Dear OD,

You have raised some interesting issues that must be thoughtfully considered, so I will attempt to do so. You have made several gratuitous assertions that should be logically answered.

 

<<I really can't fathom where a "Christian" could possibly think it to be okay to condemn whole groups of people to hell. After all that's supposed to be God's department. Buddhists, Muslims, Catholics, Mormons, gays, drug users, and the list goes on. I even confided in my mom's pastor and he even agreed with me that people have no right to say whether or not someone is going to hell. You would think that Mr. Chick would try to teach benevolence and compassion among his fellow men instead of all that fire and brimstone that just gets people mad anyway.>>

 

Okay, OD, here are some thoughts. You have "Christian" in quotes, suggesting that one isn't a Christian if he/she condemns "whole groups of people to hell." Obviously, you don't know what historic Christianity is. Granted that judgmental Christians exist in the world, but the God of Biblical revelation has condemned all of humanity for it's choice of "sins" (a Christian term). A Christian person cannot personally condemn anyone, but if the God of the Bible already has condemned entire groups of people, then how could the Christian be faulted for repeating what his God already said? According to the God of the Bible, the whole world is condemned in John 3:18, although the text also says that Jesus didn't come to condemn the world. From the biblical vantagepoint, the world already is condemned. The Bible doesn't give us a Politically Correct Jesus who accepted everybody who chose to remain as they were. Jesus in numerous Gospel references condemned entire groups (e.g., John 8:44, where Jesus called his fellow Hebrews "children of the devil"), and his own disciples made the bold assertion that "Neither is ther salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved," in Acts 4:12. This excludes those who reject Jesus Christ, but that is another subject.

You are filtering what you read or hear, whether they are tracts, sermons, etc. through a Postmodern ultra tolerant mindset that insists on accepting everything and condemning nothing, accepting all claims to "truth" as equally valid. This frankly isn't a biblical worldview, period. Aside on the fact that Postmodern relativism is self contradictory, the New Testament portion of the Bible was written in such a tolerant climate found in the Roman Empire that accepted and tolerated all religious worldviews as long as they didn't challenge the emperor. Christianity not only challenged the emperor Nero's claim to being a god, but challenged the whole religious worldviews as a distortion of ultimate truth that was to be found in Jesus. Narrow minded? Hell, yes, to put it bluntly.

 

<<The tracts don't even begin to make me want to become a Christian. They are repulsive, Offensive (but you know that already), and riddled with fallacies.>>

 

Fallacies? Sorry again, but that is a Western concept. In a Buddhist and far eastern worldview, Western logic wouldn't apply anyway. Why you point out alleged fallacies as a Buddhist makes no sense to me.

 

<<The one falsehood that really burns in my mind is in the one of the tracts that names Jesus as God. It even goes so far as to say Jesus created the universe. It says god was born on earth as Jesus. This contradicts the biblical account of Jesus being seated at the right hand of the father. That one will do for Christians contradicting themselves. Moving on...>>

 

I'm glad that it "burns in your mind" that the tracts claim Jesus is God. This is not a Jack Chick idea, it is a biblical view and the historic Christian view formulated and articulated in the Creeds of historic Christianity for the first several centuries of Christendom. The claim that God became a man (the doctrine of the Kenosis)is one doctrine that was responsible for the martyrdom of Christians. Early Christians claimed that Jesus was "Lord," a claim found in the New Testament documents in numerous places (e.g., I Corinthians 12:3). "Lord" didn't just mean "sir," as in British usage, it meant the divine name for the Hebrew God Yahweh. Since the Jews didn't pronounce the divine name of God out loud, they substituted "Lord" when they refered to their deity. When the early Christians called Jesus their Lord, they literally said that Jesus was their god. This is profoundly asserted in numerous New Testament passages, thus indicating that early Christians held to the view that Jesus was more than a good teacher, but rather was a walking deity. He was called "creator of the universe" first by Paul, the most effective apostle and evangelist of Christianity in his letter, the book of Colossians 1:16: "For by him (Jesus) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him..." The Gospel of John in 1:3 also asserts that nothing was made without Jesus Christ. In his own words, Christ suggested who he "really" was to his critics when they confronted him. In John 10:8, he even made the assertion that all who "came before me" were thieves and robbers! So much for embracing Siddartha as his brother!

The reason why this teaching on the deity of Jesus (the doctrine that calls Jesus "God") was responsible for the martyrdom of early Christians was because they refused to call Nero Caesar a god. To Christians, only Jesus was their god, and they refused to recognize the emperor as such. Hence, Christians were considered "atheists" for not believing in the emperor.

I honestly don't know why you see a contradiction in the biblical account (that you don't even cite) of Jesus being seated at the right hand of the father and Jesus' deity. In context, the passage that mentions this (Acts 2:33-39) answers this alleged contradiction you raise. The account in the book of Acts records a sermon from Peter, wherein he cites to Psalm 110:1, "My Lord said to my lord, sit at my right hand..." Peter was taking an ancient text and applying it to the situation of Jesus (it's a common Hebrew/rabbinical practice to apply ancient texts to modern new situations).

The early Christians and later, the bishops and theologians of the church were confronted with a theological dilemma. They believed that there was one ultimate God they called Yahweh, and this God was known as "father." However, the person of Jesus exercised attributes believed only to be done by God. Also, they believed that there was a "person" known as the Holy Spirit who also functioned as God. The logical syllogism that early theologians formulated was that the "Father," the "Son," and the "Holy Spirit" were somehow the one God. A theological term that originated in the West to describe this is "perichoresis," aka "circumincession," which means that one undivided divine essence is shared among the Trinity that avoids blurring the distinctions among the three "persons." Hey, don't accuse Christians of contradicting themselves or making no sense when Buddhism is loaded with such concepts among the various schools that clash with each other. E.g., Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana, Lamaism, Zen, Ko'an, etc. As celebrity Patrick Duffy once said, it is difficult for the "Western" mind to understand. By comparison, the doctrine of the Trinity is easy to manage.

 

<<I am a Buddhist. The only belief that I don't share with fundamentalist Buddhists is vegetarianism. It contradicts itself. How can natural balance be maintained when the animal population is left to it's own devices. That however is not the point I'm trying to make. I was simply providing some personal background. In one tract it portrays Buddhists as money grubbing, violent people. This could not be farther from the truth. Buddhists are pacifists in the greatest sense of the word. Zen is the supreme state of enlightenment, and we strive for it. We meditate, and we try our best not to let obstacles like anger and violence from getting the best of us. When we try not to get angry it will get easier to not get angry at anything. We aren't violent like the people in those tracts. We do not beat the pulp out of people who do not believe as we do. It's all based on bias and very little fact.>>

 

Again, you filter an eastern religion through Western concepts of logic. The Laws of Identity, Non-contradiction, and Excluded Middle should be meaningless to Buddhism, yet you appeal to them to understand an Eastern religion not cultivated in such Aristotelian concepts. In fact, one authoritative comparative religion textbook (I majored in Comparative Religion at the University of Washington) states that within the two branches of Zen, the Rinzai and Soto schools, that "common to both movements, however, is a clear opposition to intellectualism and the supremacy of reason. Concern with teaching is rejected. Zen is entirely intuitive." In fact, asking questions that have no answer (koans), thinking is pushed to the limit of the absurd: "It is useless to seek rational answers to them; the tension they produce must be borne to the utmost," from Wulf Metz, "One Goal, Many Paths" in Eerdmans' Handbook to the World's Religions, page 238. Zen the supreme state of enlightenment? Not for me. Although I sympathize with the Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire back in Vietnam...

 

<<Secondly, we really have no central deity. That is why Buddhism works so well along side of other religions. It is easy to mix with traditional beliefs. Buddha isn't even considered a God. He was a teacher. He was given the choice by his father of staying at home and living a life of luxury or going out to teach and open the path to enlightenment.>>

 

This more sanitized summary of what Siddharta Guatama did to pursue enlightenment leaves out a material fact. He abandoned his wife and child when they were asleep! This is hardly fulfilling his own ethical teaching found in the Four Noble Truths or the Eightfold Path with his notions of Right Action, Right Living, and Right Effort.

Buddhism is not easy to mix with historic Christianity, since historic Christianity denies reincarnation and affirms resurrection. Furthermore, Buddhism takes self denial (certainly a virture Christ taught, too) and takes it to an extreme. For me, Buddhism and Hinduism, it's parent religion, are both pessimistic religions because they view life as suffering. The central aim of both faiths is the release, or moksha (yes, I remember that term from my Eastern Religious studies from the university) from the hopeless cycle of birth and rebirth, and entering nirvana. Nirvana is a state of being that is defined by negatives, i.e., what it is NOT. Like a drop of water going back into the ocean, so one returns to the whole. Self, or the "I" no longer literally exists.

Scholar Wulf Metz speculates why Buddhism appeals to many in the West. As you believe, many others perceive that Buddhism is "tolerant," and that it gives an atheist an opportunity to embrace religion without a deity. Buddhism's teaching on sowing and reaping is also appealing to many's sense of justice. However, what difference does this make when the destiny of all is the loss of identity into the cosmic whole? Buddhism among Westerners is also a form of rebellion against a culture dominated by Judeo-Christian beliefs.

Certainly, Buddhism is a challenge to Christianity. Certainly, the tolerance within Buddhism cannot be denied, but TRUTH is objective and absolute. This is universally true, whether in the West or the East.

Siddhartha's teaching offered only sublime and demanding teaching focused too narrowly on the subject of suffering. It rejects the material world as a "good" thing, and focuses upon escape from suffering through extinction. In a Christian worldview, Christianity accepts the world as a creation of a personal God, and life isn't not identical with suffering. In a more personal way, suffering is a result of humanity's estrangment from God, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes the idea that God became man to physically identify and suffer the limitations of being human. For the Eightfold Path to have meaning, it seems logical to live it in the light of a Creator who gave us moral laws and precepts to live by. Otherwise, if we are left with the view that morality and "goodness" only originate with ourselves, then no one's morality is better than anyone else's. See my reasoning on the question with the atheist questioner on a previous post.

 

<<Now that I've completed the hard core religious stuff, I'll actually ask a question. What is your position on Marijuana. I personally believe it is just as harmless as any common household product. If you want to argue about it, sugar kills your pancreas (in excess), cholesterol (found in just about everything American ) will give you a heart attack, ibuprofen damages your kidneys, aspirin damages stomach lining. The list goes on. It just goes to show that everything in moderation is just fine. Marijuana isn't the gateway drug people claim it to be. I've been smoking it for many years now and I've never done anything else. I've never considered doing anything else and none of my friends have either. I don't even drink. I don't party or fornicate for that matter either. I'm considered by most a sort of a shaman because of this (it's them not me). Marijuana hasn't damaged my ability to do anything either. I smoked more weed my senior year than any other time and my grades were straight A's. I have the highest SAT, ACT, and ASVAB scores in my school. I can also program in 5 different languages and I'm only eighteen. So, brain damage is only an unfounded rumor just meant to scare people away. Chick's tracts bash drugs as a whole, but only PCP is mentioned by name. Someone shot heroin. The rolled a J and that's all I can think of. I want to know what the Christian position on Dambe is.

I'm tired and I'm going to go to bed.>>

 

Marijuana is known to make users tired and lethargic. Just wait until you're old and see how it effects you...

At 18, you only THINK you have all the answers to life's problems. The truth is, you are operating with a mere fraction of the information and experience you will have at twice your age. (Your first 10-15 years of childhood are spent learning a vocabulary to organize your thoughts. You still have a long way to go, bro.) Never mind the fact that you are BREAKING THE LAW, and violating Buddha's teaching on Right Action by using drugs. Congratulations on your accomplishments, in spite of your reefer usage. I wish the same could be said of my cousin, who screwed up his life with it, or an old acquaintance Bill S. who baked his brain after repeated usage.

I expect you will change your tune about drugs as you get older and start to encounter the health, legal and financial problems that accompany long term drug addiction. Let's hope you don't wait until too much damage is done or start using harder drugs to recreate the euphoria once your body builds up resistance to Marijuana. ("OD" might wind up representing Over Dose.)

Richard Lee

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