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Being a Christian isn’t easy. Sustaining belief without any doubts for one’s entire life is a very rare accomplishment. Indeed, many would say that examining one’s faith at least once is a central part of the Christian condition. In this landmark work, esteemed theologian Paul Knitter explains the unique path that he took to overcome his doubts, becoming a stronger Christi Being a Christian isn’t easy. Sustaining belief without any doubts for one’s entire life is a very rare accomplishment. Indeed, many would say that examining one’s faith at least once is a central part of the Christian condition. In this landmark work, esteemed theologian Paul Knitter explains the unique path that he took to overcome his doubts, becoming a stronger Christian in the process. Honest and unflinching, Without Buddha I Could not be a Christian narrates each common spiritual dilemma that Knitter has struggled with and explains how a Buddhist worldview has allowed him to resolve each one. From the ‘petitioning’ nature of Christian prayer to how Christianity views life after death, Knitter argues that a Buddhist standpoint can help inspire a more person-centred conception of Christianity, where individual religious experience comes first, and liturgy and tradition second. Moving and revolutionary, this book will inspire Christians everywhere.


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Being a Christian isn’t easy. Sustaining belief without any doubts for one’s entire life is a very rare accomplishment. Indeed, many would say that examining one’s faith at least once is a central part of the Christian condition. In this landmark work, esteemed theologian Paul Knitter explains the unique path that he took to overcome his doubts, becoming a stronger Christi Being a Christian isn’t easy. Sustaining belief without any doubts for one’s entire life is a very rare accomplishment. Indeed, many would say that examining one’s faith at least once is a central part of the Christian condition. In this landmark work, esteemed theologian Paul Knitter explains the unique path that he took to overcome his doubts, becoming a stronger Christian in the process. Honest and unflinching, Without Buddha I Could not be a Christian narrates each common spiritual dilemma that Knitter has struggled with and explains how a Buddhist worldview has allowed him to resolve each one. From the ‘petitioning’ nature of Christian prayer to how Christianity views life after death, Knitter argues that a Buddhist standpoint can help inspire a more person-centred conception of Christianity, where individual religious experience comes first, and liturgy and tradition second. Moving and revolutionary, this book will inspire Christians everywhere.

30 review for Without Buddha I Could Not be a Christian

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    My regular readers know I have eclectic tastes in literature, so it will not be a surprise to them that, when it comes to religion, I am a bit of a syncretist too. I may call myself a “Christian Socialist,” a “Christian Agnostic,” or a “Roman Catholic in Exile”—depending on whether my momentary concerns are political, philosophical, or historical—but, whatever label I self-impose, Jesus of Nazareth lives at its heart. Notwithstanding, I am drawn to other traditions too (Hasidic, Sufi, Zen) and f My regular readers know I have eclectic tastes in literature, so it will not be a surprise to them that, when it comes to religion, I am a bit of a syncretist too. I may call myself a “Christian Socialist,” a “Christian Agnostic,” or a “Roman Catholic in Exile”—depending on whether my momentary concerns are political, philosophical, or historical—but, whatever label I self-impose, Jesus of Nazareth lives at its heart. Notwithstanding, I am drawn to other traditions too (Hasidic, Sufi, Zen) and find them both enriching and in challenging. Paul Knitter has gone on a similar journey and, in this helpful and moving book, he explores the theological questions and personal challenges such a journey may involve. Paul F. Knitter, Chicago native and lifelong Catholic, was ordained in ‘66, laicized in ‘75, married in ‘82, and he has studied and taught theology—including a 28 year stint at Cincinnati Xavier, my alma mater—for more than half a century. An early leader in interfaith dialogue, he has long been an advocate for religion pluralism, even in the controversial area of abortion (Benedict XVI—then Cardinal Ratzinger—has criticized his public pronouncements.) Knitter entitles his preface “Am I Still a Christian?,” and speaks frankly of how many Christian beliefs, some as basic as the formulations of the Nicene Creed, have grown problematic with the years. Morever, it has become increasingly clear to him that the very concept of God as the “Other”—Transcendent, Personal, Known—is at the heart of his problem. In the greater part of his book, he uses concepts of Buddhist religious thought—illustrated by his personal experiences and reflections--as a new way of encountering this idea of God and coming to terms with it. He uses the concepts of Nirvana (“enlightenment”) and more particularly Sunyata (“emptiness”) to suggest that what Christian’s call God’s “being” could be viewed as (in Thich Nat Hanh’s phrase) “InterBeing”: “the interconnected state of things that is constantly churning out new connections, new possibilities, new problems, new life.” Perhaps the closest we come to experiencing the great Ground of All Being is what some Tibetan Buddhists would call Groundlessness: There is, happily, no solid, unchanging foundation to life, no place to stand permanently, since everything is moving in interdependence with everything else. When we realize this and swim with the Groundlessness rather than against it, both letting it carry us and moving with it, then swimming becomes not only possible but enjoyable. This is just a mere taste of Knitter’s explorations, and you will find much more here, including detailed explorations of Anthropomorphism, God’s Will, Personhood, Evil, etc., using Buddhist concepts as aids to illumination. Throughout the book, though, runs the Zen idea that all verbal formulations about spiritual reality are nothing but “a finger pointing at the moon.” Knitter makes it clear that this is the thing we must always remember, lest we spend all of our time contemplating the “finger” and forget about the light of the “moon.”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    This book was written for people like me. By that, I mean people who have been born and raised in the Catholic church, but who also feel drawn towards Buddhist philosophy. Knitter weaves the two traditions together beautifully, and readers will feel both comforted by his thoughts (you're not crazy for being drawn towards these two traditions!) and vindicated by his convictions (your spiritual obstacles are not illegitimate!). Knitter's method in each chapter is simple: identify a way in which he This book was written for people like me. By that, I mean people who have been born and raised in the Catholic church, but who also feel drawn towards Buddhist philosophy. Knitter weaves the two traditions together beautifully, and readers will feel both comforted by his thoughts (you're not crazy for being drawn towards these two traditions!) and vindicated by his convictions (your spiritual obstacles are not illegitimate!). Knitter's method in each chapter is simple: identify a way in which he feels the Catholic church is erring, examine its Buddhist counterpart ("passing over"), and use Buddha's lessons to inform and invigorate his faith in Christ ("passing back"). Because his method is simple and honest, Knitter makes a compelling argument for his theology. But let's call this for what it is: it isn't conservative Catholicism. But Knitter owns up to his liberalism and addresses it directly, and by doing say he earns the reader's respect, I believe, whether or not one agrees with his conclusions. Knitter is honest and sensitive, and he admits his own shortcomings. This is not a self-help book - it is an examination of one man's continuing and heartfelt spiritual journey. But Knitter's spiritual journey is one with which I identified completely, and I suspect (as does he) that many will feel the same. The book is expertly and satisfyingly written, balancing equal parts Buddhist theology, Christian belief, and social activism. It could be life-changing for any Christian who is passionate about bettering their faith and understanding their world. If you have been looking for a book that explores and evaluates life as a Buddhist Christian, this is the place to start.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Though his writing style is clean and enjoyable, Knitter's presentation is abrasive. As a Christian with a curiosity about Buddhism, I perceive an attack on my faith through crude generalizations and narrow-mindedness. While it would be acceptable for him to explain cause-and-effects about his opinions (i.e. "This event happened to me, so I struggle to believe this fact"), he denounces the entire faith tradition ("Christianity is bad because it does and says these things"). If his intention is t Though his writing style is clean and enjoyable, Knitter's presentation is abrasive. As a Christian with a curiosity about Buddhism, I perceive an attack on my faith through crude generalizations and narrow-mindedness. While it would be acceptable for him to explain cause-and-effects about his opinions (i.e. "This event happened to me, so I struggle to believe this fact"), he denounces the entire faith tradition ("Christianity is bad because it does and says these things"). If his intention is to convince Christians of the legitimacy of his faith, he could support it with more quotes from the Bible; instead, most quotes are from his own journal, which I find arrogant and unhelpful. Rather than being a guide for faith strengthening, his book comes across as a desperate plea to accept him. The one exception is Chapter 3, which offers a profound explanation on language that fits with and benefits Christian faith. In general, Knitter could use a healthy dose of Salesian spirituality before he criticizes all Christians of fire-and-brimstone pessimism again.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Knitter makes it clear that Buddhism has much to offer Christianity - insights and truths that Christianity doesn't express as well as it could. Christianity frequently stumbles over its own self, being far too wordy and, worse, taking those words literally, not as the symbols they are meant to be. One example, the Christian God is too often seen a being separate from ourselves, but in Buddhism what approaches "god" is a realization of universal transience and change. The realization of that can Knitter makes it clear that Buddhism has much to offer Christianity - insights and truths that Christianity doesn't express as well as it could. Christianity frequently stumbles over its own self, being far too wordy and, worse, taking those words literally, not as the symbols they are meant to be. One example, the Christian God is too often seen a being separate from ourselves, but in Buddhism what approaches "god" is a realization of universal transience and change. The realization of that can paradoxically, though, bring about wisdom and compassion. We're all inter-connected beings. Christianity, at its best, can be seen as moving in the same direction with its reality of the "spirit" that through "grace" prompts people toward similar compassion. The result is virtuous action. Knitter's conclusion is that a person "passes over" by sympathetic understanding to other religions and then moves back with a new grasp of his own religious tradition. What he said made good sense to me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    JeanAnn

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Paul Knitter was brought up in a Catholic home, educated in Catholic secondary schools, attended a “minor” seminary high school and spent the next 14 years preparing to be a priest. He was ordained in 1966, but left the priesthood in 1975 . He says, “(what had looked easy when I was thirteen became more of a nagging problem at thirty: celibacy)”. He married in 1982 and taught at Xavier University in Cincinnati for nearly 30 years. Dr. Knitter joined the faculty at Union Theological Seminary in t Paul Knitter was brought up in a Catholic home, educated in Catholic secondary schools, attended a “minor” seminary high school and spent the next 14 years preparing to be a priest. He was ordained in 1966, but left the priesthood in 1975 . He says, “(what had looked easy when I was thirteen became more of a nagging problem at thirty: celibacy)”. He married in 1982 and taught at Xavier University in Cincinnati for nearly 30 years. Dr. Knitter joined the faculty at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York in 2007 where he is Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture. Along with these credentials, he had my attention in his Preface when he talked about struggling with the “big stuff”, the basic ingredients of the Creed. Then in the very beginning of Chapter I when he said, “As I’ve grown older, my faith in God has, I trust, grown deeper, but that’s because it has been prodded by confusion. No confusion, no deepening”, I could relate. I like how he uses what he calls “Common architecture of each Chapter”: 1. State the problem, 2. Efforts to “pass over” to Buddhism, 3. “Pass back” to Christian identity and beliefs. I also liked that he said, “. . . I can never totally set aside my Christian glasses.” In Chapter 1, he deals with the problem of the “Transcendent Other”. As Richard Rohr has been saying in his recent meditations, “God is not out there.” In Chapter 2, entitled Is God a You?, Dr. Knitter looks at “A Super You”, God’s Will, A Mighty Father, messy world, The Problem in Person, not personal. A few of my favorite thoughts in Chapter 2 are: the fundamentally positive Buddhist view of the human condition on page 39, Dancing Together on page 46-47 which includes the subhead God’s will in process, “God’s will is being worked out through the interaction of the ever-present, ever-active Spirit on the one hand, and the free choices of humans and random happenings of nature on the other. But while the partners are different, their differences may be hard to determine in the one dance that carries them and relates them”, and the final topic of this chapter, Evil – it never has the last word, beginning on page 48. I guess I just said I liked all of Chapter 2. Dr. Knitter wrote this book out of his own struggles with some of the “big stuff” of our Christian beliefs, some of the “basic ingredients of the Creed”(s). I also have wondered about how I felt about some of our “big stuff” beliefs. Now, and with the introduction to Marcus Borg, Fr. Richard Rohr, and others, I’m feeling much more comfortable with my uncomfortableness, questions, doubts AND none has lessened my faith, but strengthened, deepened it. In fact, as Dr. Knitter says, “prodded by confusion” and “no confusion, no deepening”. In Chapter 3, Dr. Knitter’s problem is “Words that Shackle Mystery”: “ . . . our words end up as shackles on the rich, unfathomable Mystery of God” and “Christian beliefs so often set up walls – walls that exclude.” He expresses his concern with our “one and only” language! And he, like Borg, tells us “Not, did it really happen, but what does it mean”. Chapter 4’s stated problem is “Nirvana and Heaven”. Dr. Knitter feels we talk too much about life-after-death and forget to trust the Mystery. I would add (maybe he says this, too), we forget to live in the fullness of each day in this life. Oh, yes, I found it. He does say, “Live this moment, now, right here!” Gosh, how many times have we heard that!!! (Say it. Say it again. And, say it again and again!) Following his pattern in Chapter 5, Dr. Knitter opens with his “struggles”. I could totally relate: 1) We (Christians) take the language of our faith too literally where we should “take this language seriously or imaginatively rather than literally.” 2) “The Jesus who excludes”, Only-begotten, only Son of God. Jesus is my personal one and only, “And yet, (As Dr. Knitter says,) and yet, if my belief in Jesus as the only Son of God requires me, explicitly or implicitly, to denigrate or subordinate other religious figures and religions, then such a belief becomes a clot in the free and life-giving flow of my faith’s circulatory system. I’m sorry. It just does. And I know I’m not alone.” And, for me, Dr. Knitter is not alone. Later on in the chapter, Knitter quotes John B. Cobb, Jr., “Jesus is the Way that is open to other Ways.” Also included in his struggles in Chapter 5 under the subhead “Jesus Savior of all humankind”, Knitter talks about Jesus being seen as the Lamb of God, sacrificed for our sake, once and for all, to make amends for our sins. His was a sacrificial death.” I deeply believe in an all-loving God which makes me agree with Knitter when he says, “This image of an offended, even angry, divine Parent who then lovingly calls for the death of his own son, or this picture of our sins having to be washed away in the blood of Jesus, may have spoken to the cultural context of the early Christian community…” But, Knitter says for me, “If this is what the divine Mystery we call God really is, it's a Mystery that repulses rather than embraces." In my reading of Marcus Borg and Dr. Knitter, I also believe that Jesus counter-cultural mission/message was what got him killed and it is through Jesus’ resurrection God shows us his never-ending love. I have to say, as Dr. Knitter “passes over” to Buddhism in each chapter, I  read, learned, and appreciated, but I was always anxious to get to the “passing back” to the Christianity section. In Chapter 5, Knitter talks about Jesus’ uniqueness, his core identity. Here he quotes Aloysius Pieris, S.J., “Jesus is God’s defense pact with the poor.” Knitter closes this chapter with this: “Jesus embodied a Spirit that underwent crucifixion because of a driving concern for compassion and justice. We Christ-Spirit-people are part of the Divine that empties itself into suffering for others especially for those who don’t count. This does not in any way make us better than Buddhists or Muslims or Hindus. But it sure can make us different.” I’ve read/skimmed Chapter 6, 7 and the conclusion. I plan to read these chapters more carefully in the near future and to re-read and study the entire book. I’ve greatly appreciated Dr. Knitter, his struggles, reasoning, and conclusions. As a part of the Amazon description and the book's blurb, ". . . examining one’s faith at least once is a central part of the Christian condition . . . becoming a stronger and more committed Christian in the process."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joe Henry

    I am attracted to this book, to Knitter, and to his "style." It is the kind of stuff I like. He starts with questions and personal challenges, shares them honestly, fairly, and straightforwardly...then works at them and shares that pilgrimage with us. He speaks my language. I thought of this book when a few days after finishing it (Jul 24) I read Frederick Buechner's comment on writing (Listening to Your Life, HarperColling: New York, 1992). "The writers who get my personal award are the ones who I am attracted to this book, to Knitter, and to his "style." It is the kind of stuff I like. He starts with questions and personal challenges, shares them honestly, fairly, and straightforwardly...then works at them and shares that pilgrimage with us. He speaks my language. I thought of this book when a few days after finishing it (Jul 24) I read Frederick Buechner's comment on writing (Listening to Your Life, HarperColling: New York, 1992). "The writers who get my personal award are the ones who show exceptional promise of looking at their lives in this world as candidly and searchingly and feelingly as they know how and then of telling the rest of us what they have found there most worth finding. We need the eyes of writers like that to see through. We need the blood of writers like that in our veins." That's what I'm talking about! Knitter is Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary, NYC. He grew up in the Roman Catholic tradition. Born in 1939, at age 13 he determined to enter the priesthood. Ordained in 1966, he was assigned to study theology (University of Marburg) and then to teach theology (Catholic Theological Union, Chicago). He "was granted permission" to leave the priesthood in 1975 and married in 1982. (As he says, "what had looked easy when I was 13 became more of a nagging problem at 30: celibacy.") He taught undergrads at Xavier University in Cincinnati for "some 30 years." The book is highly structured but not dry or too erudite. In fact, he explains both Buddhist and Christian concepts and vocabulary as he goes--not to assume too much of the reader. (He is a teacher, after all.) Being more familiar with the Christian religion, of course I found his explanations of Buddhism to be especially helpful. If I live long enough, I may get around to rereading. There is a 4-page glossary of terms--mostly Buddhist and other world religions with a few Christian terms sprinkled in. Also, organized by chapter, there is a listing of sources and resources (bibliography) and a 7-page index. The book is dedicated "To my atheist brother, Don, who did his best to keep me honest." And the preface is entitled "Am I still a Christian?" Read it and decide--for him...and for yourself perhaps. As usual, I think of friends who might especially appreciate this book--J.R. and the guys my Saturday morning group (I got the lead from Ron), Jane W., David LaMotte....

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Birss

    Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian is a unique and important book. It's very existence represents a boldness and audacity on the part of the writer and publishers that, I believe, ought to be considered in any criticism of the book. The author, Paul Knitter is a lifetime Catholic theologian with a speciality in interreligious dialogue. His partner converted to Buddhism in his middle age. In the same season, he found himself struggling to maintain his Catholic faith as it was, as he was gr Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian is a unique and important book. It's very existence represents a boldness and audacity on the part of the writer and publishers that, I believe, ought to be considered in any criticism of the book. The author, Paul Knitter is a lifetime Catholic theologian with a speciality in interreligious dialogue. His partner converted to Buddhism in his middle age. In the same season, he found himself struggling to maintain his Catholic faith as it was, as he was growing personally, and in his own understanding of his faith and others. He embarked on a years-long journey into truly hearing Buddhist voices, leading to his conversion to Buddhism a few years before publishing this book. His conversion came with Buddhist and Catholic blessing to remain as both. Clearly, his own convictions are such that he believes that these two perspectives are harmonious. He makes some good arguments. His tone is compassionate, tolerant, and well-intentioned. In the end, I was not convinced that these two perspectives are nearly as harmonious as he suggests in the book. Many examples seemed quite strained. At the same time, I appreciated his willingness to put even seemingly opposing philosophies head-to-head, showing his integrity as a thinker and a writer. I frequently came away from these confrontations, though not fully convinced of their compatibility not their harmony, still truly enriched by how the perspective gave me new eyes for each. In this is the strength of the book. The first half or so of the book is abstract and theological, the second half, practical. The first half cannot be skipped for the practical, however, as the ideas in that first half become essential to his descriptions of the second. That said, I feel the heart of the book, and the true passion of Knitter himself, is in that second half. Unfortunately, that abstract theology and philosophy is quite a slog to get through. It feels a little as though Knitter is trying to get through it as fast as he can so he can get to the book he really wants to write. But theology and philosophy can't be rushed. In an attempt to be concise, Knitter is forced to become quite dense, to the book's injury. I would not be surprised if many readers would give up before getting to the part of the book where Knitter most shines, in which he describes how we may now live. That said, to let the theory truly breathe at the same pace as the second half of the book would possibly have doubled the page count. Also, I imagine most people picking up a book with a title like this one are curious enough to have the motivation to make it through. So let this simply be an encouragement to those readers - it all does pay off. An interesting detail in the book is the author's use of the phrase "The Kindom Of God", a rewrite of "Kingdom" that he successfully argues is actually more accurate to the original language and the context of its use in the words of Jesus, while also dropping some of its potentially problematic and anachronistic baggage. Most intriguing to me of the entire book was Knitter's illumination of the "already/not yet" nature of the Kindom of God in Christian theology when understood through the perspective of the Buddhist eternal now. He described interesting ways in which this can impact the way we hope (which exists in the future) and the way we act (in the present). It struck me as psychologically healthy and potentially even more motivating in freedom to live for justice as a Follower of Jesus. It will take some more thought, certainly, thought I am willing to give for some time. This, too, is evidence that this is an important book. The book is unashamedly Catholic. By this, I mean it is very different from the Protestant or Reformed theology with which I am more familiar. I learned much about the Second Vatican Council that I did not know. I appreciated most of it a lot. The book also speaks of Purgatory without a blush, which I actually found more jarring to my Protestant sensibilities than almost any of the Buddhist content. Furthermore, grace, past, present, and future, as offered to humanity by the cross, is notably absent from the book. It is a sorry shame. In fact, the places when I most disagreed with Knitter in his harmony of the two faith perspectives was when he was most uniquely Catholic. In those moments I would perhaps agree that his Catholic perspective harmonizes with a detail of Buddhism, yet believe that this would not be so were he speaking of the theology of the reformers. Like Knitter, I have in my middle age found myself suddenly a spiritual seeker. Like Knitter, my life since adolescence was immersed in church, and I entered full time professional Christian ministry (as a pastor) about as young as one can do so. In my in-between, unbelieving, yet curious state, I found this book very helpful. It was a bit of an oasis, to read someone as willing to question, seek, and even be wrong as I am right now. In fact, I've sought out books such as this for a while now, books that explore spiritual thought and practice for a unique perspective. So far, despite rarely agreeing with the author entirely, I've found this one the most helpful. I recommend this book to spiritual seekers who either already have a good foundational knowledge of Christian theology, and elementary knowledge of philosophy, or a strong enough curiosity and will to power through and apply themselves to understanding the dense stuff to get to the sweet sweet praxis just beyond it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian Paul F. Knitter ISBN 978-1-85168-963-7 The best thing about this book is that you do not need to agree with it. That's right! It's a guide not a polemic. “Who do you say I am?” (Mt 13:16-20) The author’s aim is to inspire you to think deeply for yourself; to find your own answers to core questions of faith, including: 1. What do I, and can I believe? 2. Do I believe what I am supposed to believe as a member of the Christian community? 3. How can understanding ot Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian Paul F. Knitter ISBN 978-1-85168-963-7 The best thing about this book is that you do not need to agree with it. That's right! It's a guide not a polemic. “Who do you say I am?” (Mt 13:16-20) The author’s aim is to inspire you to think deeply for yourself; to find your own answers to core questions of faith, including: 1. What do I, and can I believe? 2. Do I believe what I am supposed to believe as a member of the Christian community? 3. How can understanding other religions strengthen my own faith? “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.” (1Cor.13:1) If you are like me, what you know about Christian Doctrine is a mashup of what you learned as a child in religious education class, and what you absorbed from the people around you. Paul Knitter wants to open your eyes to the rich history of Christian thought. He cites Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, G.C. Jung, Karl Rahner, and Andrew Greely among others to show just how much room for discussion there is in Christian Theology. If you were like me and thought it all begins and ends with The Nicene Creed, well get ready to think like a grown up. 1. Does God change? If so what does it mean to say God is perfect, if not then why pray? 2. What is God’s relationship to Creation? To Man? To you? To good and evil? 3. Does believing in a personal God mean that God is person? One person? Three persons? 4. What does the resurrection mean? In each chapter, Knitter raises a question, discusses the theological foundation then moves to a related concept in Buddhism that he feels enriches his understanding of the issue. Finally he brings together and presents his view, including noting when his interpretations differ from Catholic orthodoxy. Knitter is a good teacher, he presents concepts and information without pounding the desktop. The book is written in a conversational style - not quite chatty enough to irritate me but I prefer drier more academic writing. While reading the first 6 chapters, I wished I was in a class so I could discuss it with peers. The final chapters where more difficult - I felt he was venturing beyond where I wanted to go - but then I guess that was part of his design. This book was recommended to me by my pastor.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Knitter holds the Paul Tillich chair in theology at Union Theological Seminary, but thankfully this book doesn't "open a can of theology" on the reader. He has been personally active in working against the Reagan-supported Contras in Nicaragua and in attending peace conferences involving Israelis and Palestinians. He has personally confronted death squads and had friends disappeared. He has spent an evening conversing with nuns and then watched them pick up their AK-47s because it was their turn Knitter holds the Paul Tillich chair in theology at Union Theological Seminary, but thankfully this book doesn't "open a can of theology" on the reader. He has been personally active in working against the Reagan-supported Contras in Nicaragua and in attending peace conferences involving Israelis and Palestinians. He has personally confronted death squads and had friends disappeared. He has spent an evening conversing with nuns and then watched them pick up their AK-47s because it was their turn to patrol the town perimeter. He is unflinchingly honest about what he can and can't believe in traditional Christianity, and he asks (and tries to answer) very hard questions. He has noted the "ego-viruses" that infect many do-gooders: "the need for recognition, for success, for control, for superiority." He has seen too many revolutions produce worse than they were trying to correct: as one Salvadoran said to him, "It was better when it was worse." And he notes sorrowfully that the slogan "If you want peace, work for justice" may sound nice, but he fears that working for justice could necessarily require violence. Are you willing to go there? Maybe peace, not justice, should come first; but he adds that "you can't give what you haven't got." If you aren't peaceful yourself, your striving for peace for others will fail. Which is why, along with a number of other reasons, he has turned to Buddhism as a practice to find inner peace first. This is only scratching the surface of a single chapter in this book, which is otherwise the clearest description of Buddhism and the best analysis of what is so hard for us to believe in Christian dogma that I have ever read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rod

    I tried real hard to get into this book. But it just SUCKED! At first I was curious how much of the Biblical Jesus this guy attempted to blend with his Buddha Buddy: But basically there was NO Biblical Jesus anywhere in this book. Sure, I know, the author mentions the Bible and Jesus and numerous Christian elements that appear to be important to him: But that's after he's dismissed and tossed away any Godly truth that the Holy Spirit ever spoke into the Biblical accounts - there's nothing left of I tried real hard to get into this book. But it just SUCKED! At first I was curious how much of the Biblical Jesus this guy attempted to blend with his Buddha Buddy: But basically there was NO Biblical Jesus anywhere in this book. Sure, I know, the author mentions the Bible and Jesus and numerous Christian elements that appear to be important to him: But that's after he's dismissed and tossed away any Godly truth that the Holy Spirit ever spoke into the Biblical accounts - there's nothing left of the prophetic Messiah Savior (lamb slain for the sins of the world) 'commander of the lord's army, Biblical Jesus Christ. This guy has no factual appreciation for the Word Of God, yet somehow he squeezes a dashboard Jesus out of his liberal Eastern appreciation of Buddhist Enlightenment historical guru's by way of liberal christianity. (YES, starving and meditating can seriously damage your discernment censors). He spends the whole book trying to justify his Buddhism to his Christian (friends? relatives? Co-workers?) Hopefully they don't put up with this crap. Better to just say; "NO! Bad Paul, go to your room and choke on a fortune cookie till you repent." Now go read the Bible God gave you. Read it as God's truth. OR continue on as a card-carrying Dalai Lama worshiper. Not my problem... at the moment.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sidong

    One of the best theology books I've ever read. Christians and Buddhists can definitely learn a lot from each other. Seeking truth and beauty in other religions is something every spiritual person can practice. It makes your original spirituality more, rather than less. Also, it is enlightening that the crucifixion of Jesus does not necessarily have to be a divine decree but could be the result of human violence. Jesus submitted to a nonviolence approach even he foresaw that his subversive views One of the best theology books I've ever read. Christians and Buddhists can definitely learn a lot from each other. Seeking truth and beauty in other religions is something every spiritual person can practice. It makes your original spirituality more, rather than less. Also, it is enlightening that the crucifixion of Jesus does not necessarily have to be a divine decree but could be the result of human violence. Jesus submitted to a nonviolence approach even he foresaw that his subversive views would eventually lead to his death. Besides, interpreting the Bible symbolically solved many problems of Christian theology and in my opinion, makes more sense. This reminds me of Jordan Peterson's lecture series, "The Psychological Significance of the Bible." Knitter adds a unique perspective to understanding the Gospel. However, we should also recognize that his views are not absolute, either. Theology evolves with time, space, culture, language, and other contexts. Everyone needs to answer Jesus's question for themselves: "who do YOU say I am?"

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine

    Paul F. Knitter, author of "Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian," was born in 1939 to working class Roman Catholic parents in Chicago. When he was 13 years old he got the “calling.” In 1966 Paul was ordained in Rome and in 1975 he was granted a leave to the priesthood. Paul married in 1982 and has two children. He taught theology for 30 years at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. His wife who was a Catholic became a Buddhist. Paul now considers himself a Buddhist-Christian and a Christ Paul F. Knitter, author of "Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian," was born in 1939 to working class Roman Catholic parents in Chicago. When he was 13 years old he got the “calling.” In 1966 Paul was ordained in Rome and in 1975 he was granted a leave to the priesthood. Paul married in 1982 and has two children. He taught theology for 30 years at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. His wife who was a Catholic became a Buddhist. Paul now considers himself a Buddhist-Christian and a Christian-Buddhist. When reading his book, he is continually questioning his religious beliefs. For years he struggled with his faith, and this book is a result of years of questioning. What he attempts to do in this book is describe some Christian belief that he has problems with—like heaven, and then “passes over” to Buddhism to see how the Buddhist belief in Nirvana, for example, might be relevant. Then he “passes back” to Christianity, and explores how the Buddhist ideas might help him provide a solution. In other words, he goes from one religious set of beliefs to another, and then returns to his own religious beliefs. He examines prayer and meditation, Jesus Christ and Gautama the Buddha. He is trying to consider how another religious tradition can help him understand his own set of beliefs. Clearly, he found a lot of similarities in the two traditions, but there were many differences as well. There is so much mystery in Christianity that can never be captured in words, according to Knitter. He said that he found something that can enhance his belief in Christianity: “the more deeply one enters into the core experience that animates one’s own tradition, the more broadly one is enabled and perhaps moved to enter into the experiences of other traditions” (216). He said he understands what it means to be “in Christ-Jesus” by learning about his Buddha-nature. Another idea that Knitter alludes to several times in his book is that “the finger is not the moon.” He uses this image to explain how difficult it is to use words, symbols, myths and doctrines to capture the truth. It’s a Buddhist image and what it means is that our words are like fingers pointing to the moon, they are not the moon itself. Words can never fully explain reality as we see it, but words are all we have. When we talk about belief in God, for example, we know that Christians believe in God, and Buddhists do not affirm his existence. However, Knitter says that Buddhism is more concerned with experiencing ultimate reality rather than defining and naming it. "Perhaps we might say that although all the different religious fingers are pointing to the same moon, each, as it were, points to a different part of the moon. Without the Buddhist fingers, there are parts of the moon that Christians would never see. But the same is true of what Christian fingers might mean for Buddhists (72)."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    i guess i kind of liked it since i read it every morning on the way to work and finished it relatively quickly. i still don't think the title (or the idea behind the title) works though. i can understand the idea of passing over from christianity to buddhism as a way to glean insights into similarities for the sake of practice before passing back. however, the notion of *completely* passing over doesn't really allow you to pass back like knitter claims. he also treats buddhism more like a philos i guess i kind of liked it since i read it every morning on the way to work and finished it relatively quickly. i still don't think the title (or the idea behind the title) works though. i can understand the idea of passing over from christianity to buddhism as a way to glean insights into similarities for the sake of practice before passing back. however, the notion of *completely* passing over doesn't really allow you to pass back like knitter claims. he also treats buddhism more like a philosophy than a religion which actually makes you wonder if it's nothing more than that thereby making it ok to be "spiritually promiscuous." ultimately though, his seeming need to be a real-deal buddhist (by taking refuge in 2008) in addition to being a catholic (baptized in 1937)is a puzzling one that left me simply questioning his motives. like, what outside of christianity does christianity "need?" or was this need merely a personal want? since his brand of christianity sheds the literal interpretation of pretty much every significant event in the life of Jesus early on, you have to wonder why he's so strongly holding on to "being a Christian." having said that, there are also some great gems in this book. the dualism argument is particularly interesting as well as his brief talk of violence being the communication of hatred within the context of social justice movements. i also liked that it wasn't written to fundamentalist christians and that it didn't entertain them or take them seriously at all. that's always refreshing.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I loved this book! It offers insight into the human experience of divine presence and the ways that different religious traditions can enrich one another. I also enjoyed its personal style that is almost like memoir at times. The author's way of relating traditional religious ritual and practice to a progressive theology resonated with me as well. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the dialogue between different religious traditions.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Insightful, honest, and encouraging. Religion's power to guide and improve our personal and social circumstances is stregthened if we can respectfully and honestly "cross over" to the Buddhist tradition and then "cross back" to Christianity. Or as Knitter puts it using a Buddhist bucket to draw fresh water from a well of Christian mysticism.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Aric

    What I appreciate about Knitter's book is that he addresses questions that are specific to people approaching Buddhism from a Christian background. This is not a well-rounded intro to Buddhism, but it is helpful for those of us who have questions about how Buddhist thought relates to theologies we were brought up with.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ymfoo1

    I would strongly recommend that both Buddhists and Christians alike read this book, and read with an OPEN MIND. It's interesting to see how Paul intepretes 'GOd', "Heaven" and "hell". i agreed that we should not inteprete the Bible and the Sutra word, for word, and take the meaning 'literally'.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    An honest look at how passing over to Buddhism and back to Christianity can strengthen a Christian's faith.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Schaefer

    Paul Knitter, 2009. Without Buddha I could not be a Christian, Oxford, Oneworld. 240 pages. This book is a work of theology and also a personal account of a lifetime of interreligious dialogue. The author was baptised in the Catholic Church and ordained a priest in Rome in 1966. However, celibacy became a nagging problem for him and he was granted permission to leave the priesthood nine years later. He continued to teach theology to undergraduates instead of to seminarians. Eventually, he married Paul Knitter, 2009. Without Buddha I could not be a Christian, Oxford, Oneworld. 240 pages. This book is a work of theology and also a personal account of a lifetime of interreligious dialogue. The author was baptised in the Catholic Church and ordained a priest in Rome in 1966. However, celibacy became a nagging problem for him and he was granted permission to leave the priesthood nine years later. He continued to teach theology to undergraduates instead of to seminarians. Eventually, he married a Buddhist. Paul Knitter is the Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological seminary in New York City. The first draft of this book was used as the text for a course at this seminary called “Double-Belonging: Christian and Buddhist”. At that time, one of the students asked him, “Is double belonging really possible? It looks like spiritual promiscuity!” In his preface, he asks, “Am I still a Christian?” Am I a Christian who has understood his own identity more deeply with the help of Buddhism? Or have I become a Buddhist who still retains a stock of Christian leftovers? (xiii) The book is an attempt to answer this question. In each chapter, he states his problems in affirming Christian beliefs, then he describes his efforts to “pass over” to Buddhism, and finally he summarizes what he has learnt when he “passes back” to his Christian identity. In his conclusion to the book, he reveals that he has “Taken Refuge in the Buddha”, a formal ceremony of entrance to a Buddhist community in the USA. He considers himself to be a “Buddhist-Christian”, the first of the alternatives listed at the beginning of this paragraph. The first four chapters of the book look at the Buddhist teachings on Nirvana and sunyata, variously translated as emptiness, groundlessness or InterBeing, along with the Christian doctrines of God. For me, the central chapter of the book is the fifth, where he looks carefully at Jesus the Christ and Gautama the Buddha. He recognizes Jesus Christ as the heart of Christianity, but he asserts that the doctrinal arteries and veins that connect this heart to the members of the body of Christ are clogged; clogged by traditional language and words that are taken too literally, instead of being treated as symbols of a reality that cannot be pinned down by words. In Buddhist imagery, words are symbols, the finger pointing to the moon and not the moon itself. The first word he jettisons is “kingdom”, because of its patriarchal tones, and he replaces it with “kindom” on the advice of feminist scholars (92). He argues that traditional understandings of Jesus as the Son of God turn him into God in a man-suit, a divine Superman who descended from Krypton (sic) to save us. He rejects the notion that Jesus is the only Saviour who can satisfy divine justice. Rather, he seeks to understand Jesus as an “Awakened” one like the Buddha, one who grew into his divinity, realizing the full potential of human nature (116). He seeks to recover early Christian images of Jesus as God’s wisdom or Sophia, a man filled with God’s Spirit. Jesus is the Way who is open to other ways (124). And finally, a piece of advice that I personally find hard to swallow: “The external form of the Jesus of history must not impede the birthing of the Christ-Spirit in my being” (158). In the next chapter, on prayer and meditation, he advocates an additional sacrament for the Christian community, the Sacrament of Silence. As he has said earlier, Christians tend to talk too much. This is something I found out a long time ago, and I too have learned the value of silent meditation within and without the Christian community. His final chapter is entitled “Making peace and being peace”, where he considers what Buddhism has taught him in the area of Christian activism. Knitter and his wife have been involved for many years with CRISPAZ, an organization that sought to bring and model peace to the Central American nation of El Salvador, torn by civil war. Here, the greatest insight came from his Zen Roshi, when he was informed, “You won’t be able to stop the death squads until you realize your oneness with them” (173). This was an expression of the Buddhist teaching of interconnectedness of all sentient beings, and he was reminded that for Jesus, loving God and loving one’s neighbour were two different ways of fulfilling the same commandment. Paul Knitter wrote his doctoral dissertation back in the 1960’s and critiqued the Protestant theology of other religions written by Paul Althaus and others. They argued that the “true” God could not be known through other religions, or that the knowledge is severely limited, and did not include a “saving” knowledge. He critiqued them in the light of the Vatican II teaching of inclusivism. Knitter is most famous for the book, No Other Name? published by Orbis in 1992. Many people would answer the question, “Is double-belonging possible?” with a resounding “No!” I think the question can only be answered individually, in terms of one’s own life, as Knitter has done. There is a useful glossary of Buddhist terms at the end of the book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jason St. Clair

    I feel that it's important to read the introduction, where the author emphasizes the personal nature of this book, and keep those ideas in the back of your mind as you read the rest of the book. Coming from a different Christian background as Knitter I have not struggled with the same things, or in the same way, as he has. Because of that, I did not connect with or glean insight from certain parts of the book. Here is where I feel that remembering the personal nature of this book, and the very pe I feel that it's important to read the introduction, where the author emphasizes the personal nature of this book, and keep those ideas in the back of your mind as you read the rest of the book. Coming from a different Christian background as Knitter I have not struggled with the same things, or in the same way, as he has. Because of that, I did not connect with or glean insight from certain parts of the book. Here is where I feel that remembering the personal nature of this book, and the very personal nature of all religion, is absolutely necessary. I may not have experienced the same struggles and sometimes I don't necessarily agree with his conclusions, but I can empathize with his search for truth. Some of his struggles seemed to originate from his more unique position as a Catholic theologian which explains why I, as a general Protestant church member, didn't have the same questions or didn't see certain traditional views as such insurmountable barriers to understanding God. One of the most important things in this book is Knitter's (borrowed?, I forget now) metaphor of fingers pointing to the moon. We see this phenomenon in Christianity itself where there are so many voices talking about the same topic and often using the same sources, but saying different things. Some people skirt around this potential paradox by claiming everyone else is wrong and I feel that is a rather lazy and exclusive method. Another valuable idea that Knitter presented was the idea that we talk too much about our religion. I think the strongest part of the first few chapters was his emphasis on experiencing God rather than talking about God. As Knitter pointed out, we have to use words to help ourselves understand our experience but we shouldn't let those words get in the way of the experience.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cate

    It took me a while to wade through this one, but it was right up my comparative religion alley. The author is a Catholic who was an ordained priest studying under Karl Rahner at the Gregorian University in Rome. He taught seminarians, and later when he left the priesthood, he married a Buddhist and continued to teach Christian theology at university. In the book he references St. John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, and others, as he compares the Catholic theology he ascribes to w It took me a while to wade through this one, but it was right up my comparative religion alley. The author is a Catholic who was an ordained priest studying under Karl Rahner at the Gregorian University in Rome. He taught seminarians, and later when he left the priesthood, he married a Buddhist and continued to teach Christian theology at university. In the book he references St. John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, and others, as he compares the Catholic theology he ascribes to with the Buddhist beliefs of his wife. He considers the works of Pema Chodron and Thich Nhat Hanh, and relates how studying Buddhism has both opened him up to the truth in other religions and helped him understand and appreciate his own, as well as made him more respectful of Divine Mystery. I don’t doubt that a few people would clutch their pearls over it, but I found it fascinating especially in light of my own interest in understanding and appreciating world religions.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tony Raissian

    Refreshing I have long found that Christianity and Buddhism can serve as compliments of each other There is an intersection that is hinted at with the Christian mystics, new forms of praxis like centering prayer, and comparative studies of faith systems like Sufism. Unfortunately, the idea of a Christian Buddhist or Buddhist Christian can seem like a cop out or New Age spirituality. This book attempts (and a I think succeeds) at showing the points of intersection, and using a zoom in/our approach Refreshing I have long found that Christianity and Buddhism can serve as compliments of each other There is an intersection that is hinted at with the Christian mystics, new forms of praxis like centering prayer, and comparative studies of faith systems like Sufism. Unfortunately, the idea of a Christian Buddhist or Buddhist Christian can seem like a cop out or New Age spirituality. This book attempts (and a I think succeeds) at showing the points of intersection, and using a zoom in/our approach to show the value and of both ideologies. There were many moments where I felt like the author took the words right out of my mouth, or provided a workable description of a concept a had trouble previously nailing down.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elise Kerr

    Knitter has some interesting insights between Buddhism and Christianity, and loves to find the similarities and truth within each. However, he takes it two steps too far in most cases, and creates extra confusion that twists a simpler reality. It felt like I had to translate his wording to pull what he meant, and felt like he was over-analyzing based only on feeling and less on what each religion teaches. There are often questionable or borderline-heretical bits that keep me from recommending th Knitter has some interesting insights between Buddhism and Christianity, and loves to find the similarities and truth within each. However, he takes it two steps too far in most cases, and creates extra confusion that twists a simpler reality. It felt like I had to translate his wording to pull what he meant, and felt like he was over-analyzing based only on feeling and less on what each religion teaches. There are often questionable or borderline-heretical bits that keep me from recommending this, though I am speaking as a Catholic and can't speak for Buddhists. Some very good portions within, though!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Klaassen

    Paul Knitter's direct, accessible engagement with common problems of the Christian faith (e.g. "the doctrine of hell does seem to make for bad theology") opens a world of possibility. This theological autobiography of sorts tells and shows us how Buddhist philosophy has deepened his faith and life, and invites us into the development of an expansive, dual religious identity. The book reads like the culmination of a life filled with good questions and is a generous gift for the many of us who are Paul Knitter's direct, accessible engagement with common problems of the Christian faith (e.g. "the doctrine of hell does seem to make for bad theology") opens a world of possibility. This theological autobiography of sorts tells and shows us how Buddhist philosophy has deepened his faith and life, and invites us into the development of an expansive, dual religious identity. The book reads like the culmination of a life filled with good questions and is a generous gift for the many of us who are no doubt asking similar questions about heaven and hell, a personal concept of God, prayer, peace, etc.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Paul LaFontaine

    Paul Knitter was an ordained priest who solved for several crisis points in his faith by turning to Buddhism for answers. He shares the supreme value of moving from ones faith into another then back into the original. DNF P 74 Wow, was this book boring. The author simultaneously robbed Christianity of any mystery and Buddhism of any truth in this overly intellectual exposition on the principles of each faith. Read like a textbook. I have no problem with complex treatments where they aid understan Paul Knitter was an ordained priest who solved for several crisis points in his faith by turning to Buddhism for answers. He shares the supreme value of moving from ones faith into another then back into the original. DNF P 74 Wow, was this book boring. The author simultaneously robbed Christianity of any mystery and Buddhism of any truth in this overly intellectual exposition on the principles of each faith. Read like a textbook. I have no problem with complex treatments where they aid understanding. This was just not useful in that way. Cannot Recommend

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marlene M. Oaks

    Fascinating The weaving of the two understandings is masterful. I have studied a little Buddhism, sat Zen, spent a week with the Dali Lama and visited Buddhist temples, but am on the fringes, not fully involved as the author. I feel drawn to most of the world's religious expressions, while remaining Christian. I agree that Buddhism can inform my Christianity and deepen it. I also find both reinforcement and expanded understanding in many religions. The Divine expresses in all times and cultures t Fascinating The weaving of the two understandings is masterful. I have studied a little Buddhism, sat Zen, spent a week with the Dali Lama and visited Buddhist temples, but am on the fringes, not fully involved as the author. I feel drawn to most of the world's religious expressions, while remaining Christian. I agree that Buddhism can inform my Christianity and deepen it. I also find both reinforcement and expanded understanding in many religions. The Divine expresses in all times and cultures through the filter of the culture. I heartily recommend this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Regine Leung

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. For me, reading Knitter requires a charitable reading. It's a relevant book because he speaks into the issue in today. Why do people love the church is a problem within their tradition, lack of love, lack of particular disciplines that unify themselves to God. Buddhism is a correction, yet with some problems, he advocates a hybrid belief. His chapter on prayer and the one on compassion is insightful. I hope former Buddhists from Asia read this and provide some perspective.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Johann Thalakada

    I found the book quite verbose and at times didn't think I would finish it. It is the first book of a kind for me, i.e. a book that encourages faith in two religions. I took a lot from it for which I am very grateful to the author for, specifically on how the Buddha can help can help a Christian to have a rich and fruitful non-dual, interconnected relationship with God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. I will read more on dual religious belonging.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Drobg62

    Difficult, somewhat disappointing read While the subject of this book is one that I am deeply interested in, I would not recommend the book for most people. Reading this book was more work than I anticipated and I struggled to get past the author’s first person narrative writing style. I found his countless quotations of his own journals somewhat odd and off putting. Maybe I just expected too much from this book and it may speak to others more than it did to me.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pearl Loewen

    I learned more about Buddhism than I knew before, including some aspects that I can incorporate into my Christian practice. But the book was more of a personal journey than I expected, and the author's epiphanies and learnings were not always easily intuited or understood. Still, I enjoyed Knitter's perspectives on salvation, eschatology, and the uniqueness of Jesus that are important in our day and age of religious pluralism.

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