Buddhism & Christianity: Fear vs. Passion

I spoke at a brunch yesterday at Valley View Baptist Church in Snowflake, Arizona, at the morning service at First Southern in St. John’s, and the evening service at First Baptist in Overgaard. In addition to talking about the work of Eagle TV in Mongolia I taught on the subject of how Animism and Buddhism has influenced Mongolian culture, and the incredible openness of most Mongolians to discuss spiritual things. The Americans I speak with are fascinated by discussions about Mongolia and its Buddhist foundations. It comes as a great surprise for many to learn, through practical illustrations, how Animism and Buddhism have crafted the basic value system of Mongolia, which is very different from the value systems that most Americans subscribe too. In all of my talks I draw out the two most important differences between Buddhism, Islam (also in Mongolia), and Christianity—suffering and love.

  • Buddhism fears suffering,
  • Islam causes suffering,
  • Christianity redeems [through] suffering

The whole idea of suffering, desire, and detachment in Buddhism has had an effect on Buddhist societies that most Buddhists themselves do not recognize. Buddhism not only fears suffering, but actually contributes to suffering. By emphasizing detachment and the elimination of desire, Buddhism puts an unnatural barrier on relationships that stifles the fullest possible expressions of mercy and sacrificial love. Certainly there is love in Buddhism, but not the kind of love that we see in the demonstration of Christ on the cross. That is Buddhism’s greatest tragedy. The fullest possible expression of love cannot be experienced without suffering and sacrifice. Buddhism fails to understand this, and thus is a system that has an outward expression of love that is void of a truly impassioned heart.

  • Buddhism has love without passion,
  • Islam has passion, but not love,
  • Christianity loves passionately.

Nothing expresses love in the way that Jesus’ sacrifice for us does. Buddhism and Islam deny this truth. Buddhists must work for their version of “salvation”—non-existence! Buddhism is a philosophy where the living hope for an eternal death. But Christianity presents the spiritually dead with the hope of a joy-filled, conscious eternity. There are no mediators in Buddhism or Islam to stand in for the sake of a person’s eternal destiny. But Christians have the joyful advantage of having salvation given to them freely by a God who took their punishment in their place. Buddhism and Islam leave man alone to his own fate. Compare this to Christ who suffered our fate on our behalf, and gave us his as our own. Buddhism’s fears and Islam’s hatreds cannot compare to this expression of love in Jesus Christ.

In II Corinthians 5:18 the Apostle Paul said God “reconciled us to himself through Christ.” In American terms we think of the word “reconcile” as a coming together of people from opposite sides, or perhaps even enemies, to join them together. We think of reconciling in terms of wiping away differences and making friends of people at odds. But the Greek word “reconcile” in this passage has nothing to do with this modern concept.

“Reconcile” in the above passage was a purely financial term used by accountants in the ancient world to describe “an exchange of equal value.” This means that God was not simply trying to make peace with us through Christ. Rather, we can understand II Corinthians 5:18 like this:“

In Christ, God exchanged himself for us as if we were of equal value to him.

There is nothing in Animism, Buddhism, or Islam that begins to compare to this concept. The One Powerful Supreme Creator of the Universe exchanged himself for us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as if we were of equal value to the One Powerful Supreme Creator of the Universe. No passionless expression in Buddhism can touch the full-on, no holds barred, completely committed expression of love found in the person of the Lord Jesus. Neither do Islam or Animism have anything that can compare to Christ. The expression of God’s love in Jesus Christ is unmatched anywhere, everywhere, and forever.

It is this message that is transforming lives in Mongolia—including many Buddhists and Animists. As one former Mongolian Buddhist said to me about why he finally rejected Buddhism in favor of Christ, “In Buddhism there is no love.” Comparatively speaking, he is correct.

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