Saturday, March 9, 2013

Without Buddha, I Could Not be a Christian

To be fair, I have not read this book, only the pages available at  Specifically, the following excerpts are from pages 3 -5, which you can read in their entirety here.

God is the totaliter aliter – the totally Other, infinitely beyond all that we are as human and finite beings. In his transcendence, God is, we were taught, infinitely perfect, infinitely complete, happy unto himself, in need of nothing.” … God is “Self-subsistent Being,” being who originates from himself, who is dependent solely on himself, and could be happy all by himself.

An Other in need of no other

… When I thought of this, I realized that this means that God is an Other who really doesn’t need others, and so in his self-sufficiency cannot really be affected by others. … God does not have any needs that would make him dependent on creatures – needs that would tarnish the perfection and self-sufficiency of God. Theologians through the centuries … have acted as bodyguards around God, making sure that no one really touches him. To be touched and changed by something that is not God – that woud be, as it were, a weakness that is not permitted by God’s infinite otherness.

But wait a minute. This is only half of the picture of God in Christian doctrine. The God of Abraham and Moses and Jesus is also a God of love. Christianity affirms that the God who is infinitely other … is also a God who infinitely loves. Creation is the supreme sign and expression of that love … precisely because this God, who in his self-sufficiency and perfection didn’t have to create, did so! To do something that one doesn’t have to do, to give of oneself even when one in no way needs to – that, say the theologians, is love at its finest.

But is it? …

To start with, if we believe that God is love and that creation is the expression of this love, but then immediately add that God did not have to create, it sounds like God did not have to express his love. But what kind of a love is that? …Theologians respond by explaining that God’s inherent, infinite love is expressed within himself, between the relations that make up the Trinity. So God’s love could be satisfied with being only an internal, self-love? Hmm. We have words for such love. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I have to be honest. A love that doesn’t need to be expressed just doesn’t make sense – or it’s a bit sick.

. . .

A one-way street

It’s one way because given the Christian insistence on the perfection and unchageability of God, God can certainly make a difference in the world. But the world can never make any difference for God. … God’s influence on the world is real, but the world’s influence on God is … only figments of our mind’s imagination. If the world could affect God… it would tarnish his perfection and independence.

So God’s action in history is a one-way street.

Such are some of the difficulties with Christianity Dr. Knitter has encountered (as should anybody) for resolutions to which, he has turned to Buddhism.

All I am going to note here is that there was no need for the professor to go so far afield.  All he needed to do was adopt the biblical and patristic teaching of the distinction between the Divine Essence and the Uncreated, Divine Energy.  That would have resolved all the above issues, and more.

I once wrote a series of blog posts on that subject.  Since then, I've put them all together as one post; click here if you care to read or re-read that essay.