What Christians need to know about the Buddhist worldview
Have you ever wondered about the Buddhist worldview? Whether you’re a master of comparative religion or an interested novice, take our quiz to find out and learn about buddhism!
2 Minute Read
By John Hawke
OK, time for a confession. The other day I realized that for the most part, I know very little about Buddhism. Granted, that wouldn’t be all that confession-worthy if not for the fact that I work for a mission organization focusing primarily on the Buddhist and post-Buddhist world. And if I haven’t heard much about Buddhism over the years, I’d expect most Americans to be in the same boat.
Despite a very small resurgence in what I’m going to call “New Age Pop-Buddhism” in the West, Buddhism is still overwhelmingly an Eastern religion. Most Americans simply wouldn’t run across many Buddhists unless they happened to grow up in a Buddhist family or lived in a very small handful of New Age-y cities. So with that in mind, I set out to write on the subject.
I was tempted to just recycle my post on What Every Christian Needs to Know About Muslims, but at the end of the day, that sort of felt like a copout, especially given Buddhism’s relative obscurity here in the U.S. So instead, I decided to appeal to our uniquely human desire to brag about quiz scores on Facebook learn new things through online quizzes.
(Disclaimer: it’s pretty tough. The quiz sticks to the beliefs of “pure” Buddhism, as opposed to syncretistic animist-Buddhist combinations. Also, please note that this quiz does not resize well in a mobile environment. I recommend taking a look once you have access to a computer or tablet.)
Implications for Mission
I’d encourage you to take a moment and reflect on what you just learned. Specifically, how would the gospel interact with a Buddhist worldview? What are some points of similarity? What are some incompatible differences?
For example, consider the Buddhist belief that life is a cycle of pain and suffering that we ultimately need to escape from. The concept of living forever doesn’t conjure up images of utopic bliss. Instead, “eternal life” is utterly undesirable. In a Buddhist worldview, a verse like John 3:16 makes for a terrible introduction to Christianity. “Your Jesus promises eternal life? Why would I ever want that!?”
On the other hand, consider the Buddhist belief that the world can’t meet our inherent needs and desires. Sure, Buddhism’s conclusion differs strongly from that of Christianity, but the premise itself makes for a much better starting point when introducing the gospel.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that we should never mention the Christian doctrine of eternity. That would be even worse. Rather, we should remember the importance of contextualization when interacting with other beliefs and worldviews.
For those looking to learn more about contextualization in non-Western worldviews such as the Buddhist worldview, I strongly recommend attending Engage Global in Minneapolis. It offers a five-day, Christ-centered exposure to the five major Non-Christian religions. Think of it like a beautiful mixture between a condensed Perspectives class and a hands-on short-term mission trip.
For more information about Buddhism see our article on understanding the Buddhist worldview.
Finally, please share with your friends. This is an internet quiz after all.
John has almost a decade of missions experience at OMF (U.S.) as a mobilizer-data analyst-coder-teacher-writer. His passions include running, satire, coding, board games, mobilizing the American church and medium-length walks on the beach.
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