is obvious that there are major differences between liberal and conservative Christians.


Q: Can a liberal Christian also be a Buddhist?

Given the very broad range of beliefs of liberal Christians, it would be very difficult to offer any answers to this question without making some assumptions as to what they believe. In the chart below, several common beliefs of liberal Christians are listed, along with how those beliefs would need to change, at least significantly, in order to also be a Buddhist.






It is clear that any liberal Christian who also wants to be a Buddhist would have to make very substantial changes to their beliefs, often to the extent of contradicting their former views.


Q: In what ways is hypocrisy a problem for Buddhists and Christians?

Hypocrisy is a troublesome problem for all religions, particularly those that espouse clearly defined standards of conduct.






Q: The type of Christianity described in this comparison is quite different from what I have experienced, which is a religion based on rules and guilt. Have I missed something?

There is a reason this question follows the discussion on hypocrisy, because hypocrisy is quite common in Rules/Guilt churchianity. The next chart provides some contrasts.







Q: How does Christ Consciousness differ from the Jesus portrayed in the Bible? Is it compatible with Buddhism?

How is Christ Consciousness different from Jesus Christ? The first is a principle, an office, a position, that has been and will be held by many different people, while the later is a single, historical person, Jesus of Nazareth. In the New Age, not only Buddha and Jesus have held this position, but also many other avatars, who are manifestations, or incarnations, of this exalted office, or position. In this sense, Christ Consciousness and Buddha are quite compatible, and related.





It should be noted that the Jesus portrayed by New Agers has been characterized by a very selective extraction of scattered quotations of Jesus from the Gospels. In addition to selective extraction, many key words have very different meanings than those ascribed by traditional Christianity. It is not the purpose of this article to survey these matters, which inherently would be the subject of a much longer article than this one.


Q: What does God think about someone being a Buddhist and a Christian at the same time?

While it seems possible that a very liberal Christian could also be a liberal Buddhist, one would have to pause and ask at what point God's opinion about all of this is important. At what point would a Christian become so liberal as to be rejected by God? On more than one occasion Jesus made it clear that he would reject some of those who claimed to follow Him.
    "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' " —Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)

    I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. — Revelation 3:15-16 (NIV)

We can also ask at what point would a Buddhist become so liberal that Buddha himself would disavow them as a follower? If Buddha were in Nirvana now, would it matter to him what his self-proclaimed followers were doing or saying?


References

Smith, Huston. 1989. The Religions of Man. New York: HarperCollins.

Scripture quotations marked "NKJV"TM are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked "NIV" are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.



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