Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Works or Grace?

I've been meaning to post on this subject for a while but the time has just gotten away from me. The topic I wish to discuss stems from Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Living Buddha Living Christ, in which he discusses the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity and how we can better learn to love each other. A very interesting book for those that are up for a light, intriguing read.

Thich Nhat Hanh's theory works from a Buddhist perspective, but I'm not sure about how well pluralism works from a Western perspective, which is what I'd like to figure out. Perhaps there are some beliefs of Buddhism that work well with Christianity (mindfulness, interconnectedness, the detachment from worldly outcomes), but I tend to think that Christianity is more about right belief than right action, which I think is a shame. If it were just about right action, the world religions would all get along for the most part without much worry, but they fight over beliefs most of the time.

In John 14:6, Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one gets to the father accept through me." Most Christians rely on this verse to prove that ONLY a belief in Christ will get them to the afterlife, but I think the way it is worded could lend itself to orthodoxy or orthopraxy. The word "through" could mean either belief or action. Saying "the way, the truth, and the life" could emphasize action more than belief. Either way, I think that the verse is insufficient evidence to back up the notion that belief is what is most important in Christianity.

What is a very compelling argument for orthodoxy over orthopraxy is more theoretical. For Buddhists, action and the way we encounter the world is more important because you get an eternity to get it right. No matter what you believe, you've got another shot at it in the next life. Christianity is not the same though. The fact that a Christian life is linear makes belief and grace the only way to go. Not everyone has the same circumstances in life, so it wouldn't be just to judge everyone by their actions due to the fact that not everyone has the same upbringing. In a linear lifetime, the only thing that makes sense is grace and a belief system of forgiveness.

This is just prima facie thoughts on the matter. I'm not sure what I believe or if I'm on the right track at all, but it's an interesting subject. What's more important: right action or right belief? Orthodoxy or orthopraxy? Works or grace? We may never know this side of eternity.

1 comment:

Danielle said...

that's cool that you mention that because i'm about to start taking a class at my church called, "the Tao of Christ" which is taught by brother, Chi Sing, a student of Thich Nhat Hahn. The description for the class is " An Interfaith Buddhist Exploration of the Life and Teachings of Jesus and Other Christian Mystics through study, meditation, music, mindful movement and creative expression." I really don't know what to expect for the classes, but I am definitely excited to see how it will be!