Communicating Christ in the Buddhist World

by Paul De Neui and David Lim, eds.

Anyone who has attempted to share the gospel with a Buddhist has undoubtedly heard one of two responses: “Oh, yes. Christianity and Buddhism are two paths to the same place.

William Carey Library, 1605 E. Elizabeth Street, Pasadena, CA 91104, 2006, 280 pages, $19.99.

Reviewed by Nancy Sturrock, senior director for consulting networks, TEAM; former general secretary of the Central Asia Fellowship (CAF).

Anyone who has attempted to share the gospel with a Buddhist has undoubtedly heard one of two responses: “Oh, yes. Christianity and Buddhism are two paths to the same place. There is no real difference,” or, “I can’t be a Christian. I am Thai” (or whatever ethnicity the person identifies him or herself to be).

Communicating Christ in the Buddhist World is a collection of papers written by practitioners who have grappled with these responses. The authors are all field workers. Some are Asians who have come from Buddhist backgrounds themselves. They have lived and worked among Buddhist peoples and long to communicate Christ in relevant ways to their friends and neighbors. In these papers, they explore some of the theological and practical issues they have encountered along the way.

The first four papers address theological issues. Life exegesis is described as a meaningful way to communicate truth to oral peoples. We are challenged to consider the benefits of engaging with Buddhist scriptures in order to more clearly understand the backgrounds and worldview of our Buddhist friends. Lessons gleaned from Paul’s address to the Athenians in Acts 17 give us ideas about points of contact and methods of communication as we share Christ. A comparison of the temptations and teachings of Christ with those of Buddha — especially touching matters of suffering, desire, impermanence and completeness — gives some meaningful points of contact with the Buddhist community. All of these ideas are intended as discussion starters and are highly recommended for further study.

The middle section of the book contains four papers which discuss sociological issues relevant to the Buddhist world. Social barriers to conversion among the Thai, struggles related to Asian ancestor worship and a study of Christian and Buddhist marriage practices in Sri Lanka all provide windows through which we can better understand how our Christian message is perceived and understood in these cultures. The comparison of world Christianity with global Christianity in chapter five raises thought provoking issues that anyone working among Buddhists should seriously consider.

The book concludes with two papers related to mission strategy. One gives a possible model for sharing the gospel among Buddhists; the other discusses the training paradigm needed for workers who will bring about transformation of Buddhist communities. These two chapters bring a practical conclusion to a set of stimulating presentations. Anyone working among Buddhist peoples will find ideas for further study, practical suggestions for life and ministry and lots of encouragement along the way.

Check these titles:
Burnett, D. 2006. The Spirit of Buddhism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Monarch.

Tsering, M. 2006. Jesus in a New Age, Dalai Lama World. Upper Darby, Pa.: Interserve. (Two earlier versions were titled Sharing Christ in the Tibetan Buddhist World)

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