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Lions Roar : September 2013
Warner uses the term faith, a word we tend to associate with God, as something useful for a Buddhist practitioner. At a basic level, a Buddhist practitioner needs to have “faith that if we continue the practice long enough and sincerely enough” Bud- dhist truths will make sense. But this faith does not demand God. Warner also says that God “created you.” This is interest- ing to me, since I was taught by my Tibetan Buddhist teach- ers that there is no creator God—that mind has existed from beginningless time. Creation of living beings is not possible, the Dalai Lama once explained, because everything that exists depends on causes that have no beginning and stretch back to infinity. But even here, Warner makes clear he means something very different from a Christian conception of what it means to say God creates the world and human beings. I think War- ner’s conception of God’s creation may not be very different from the Tibetan expression of beginningless time. That is, he believes that the law of cause and effect is absolute, which includes the fact that God cannot alter the law of cause and effect by supernatural force. (It is for this reason Warner does not believe in God performing miracles.) So, for him, the “real concrete experience of life right at this place and right at this moment is God.” While a Christian could easily agree that the concrete expression of life is God, God is also more than that. In a Christian sense, God always was and could have continued to be without the creation of the world and human beings. But God created the world by design out of love. (And, in this, I think Michael Himes is correct that the least wrong way to talk about God is to say that God is love.) So, while Warner is incorrect in saying that “most religions” view God as operat- ing in a universe from a position somewhere removed from it, it is the case that God is both within and without from a Christian perspective. When all is said and done, I’m not sure there is a unique and helpful role for God in Buddhism. It may be that Buddhism provides a perspective that helps identify incorrect conceptions of God that others have (something Warner does a very good job of), although I’m not optimistic that this will actually suc- ceed in getting people to stop arguing about their incorrect conceptions. And it may be that a Buddhist can be as comfort- able as a Christian in using God as the name of the Mystery that lies at the root of all that exists. Thus, a Buddhist might say, “I believe in God” as simply a shorthand acknowledgement that “there is a real spiritual dimension to this world,” that there is “something in my real experience” beyond the merely material. But I’m not convinced by Warner that there is a way to talk about God that would have been especially useful to me when I was a Buddhist practitioner, which is perhaps why the Buddha never thought the existence or nonexistence of God mattered very much. ♦ SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2013 77