Why do humans exist? What is our ultimate purpose? A person will arrive at wildly different answers depending on whether they’ve been spending more time under the cross of Christ or under the “Bodhi Tree” (the “tree of awakening” under which the Buddha found enlightenment). On the one hand, there is Christianity’s robust sense of purposefulness, as humans were created by God for a purpose — eternal life in union with God. On the other hand, there is Buddhism’s view that life is fundamentally impermanent and ultimately without purpose. Both religions have defenders who claim their view to be not only true but also inspiring. As one of the world’s “missionary” religions, Buddhism deserves attention because it has been making effective cultural inroads in the Western world. Buddhism’s emerging cultural influence in the West can be seen in university curricula, bestselling spiritual books, health and wellness practices, and interfaith efforts to bridge what are seen as the most influential religions of the Western and Eastern world: Christianity and Buddhism. Buddhism teaches tranquil, even blissful, purposelessness, while Christianity teaches ultimate purpose. Buddhists reason that acceptance of purposelessness is existentially preferable to getting continually disappointed by the popping of inflated desires. Christianity offers ultimate purpose grounded in a trustworthy God. An acceptance of the world’s “thusness” may bring one inward bliss, but Christianity’s recognition of the world’s “oughtness” brings restoration, as Christians trust and follow a God at work making all things new.

This Postmodern Realities episode is a conversation with JOURNAL author Daniel J. McCoy about his online-exclusive article, “Why Do We Exist? Opposite Answers from Buddhism and Christianity”.

Note: This article is adapted from Buddhism or Christianity : Which is Better for the World? By Daniel McCoy (Houston, TX: Moral Apologetics Press, 2023). Click here for information on receiving for your partnering gift.

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