Question: (note, this is a long series of questions, followed by a
general response to all the question)
(1) Should the sacred texts of a religion be understandable to anybody
that reads it (ex. Buddhist texts are fairly hard to understand in
Chinese…even to those that know Chinese)?
(2) Should there be a presence of a sacred text of some sort?
(3) Should the sacred texts mean the same thing if it was translated in
different languages (what I mean by this is that there is no idea missing
out if translated (ex. Islamic or Hindu texts [whichever one it was]
stated that their true sacred text are only valid in one language whereas
it does not mean the same thing in different languages)?
(4) Should there be a religious text be able to be compiled into one book
and still make sense (ex. the Bible makes sense even though it was written
in different times and it was put together by texts written at different
(5) Should the text be easily accessable and be in one collection rather
than scattered as different books (ex. the texts for Buddhism are
scattered into different books and collections rather than one).
(6) Should the text be able to address everything in one go?
(7) Should the text address the relationship of humans with God, God, and
how to get into heaven as a human?
(8) Should the religion be monotheistic?
Why I bring up Buddhism a lot is because I am a Chinese Asian, which makes
Buddhism one of the larger religions in Taiwan.
If I were your friend, trying to defend Buddhism, I would feel that this
is a “loaded” question. In other words, it sounds as though you are
taking the Bible and assuming, before asking the question, that whatever
we have in the Bible is the standard for judging all religions. I would
be unwilling to enter the discussio from this basis. I think that in
order to allow your friend to be on a less defensive stance, you drop back
and ask a bigger question. which puts all religios on a more or less equal
ground to begin with. If you assume that monotheism is required in order
for a religion to be true/ that is called begging the question. If you
assume the answer before you ask the question, that would not be fair
The big question is how do we know if a religious claim, such as those of
Gautama Buddha or Jesus Christ is true?
For example there is the question of authority. On what authority did
Buddha make his statements? On what authority did Jesus make his
Answer: Buddha made his statements on the authority of his own personal
belief about what is true. His authority was the quality of his personal
character as a human being (which was pretty good, from everything I know
Jesus made his statements on the authority of the miracles
he worked (raising the dead, healing the lepers, feeding 5000, turning
water into wine, and so forth) on the undeniable fulfillment of
prophecies, some of which were over 1000 years old. (Psalms 22, Isaiah
53, Isaiah 9, Micah 5, Zechariah 11 and so forth, go to my article or
power point on messianic prophecies for plenty of details here, or the
next-to-last chapter in my book From Shadow to Reality or chapter four of
my book Reasons for Belief), and on the authority of a perfect life.
Jesus said, “Who of you can prove me guilty of sin?”
2. There is the question of how we can trust what is written. How do we
know what Buddha or Jesus actually taught?
Answer: In the case of Buddhism, there is very serious doubt about what
he actually taught. There is a very confusing array of “scripture” from
many different schools of Buddhism (Mahayana, Therevada, etc.) Bottom
line, as far as I know, Buddha’s words were not written down for several
hundred years. We simply do not know what Buddha taught, although if we
do a really careful job of looking at how ancient the texts are, we can
get at least a hint of the general outline of what he taught. The
“scriptures” of Buddhism have very little authority. Generally, they are
based on the authority of a teacher hundreds of years later. It is
largely a matter of opinion and of which school of thinking you follow.
There is little sign of anything we might consider “inspiration.”
In the case of Christianity, we have the words of Jesus, written down by
his intimate associates, within 30-50 years of his life. We have
manuscripts of the original writings from as little as 50 years (the
Rylands Papyrus) of the original writing. We have on fairly good
authority the actual words spoken by Jesus.
3. There is the question of historical support to underly the claims of
Answer: Buddhism appeared out of nowhere, in the form of the personal
teachings of its principal leader Siddhartha Buddha in 500 BC. There was
no historical expectation and there was no subsequesnt historical
development of the religion.
In the case of Christianity, we have hundreds and hundreds of years of
history, with plenty of archaeological evidence, of how the religion was
founded, how its teachings developed and so forth. We have records of
many historical prophecies by God which we have historical record of their
fulfillment in history. Deuteronomy predicted the deportation of the
Jews. Daniel predicted the exact hear when the Messiah would come to
Jerusalem (Daniel 9 see my book on Daniel). Christianity is a religion
immersed in verifiable history, whereas if Buddhism is true, there is no
historical reason to trust its teaching.
I could give many more arguments, but I will let you do some of your own
research at my web site. By the way, there is a power point on world
religions and an outline on world religions at the web site you can use.
About your points #1-6, obviously, if deity is to communicate truth to us,
these would be a very good idea. Does this determine truth? I am
skeptical. I would simply say that I am glad that the scriptures of the
true religion (Christianity) passes all these tests of being a useful and
satisfying scripture. The fact that Buddhism fails all these tests does
not prove that Buddha was a liar or mistaken, but it simply means that if
it is true, its scriptures are of questionable value to its adherants.
For example, before the giving of the Old Testament to the Jews, belief in
God was not supported by any scripture at all, yet it was still true.
Absolute truth is not determined by scripture, but scripture is a very
I believe questiosn #7,8 are biased in that they assume the answer before
asking the question. If you say that, by definition, a true religion must
answer the question of the relationship between humans and their creator,
you are assuming the answer to your question before you do the inquiry.
The same can be said for question #8. How can you prove a priori, to your
Buddhist friend that monotheism is truth. Isn’t this the question? If
so, then to assume it is to make a false argument.
Buddhism is essentially atheistic/agnostic. The issue of God is not
addressed by Buddha. Your question is whether the theology of Buddhism is
true. Is reincarnation true? If so, what is the empirical evidence.
Bottom line, as far as I know, none of the essential claims of the Buddha
are supported by any empirical evidence. Such is not the case with
Christianity. If Jesus was raised from the dead, if he fulfilled the
messianic prophecies, if the Bible is miraculously accurate history which
confirms the central message of both the Old and the New Testament, then
Buddhism, by definition, cannot be true.
John Oakes< br>