Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Go East Young Man?

Many today are turning to eastern religions, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism in their various forms, in the hope that they will have the spiritual answers that traditional western thinking supposedly lacks. Let us examine this.

Hinduism and Buddhism start with the position that the world is an illusion we are trapped in and our goal is to escape it. If this is so, how did we get caught in this trap? Is God (if there is a God) suffering from schizophrenia? How did this strange situation come about, and why? If there are any clear answers to this I have not heard them.

Further, if this world is an evil illusion, where do the apparently good things in it come from? Is there an evil demon that puts fruit on the trees and paints sunsets in the sky to trick us into becoming more attached to the illusion? Yes, there is a considerable amount of evil in this world. But there is also beauty and many good things to enjoy. I really question whether any view that totally denies one or the other can truly explain the world that is. The shallow view that this the best of all possible worlds and all the bad things are superficial is bound to shipwreck on the rocks of reality. But the opposite view, that this world is simply a prison to be escaped, also does not fit the world that really is. In the final analysis, I would conclude that no position makes as much sense as the Christian position that this is an originally good world that has gone bad. It explains how the good and the evil are both there and both real and neither can be dismissed as a purely superficial veneer. But if we honestly dismiss all apparently good things in this world as illusionary or, worse than that, temptations, this must if consistently followed lead to a purely negative view of life. (Now it must be realized that (as I understand it) in eastern beliefs this view is generally only lived out fully by the exceptional individual or by people in certain stages of their lives.) Christians have been accused of being negative, but at our worst we cannot hold a candle to what this view must ultimately lead to.

There is always an attraction for novelty. But I am forced to agree with G. K. Chesterton when he said that the problem with Christianity was not that it was tried and found wanting, but that it was found difficult and therefore has hardly ever been tried. And in the final analysis the real issue is not east vs. west, but what is really true. And I would contend that neither the modern western, hedonistic view of the world nor the eastern, illusionary view but only Christianity explains the existence of both good and evil in the world.

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