Buddhist/Christian Dialogue

In my most recent post I referred to a Buddhist convert to the christian faith who later lamented that the missionaries robbed him of helpful aspects of his former faith. I remembered another lecture in the New Perspectives on Faith series:  Buddhist/Christian Dialogue and Practice by Michael Stoltzfus.

I listened again to the lecture. (The Old Fool offers Stoltzfus’s insights because he believes they may be helpful to his readers.) Stoltzfus said that our inter-religious conversations  often begin with an exclusive attitude.  That is, the Christian may insist that his religion is the only right way to God.  Such an attitude is ineffective because it creates hostility. A second approach is inclusive.  the Christian admits that there is some truth in another religion, but his own  religion is better than any other.

The third approach is pluralism. The Christian accepts the reality that all religions, including his own,  are partial and incomplete in their approaches to God.  Helpful dialogue happens when the Christian is willing to see validity in the religious views he opposes, and is willing to see errors in points of view he espouses.

Stoltzfus assured his audience that this latter approach would not rob the Christian of his faith. Humility is a virtue that is common to all religions.

Near the beginning of his lecture Stoltzfus showed the audience a single sheet of white 11 x 8 1/2 inch paper.  What do you see?  he asked.  He said that a Buddhist would see the cosmos.  Connectedness is a major theme in Buddhist faith.  That sheet of paper is connected to the whole cosmos.  That piece of paper could not exist without the sun, clouds and rain, earth with soil, and all the rest of the cosmos. Nor could it exist without foresters, lumber jacks, trucks and truck drivers, bark removal, logs chipped, steamed, and pressed into thin sheets of paper through human invention and intervention.

After listening to the lecture I received a TMail from The Mennonite and looked at recent news articles.  One headline reported that the Eastern District of MC US had cut all ties with Germantown Mennonite Church because of its position on Homosexuality issues.  I smiled inwardly.

The Eastern District has tried to do what it does not have the power to do: cut ties to Germantown Mennonite Church, the oldest Mennonite Congregation on the continent.   Eastern District and Germantown Mennonite will forever be connected by history, and by the mystical union that believers have as members in the body of Jesus. By trying to sever ties to Germantown the Eastern District is hurting itself.  That is both the Christian and Buddhist point of view.


About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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