Buddhism Fails the Test of Reason
By Mike Robinson
Buddhism is loaded down with a priori philosophical and theological difficulties. But it also has a posteroiri issues too. The fountainhead of the evidential difficulties of Buddhism is it lacks any firsthand and primary sources on the life and teachings of Buddha. The documents that exist fail the historicity test because they are dated many hundreds of years after the Buddha died. Edward Conze notes, in contrasting the primary sources of the New Testament with the lack of ancient attestation of the Buddhist documents, that “Buddhists possess nothing that corresponds to the New Testament.” In contrast, Christianity supplies firsthand eyewitnesses with documents dated mere decades after the death and resurrection of Christ.
The Lack of Historicity
Buddhism lacks a historical basis and one would be hard pressed to find historical reasons not to impute the idea that the Buddha is just a myth and a manmade legend. Thus Buddhism is erected on falsehoods and dissimulation promulgated in the authority of one that history cannot demonstrate even existed.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD (Isaiah1:18).
In Him (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
Reason is necessary for argumentation and hence cannot be argued against.1
Buddhism is a man-centered myth in contrast with the historicity of Christianity. Buddhism is antirational and embraces non-reason and delights in illogical notions. But Christianity is built on revelation and logic through the great Logos: Jesus. God’s ontology is the base of logic and God cannot be illogical. God calls His people to “come and reason together.” Many people of all faiths may embrace irrationality, but that goes against the admonitions of the Lord. And a consequential aspect of this reasoning process is to come in faith to Christ for the remission of one’s sins.
An Attribute which Buddha is Deficient: Supremacy
For, with God, nothing will be impossible (Luke1:37).
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty…and You reign over all. (1 Chronicles 29:11-12).
The absolute and universal supremacy of God is plainly and positively affirmed in many Scriptures.2
The Buddhist tradition has been unanimous that a Creator-God…simply does not exist.3
The Buddha never claimed to be supreme and even if he had, as a finite human being, he is devoid of infinite power and sovereignty. The base and wellspring for epistemic necessities do not lie in Buddha. This disqualifies him (and any mere man) to be the necessary and sufficient source that provides epistemic rights. Therefore, the Buddhist fails to offer a means to posit a rational fixed reckoning for knowledge.
The Buddha was contained within spatial and temporal circumscriptions. One cannot be supreme if one is bound to a particular spot in the universe. It is also very obvious that Buddha cannot be preeminent while lacking universality and immutability. He is not the Almighty God who dwells in majestic glory and power.
Buddha’s Inferiority and Insufficiency
Yet, I am the LORD your God…and you shall know no God but Me; for there is no Savior besides Me (Hosea 13:4).
First and foremost among the attributes, we therefore mention the independence or self-existence of God. … He is self-contained rationality.4
He is said to live in himself, because He receives neither being nor life from any other source in any way. Hence, the chief title of God, by which He is distinguished from all idols, is that He is the living God.5
God has the source of his existence in Himself.6
God is self-existent, that is, He has ground of His existence in Himself. God…exists by the necessity of His own being, therefore necessarily.7
Buddha, like all men, is deficient of aseity. Aseity denotes that God has self-existence, self-sufficiency, and He is not dependent or contingent upon anything. The power of His being is within Himself. “God is self-sufficient or self-contained in his being.”8 Nonexistence is impossible for God, yet possible for the Buddha and the Tao (the illusionary whole or the way). The Buddha is not absolutely needed or necessary.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
If God were not immutable, He would not be God.9
The immutability of God is a necessary concomitant of His aseity. It is that perfection of God by which He is devoid of all change.10
Aseity requires immutability. Men change, they change every moment. Humans are mutable but God is changeless and the “immutability of God is involved in his aseity.”11 Since God is self-sufficient, He does not change as does the foundation of Buddhism. There must be a foundation that is changeless and contains aseity. Van Til discloses this: “We must rather reason that unless God exists as ultimate, as self-subsistent, we could not know anything, we could not even reason that God does not exist, nor could we even ask a question about God.”12 It is a rational imperative to have a certain, absolute, self-sufficient, and invariant basis for the intelligibility of human experience. Only God has the changeless and sufficient ontology to be the adequate epistemic rock. He must exist to account for the unchanging and transcendent laws of thought. The Buddha and his Tao deny laws and distinctions; therefore Buddhism cannot supply the required pre-necessities for the universal operational features of human thinking and experience. Additionally, it fails to furnish absolute and unchanging realities, such as the laws of logic; only the Lord God can.
• Christianity alone accounts for the universal invariants: the Law of Identity and the Law of Non-contradiction, which are distinct from one another.
• Buddhism must utilize these distinct laws, as it denies distinctions.
• Buddhism presupposes Christianity.
Man is not the Creator
Buddhist scholar Ikeda muses that “the external world is solely a creation of the human consciousness.”13 Gathering that the world was not created by Buddha, and since it is not subject to his exclusive control, and Buddha claims that the world is an illusion, there is no basis in Buddhist thought for accounting for such laws to understand and interpret the world. Such laws simply would not exist. This is self-defeating as these laws govern all one communicates and performs. The laws of reason must be exercised to deny them. The true God alone has the ability and character to provide that which is necessary to make sense out of actuality.
Anti-theistic religion is excluded from possibility because its ultimate philosophical foundation rests on personal infallibility, which humans cannot possess. Additionally, the presuppositions of anti-theistic philosophy rest on the Psychological Fallacy, seeing that certain presuppositions of argumentation reveal themselves to be absolutely necessary and universal. And the human fallibility of Buddha cannot supply the universals, absolutes, and universal entities. All arguments that attempt to deny Christian theism, presuppose Christian theism to make their argument possible. This is the case since the attempt to refute Christianity utilizes the invariant immaterial laws of logic provided by the invariant immaterial God.
Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You (Jeremiah 32:17).
Van Til rightly descried “God is absolute. He is autonomous.”14 Human beings, including the Buddha, cannot own unyielding autonomy. For strict autonomy one must possess aseity, self-rule, and sovereignty, which only the Yahweh has. Buddhism thinks much too highly of men and places too much hope in their ability to achieve righteousness. Van Til comments: “The natural man virtually attributes to himself that which true Christian theology attributes to the self-contained God.”15 Christians must speak the truth in love and tear off the masks of pride and self-sufficiency of practicing and nonobservant Buddhists. Christ summons us to share our faith with patience, dignity, veracity, and compassion.
God is Immutable: Buddha and the Tao Are Mutable
For I am the LORD, I do not change (Malachi 3:6).
Immutability is one of the Divine perfections. … It is one of the excellencies of the Creator which distinguishes Him from all creatures. God is perceptually the same: subject to no changing His being, attributes or determinations.16
God is pure actuality–I am that I am–he has not potentiality. That which changes must possess the potential to change. But God has not potentiality, He is the immutable I AM (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica 1a. 9.1).
James stipulates that in God “there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). The Buddha and the Tao change and vary. This implies that the rational infrastructure of Buddhism is neither complete nor perfect. In contrast, the Lord God cannot change in His character and decrees. A fixed epistemic and moral ground is necessary to build a view of the world that brings coherence and unity that are required for intelligibility.
The God of the Bible establishes a rational base for understanding and intellectual adhesion. This is an important characteristic of the proof for God’s existence. Van Til commented that “the best and only possible proof for the existence of…God is that his existence is required for the uniformity of nature and the coherence of all things in the world.”17 Eastern thought and Buddhism in particular cannot provide the necessary rational pre-essentials for the unity and coherence of all things including the laws of reason. Fellowship, communication, and rational arguments all depend on the Law of Non-contradiction and the Law of Identity, as well as their application to the world of provisory experience. Moreover God ordains, directs, and sustains these laws as Lord. The living God is required to account for the universal, immaterial, transcendent, and unchanging laws of logic. For the “existence of God is the presupposition of all possible predication.”18 A sovereign, unchangeable, and transcendent God must live to supply all the a priori conditions that are needed to predicate, disseminate information, and to comprehend our world. Bahnsen opined that “only the Christian worldview can account for the objective validity and demands of logical consistency.”19 Christianity uniquely disburses the prior rational necessities for logic and intelligibility.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17).
God’s Holiness Displayed through His Word
The Christian must share the bad news with the Buddhist (the judgment that awaits unrepentant sinners). Then offer the grace of God in the gospel, if God changes the sinner’s heart through the gospel, the convert will flee God’s judgments and hurl himself upon Christ and His eternal mercy. We are not to shrink back in declaring God’s holiness and His law to the lost. We must declare the holiness of God until the Buddhist honors God’s holiness and discovers his need of a Savior.
The Book of Numbers declares that “your sin will find you out.”
I say to you that likewise, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner, who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:7).
I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3).
When one shares the love of God without preaching God’s holiness and His law, it weakens the sinner’s sense of sin; often this results in the lost sinner not being interested in the wondrous truth of the cross and justification. The law and the gospel, these are the means God uses to save lost sinners through His Spirit. The Buddhists need to hear the bad news of the wrath of God, the judgment of righteousness, and the offer of God’s great grace in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The unpleasant reality, the lost person’s position before a righteous God, is the reason that they must cast themselves upon the mercy of God in Christ. We are to placard Christ to the Buddhist. Christ is the righteous King, whom all men have offended in every point of His holy law, and that same Christ the Savior died for our transgressions and rose from the grave. Buddha did not and could not accomplish this for the sinner.
But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men (Titus 3:4-8).
- Anderson, Owen B.B. Warfield and Right Reason, (University Press, New York: NY, 2006), p. 60.
- Pink, A.W., The Attributes of God, p. 28.
- Sutras: Teachings of Buddha and Authorized Disciples, p. 189.
- Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 206.
- Ames, William, The Marrow of Theology, (Baker Books, Grand Rapids: Michigan, 1997), p. 86.
- Bavinck, Hermann, trans. William Hendriksen, The Doctrine of God, (Banner of Truth, Carisle: PA, 1977), p. 145.
- Berkof, L. Systematic Theology, p. 58.
- Van Til, Christian Apologetics, p. 7.
- Bavinck, Hermann, The Doctrine of God, p. 147.
- Berkof, p. 58.
- Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 206.
- Ibid., p. 102.
- Ikeda, Daisaku, trans. Burton Watson, Buddhism and the First Millenium, (Kodansha, New York: NY, 1977), p. 151.
- Van Til, Christian Apologetics, p. 7.
- Ibid., p. 97.
- Pink, p. 37.
- Van Til, Christian Apologetics, p. 64.
- Ibid., p. 13.
- Bahnsen, Greg, Van Til’s Apologetic, p. 236.
Excerpts from the Apologetics E-Book Christian Philosophy Examines Buddhism available Here