A Tale of Two Futures

I spent the last 3 days with high school seniors comparing and contrasting Christianity with the primarily far-eastern worldviews of Hinduism and Buddhism.

It was about young people with bright futures thinking through how they and others around the world view the past, the present and the future. I love it!

One thing that always comes up when I teach on this subject is the difficulty we "westerners" have with the circular nature of far-eastern worldviews. You can see it on the faces of the students as we discuss Hindu cosmology - the notion that the universe is and always has been in a continual cycle of birth, life and destruction.

They have a really hard time with karma and the cycle of reincarnation, and the way these beliefs have worked out over the last few thousand years to create a caste system in India where discrimination became an institution.

We discussed "moksha", the closest (albeit still very far away) Hindu analogy to Christianity's salvation/resurrection. Moksha is the ultimate dissolving of one's self into Brahman. Thus, to be "saved" in Hinduism is to be rid of one's physical body, to lose one's unique soul or personality (atman) and thus never again be bothered with living on earth.

At that point in the discussion one student exclaimed, "That sucks!".

Now I don't think I'd put it that way, and I don't believe the student was trying to be disrespectful of the Hindu worldview. But I do think his comment reflects the difficulty westerners can have with these concepts.

I think the reason western people have such a hard time understanding the circular worldviews is that western culture and thought processes have been so thoroughly affected by Christianity.

You see, Christianity is not circular in shape. It's most definitely a line (a ray, to be geometrically correct!). The Judeo-Christian belief system proposes that there is indeed one God, and further it proposes that God has a particular will being worked out on the planet.

That Will gives history a linear shape - history is going somewhere under God's direction. The ultimate destination is God's Kingdom come to Earth. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth..."

As we read further in the Judeo-Christian story, we see that we ourselves are to be about the business of building that kingdom even in the present, as much as we can given our innate limitations.

And thus we find that as Christians our lives have a forward thrust towards a bright future. The Resurrection is the foundation of all that.

We read in Revelation 21 and 22 about the New Jerusalem - a city 1500 miles on a side - that is the ultimate destination for those that follow Messiah. It's a place where we'll eat real food and do real things and live in real resurrected bodies that won't get sick and die - all under the just and loving rule of Messiah himself.

That's a great story indeed!

Anyhow, it was a great time with great young people understanding once more the great hope we have in Messiah Jesus. Many thanks go to Mr. B. and to all the students!



Thank you for a meaningful and valuable post!

Mike Aleckson said...

Your kind words, Mr. Russell, are most welcome.

Thank you for all that you have done and are doing to extend God's Kingdom!