Category Archives: Spiritual Experience

Cosmic Child Abuse

I don’t judge you. I leave that to a wrathful, angry God to do.

— Ned Flanders to his wayward neighbor, Homer Simpson

“The Cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse — a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offense he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith.”

When I penned this statement, as part of the text of The Lost Message of Jesus, I had no idea of the debate that it would ignite or the controversy it would stir…. Though the sheer bluntness of my imagery shocked some, I contend that, in truth, it represents nothing more than a stark unmasking of what I understand to be the violent, pre-Christian thinking behind the popular theory of penal substitutionary atonement … [that] I readily concede, is currently regarded as orthodoxy within modern evangelicalism…. I believe it to be biblically, culturally and pastorally deficient and even dangerous. (Chalke 2008: 34-35)

(….) I grieve over the depth of the damage that has been, and is being, done through the distortion, misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the purpose of the cross under the label of “penal” substitution…. N.T. [Wright] states, for instance, “it … is deeply, profoundly, and disturbingly unbiblical.” In my opinion, he is right once more…. I believe it is better to abandon the use of the term [“penal” substitution] altogether and restate the truth in fresh ways. (Chalke 2008: 35)

(….) Inadequate doctrines of atonement lead to distorted understandings of God and humanity and result in an immature engagement in community and wider society.

But if erroneous theology leads to dysfunctional missiology, is there any connection between the public’s almost universal perception of certain elements of the church as judgmental, guilt-inducing, censorious, finger-wagging, bigoted, and self-righteous and aspects of its theology of the cross? And if, as historian and scholar David Bebbington claims, one of the four pillars of evangelicalism (which together are known as the Bebbington Quadrilateral) is “crucicentrism”, or cross-centredness, why is it that our culture now views the death of Christ as no more than some kind of ancient myth or irrelevant religious event? Perhaps one factor is that our thinking about the cross has become distorted and thus our presentation of it is inadequate to engage the hearts and minds of our contemporaries both within and beyond the church. (Chalke 2008: 36)

(….) Though often represented as a much older formulation, penal substitutionary theory, as it is understood and taught in many evangelical churches today, rests largely on the work of the nineteenth-century American theologian Charles Hodge, who, building on the work of John Calvin’s legal mind, argued that a righteous God is angry with sinners and demands justice. God’s wrath can be appeased only through bringing about the violent death of his Son. Joel Green and Mark Baker demonstrate in their book, Rediscovering the Scandal of the Cross, that, whereas supporters of penal substitutionary theory tend to quote the writings of various church fathers and early Christian writers to bolster their claims, their conclusion is more easily understood as an anachronistic “reading back” of modern views onto ancient texts, particularly into the work of Anselm of Canterbury. (Chalke 2008: 37)

(….) However, the supposed orthodoxy of penal substitution is greatly misleading. Although as a theory it is not as old as many people assume, it is actually built on pre-Christian thought. This is a point pressed by Professor George Eldon Ladd in A Theology of the New Testament: “In pagan Greek thought the gods often became angry with men, but their anger could be placated and the good will of the gods obtained by some kind of propitiatory sacrifice. Even in the Old Testament, the idea of atonement as the propitiating of an angry deity and transmuting his anger into benevolence is not to be found.” The emphasis on Yahweh’s apparent appetite for continuous appeasement through blood sacrifice, present in some Pentateuchal texts is to be understood in the light of later prophetic writings as a reflection of the worship practices of the pagan cults of the nations that surrounded the people of Israel. However, the story of Israel’s salvation is the story of her journey away from these primal practices towards a new and more enlightened understanding by way of Yahweh’s self-revelation. (Chalke 2008: 38)

(….) Indeed, one of the challenging questions for those who hold a penal substitutionary view of the atonement is the fact that Jewish prophets of the eighth century BCE were clearly already moving beyond this concept. Thus, to defend the theory of penal substitution by arguing the meaning of this or that isolated biblical text ignores a deeper truth. The resonance of the scriptural witness, the overall flow of the narrative, and the unravelling story of salvation all speak with a different voice. So it is that, today, even the most orthodox Jewish teaching and practice has long since abandoned blood sacrifice. There is simply no Jewish scholar anywhere in the world who understands the sum content of the Old Testament text as an ongoing demand for propitiatory blood sacrifice. (Chalke 2008: 39)

The greatest theological problem with penal substitution is that it presents us with a God who is first and foremost concerned with retribution for sin that flows from his wrath against sinners. The only way for his anger to be placated is in receiving recompense from those who have wronged him, and although his great love motivates him to send his Son, his wrath remains the driving force behind the need for the cross. (Chalke 2008: 39)

If we follow Hodge’s understanding of the atonement, it is Jesus’ death alone that becomes our “good news”. This approach reduces the whole gospel to a single sentence: “God is no longer angry with us because Jesus died in our place.” Indeed, that is exactly why evangelistic presentations based on penal substitution often do not even bother to mention the resurrection: for them, it serves no direct purpose in the story of salvation. (Chalke 2008: 39)

Ironically, what Hodge most neglected was to let Jesus speak for himself. It is difficult to see how penal substitution fits with the words or attitudes of Jesus. For instance, if the whole gospel centres on Jesus’ death, what was the good news he told his followers to preach (Luke 9:6) before the crucifixion? And if God needed to a sacrifice to placate his anger, how could Jesus forgive sins before his sacrifice had been made? In fact, why did Jesus preach at all? The rest of his ministry was ultimately unnecessary if it is only his death that makes things new. Surely we cannot embrace a theology in which Jesus’ entire thirty-three-year incarnation could be reduced to a long weekend’s activity. (Chalke 2008: 39)

It is interesting to note that in Jesus’ own explanations of his Father’s relationship with mankind, the story of the prodigal son, the father is not presented as angry or vengeful or as seeking justice and retribution; instead, he simply runs to greet his wayward child, showers him with gifts and welcomes him home (Luke 15:11-32). The father in the parable is wronged, but he chooses to forgive in order to restore a broken relationship there is no theme of retribution. Instead, the story is one of outstanding grace, of scandalous love and mercy. How different it would read if penal substitution were the model of atonement offered. (Chalke 2008: 39-40)

In addition, we can note Jesus’ teaching on anger (Matt. 5:22) and retaliation (Matt. 5:38-42). Is it not strange for Jesus (God incarnate) on the one hand to teach “do not return evil for evil” while still looking for retribution himself? Similarly, would it not be inconsistent for God to warn us not to be angry with each other and yet burn with wrath himself, or tell us to love our enemies when he obviously could not quite bring himself to do the same without demanding massive appeasement? If these things are true, what does it mean to “be perfect … as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48)? If it is true that Jesus is “the Word of God”, then how can his message be inconsistent with his nature? If the cross has anything to do with penal substitution, then Jesus’ teaching becomes a divine case of “do as I say, not as I do.” I, for one, believe that God practices what he preaches. If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil. (Chalke 2008: 40)

So, what of God’s anger? The most profound theological truth expressed in the whole of canon of Scripture is that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The Bible never defines God as anger, power or judgment; in fact, it never defines him as anything other than love. Love is not a quality that God possess but rather is his divine essence itself his essential being. And more than that, the Bible never makes assertions about God’s anger, power or judgment independently of his love. God’s anger is an aspect of his love, and to understand it any differently is to misunderstand it. (Chalke 2008: 40)

Every father will be wronged by his children; it is a simple fact. All of us who know the joy of raising children also know the pain of their rebelliousness and yet no parent who loves their child ever seeks retribution for wrongs done to them. Parental anger, when it is motivated by genuine love, cannot be violent or destructive. Though in Scripture we read about God’s various attributes, in truth, they are never more than repetitions and amplifications of the one statement that God loves. The reality of God’s wrath is never in dispute. But only in light of our understanding of God as the perfect father can we begin to see that the objects of his burning anger are not his beloved children but the evils, attitudes and behaviours that ensnare and seek to destroy them. (Chalke 2008: 40)

(….) Penal substitutionary theory betrays Jesus’ attempt to root out the tendency of religion to lead to violence by inventing a theology of his death that is in direct opposition to his teaching. If the church could rediscover a deeper understanding of the cross, we could once again speak with prophetic power to a global society caught in the grip of the lie that violence can be redemptive. The church’s inability to shake off the great distortion of God contained in the theory of penal substitution, with its inbuilt belief in retribution and the redemptive power of violence, has cost us dearly. As the world struggles to find a way out of the chaos resulting from the doctrine of “might is right” and “he who has the biggest guns wins,” there is now an opportunity for the church to live out its commitment to the ethic of non-violence or “assertive meekness” demonstrated by Christ throughout his life and ultimately authenticated by his cross and resurrection. Jews, Muslims and Christians alike have to face up to the truth that their holy texts can be interpreted violently. Will our Christ-centered faith be part of the world’s answer or part of its problem? (Chalke 2008: 41)

But a commitment to penal substitution also raises other ethical concerns. Indeed, it is open to the charge that it does little more than reflect the nineteenth- and twentieth-century culturally dominant values of individualism, autonomy and consumerism. Thus, the primary purpose for the cross becomes its instant “cash value” for the individual. by “praying the prayer”, I am immediately moved from the wrong side of God’s legal ledger to the right side. The great transaction is done. And what is more, not only am I no longer guilty but I can also cling to the belief that “once saved, always saved”. My eternal destiny is guaranteed. Penal substitution offers instant forgiveness without challenging basic day-to-day moral behavior. It separates salvation from discipleship by disconnecting the way that Jesus lived his life from his saving work. (Chalke 2008: 41-42)

(….) “I don’t judge you. I leave that to a wrathful, angry God to do,” thunders Bible-thumping, churchgoing Ned Flanders to his wayward neighbor, Homer Simpson. Of course, many Christians learn to live with the dichotomy caused by an uncritical acceptance of penal substitutionary theory. On the one hand, they believe in God’s grace and goodness, but on the other, they believe that one of the central acts of their faith is bound upon in his vengeance and wrath. The only way they cope with this tension is to dismiss it as “a divine paradox”. However, for their friends and the rest of the world, it is simply a massive contradiction, the “elephant in the room”. (Chalke 2008: 42)

Since my book was published, and in the serious theological debate that has followed it, some have sought to readdress their definition of penal substitution. I have witnessed various attempts to redraw, redefine, recast, remodel and rehabilitate the theory as “not really as violent and retributive a concept as The Lost Message of Jesus suggested”…. [I]n my view, what we need is not a reworking [“penal substitution theory lite”] but a renunciation. Why? Because even the most sophisticated and gracious attempts to nuance penal substitution have, in the end, failed to communicate anything other than a distorted view of God at a popular level. (Chalke 2008: 42)

(….) On the cross, Jesus does not placate God’s anger in taking the punishment for sin but rather absorbs its consequences and, as three days later he is raised, defeats death. It is the resurrection God which finally puts the Victor in Christus Victor! So it is that in and through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection God confronts and dethrones the powers of evil. (Chalke 2008: 44)

(….) The cross is not a form of cosmic child abuse a vengeful Father punishing his Son for an offense he did not commit. Rather than a symbol of vengeance or retribution, the cross of Christ is the greatest symbol of love and a demonstration of just how far God the Father and Jesus his Son are prepared to go to prove that love and to bring redemption to their creation. (Chalke 2008: 44)

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MEANING OF THE DEATH ON THE CROSS

Although Jesus did not die this death on the cross to atone for the racial guilt of mortal man nor to provide some sort of effective approach to an otherwise offended and unforgiving God; even though the Son of Man did not offer himself as a sacrifice to appease the wrath of God and to open the way for sinful man to obtain salvation; notwithstanding that these ideas of atonement and propitiation are erroneous, nonetheless, there are significances attached to this death of Jesus on the cross which should not be overlooked. (Urantia Book 188:4.1)

(….) When once you grasp the idea of God as a true and loving Father, the only concept which Jesus ever taught, you must forthwith, in all consistency, utterly abandon all those primitive notions about God as an offended monarch, a stern and all-powerful ruler whose chief delight is to detect his subjects in wrongdoing and to see that they are adequately punished, unless some being almost equal to himself should volunteer to suffer for them, to die as a substitute and in their stead. The whole idea of ransom and atonement is incompatible with the concept of God as it was taught and exemplified by Jesus of Nazareth. The infinite love of God is not secondary to anything in the divine nature. (Urantia Book 188:4.8)

(….) This entire idea of the ransom of the atonement places salvation upon a plane of unreality; such a concept is purely philosophic. Human salvation is real; it is based on two realities which may be grasped by the creature’s faith and thereby become incorporated into individual human experience: the fact of the fatherhood of God and its correlated truth, the brotherhood of man. It is true, after all, that you are to be “forgiven your debts, even as you forgive your debtors.” (Urantia Book 188:4.13)

(….) The cross of Jesus portrays the full measure of the supreme devotion of the true shepherd for even the unworthy members of his flock. It forever places all relations between God and man upon the family basis. God is the Father; man is his son. Love, the love of a father for his son, becomes the central truth in the universe relations of Creator and creature—not the justice of a king which seeks satisfaction in the sufferings and punishment of the evil-doing subject. (Urantia Book 188:5.1)

LESSONS FROM THE CROSS

(….) The cross makes a supreme appeal to the best in man because it discloses one who was willing to lay down his life in the service of his fellow men. Greater love no man can have than this: that he would be willing to lay down his life for his friends—and Jesus had such a love that he was willing to lay down his life for his enemies, a love greater than any which had hitherto been known on earth. (188:5.7)

(….) Make sure, then, that when you view the cross as a revelation of God, you do not look with the eyes of the primitive man nor with the viewpoint of the later barbarian, both of whom regarded God as a relentless Sovereign of stern justice and rigid law-enforcement. Rather, make sure that you see in the cross the final manifestation of the love and devotion of Jesus to his life mission of bestowal upon the mortal races of his vast universe. See in the death of the Son of Man the climax of the unfolding of the Father’s divine love for his sons of the mortal spheres. The cross thus portrays the devotion of willing affection and the bestowal of voluntary salvation upon those who are willing to receive such gifts and devotion. There was nothing in the cross which the Father required—only that which Jesus so willingly gave, and which he refused to avoid. (188:5.11)

We know that the death on the cross was not to effect man’s reconciliation to God but to stimulate man’s realization of the Father’s eternal love and his Son’s unending mercy, and to broadcast these universal truths to a whole universe. (188:5.12)

Challenge and Riposte

You shall not portray your teacher as a man of sorrows. Future generations shall know also the radiance of our joy, the buoyance of our good will, and the inspiration of our good humor. We proclaim a message of good news which is infectious in its transforming power. Our religion is throbbing with new life and new meanings. Those who accept this teaching are filled with joy and in their hearts are constrained to rejoice evermore. Increasing happiness is always the experience of all who are certain about God. (Urantia Book 153:3.10)

(….) The Master displayed great wisdom and manifested perfect fairness in all of his dealings with his apostles and with all of his disciples. Jesus was truly a master of men; he exercised great influence over his fellow men because of the combined charm and force of his personality. There was a subtle commanding influence in his rugged, nomadic, and homeless life. There was intellectual attractiveness and spiritual drawing power in his authoritative manner of teaching, in his lucid logic, his strength of reasoning, his sagacious insight, his alertness of mind, his matchless poise, and his sublime tolerance. He was simple, manly, honest, and fearless. With all of this physical and intellectual influence manifest in the Master’s presence, there were also all those spiritual charms of being which have become associated with his personality—patience, tenderness, meekness, gentleness, and humility. (Urantia Book 141:3.4)

Jesus of Nazareth was indeed a strong and forceful personality; he was an intellectual power and a spiritual stronghold. His personality not only appealed to the spiritually minded women among his followers, but also to the educated and intellectual Nicodemus and to the hardy Roman soldier, the captain stationed on guard at the cross, who, when he had finished watching the Master die, said, “Truly, this was a Son of God.” And red-blooded, rugged Galilean fishermen called him Master. (Urantia Book 141:3.5)

The pictures of Jesus have been most unfortunate. These paintings of the Christ have exerted a deleterious influence on youth; the temple merchants would hardly have fled before Jesus if he had been such a man as your artists usually have depicted. His was a dignified manhood; he was good, but natural. Jesus did not pose as a mild, sweet, gentle, and kindly mystic. His teaching was thrillingly dynamic. He not only meant well, but he went about actually doing good. (Urantia Book 141:3.6)

1.2. Acquiring Honor: Challenge and Riposte

Challenge-riposte describes a constant social tug of war, a game of social push and shove. Challenge-riposte is a type of social communication, since any social interaction is a form of communication. Someone (source) sends a message by means of a culturally recognized channel to a receiving individual, and this produces an effect. The source here is the challenger, while the message is a symbolized thing (e.g., word, a gift, an invitation) or event (e.g., a slap) or both. The channel of communication is always public, and the publicity of the message guarantees that the receiving individual will react, since even non-action is publicly interpreted, either as a riposte or a loss of honor. Consequently, challenge-riposte within context of honor is a social interaction with at least three phases:

(a) challenge in terms of some action (word, deed, or both) on the part of the challenger;

(b) perception of the message by both the individual to whom it is directed and the public at large; and

(c) reaction of the receiving individual and the evaluation of the reaction on the part of the public. (Neyrey 2005, 29)

The result is a highly stylized interaction which contains the following elements:

Typical Elements in a Challenge-Riposte Exchange

1. Claim (often implied by action or gesture)
2. Challenge
3. Riposte
4. Public verdict

The challenge-riposte interaction begins with some claim to enter the social space of another (for what follows, see Bourdieu 1966). This claim is always a challenge, and may be positive or negative. (Neyrey 2005, 29-30)

Cosmic Laughter

In 1494, just before the onslaught of the Reformation, Sebastian Brandt, a conservative Roman Catholic scholar living in Basel, looked at the reeking vice and folly of the church of his day and wrote Das Narrenschiff, a Ship of Fools. As the prologue tells us, “One vessel would be far too small / To carry all the fools I know.” Brandt’s veritable floating tub of dolts and sinners heads for an unknown destination, a land of Fools, and functions as a harbinger of an imminent schism. Eulogized as divina satira, divine satire, Ship of Fools catapulted Brandt into the ranks of Dante, at least among the Germans. (Lindvall 2015, 1)

— Terry Lindvall (2015, 1) God Mocks. NYU Press.

If the rich could hire other people to die for them, the poor could make a wonderful living.

Yiddish Proverb. Cited in Lindvall (2015, 3) God Mocks.

The Jesus movement very early on exchanged the vision for the visionary. Those first enthusiastic followers were enthralled by the world Jesus encapsulated in the parables and aphorisms, but, since they were unable to hold on to the vision embodied in those verbal vehicles, they turned from the story to the storyteller. They didn’t know how else to celebrate the revelation. They turned the iconoclast into an icon. (Funk 1996: 10-11)

(….) The quest for the historical Jesus is an effort to emancipate the Galilean sage from the tangle of Christian overlay that obscures, to some extent, who Jesus was and what he said, to distinguish the religion of Jesus from the religion about Jesus. That quest has been under way since the eighteenth century, when the first critical scholars asserted their independence from ecclesiastical control. It has continued unabated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. (Funk 1996: 31)

(….) Jesus was a comic savant. He mixed humor with subversive and troubling knowledge born of direct insight. That was also the technique of Mark Twain and Will Rogers, who might also be described as comic savants. A comic savant is an intellectualbetter, poetwho is redefining what it means to be wise. That is the real role of the court jester: tell the king the truth but tell it as a joke. Jesters consequently enjoyed a limited immunity for their jokes. New truth is easier to embrace if it comes wrapped in humor. (Funk 1996: 158)

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When someone slaps you on the right cheek,
turn the other as well.

If someone sues you for your coat,
Give him the shirt off your back to go with it.

When anyone conscripts you for one mile,
go along for two.

These admonitions give the appearance of being a series of particular cases that call for corresponding legal precedents. But, in fact, they parody case law and legal reasoning.

A blow to the right cheek would require a left-handed slap, which would be intended not to injure but to humiliate. The left hand was not used publicly in Jesus’ society, since it was used for unclean tasks. At Qumran to gesture with the left hand was punishable by ten days of penance. So a backhand slap to the right cheek was an insult delivered from a superior to an inferior, as Walter Wink has so brilliantly shown: master to slave, husband to wife, parent to child, Roman to Jew. Its message: Get back in your place. Don’t put on airs.

To turn the other cheek under the circumstances was an act of defiance. The left cheek invited a right-hand blow that might injure. The master, husband, or parent, or Roman would hesitate. The humiliation of the initial blow was answered with a nonviolent, very subtle, but quite effective challenge. The act of defiance entailed risk; it was symbolic, to be sure, but for that reason appealed to those who were regarded as subservient inferiors in Jesus’ world.

A coat was often given as surety for a loan or debt. The poor could lose their coats under such circumstances, but only during the daylight hours; at night, according to Deuteronimic law, the coat had to be returned since the truly destitute might have nothing else for warmth. Jesus’ injunction was to give up both coat and shirt. In a two-garment society, that meant going naked. Nakedness was frowned upon, to say the least. Again, according to the Manual of Discipline, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, accidentally exposing one’s nakedness when taking one’s hand out of one’s robe called for thirty days of penance. Exposing oneself to a companion needlessly drew a penalty of six months. Jesus combined humor with a call for a serious infraction of the social code.

Roman soldiers were allowed to commandeer Judeans for a mile’s march to assist with gear. More than that was forbidden. To comply with a conscriptive order meant subservience; to refuse meant rebellion. Imagine the consternation of the Roman soldier when confronted with a Judean offer to carry the pack a second mile.

These examples all refer to real problems, real circumstances. The responses, however, are not prescriptive; they are suggestive of a behavior that undermines the intent of the initial act. (Funk 1996: 155)

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Casting Off Body-Mind

The Understanding of One’s Personality

Unlike a thing, that is usually regarded as existence that is a means, a person is regarded as existence with the self as its own end. This is especially clear in Kantian ethics, which has given a philosophical foundation to the modern notions of personality, freedom, and responsibility. Kant distinguishes things and human personality, and insists that while things can only have value as existence that is a means, human personality has dignity and grace as existence with self-purpose. Although a human being can be used as a means, at the same time he or she must always be treated as an end. In the Kantian framework, this superiority of people over things, and end over means, should not be overcome. Thus Kant talks about the “Kingdom of ends” as the community of personality. Viewed in the light of Dōgen, this Kantian notion of personality not only is limited by anthropocentrism but also is not completely free from reification of the human self. In Dōgen, people are not essentially distinguished from other beings, but are grasped as a part of the realm of beings. People and other beings are equally subject to impermanence, or transiency. Although only people who have self-consciousness can realize the impermanency common to all beings as impermanency, they can overcome the problem of life and death only when they can overcome the transiency common to all beings. In Dōgen both suffering and emancipation from it are grasped on this transanthropocentric dimension. Hence Dōgen’s emphasis on the simultaneous attainment of Buddha-nature for self and others, and for humans and nature. In this simultaneous attainment, each person becomes an occasion or means for the others’ attainment just as each person realizes his or her own attainment. Here self-awakening and others’ awakening take place at the same time. While maintaining one’s individuality in terms of self-awakening, one serves as the means for the awakening of others. This dynamic mutuality takes place not only between the self and others, but also between humans and nature. This is the reason Dōgen emphasizes, in the “Bendōwa” fascicle, that

trees and grasses, wall and fence, expound and exalt the Dharma for the sake of ordinary people, sages, and all living beings. Ordinary people, sages, and all living beings in turn preach and exalt the Dharma for the sake of trees, grasses, wall, and fence. The dimension of self-enlightenment-qua-enlightening-others basically is fully replete with the characteristics of realization, and causes the principle of realization to function unceasingly.20

This mutual help for enlightenment between humans and nature, however, cannot take place insofar as humans take only themselves as the end. As Dōgen maintains:

To practice and confirm all things by conveying one’s self to them, is illusion; for all things to advance forward and practice and confirm the self, is enlightenment.21 (Abe 1992, 32)

The self must be emptied, for all things to advance and confirm the self. Accordingly, “to forget one’s self” is crucial. To forget one’s self is nothing other than body-mind casting off. And when body-mind are cast off, the world and history are also cast off. If body-mind are cast off without the world and history being cast off, it is not an authentic “body-mind casting off.” Further, “body-mind casting off” is not something negative. It is immediately the cast-off body-mind, that is, the awakened body-mind that is freed from self-attachment and ready to save others. In the same way, the casting off of the world and history, which takes place at the same time as the casting off of body-mind, is not something negative. It is directly the cast-off world and history, that is, the awakened world and awakened history, that “advance forward and practice and confirm the self.” (Abe 1992, 33)

Such are the implications of the notion of the oneness of means and end when the notion is applied to the understanding of one’s personality and its relationship to other persons and other things. Here we can see Dōgen’s challenge to the contemporary issues of ecology and history. The crucial point of this dynamic mutuality between the self and others, and humans and the world, is to forget one’s self, and one’s body-mind are cast off, is self-awakening-qua-awakening-others fully realized. This is not the “Kingdom of ends,” but the “Kingdom of dependent origination.” (Abe 1992, 33)

20 Shōbōgenzō “Bendōwa” The Eastern Buddhist, 136.
21 Shōbōgenzō “Bendōwa” The Eastern Buddhist, 133.

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Laughing Buddha: Jesus as Messiah

The Jesus movement very early on exchanged the vision for the visionary. Those first enthusiastic followers were enthralled by the world Jesus encapsulated in the parables and aphorisms, but, since they were unable to hold on to the vision embodied in those verbal vehicles, they turned from the story to the storyteller. They didn’t know how else to celebrate the revelation. They turned the iconoclast into an icon. (Funk 1996: 10-11)

One of my most memorable adventures as a cultural intermediary occurred about twelve years ago when I translated for a Christian colleague who was visiting the monastery in southern India where I was living. He was there working on a translation of a Buddhist text, and I volunteered my services as interpreter. One day, in the course of his conversations with one of the senior scholars of the monestary, it came up that he was a Christian, and my teacher asked him to share some of his beliefs. My friend chose to focus on Jesus’ identity as messiah. As I finished translating the words of my colleague, my teacher broke out in a fit of laughter, much to my embarrassment. He then proceeded to question his interlocutor in a kind of pointed and unabashedly adversarial way that is typical of the Tibetan monastic debate courtyard. There ensued a lively exchange, but when all was said and done, my teacher’s basic question was this: How can the death of one individual act as the direct and substantive cause for the salvation of others?

Behind this interreligious impasse there are of course operative several Buddhist doctrinal presuppositions that are in marked contrast (at times even in opposition) to those of traditional Christianity, not the least of which is the Buddhist vision of what constitutes liberation.

Several corollaries to the Buddhist view of liberation are especially relevant as responses to the Christian confession of Jesus as messiah. (1) Each of us is responsible for our own lot in life. We each cause our own suffering, and each of us is ultimately responsible for our own liberation. (2) Our salvation is not dependent on any one historical event. Specifically, our salvation is not dependent upon the appearance of any one personage in history. True, the actions of others can help us or hinder us on the way, but no action (or lack of action) on the part of another individual—whether human or divine—can seal our fate, either as regards salvation or damnation. (3) Soteriologically, there is no end to time, no time after which sentient beings will suffer, and thus long will there be the possibility of their liberation. (4) No being has the capacity to decide whether or not we will be saved. Salvation is not granted to us, or withheld from us, by some external force. It is self-earned. (5) No single action on our part can instantaneously cause our liberation. What brings about salvation is not mere belief or faith, even a faith that is sustained throughout en entire life. Certainly, it is not the instantaneous belief in something (e.g., the belief that Jesus is Lord) that brings about salvation, but the long and arduous process of radical mental transformation, which requires more than simply belief.22

Together these various tenants make it impossible for Buddhists to accept a messianic creed of the traditional Christian sort. Jesus may have been an extraordinary human being, a sage, an effective and charismatic teacher, and even the manifestation of a deity, but he cannot have been the messiah that most Christians believe him to have been.23 (Gross et. al. 2000, 27-28, José Ignacio Cabezón, A God, but Not a Savior, Iliff School of Theology.)

22 I am not unaware of the fact that in the history of Buddhism there have been movements that challenge this notion of the nature and path to salvation. Especially important to mention in this regard are certain schools of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism. But again, I remind my readers that I am speaking here principally from an Indo-Tibetan Buddhist doctrinal perspective.

23 Of course, if the Jesus Seminar is right, than Jesus did not make this claim of himself. See Funk et. al, The Five Gospels, pp. 32-34.

~ ~ ~

It is well known within the comparative religious studies field that there exists a phenomena whereby a founder reveals a teaching of experience and after passing another teaching about the founder develops in the minds of those who are tasked with creating the social institutions that perpetuate the founder’s teachings. It is the teachings of the founder distinct from the teachings about the founder that are important and often lost in historical time until recovered through critical religious scholarship. This of vs. about distinction is important. The teachings of Jesus are distinct and separate from the teachings about Jesus that developed after his death. The atonement doctrine which in light of modernity is nothing more than divine child abuse was a doctrine developed after Jesus lived, taught, and died and is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus as he revealed them through his life and teachings as exemplified in his many parables. The same can is found in the life experience of Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit/Devanagari: सिद्धार्थ गौतम Siddhārtha Gautama, c. 563/480 – c. 483/400 BCE) and many other religious teachers. Similarly the teaching of Honen Shonin were modified by Shinran Shonin’s teachings which were adapted by Rennyo Shonin’s teachings and so on it goes.

It may well seem to you that the gospel of Jesus did not include all that is high and holy in the Christian gospel as we know it. All those magnificent, transcendent, Christian beliefs seem absent from the original gospel of Jesus his “gospel” may seem minimal by comparison with the gospel! Missing from his gospel are not only where he came from (“conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary”), but also what he came to do. Where, after all, is “the saving work of Christ”: dying for our sins, rising on the third day, appearing to the apostles resurrected from the dead? These are, after all, the gospel about Jesus, which you, understandably enough, believe and cherish. But if you really are committed to Jesus, then you should be committed to the gospel of Jesus, which is what I have written this book to try to help you see and understand: the “good news” Jesus offered people during his public ministry. (Robinson 2005: 225)

Robinson, James M. The Gospel of Jesus: In Search of the Original Good News. New York: HarperCollins; 2005; p. 225.

Toyohiko Kagawa (賀川 豊彦)

The Knowledge of God

There are very many religions in the world to-day. There are religions of self-interest, of tradition or convention, of authority, of sex desire, religions which worship a given social organization, an so forth…. But the religion which Jesus taught was a Way of Life, which experiences God intuitively through life and love. For that reason the teachings of Jesus cannot be understood through theory alone. The God of Jesus is not a theoretical God of the philosopher — “The Absolute,” “The Infinite”; the God of Jesus is Himself very Life (John i. 1-4). (Kagawa 1931: 19)

The religion of Jesus is a religion of life. People who are fully alive, people who are living strongly, can understand it; but those who deny life, who do not want to live, cannot get its meaning. The God of Jesus is a God of Action. People who stay at home and read their Bibles and pray and meditate, and do nothing for the poor, who beg help before their very doors–such people will find the God of Jesus unintelligible. His God is One who is naturally reflected in a man’s heart when he has saved even one suffering human being, or lifted up one who has been oppressed. The loveless do not know God. Only when a man has plunged into the blindly struggling crowd and tried to save them from their sins and failures, can he know this God. Only through the active movement of love will he intuitively come to know the God of Action. (Kagawa 1931: 19-20)

It is important to bear in mind this distinction between the God of idea and the God of Action. Jesus thought that when the conscience is keen, God will naturally grow in the soul. It will not be out of place therefore to examine some of those attitudes of soul which Jesus pointed out to be necessary to the knowledge of God: (Kagawa 1931: 20)

(1) The Mind of the Child (Matt. xi. 25, Luke x, 21, Luke xviii, 17). There are some very difficult religions in the world. For instance, the religion of Theosophy, recently so popular, could not be understood by babies. But Christianity can be comprehended in a wonderful way even by babes in their mothers’ arms. A child a year and a half old can pray. Or again, the study of the Zen philosophy in Buddhism is unsuitable for children two or three years old. If we had to read Spinoza, Bergson, Paul Natorp, or Riechelt, in order to know God, only a few of the intelligentsia could hope to be saved. But Jesus declared that his God is intelligible to children rather than to philosophers. The revelation of God in a child’s heart shows that God naturally lives in the hearts of human beings. If God really exists, there must be no time from babyhood till death when He is not with us. (Kagawa 1931: 20-21)

When the theory of Evolution was first introduced, people concluded that Evolution had conducted the funeral of God. When Rationalism was popular, people relied on reason and dispensed with God. But more recently, since religious psychology has been studied seriously, it has become clear that religion is deeply rooted in the heart of both the individual and the race…. Some say, “Karl Marx is enough for men. I have no use for religion.” However it may be for others, for me, since my birth, I could not help but be religious…. I was made in such a fashion that I could not help but worship God. I cannot possibly be satisfied with Materialism. A desire to believe God inevitably springs up in my heart, and I cannot help but seek Him. (Kagawa 1931: 21)

Religion is like one of the senses. It is the power of the perfect human being to perceive the ultimate values…. The experience of God is a growing as well as an intuitive one; Jesus pointed to the heart of a child, when speaking of how to know God…. God reveals Himself only in an innocent heart. (Kagawa 1931: 22)

(2) The Pure in Heart. (Matt. v. 8). This is but another description of the heart of the child. To see God, one’s heart must be clear. (Kagawa 1931: 23)

(3) The Heart of the Publicans and Sinners (Matt. xxi. 31). There is a special beauty in the return of a man who, confessing his sin in his wandering life, comes back to God. (Kagawa 1931: 24)

Christianity possesses three essential elements, different from those of other religions: (1) Life, (2) Self (personality, character), and (3) Salvation. It is a characteristic of the religion of Jesus that through it people who have lost their personality through living an aimless life are once more able to share in the life with God. It is for this reason the religion of Jesus is called a religion of salvation. (Kagawa 1931: 24)

Unless a man recognizes his need, that there is something lacking in himself, and longs to have that lack made up, no matter how much he reads his Bible and hears preaching, he will not understand Christianity. (Kagawa 1931: 24)

Faith acquired through reason only is liable to run away like water from an open sluice-pipe. (Kagawa 1931: 24)

But there is something strong and courageous in the man who comes straight back to God from a wandering life. Therefore Jesus said that traitors and prostitutes are quicker to enter the Kingdom of God. There is a deep meaning in the words of Jesus that the healthy do not desire a physician, but the sick. (Kagawa 1931: 25)

It [Jesus’ own religion] is not a one-way natural religion, it is a religion of salvation which makes a man right-about-face and be reborn again. Jesus pointed to himself as a revelation of this God of Salvation. As has been said already, Jesus thought of God as Spirit or Life. (Kagawa 1931: 25)

Again, Jesus said that God is One (Matt. xxiii. 9). (Kagawa 1931: 25)

God is our Father. Jesus felt intuitively that God is our Father. Jesus did not call God, as some Christian’s to-day do, “The Absolute” or “The Infinite.” He simply called Him the Father, or Holy Father, or Righteous Father. I do not know whether the Father is Absolute or not, but I do believe this Father. Christianity is a “Papa” religion, one that even children can understand. If God were a supplementary God, added on afterwards, He might be the Absolute and the Infinite; but since He is inborn, the God who grows in the very soul, He is “Abba Father.” Just as the baby calls his father, so Jesus called Him affectionately, “Abba, Father.” (Kagawa 1931: 25-26)

The God of Jesus is transcendent…. To sum up, the God of Jesus is the God who can be seen intuitively in life and love and conscience [service]. Unless there is a God of life and love there can be no religion of action. (Kagawa 1931: 26)

If we fully experience such a God, happiness such as we have never known before springs up in our hearts, or at least should do. Nevertheless, some people after they have become Christians are still pessimistic…. Such people know only the Cross of Jesus by not His Resurrection [more importantly, his life]. (Kagawa 1931: 28)

… many … know nothing about the powers of life and resurrection, they wander about seeking outside stimuli. But if you restore the freedom of God within, and the inner life springs up within you, outside stimuli become entirely unnecessary. Is there any stronger impetus in the world than that which we feel when our inner light shines out and the reviving power springs up from the bottom of our heart. (Kagawa 1931: 28)

There are two sides to religious experience: the one is man’s experience of God, the other God’s experience of man. (Kagawa 1931: 31)

To-day there are many theories as to the purpose of human life. Pater says that the purpose of human life is the aesthetic life. Epicurus said the real pleasure exists in pain. But, on the other hand, the Stoics asserted that the purpose of human life is self-denial. Still others say that the life of evolution is the true life. The Neo-Hegelian, Green, expounded the doctrine of perfection. It is not easy to read the hundreds of pages of his book of ethics. (Kagawa 1931: 31)

But Jesus taught us the doctrine of perfection long before Greed did. He taught us God as our ideal. “Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Without referring to the works of Spencer and to Green, I find this teaching entirely sufficient. (Kagawa 1931: 32)

This ideal can be reached through prayer. God requires our prayer. “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Kagawa 1931: 32)

All religions can be divided into two classes: those which emphasize abstract meditation, and those which emphasize prayer. Examples of the first class are Zen, and medieval mysticism. Christianity from the first has been a religion of prayer…. The reason is that our God, that is, Life itself, works from within, through our personality. If we live within God, our prayers must be answered. (Kagawa 1931: 32)

Ask from your heart, through your personality, through all your life, and you will certainly get what you desire. It is never a mistake to ask of God. Therefore, if we pray from the bottom of our hearts for the reconstruction of mankind, our prayer will be heard…. But without reconstruction in the inner man society cannot be saved…. Social reconstruction is useless without the love of God. (Kagawa 1931: 33)

Bertrand Russell, in the last part of his book, Roads to Freedom, says that after all the various reforms have been carried out there will still remain a problem. That is, “even when Socialism or Communism is established, there are bound to be some people who revolt against society. It is a problem as to how to deal with such people.” The final problem of social reconstruction, and the one that is hardest to solve, is the problem of sin. The religion which cannot furnish a solution for this problem is useless to the human race. The God experienced through Jesus Christ is a God Who has power to solve this final problem of sin. (Kagawa 1931: 33-34)

But our religious experience through Jesus does not cease here…. There is another side to our religious experience; it is God’s experience as Man. (Kagawa 1931: 34)

A religion is not true which regards God simply as an ideal, towards whom we are pulled as by a cord. True religion says that God Himself possesses us. God Himself seeks man. There must be not only the experience of man going to God, but also of something coming back to man from God. The definition of religion has been rewritten by Jesus. It is not merely a question of man relying on God; it is also of God coming down to earth and experiencing man’s way of living. That is, God as Jesus, entered into man’s experience. God does not remain merely a god; He works inside man’s heart as the life of God. If this be true, then the Incarnation represents an event without parallel in human history. God’s incarnation in the body of Jesus–this is the supreme religious experience. When one thinks that God gave up His Throne and came down to live with man as Jesus, a labourer of Nazareth, for us to go and live in the slums is no great sacrifice. (Kagawa 1931: 34)

That is the sphere where God and man melt together. One is free to live either God’s life or man’s life. It is a life of the highest freedom. If we are taken hold of by God, we can go anywhere…. I have never been unsteady in my faith: this is not due to my holding on to God, but because God has possessed me. We must experience the “Abide with me” God, that is, the sphere where God and man melt together. (Kagawa 1931: 35)

If through the experience of Jesus we come to live the life of oneness between God and man, how can we thereafter, degenerate? We have entered the sphere of the deepest religious experience, in which we reflect God’s image in our hearts and make our hearts communicate with the heart of God. Such religious life naturally becomes a matter of the inner life, and refuses all petrified formalism, though it may make use of symbolism…. Jesus relentlessly rejected all religious conventions which were obstacles in the way of genuine religious life. (Kagawa 1931: 35)

Fasting itself may not be bad…. But when fasting becomes only a religious form, with God absent from it, then it is a hindrance to religion. In the time of Jesus, some Pharisees observed this convention. Jesus mercilessly criticized their formalism. He made a point of eating with the common people without distinction, even though they called Him a gluttonous man for doing so…. But the religion of Jesus was concerned with the commonest of common things; in it God experienced man’s life, and purified the whole of daily life. Some may say that for a religious person to take part in a social movement is to cheapen religion, but we participate in it because we are disciples of Jesus…. It is the same with regard to prayer; it must not be a mere formality…. Jesus absolutely rejected such forms. (Kagawa 1931: 35-37)

Sometimes the Sabbath day becomes a convention, and dries up the real life of religion. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time had forty prohibitions about the Sabbath day. Some of those came from the Law of Moses and others were added by themselves. These latter mostly related to work. They thought it was sinful for tailors to use needles and for clerks to use pens after dark on Friday evenings; women were not allowed to look in a mirror lest they become guilty of pulling out their grey hairs, that would be work! (Kagawa 1931: 37)

… to value the seventh day and get together once a week to worship God. It was begun because people needed a regular stimulus for the development of their souls. It is in this that there is to be found the importance of Sundays. But to think of Sunday superstitiously or idolatrously is another thing. Jesus endeavored to break down such idolizing of time. He strenuously rejected convention and taught people to worship God with their whole selves. (Kagawa 1931: 37-38)

Some live only a busy, superficial life, others live only in books, and there is no real life in it. But if you dig down hundreds of feet, the water under the ground will spring up unceasingly and with tremendous power. If the ship is caught in the Gulf Stream, it will go all the faster, the speed of the current plus that of the ship. Unless we move with the stream of God springing up in our hearts, we have not yet reached true salvation. Push out into the deep! Go with the tide! Why do you everlastingly bustle about daily business, digging a narrow ditch for yourself, while God’s great Gulf Stream is trying to move you? (Kagawa 1931: 38)

Jesus and Men’s Failures

The ministry of Jesus had one peculiar feature: He limited His religious mission to the sick, the weak, the poor, the wanderers and the sinners. That is, Jesus penetrated into the essence of the universe from the pathological aspect. In this chapter we will consider how Jesus and the God of Jesus strive to remedy the failure and weakness of mankind. (Kagawa 1931: 39)

What then, is failure; and what is success? It is important to know the meaning of these words…. What definition did Jesus give to “success”? He said that true success is to complete one’s life. It is to attain to eternal life; all else is failure. (Kagawa 1931: 41)

When we lack faith, our enterprises often fail. The great achievements of the world’s history have almost always started from some great faith…. The first people who talked of Socialism, beginning with Saint-Simon, were all imbued with the religious spirit. In particular the disciples of Saint-Simon were deeply religious. And among them Enfantin especially thought that religion and science must be harmonized, and the ideal life is one in which this has been achieved. (Kagawa 1931: 41-42)

Paul taught us Christian omnipotence: “I can do all things through Christ Who strengtheneth me.” We must learn faith-omnipotence. We must not too quickly accept “character-determinism.” …. Faith is a lever…. While we have this faith, we need have no fear of failure. But some people who have faith lack patience. Man’s works always needs time. Therefore we need patience. (Kagawa 1931: 42-43)

The Christian faith cannot be fully tasted in one or two years. Even a husband and wife, if they live together twenty or thirty years, and endure each other, will have a least a pleasant taste to one another. Justin Martyr was once called before Caesar in Rome and required to burn incense before an idol. He was an old man and almost dying, but he refused to do it. “What matter!” he cried, “I have believed in Jesus for a long time. How can I throw away my faith? I will follow Him to the end.” “Follow Him to the end!” Anyone who keeps his faith the end will surely be saved. (Kagawa 1931: 43-44)

Jesus Christ was crucified as a failure, and His disciples all ran away from Him. But, nevertheless, Jesus Christ did not call Himself defeated. Jesus was a success, though apparently a failure. There are many who think themselves successful, and do not realize that actually they are failures. (Kagawa 1931: 45)

Once I visited the home of a shipping millionaire with the chief editor of the Osaka Nichi Nichi newspaper. This house, a villa at Suma, was larger than a palace. It was said that the owner spent £600,000 to build this house in the style of Momoyama. It was a grand mansion, built of ancient cryptomeria wood. When I went to the house, I asked the editor, “What will the owner do with this house?” He replied, “He will confine himself in it!” At that time I was living in a house six feet square and found it quite comfortable. When Kropotkin was in prison, he walked five miles a day in his cell. This was because, in St. Petersburg, the air is damp, and he would run the risk of rheumatism if he took no exercise. When I was put in the Tachibana prison in Kobe, I followed Kropotkin’s example. My cell was about six feet square, and I could walk about six steps. I walked I the cell for about two miles every day. Thus I could think of my residence as being two miles wide! The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews could say, “Be content with such things as ye have; for He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”; while St. Paul from prison wrote, “I have learned in whatever state I am therewith to be content.” (Kagawa 1931: 45-46)

Jesus Christ spent his life in destitution and had nothing to the last moment. But nevertheless the Crucified One was the most successful man who ever lived. True success is to succeed in, to inherit, life. The truly successful man is the one who can enjoy the life of God. (Kagawa 1931: 46)

When Japanese Christians become dead in earnest enough to sell off even their house-mats for the sake of their religion, Christianity will have power. (Kagawa 1931: 46)

Man’s life comes from the very origin of life. (Kagawa 1931: 49)

Jesus pointed to the perfection of the Heavenly Father as our ideal of perfection. If I ought to climb up to a hundred feet high, and stop at thirty, I am a sinner to the degree of the difference. Anyone who is meant to be a king, and stops at being a village headman, I losing as much value as a king minus a village head. Jesus Christ said a tremendous thing. If the omnipotent God is our Father, and the perfection of the Heavenly Father is our ideal standard, we must not stupidly stop half-way. (Kagawa 1931: 52)

When God is loved, for the first time Nature seems to us a lovable thing. When God and man are fused together, then man can be fused to Nature. For people who live the life of perfection, and love God, sickness, persecution, imprisonment and any other things will never be irritating, because theirs is the life which lays hold on the power which controls all Nature. (Kagawa 1931: 52)

Everything is mine! The mountains, rivers, stars–all of them–the Centaurus, the constellation nearest the earth, is mine also…. This is much more progressive than Communism. Instead of Kyosan-shugi, common-possession-ism (=Communism), I call this Shinsanshugi, “God-possession-ism.” (Kagawa 1931: 52-53)

But if we have all these riches in God, at the same time we need to remember that human personality is by no means completed. “God is the one perfect Personality” (Lotze)…. It is difficult for an imperfect personality or a faulty personality to understand the personality of God. Since God is a perfect, completed personality, we can only indistinctly see Him through our broken personalities. In proportion to the completion of our personalities He is revealed to us. Our personalities are extremely imperfect. (Kagawa 1931: 53)

We have to learn that since we ourselves have faults we must also forgive one another. (Kagawa 1931: 53)

Many people do not see each other’s good points, but only their weak points, and speak ill of them saying, “But So-and-so has such-and-such faults.” The very word “but” is often used with this criticizing meaning in Japan. They think that unkind gossip is valuable criticism…. We must always be forgiving each other’s sins. This is the best way for the completion of personality. (Kagawa 1931: 54)

Whole generations often go astray. And if in such an age we do not have the revelation of God, the consciousness of the true way to live, and of sin, will become blurred. In such a time we must fix our eyes upon some pure personality and imitate it…. [A]nd people look to Jesus as the only personality Who never wandered, and as the revealed God, then the age is bound to be revived. Through imitation of Christ our way of life will once more return to the right track. (Kagawa 1931: 55)

We cannot see how far we are degenerated at present because we do not look to Jesus as our criterion. An insane person is one who does not recognize the condition of his own mind; he cannot do so until he has recovered from it. But many people to-day do not recognize how far they have gone astray from God, and think themselves to be righteous. It is the present condition of mankind to be terribly unconscious of their sins. (Kagawa 1931: 55-56)

Jesus and Prayer

Jesus Christ prayed very often. Some people think that strong persons need not pray; but Jesus at all events felt the necessity. As has been said above, the religions of the world can be divided psychologically into two kinds: the religion of meditation, and the religion of prayer. (Kagawa 1931: 60)

We can have religious experience most in prayer. In Jesus’ experience, prayer and meditation were always one. Jesus usually prayed in a lonely place. This seems to have been His habit…. Jesus was not at all lonely when He was alone, but prayed always. We are strongest when we pray. We can know how earnest Jesus was in His attitude toward prayer through what He prayed about everything–and in every circumstance. (Kagawa 1931: 61)

We cannot be really religious until we have made our daily life and the problem of bread religious. Religious life is not something extraordinary, lie growing wings in order to fly up to heaven; it is simply to reveal God in our daily life, in the very problem of bread…. It is to be hoped that at our dinner tables there is always a deep religious atmosphere. (Kagawa 1931: 65)

… [I]f you eat in the mood of prayer, even though your meal is nothing but a rice-ball, you can eat pleasantly…. We cannot be said to be complete in religion until we come to handle even the problem of bread religiously in our daily life. Jesus often ate with His disciples. He made eating one of the religious rituals and added the problem of bread to the Lord’s Prayer. We need to remember this very clearly. (Kagawa 1931: 65)

On another occasion when the seventy disciples returned from their successful mission, Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth” (Luke x. 21-22). Jesus prayed when he was glad. (Kagawa 1931: 66)

We want to be those who pray at all times. True prayer is conversation with God. We must have more of this conversation and more praise of God in our prayer…. If we have contact with children in the spirit of prayer and bless them with our whole hearts, the children will grow up to be great persons. (Kagawa 1931: 68)

Jesus … did not teach a form of prayer, but in compliance with the request of the disciples He showed them a model prayer. That is the Lord’s Prayer. It was originally given by Jesus to His disciples in order to educate them. Tolstoi went so far as to say about it, “Our prayer must not be more than this. It is selfish to pray beyond the limits of this prayer.” From whatever aspect it is viewed, the Lord’s Prayer is a model prayer: “Our Father in heaven, enable us to worship you; let the ideal kingdom come, and make your will completely accomplished.” If prayer be such a thing as this, how can it be called superstitious or contrary to reason? If we always had such a beautiful religious spirit, the purified spirit of prayer, we should never make a mistake. (Kagawa 1931: 69)

Again, Jesus knew the defects of mankind, and so in the next place He prayed that we might forgive one another. He did not forget to pray that in horizontal contacts–that is, socially–we should forgive one another’s sins; nor did He forget to pray that in vertical contacts–that is, in our relation to God–our daily lives might be protected from mistakes. (Kagawa 1931: 70)

“Thy will be done.” Do your very best, but after that leave the matter entirely to God. (Kagawa 1931: 71)

Prayer is a part of man’s original nature. He can never be satisfied with merely meditative religion, and naturally and involuntarily inclines to move on to the religion of prayer. For example, the Shin sect of Buddhism forbids prayer, but when the Emperor Meiji was dying, we saw that their formula of invocation was changed to prayer. Indeed this very formula, which they have to repeat countless times daily, already shows a transition from the religion of meditation to that of prayer. (Kagawa 1931: 73)

… if we think of prayer as the expression of our aspiration for God, we give up vain repetitions or forms…. Our prayers should be simple and to the purpose. Jesus warned the scribes who made long prayers for a show. Another feature of Jesus’ prayer in this connexion is that He used the simplest language. (Kagawa 1931: 74)

The important thing is that our daily life itself should become religious, and all religious life be woven into daily life. It is kind of malady that to-day our daily life is disunited into two or three compartments, and in some that there is not a religious compartment at all. In our life there ought not to be any such distinction as “the religious life,” “the artistic life,” etc. (Kagawa 1931: 74-75)

Some may think that unless a thing is difficult it is not deep; and so they may feel grateful for the Kegon Sutra, which common people cannot understand. But the deepest religion must be that which has most contact with our daily life, and is in closest touch with reality. The religion which is rooted in our original desire, and grows up from out of it, is the only real one. To pray we need not use artificial words. There is nothing wrong if we pray in our ordinary everyday language. (Kagawa 1931: 75-76)

But there are some folks who say they prefer a difficult religion. Religions of the world may be divided into two groups: religions centering round a person, and impersonal religions. In the former the emphasis is on God, but in impersonal religion the emphasis is on Law or Reason. Impersonal religion does not recognize personality or will, therefore it makes man’s desire itself an illusion and would destroy it. (Kagawa 1931: 76)

In India there originated a religion which emphasized the thought of nothingness. Many people are interested in it because their desires are not granted. In Japan there are many Nihilists to-day. From the view-point of “Mu no shisô” — Nothingness Idea — such a religion might be more interesting than the religion which starts from personality and self. This form of religion in its most purified form becomes pantheism. (Kagawa 1931: 76)

But the religion of personality starts first from myself, from me. Incidentally this is the most natural scientific method. It discovers the existence of psychological law in the universe where God and man, also man and man, stand face to face. A poet, Shiki Masaoka, left as his last poem one called “The Autumn Wind.” In it occurs the line:

“To me, no god, no buddha.” (Kagawa 1931: 77)

This is not merely a nihilistic idea; it seems to me to be his realization that there is some religious idea even in the depth of the void. But the religion Jesus taught was a religious life where prayer grows in the warm contacts of personality with personality. Jesus taught us to pray together. Prayer has a social aspect. (Kagawa 1931: 77)

The world is opened by prayer. What one prays for is always accomplished. Prayer, at the very least, uplifts the heart of the one who prays, and develops high ideals in his mind…. His [Jesus’] daily life was worship…. We must take our gladness and sorrow and all of everything to God, and look into the world where God and man melt together. (Kagawa 1931: 77)

The Death of Jesus Its Before and After

The Apostle Paul said, “For those who are on the way to destruction the story of the Cross is nonsense, but to us who are being saved, it means all the power of God” (I Cor. i. 18). There have been few who express the issue so clearly. Nothing has been more discussed in the world than the problem of the Cross. There is a school of thought to-day which says that Christianity has become too doctrinal: that it has become a religion of the Cross — the worship of suffering: but this is not real Christianity: that real Christianity is the life of Jesus Himself: it is necessary therefore to emancipate Christianity from the religion of Paul, the religion of the Cross, and come back to Jesus Christ Himself. (Kagawa 1931: 78)

A religion which does not look at life, self and God squarely is easily corrupted by one or another of these forms of idolatry [space-idolatry or time-idolatry], and will never be thoroughly completed either in culture or in expression. (Kagawa 1931: 82)

The religion of Jesus is the religion of crucifixion, that is, of redemption. It is the religion of action which unites meditation and prayer. To walk in prayer, continually asking and receiving power from God, and again to transform this power into new actions of love, this was the religion of Jesus…. Jesus discovered this law and established the religion of redemption in which prayer and meditation are combined into one. (Kagawa 1931: 84-85)

The disciples of Jesus were blamed for picking ears of barley and rubbing them with their hands on the Sabbath, because it was the same as the labour of grinding them in a mill. Religion itself had become to that extent external and superficial. Jesus of course, strongly emphasized inward religion against such superficial and outward religion. (Kagawa 1931: 86)

It is undeniable that the disciples experienced something on this occasion. Ten or eleven different groups or disciples actually saw the risen Jesus. Some people criticize hastily, saying that such an extraordinary thing could not have happened; but Christianity is founded on this strange faith. The idea of resurrection has existed from the early days, but there have been no certain instances of resurrection except in the case of Christ. However people may deny the resurrection of Christ, they cannot deny the fact that by it the history of the world has been turned upside down…. Jesus was truly revived in the hearts of the disciples. (Kagawa 1931: 103)

Jesus’ disciples must be those who serve other people …. The true value of Christianity is shown in doing menial and subordinate work willingly. (Kagawa 1931: 116-117)

Jesus said, “Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth. But I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard from the Father I have made known unto you.” (Kagawa 1931: 118)

Instead of having a special school building, He took His disciples to the mountains, to the beach, and to the park very frequently, and taught them while they were walking in the fields and mountains…. Moreover, Jesus’ school is a school of love. Modern schools teach us knowledge but not love. Jesus taught how to love people and how to serve community. (Kagawa 1931: 123)

It is not necessary to be intellectual, nor to practice self-mortification by going to the mountains or to the sea. Jesus’ religion is contained in the experience of the God of Action. “He that loveth not knoweth not God: for God is love.” Whoever lacks love lacks religious feeling. We must love people before we argue with them. In that loving, God Himself will be revealed. (Kagawa 1931: 125)

A blind man came to see Mr. Juji Ishii, the Christian philanthropist. He was illiterate and could not read anything, but he asked Mr. Ishii to let him learn Christianity. Mr. Ishii said to him, “If, when you practice massage, and are paid for it, you give that money to the blind men poorer than yourself, then you will see God.” So then this blind man, practicing massage every evening in Okayama City, used to go after one o’clock in the morning to the place where many blind men came together after their work, and put 2-sen pieces secretly into the long kimono sleeves of the poorest. He continued this every night, and gradually the heart of this man with sightless eyes was opened. After two weeks he cam again to Mr. Ishii and said, “Teacher, I have come to understand. God is love.” This man learned to know God by himself by loving men. God, who is unintelligible when thought of in a room or a library, will become known when one loves people. (Kagawa 1931: 125-126)

Uchimura Kanzō (内村 鑑三)

Uchimura saw the origins of denominations … as reflections of secular history in the country concerned. He asked which of these teachings actually represented Jesus’ ideas as opposed to historical accretions of almost two millennia. (Howes 2005: 10)

To me, forms are not only not helps for worship, but positive hindrances. I worship God inwardly in spirit and serve him outwardly in ordinary human conduct. [This formless Christianity is called mukyokai-shugi-no-Kirisutokyo, Christianity of no-church principle.] It is not a negative faith but positive; else my countrymen would never have received it….

Faith and Thinking

Faith is not thinking; what a man thinks is not his faith. Faith is rather being; what a man is is his faith. Thinking is only part of being; rather a superficial part . The modern man thinks he can know God’s truth by thinking . [but] Faith is the soul in passive activity. It is the soul letting itself to be acted upon by the mighty power of God. Passive though faith is, it is intensely active because of the power that works in it. This is the paradox of faith . The Christian is a newly created soul which engenders special activity called faith. Faith is thus a Christian activity of far higher order than thinking. It is the whole soul in beneficent action. (Howes 2005: 336)

Christianity the enemy of Buddhism? Not so! Christianity is a sworn enemy of these warlike Westerners, and not of Buddha and his peace-loving disciples. To make Christianity represent the Warlike West, and make it an enemy of Buddhism, a religion of love and non-resistance, is the greatest possible misrepresentation that can be made of it. (Howes 2005: 337)