America Smiles on the Buddha-Part 5

By: Dr. John Ankerberg / Dr. John Weldon; ©2002
As we near the end of this series on Buddhism, the authors offer several charts that compare and contrast Christianity with Buddhism. They act as a handy reference for anyone wishing to discover important differences between these belief systems.

America Smiles On the Buddha—Part 5

In the following charts, we compare and contrast Buddhism with the beliefs of Christian­ity. These charts illustrate the problems involved when people claim that Buddhism and Christianity are compatible or complementary. These charts are listed without comment and are intended to provide a quick visual contrast outlining important differences.

Buddhism vs. Christianity
•Seeks release from suffering. •Seeks knowledge of God and His glory.
•“Unreal” (impermanent) world. •Real world.
•Nihilistic, pessimistic outlook. •Hopeful, optimistic outlook.
•No God or Savior exists. •One God and Savior exists.
•Apologetic centered in subjective experience. •Apologetic centered in objective history.
•Trusts self. •Trusts God.
•Morality self-derived. •Morality based on the infinitely holy character of God.
•The afterlife constitutes an impersonal, uncertain nirvana. •Dignifies man (e. g., man is made in God’s own image; the believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; the mind is good and glorifies God).
•Spiritual truth is discovered by disciplined effort. •Activity and individual life are good and glorify God.
•Personal ultimate reality.
•Responsible social action.
•Salvation by grace.
•Mysticism and the occult are rejected as evil and as being opposed to God’s best interests for mankind.
•The afterlife is clearly delineated and involves personal immortality.
•Spiritual truth is revealed by God.

Buddha vs. Jesus
•Buddha is dead. •Jesus is alive.
•In many ways the Buddha is a mystery (no contemporary biographies exist)— “apart from the legends we know very little about the circumstances of his life.”[1] •Jesus was a historic person of whom four reliable, early biographies were penned. “It is a historic fact that Jesus Christ lived and taught what the New Testament says He taught.”[2]
•Teachings uncertain. •Teachings certain.
•Buddha was only a man: “Notwithstanding his own objectivity toward himself, there was constant pressure during his lifetime to turn him into a god. He rebuffed all these categorically, insisting that he was human in every respect. He made no attempt to conceal his temptations and weaknesses, how difficult it had been to attain enlightenment, how narrow the margin by which he had won through, how fallible he still remained.” [3] •Jesus is incarnate God, “I am the light of the world”; “I am the way, the truth and the Life”; “He who believes in me will never die”; “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” “I and the Father are

one.” “You believe in God, believe also in Me.” “All that the father has is Mine.” “All power and authority in heaven and earth have been given to me.”—Jesus[4]

•Non-theistic worldview. •Theistic worldview.
•A way-shower; Buddha as a person is unnecessary for achieving enlightenment. •The Savior; salvation is impossible apart from the Person of Jesus.
•Encouraged men to follow a philosophy. •Encouraged men to follow Him.
•Never appealed to faith. •Stressed the importance of faith in God and Himself. (Jn. 17.3)
•Rejected God. •Called God His own Father.
• Undogmatic. •Dogmatic.
•Offered an alleged way between the temporal and the eternal. •Taught He was the only way between the temporal and the eternal.


Buddhist Enlightenment vs. Christian Salvation
Buddhist Enlightenment
Christian Salvation
•Man’s nature remains fundamentally un­changed; the individual Buddhist accomplishes “enlightenment” but this is only a new perspective on life undergirded by carefully cultivated altered states of consciousness (the experience of “nirvana” in meditation). •Man’s nature is changed forever. This is accomplished wholly by God and consti­tutes an inner change of one’s nature (regeneration) a new legal standing before God (justification) and, logically, a corresponding “outer” transformation (sanctification).
•Eradicates “ignorance” of the truths of Buddhism and ostensibly, in the end, suffering. •Eradicates sin.
•History is ultimately irrelevant; salvation is experientially based and possible through mysticism. Inner experience supplants historical concerns. The person of Buddha is irrelevant to the process of enlighten­ment. •Historically based; salvation is objectively based and impossible apart from the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
•The believer is ultimately saved from the problems of this life; sin is not forgiven. •The believer is ultimately saved from divine judgment; all sins are forgiven.
•Humanistic: man instituted. •Theological: God instituted.
•Escapist (salvation from the world). •Realist (salvation of the world, i.e. of all believers).
•One cannot be reconciled to an impersonal nirvana, one can only “realize” it or “achieve” it; technically, one cannot even experience it. •Reconciliation to God.
•Eternal existence allegedly constitutes an ineffable existence somewhere in between (i.e., not comprising either) total annihilation or personal immortality (i.e., “the void”). •Eternal life constitutes personal immortality and fellowship with a loving God.
•Derives from a finite source of change utilizing the power of self-perfection. •Derives from an infinite source of change utilizing the power of divine grace.
• Ultimate Reality is the experience of empti‑ness or ineffable impersonal “existence.” •Ultimate Reality is the infinite personal triune God.
•Faith is denied or placed in Buddhist gods plus works.
•Based on faith in Christ alone apart from works.

Buddhist Teaching vs. Christian Scripture
Buddhist Teaching
Christian Scripture
•“Those who, relying upon themselves only, shall not look for assistance to any one besides themselves, it is they who shall reach the topmost height.”[5] •“Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord.’” (Jer. 17:5)
•“By this ye shall know that a man is not my disciple—that he tries to work a miracle.”[6] (italics added) •“But many of the multitude believed in Him; and they were saying, “When the Christ shall come, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?’” (John 7:31)
•“One thing I teach,” said Buddha: “suffering and the end of suffering…. It is just ill and the ceasing of ill that I proclaim.”[7] •“But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” (1 Pet. 4:13,19)
•“The self we think to be true and important is pure illusion, and a lie that is the cause of a large proportion of human suffering.”[8] •“And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them…. Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Gen. 1:27; 2:7)
•“Perhaps the greatest difference between Buddhism and Christianity is that Buddhism very explicitly does not require an act of faith.”[9] •“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who come to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6)
•* “There is no permanent self in Buddhism. In fact. Nothing is permanent.”[10] “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and Thy dominion endures throughout all generations…. But Thou, O Lord, dost abide forever.” (Psa. 145:13; 102:12a)
•“Do not believe in that which you have yourselves imagined, thinking that a god has inspired it.”[11] •“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
•According to Buddhism the universe evolved, but it did not evolve out of noth­ingness; it evolved out of the dispersed matter of a previous universe, and when this universe is dissolved, its dispersed matter—or, its residual energy which is continually renewing itself—will in time give rise to another universe in the same way. The process is therefore cyclical and continuous. The universe is composed of millions of millions of world-systems like our solar system, each with its various planes of existence.”[12] •“In the beginning God created the heav­ens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1)

“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” (Heb. 11:3)


  1. David-Neel, p. 15.
  2. Norman Geisler, A Popular Survey of the Old Testament (Chicaco, IL: Moody Press, 1978), p. 11.
  3. Houston Smith, The Religions of Man, p. 99.
  4. Houston Smith, The Religions of Man, p. 99.
  5. Smith, p. 107, quoting E.A. Burt (ed.), The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha (NY: Mentor, 1955), p. 50.
  6. Smith, p. 108.
  7. Woodward (tr.), p. XXI.
  8. Ibid., p. 109.
  9. Walt Anderson, p. 26.
  10. Ibid., p. 32.
  11. David-Neel, p. 123.
  12. Neill, p. 121, citing Maha Thera U Tittila in The Path of the Buddha (ed.), K.W. Morgan, (1956), pp. 77-78.


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