Boeddhist en/of Christen?

HEMELSBREED / Boeddhistische Omroep 

Van Boeddha los? | Comeback van compassie | Guan Her Ng | Kum nye | 
Kan een christen boeddhist zijn? 
Uitzenddatum: Zaterdag 2-3-2013 15:00 - 16:30 / Radio 5

Het lijkt een grap van de geschiedenis: in onze contreien waren het de christenen die het boeddhisme het sterkst gepromoot hebben. Toch is het samengaan van de twee lang niet zo vanzelfsprekend. In Nederland wilde bijvoorbeeld de Gereformeerde Bond de predikant Louis Adriën Bähler, (luister ook naar onze uitzending uit 2010 over Bähler) uit zijn ambt zetten omwille van zijn openlijke sympathie voor het boeddhisme. 

Programmamaker Peter Meijwes trekt op onderzoek: kan een christen boeddhist zijn, of zijn die twee absoluut met elkaar in tegenspraak? Hij sprak daarover met Marcel Poorthuis, co-auteur van het boek Lotus in de Lage Landen, met hervormd predikant Lex Boot, schrijver van het Handboek Christelijke Meditatie, en met Kees Voorhoeve, docent aan de Hogeschool van Amsterdam, die zowel boeddhist als christen kan zijn.

Luister hier

Zie: Boeddhistische Omroep

Without Buddha I Could not be a Christian
~Paul F. Knitter


It’s a universal experience, I suspect, that growing up is not only a wonderful and exciting and rewarding experience; it is also, and often even more so, a painful and bewildering and frustrating ordeal. That’s natural. To leave the familiar, to move into the unknown, and to become something we weren’t can be scary and demanding. 

If this is true of life in general, it should also be true of religious faith. More precisely, if figuring out who we really are as we move from childhood to so-called maturity is for most of us a process in which progress takes place through grappling with confusion, we should expect the same process to operate in figuring out who God is. That has certainly been my experience. As I’ve grown older, my faith in God has, I trust, grown deeper, but that’s because it has been prodded by confusion. No confusion, no deepening.

Just why human growth makes for problems in religious growth has to do with the natural process of growing up. Our spiritual intelligence and maturity have to keep pace with our emotional intelligence and maturity. How that syncopated growth takes place, if it does at all, will be different from person to person. But I think there are some general reasons, especially for people in the United States, why this syncopation lags. For many Christians, while their general academic education matures with their bodies and intelligence, their religious education (if they had any) all too often ends with eighth or twelfth grade. They have to face adult life with an eighth-grade, or teenage-level, religious diploma. 

That can make for difficulties, mainly because being a grown-up means taking responsibility and thinking for oneself. That requires finding reasons in one’s own experience for affirming, or rejecting, what one took from Mom and Dad with a child’s trusting, but often blind, faith. And making connections between an adult’s experience and a child’s image of a Divine Being up in heaven running the show may be as impossible as fitting into your high-school graduation suit or dress twenty or even ten years later. 

Add to such tensions the fact that we live in a world (more vocal in Europe than the U.S.) in which scientists keep answering the questions for which we thought God was the response, or psychologists and political scientists keep pointing out how religion is a more effective tool for manipulation than for maturation, and it becomes even clearer why passing from religious childhood to religious adulthood runs into the kind of problems that either block or terminate the process.

Way back in 1975, the very first graduate theology course I taught (at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago) was titled “The Problem of God.” For me, and for many, the problem remains. As I try to sort out and identify the different faces of my God problem – or, the reasons why I so often find myself wincing when I hear or read how we Christians talk about God – I find three discomforting images: God the transcendent Other, God the personal Other, and God the known Other. 

In no way can I provide neatly packaged answers to a lineup of questions that have teased and tormented many a mind much more erudite than my own. But I do want to try to explore and better understand – for myself and for others – how Buddhism has helped me grapple with such questions and even to come up with some working answers. 

In what follows in this chapter (and in subsequent chapters) I hope to carry on what John Dunne in his wonderful little book from back in the 1970s, The Way of All the Earth, called the “spiritual adventure of our time:” the adventure of passing over to another religious tradition in as open, as careful, and as personal a way as possible, and then passing backto one’s own religion to see how walking in someone else’s “religious moccasins” can help one to understand and fit into one’s own.

That’s what I’ll be doing in the three segments that make up the structure of each of this book’s chapters. First I’ll try to sketch as clear a picture as possible of the struggles I’m experiencing in a particular area of Christian belief and practice. Then I’ll pass over to how a Buddhist might deal with these struggles and questions. And finally I’ll pass back and try to formulate what I have learned from Buddhism and what I think can make for a retrieval and a deepening of Christian belief. 


Somewhere, Carl Gustav Jung stated that according to his experience with his clients, when religious people move into the territory of  middle-age, they start having problems with a God imaged as a transcendent Other – that is, as a Being who exists “up there” or “out there” in a place called heaven. That certainly describes me and my problems. In fact, though I may have been a late bloomer in many aspects of my life, in this area I was, according to Jung’s forecast,  quite precocious. By my mid-twenties I had growing difficulties in wrapping my mind as well as my heart around the picture of God as Other. As I have struggled, it’s become clearer to me that otherness itself is not the real problem. There have to be others, especially  certain “significant others,” in our life if it is going to be healthy and fruitful. Wouldn’t God merit a place on the top of my list of significant others?

The stumbling stone has to do with the way God is portrayed as different from all the other significant others in my life. He (for the rest of this section it feels appropriate to use the traditional male pronoun for God) is the transcendentOther. Or as I was taught during my years of theological studies in Rome back in the 1960s, 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. “Ipsum esse subsistens” was the Latin label we memorized – God is “Self-subsistent Being,” Being who originates from himself, who is dependent solely on himself, and could be happy all by himself.

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See Amazon: Without Buddha I Could not be a Christian