Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

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binocular
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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by binocular » Tue Jun 04, 2013 6:52 pm

Sam Vara wrote:I can't find the bit about eternal consequences, here or in an "ever present" form.
Maybe that's because you read the Bible in the original languages. ;)

Otherwise, per NIV:


Matthew 18:8:
If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.


Matthew 25:41, 46:
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”



2 Thessalonians 1:
5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.


Jude 1:6
6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.


On a more general level, there are a huge number of sophisticated and impassioned debates over the meaning of what Jesus said. I probably live among liberal and tender-minded Christians, but the idea of eternal damnation does not gain much favour with them. Nor the idea of an eternal soul which can suffer it. Some angry right-wing Christians believe it, but then again there are some people who call themselves Buddhists who think and say some decidedly odd things...
Probably most people in the world have known Christianity to be the fire-and-brimstone religion, though.
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binocular
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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by binocular » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:05 pm

daverupa wrote:I cannot find an interpretation of the Gospels in general, or this Parable specifically, which convincingly argues for the absence of such a judgment. It's a key aspect of Christian soteriology (to wit, ever-present).

Perhaps many modern Xians prefer that things be otherwise due to trouble reconciling omni-benevolence with eternal hellfire. One approach might be to consider that Hell isn't a permanent destination - just a really long Purgatory, say - but there doesn't seem to be any scriptural support for such a claim.
There is reason to believe that the majority of the currently popular translations of the Bible are biased or inappropriately translated.

For example:
THE GREEK WORD AIÓN -- AIÓNIOS, TRANSLATED Everlasting -- Eternal IN THE HOLY BIBLE, SHOWN TO DENOTE LIMITED DURATION.

The verbal pivot on which swings the question, Does the Bible teach the doctrine of Endless Punishment? Is the word Aión and its derivatives and reduplications. The author of this treatise has endeavored to put within brief compass the essential facts pertaining to the history and use of the word, and he thinks he has conclusively shown that it affords no support whatever to the erroneous doctrine. It will generally be conceded that the tenet referred to is not contained in the Scriptures if the meaning of endless duration does not reside in the controverted word. The reader is implored to examine the evidence presented, as the author trusts it has been collected, with a sincere desire to learn the truth.

http://www.tentmaker.org/books/Aion_lim.html
and
What is truly timeless? This book explores the language of eternity, and in particular two ancient Greek terms that may bear the sense of "eternal": aiônios and aïdios. This fascinating linguistic chronicle is marked by several milestones that correspond to the emergence of new perspectives on the nature of eternity. These milestones include the advent of Pre-Socratic physical speculation and the notion of limitless time in ancient philosophy, the major shift in orientation marked by Plato's idea of a timeless eternity, and the further development of Pre-Socratic insights by Epicurean and Stoic thinkers. From the biblical perspective, the intersection of Greek and Hebrew conceptions is reflected in Septuagint, as well as new inflections in popular terminology in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and in the role of eternity in the theology of the New Testament. The profound cross-fertilization of Christian and classical philosophical conceptions in the works of the Church fathers and their contemporaries is explored, bringing the topic into the Patristic period. Christian theology in the first five centuries of the Common Era and its choice of vocabulary prove to be most revealing of larger doctrinal commitments. Above all debate raged on the question of eternal damnation versus the idea (deemed heretical in the Christian church after the formal condemnation of Origenism) of apocastastis or universal salvation -- that is, the belief that the wicked are not condemned to eternal punishment but will eventually be included among the saved. Terminology for "eternity" is often at the core of how these issues were debated, and helps to identify which writers inclined to one or the other view of the matter.

Ilaria Ramelli, David Konstan, Terms for Eternity: aiônios and aidios in Classical and Christian Texts. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2007
http://www.gorgiaspress.com/bookshop/sh ... 9333-694-3
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Sam Vara
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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:06 pm

daverupa wrote:
For what it's worth, from the wiki:
Failure to use one's gifts, the parable suggests, will result in judgement.
The judgment, as you note, can receive different explanations depending on which sort of Xian one asks. The point, however, is that talk of the Last Judgment is found everywhere in the Gospels, with the consequences described as 'everlasting'.

Now, the Gospel texts nominally form part of what a Xian considers authoritative. I cannot find an interpretation of the Gospels in general, or this Parable specifically, which convincingly argues for the absence of such a judgment. It's a key aspect of Christian soteriology (to wit, ever-present).

Perhaps many modern Xians prefer that things be otherwise due to trouble reconciling omni-benevolence with eternal hellfire. One approach might be to consider that Hell isn't a permanent destination - just a really long Purgatory, say - but there doesn't seem to be any scriptural support for such a claim.
Yes, but the quote is from the wiki, not from the Gospel. Even the author of the wiki seems to lack confidence in the interpretation, as they use the term "suggests".

The "last judgement" is often mentioned in the New Testament, but again there is a huge range of interpretations. Those Hebrew "Judges" were wise kings and lawgivers, and judgement was seen as a form of putting things to rights, rather than convicting and punishing. Why not this interpretation?

Your point that you can't find an interpretation of the Gospel which argues for the absence of such a judgement is a bit odd. If the authors of the Gospel never intended that interpretation, it would not need to argue it - any more than any other text would need to.

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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by Coyote » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:08 pm

Though many Christians seem to manage it, it seems impossible to ignore in my reading of the bible, the idea of eternal punishment after death for those who are not saved at the last judgement, especially when taking into account the many early Christian writings in which this teaching is a central point.

However, the idea of universal salvation has had proponents from early times: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocastasis#New_Testament, not to mention the idea that those outside of the physical church while on earth will be saved due to conversion during the last judgement.

Maybe your lectures will go into this Marc, but there are separate words for "hell" in the NT only one of which is the damnation after the last judgement - "gehenna".

"When the Son of Man comes in His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats, and He will set the sheep on His right hand but the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” ... “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My Brethren, you did it to me.”
"Then He will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.” ... “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."(Matthew 25:31-36, 40-43, 45-46 NRSV)
Last edited by Coyote on Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by binocular » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:10 pm

Coyote wrote:The difference is, what is "good" is defined not based on understanding of action or intention, but on the dictates of a God.

As long as God is the one who runs the whole Universe, there's no problem then, as God also set the standards for action/intention.

Christian theologies face problems as it turns out that they operating out of inferior definitions of God, presenting God as a mere demigod.
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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by Coyote » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:16 pm

binocular wrote:
Coyote wrote:The difference is, what is "good" is defined not based on understanding of action or intention, but on the dictates of a God.

As long as God is the one who runs the whole Universe, there's no problem then, as God also set the standards for action/intention.

Christian theologies face problems as it turns out that they operating out of inferior definitions of God, presenting God as a mere demigod.
In practice I would agree with you that they are the same. Could you explain what you meant by the last sentence?
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:18 pm

[quote="binocular"]
Otherwise, per NIV:


Matthew 18:8:
If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.


Matthew 25:41, 46:
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”


Well, it says the fire and the punishment are eternal, not an individual soul's experience of it. Maybe a bit like the "regularity of the Dhamma", which endures whether or not Tathagatas arise.

You are probably correct about most Christians seeing hell as a place of perpetual punishment. But they might have got it wrong, just as most Buddhists who have ever lived have got at least something wrong about the Dhamma. The trick is, I think, to keep searching, and not take Sheol for an answer.

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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by Coyote » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:28 pm

The NT did not just fall out of the air to be interpreted as the individual sees fit (especially if you are approaching from a scholarly perspective).The NT is a product of 4th century compilation of early writings, some of which is genuine (i.e from Christ and his disciples), some of which is not, and leaves out much of what early Christians read and where taught as doctrine, some of which may be as old as the epistles, which are usually thought of as being the oldest section of the NT.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Developmen ... ment_canon
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by binocular » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:33 pm

Sam Vara wrote:Well, it says the fire and the punishment are eternal, not an individual soul's experience of it.

The other passages I provided say otherwise:

2 Thessalonians 1:
5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

Jude 1:6
6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

The trick is, I think, to keep searching, and not take Sheol for an answer.
Why? To make Christianity seem more palatable, and to re-present the whole damnationist business as an unfortunate mistake?
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Sam Vara
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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:41 pm

binocular wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:Well, it says the fire and the punishment are eternal, not an individual soul's experience of it.

The other passages I provided say otherwise:

Yes, but note that these are not Gospel, are they? More important than the distinction between Buddhavacana and commentary, when talking about God himself.

As for intentions in a reading of the Gospel, what would be a better one?

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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by binocular » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:42 pm

Coyote wrote:
binocular wrote:Christian theologies face problems as it turns out that they operating out of inferior definitions of God, presenting God as a mere demigod.
In practice I would agree with you that they are the same. Could you explain what you meant by the last sentence?
If God is the Supreme Person, the Creator, Controller and Maintainer of the Universe, the source of all other living beings, always happy and knowledgeable, and if "not a blade of grass moves without God's will (=permission)" (here I'm going with some Hindu understanding of God), then it is not logically possible that parts of God could be destroyed or suffer forever or do anything against His will to begin with. Unless, of course, God is chaotic, neurotic, or crazy, or we're not talking about God to begin with, but just some being who happens to be powerful, but not all-powerful.
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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by Coyote » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:46 pm

The epistles are generally thought older than the gospels. Think late accounts of the buddhas life in the Pali canon vs. records of his teaching. Many scholars debate the influence of legend and myth in the gospels, but this is hard to see with the epistles.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dating_the ... _Testament
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by Coyote » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:51 pm

binocular wrote:
Coyote wrote:
binocular wrote:Christian theologies face problems as it turns out that they operating out of inferior definitions of God, presenting God as a mere demigod.
In practice I would agree with you that they are the same. Could you explain what you meant by the last sentence?
If God is the Supreme Person, the Creator, Controller and Maintainer of the Universe, the source of all other living beings, always happy and knowledgeable, and if "not a blade of grass moves without God's will (=permission)" (here I'm going with some Hindu understanding of God), then it is not logically possible that parts of God could be destroyed or suffer forever or do anything against His will to begin with. Unless, of course, God is chaotic, neurotic, or crazy, or we're not talking about God to begin with, but just some being who happens to be powerful, but not all-powerful.
I'm not sure I follow - "parts of God"?. The universe is not a part of God according to classical Christian doctrine, and man was made seperate from God and with free will. From a Hindu perspective I see your point, but I think it is better to critique Christian conceptions of God with the problem of suffering, or evil, i.e God is perfect and no imperfection (suffering, evil) can come from him. If he allows it, he is not all-powerful ect.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by manas » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:33 pm

binocular wrote:
In light of this, what is your take on the Christian teachings on eternal damnation for all those who don't convert?

Also, how do the numerous competing Christian churches resolve the problem of figuring out which Christian church is the right one? Given that one has to choose the right Christian church, or one will burn in hell for all eternity.
With regards to 'eternal damnation', with a specific fiery place of torture ruled over by a guy who looks suspiciously like the Greek God Pan, except he isn't nearly as friendly - I don't see that in the actual gospels. The 'fire that will not go out' and the 'outer darkness, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth' that Jesus refers to on occasion, probably just refers to the World, ie Samsara. Those who will not even try to elevate themselves by wholesome actions, spiritual practice etc will be condemned to remain in the World which is always burning like fire, and which is essentially a place of misery. But while he said that the fire of the world never goes out, he never specifically said "if you do not believe in ME you will burn and be tortured in Hell forever" - that is found nowhere in the gospels, it is a notion that was added much later (and as a fear tactic, works wonderfully well at controlling those who lack the inner resources to see through it).

:anjali:
Last edited by manas on Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Knowing this body is like a clay jar,
securing this mind like a fort,
attack Mara with the spear of discernment,
then guard what's won without settling there,
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Re: Christianity, from a Buddhist perspective

Post by daverupa » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:36 pm

binocular wrote:There is reason to believe...
Sure, that's a flavor of Universal reconciliation. It or something like it may have been popular quite early on, falling into disfavor for a few centuries, and now seeing increased interest. Another response to the problem of Hell is Annihilationism, which in a Xian sense is the idea that instead of eternal torment, those who fail to become reconciled with God simply cease to exist.

So the primary goal of eternal life in heaven (or maybe heaven just for an age?), else either [1] Xian annihilation, [2] eternal suffering, or [3] eventual reconciliation (including such 'halfway house' formulations such as the Mormon heavens). Eternalism/annihilationism any way you slice them, all of which the Bible can support, none of which the Nikayas support.

The fact of sin in Xian soteriology is wholly foreign to Buddhist ideations. The very idea of a God such as a Xian might imagine is lampooned in the Nikayas. Xianity adheres strongly to rites & rituals (communion, baptism) which is a fettered approach to morality, on the Buddhist view.

And so forth.
Sam Vara wrote:... there is a huge range of interpretations...
...that are not equivalently plausible. Let's have a look at Xian Hell as a result of the Last Judgement.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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