Sunday, March 10, 2013

Without Buddha I Could Not be a Christian, Part II


The author of Without Buddha I Could Not be a Christian, Dr. Paul Knitter, having detailed his problems with God as Transcendent Other, moves on to his problems with God as Transcendent Person.  Here are the first three of several problems he mentions.

From page 25:
In picturing or approaching the Divine as a “you,” I somehow feel I’m being inappropriate, or disrespectful, or offensive – something like talking loudly in the midst of the hushed beauty of a New Zealand forest. I think my problems gravitate around what the experts call “anthropomorphisms.” Using human forms or putting a human face on the Divine may be something we humans can’t avoid doing. But it’s fundamentally inappropriate – something like a kitschy painting of the Grand Canyon!

Jesus Christ puts the human face to God, and would be the solution to this difficulty, but the author has long since given up belief in Jesus as Divine.

Knitter's next problem is that he doesn't want to be someone God is not. From page 26:

And when I try to get at what sparks the problems that flare up when I bring together “God” and “you,” I think it has to do with the tension, if not contradiction, between inherent qualities of “the Divine” and inherent qualities of a “you.” The divine qualities I’m referring to are . . . the non-dual, right-here God in whom we live and move and have our being, the God who acts as me and at the same time is more than me. When God becomes a “you” who stands opposite me or outside me, there’s a danger, I sense, of losing these qualities of the God within, the God experienced as animating energy. For me, when God becomes part of an “I – Thou relationship,” this God-as-Thou takes on a degree of otherness that just doesn’t fit the intimacy that I feel, or hope to feel, with the Divine. I guess I’m saying that God-as-Thou so easily slips back into the dualism of God-as-Other.

Again, it seems Dr. Knitter did not need to resort to Buddhism to resolve this issue; the Orthodox teaching of theosis would have served, assuming the professor would have been willing to be divine only by grace and not by nature (a factor that disappointed me when I first heard the doctrine).

There are definite, and indeed needed, differences between the Infinite and finite, between Source and expression, between field and the elements in the field. But it has to be a relationship of authentic mutuality, one in which I exercise genuine responsibility, which means a relationship in which I make a difference for and can really affect the Divine. I feel it has to be not just God’s show but our show.

Yet again, there's a one-word answer to this within Orthodox Christianity: synergy.

I've no idea whether Professor Knitter (or his wife, who has converted to Buddhism) ever did any thorough investigation of Orthodox Christianity. It seems that as a teacher of comparative religion, he ought to have, but if so, one wonders why he still has all these theological quandaries that Orthodoxy solves, or rather, avoids.