Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Buddhists, Not Buddhism

I recently had an abortive discussion with someone who was determined to research matters normally off-limits to Christians. The idea was to reach out to those involved.

I can relate to that. My introduction to theology came when one of my best friends went from nominal Baptist to red-hot Mormon. So I studied Mormonism and assailed it and him with my amazing intellect.

It didn't work.

For one thing, reaching people for God is a spiritual activity, so it's a mistake to rely on intellectual methods such as research. (Research isn't bad; it's just not enough.)

But the major problem is focus. I was not called to evangelize Mormonism; I had a chance to reach a specific Mormon. God generally calls us to deal with individuals more than groups, and groups more than systems. The higher up you go, the more abstract it all gets. An individual can accept Christ; a group can't (though its members can). A system can't be saved.

Kosuke Koyama is a Japanese theologian with an interest in missionary work. In his book Water Buffalo Theology, he says that one of the mistakes missionaries to Buddhist countries make is studying Buddhism when they should study Buddhists. But the system is only important so far as it enables the missionary to reach the system's follower. So why not study the one you want to reach?

In Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C. S. Lewis wrote that it's easier to pray for a bore than to visit one. Isn't this the same thing? Isn't it easier to study Buddhism or Mormonism than to get to know actual Buddhists or Mormons? Study people!

1 comment:

Zookeeper Cat said...

Yes! Spot on.
Came to your blog via Grace posting the completed superheroes site link on Twitter (very cool site). I've greatly been enjoying browsing through here, Stephen, thanks for refreshing my mind and also providing reflection on many Christian S-F issues that have sat in the back of my mind for a long time.

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