Sunday, March 20, 2016

Comparing Like with Like

Paul Williams

“When we come to Buddhism as adults we immediately start studying Buddhism at a level that traditionally would have been the preserve of an elite of highly talented and advanced practitioners, usually monks and nuns. We read the advanced stuff (even if we cannot practice it). This knowledge of really quite advanced Buddhist thought gained from the many books now available in the West, plus deference to a dominant culture and the level of Western education, is one reason why Tibetans tend to think Westerners are so very clever (if lacking in self-discipline and application). 

“Thus when we come to compare Christianity and Buddhism it is not surprising that Buddhism always seems so much more doctrinally and spiritually sophisticated. The Christian thought outside of the New Testament that many people are familiar with is commonly that of Christian ‘mystics’. These are often presented in rather watered-down versions by people more interested in similarities between religions then detailed textual study of the sources in their cultural context. All too often we end up with Christian mystics who are thought to be saying, in a rather naïve and misleading fashion, what was expressed so much more penetratingly by the Buddhists. We are simply not comparing like with like. If we really want to compare Christianity and Buddhism we have to include the thought of sophisticated Christian philosophers such as St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, or, in contemporary philosophy, Alvin Plantinga or Peter van Inwagon. And that requires time.”

The Unexpected Way: On Converting from Buddhism to Catholicism

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate Paul Williams's point, which is that although most of us are culturally Christian, we avoid or are unaware of sophisticated Christianity, so we may end up knowing Buddhism well relative to our superficial knowledge of our own religion. I feel that part of the reason for the decline of traditional Christianity is that its critics know it superficially and condemn it as such, and followers, who also know it superficially, can hardly dispute the criticism. Every time I feel I'm finally getting a handle on Christianity, a hard lesson comes my way to show me how much I have to learn.


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