Christian-Buddhist Dialogue

I find it helpful to look at a something from several angles. If it\’s a physical object, I walk around it. If it\’s a translation, particularly from ancient texts, I read multiple translations. And spiritual topics I read multiple authors, often from different traditions. Below is from Richard Rohr\’s Meditations, a newsletter. It is one of the most helpful things I\’ve read on dualism, a favorite topic of Buddhists.

Abstract vs. Concrete

Friday, August 1, 2014

Along as you can deal with life in universal abstractions, you can pretend that the usual binary way of thinking is true, but once you deal with a specific or concrete reality, it is always, without exception a mixture of darkness and light, death and life, good and bad, attractive and unattractive. We who are trained in philosophy and theology have all kinds of trouble with that, because our preferred position is to deal with life in terms of abstractions and universals. We want it to be true “on paper” whether it is totally true in concrete situations is less important or even denied.

This is what the dualistic mind does because it does not know how to hold creative tensions. It actually confuses rigid thinking or black and white thinking with faith itself. In my opinion, faith is exactly the opposite—which is precisely why we call it “faith” and not logic.

The universal divine incarnation must always show itself in the specific, the concrete, the particular (as in Jesus), and it always refuses to be a mere abstraction. No one says this better than Christian Wiman: “If nature abhors a vacuum, Christ abhors a vagueness. If God is love, Christ is love for this one person, this one place, this one time-bound and time ravaged self.” When we start with big universal ideas, at the level of concepts and –isms, we too often stay there—and forever argue about theory, and making more “crucial distinctions.” At that level, the mind is totally in charge. It is then easy to think that “I love people” (but not any individual people). We defend universal principles of justice but would not actually live fully just lives ourselves. The universal usually just gives us a way out. The concrete gives us a way in!

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