Commingling of religious beliefs is wrong


Speakout

The Rev. Carl Kline dedicated a column last fall to Thich Nhat Hanh, a “Vietnamese Buddhist teacher and mediator in the Zen tradition,” praising two of Hanh’s books which “specifically speak to Christians. One is about Buddha and Jesus as brothers.  Another is ‘Living Buddha, Living Christ’” (Register, Nov 16, 2020).

Kline’s praise for the wisdom of this “Buddhist teacher and mediator” included also an enthusiastic blessing of Hanh’s book, “Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames,” which, according to Kline, “should be required reading for every young man before he graduates from high school.”

Requiring the teaching of Buddhist wisdom as part of school curriculums is curious enough, in light of the Supreme Court’s public school injunctions against the Holy Bible (School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, 1963), prayer (Engle v. Vitale, 1962), and The Ten Commandments as a “passive display” in schools (Stone v. Graham, 1980).

The greater complication, however, revolves around Rev. Kline’s ongoing interest in commingling the divine revelations of Christianity with the teachings and inspirations of other religions, dating back to 2016 and beyond. His column of Feb 27, 2016, for example, encouraged readers in one of the canons of Buddhism, the “eightfold path,” the path to spiritual enlightenment and “right living.”

And he has nurtured readers often on “Satyagraha” (“truth force” or “soul force”), and Gandhi and Jesus, and carried those teachings into Christian churches.        

Satyagraha’s grounding in Hinduism is incontestable: “Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), represents the karma yoga of Hinduism in its most obvious modern setting. Gandhi’s philosophy of Satyagraha, while embodying the religious devotion of bhakti, stresses the active karma yoga search for justice and love in a world where injustices and hate prevail” (Philosophy of Education: An Encyclopedia).

“Gandhian Satyagraha: An Analytical and Critical Approach” (p. 40), affirms “Satyagraha, as conceived and practiced by Gandhi, is a matter of faith or creed grounded in an integrated philosophy of the universe, [and] develops in the Satyagrahi the inner strength, the soul force that becomes irresistible.”

Continuing, “Gandhi derived his idea of Satyagraha neither from Christ nor from Tolstoy, but from his own Vaishnavite faith” (p. 36). Vaishnavism is a major branch of Hinduism. Vaishnavites worship “Vishnu or one of his incarnations (usually Krishna or Rama)… as the supreme God” (religionfacts.com).

Satyagraha is also rooted in Jainism: “Gandhi’s opinion that a satyagrahi should not destroy even the smallest insects and he should observe non-violence in thought, words and deeds, clearly reveals the fact that the seeds of Satyagraha is in Jaina philosophy. He included the virtues of Jainism in the vows of Satyagrahi” (Gandhian Satyagraha, p. 59).

Buddhism: “The essential teaching of Buddha reveals how the essentials of Satyagraha as conceived in modern times by Gandhi are rooted in Buddha’s thought and practices thousands of years before Gandhi” (Gandhian Satyagraha, p. 60).

A relevant publication, “Satyagraha – The Inner Life,” encourages followers in “The Way of the Bodhisattva.” Bodhisattvas venerate Buddhist dieties and seek to attain perfect enlightenment on their path to Buddhahood.

Satyagraha and other diverse ethics for “right living” may fit well within their native faith traditions, but commingling these teachings with Christianity is a far more serious matter.

Perhaps Kline would provide some illumination.

What has Christ, the Eternal God Incarnate, the High King of Heaven and Ruler of Nations, to do with the spiritual inspirations of Buddha or Lord Vishnu?  What concord has Christendom with “The Way of the Bodhisattva?”

Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

He further declared, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18).

By what authority then should the wisdom of Buddhism, or the principles of “satyagraha,” or any other doctrine with roots in other religions with other gods, be introduced into the household of God, which is “… the church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of truth”..? (1 Timothy 3:15).

John Newton (1725-1807), one of history’s renowned theologians and author of the enduring hymn, “Amazing Grace,” has rightly testified to the exclusive power of that truth: 

“The Gospel of Christ, the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, is the only effectual means for reforming mankind.

The Gospel removes difficulties insurmountable to human power.  It causes the blind to see, It causes the deaf to hear; It softens the heart of stone, and raises the dead in trespasses and sins, to a life of righteousness.

No force but that of the Gospel is sufficient to remove the mountainous load of guilt from an awakened conscience, to calm the violence of tumultuous passions, to raise an earthly soul from groveling in the mire of sensuality or avarice – to a spiritual and divine life, a life of communion with God.

No system but the Gospel can communicate motives, encouragements, and prospects – sufficient to withstand and counteract all the snares and temptations with which the spirit of this world, by its frowns or its smiles, will endeavor either to intimidate or to bribe us from the path of duty.

But the Gospel, rightly understood and cordially embraced… will expand the narrow selfish heart and fill it with a spirit of love to God, cheerful unreserved obedience to His will, and benevolence to mankind.”

Christians are to always and everywhere “test the spirits.”  “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God…”  1 John 4:3.

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