[quote=Feanaro’s Wife]Specifically I was thinking of a friend I have who is a practicing Buddhist.
Ww were discussing differences between our faiths and she flat out asked “who is Jesus?”. I found myself struggling to define Him.
I just wonder if others have the same problem when it comes to “simple” questions. I read lots of different books etc on Catholicism and Christianity (mostly apologetics type material) and feel semi-comfortable with more complex questions…but this simple one had me tongue tied, lol.
Ahhh. That makes it much more interesting…
From a Buddhist, I can understand that the “who” part of this is really a big issue. From my limited understandings, Buddhist usually have a very different concept of self than westerners, and probably any of the standard Christian answers may not suffice to answer her in a meaningful way.
This might be an interesting question for our new (and seemingly excellent) bishop. We finally got a replacement for Olmstead, bishop Michael Jackel. (JAY-kel) He was eloquent, on fire with the spirit, very funny, and captivating for the kids when he spoke at our daughter’s confirmation. Anyway, he was a Buddhist for two years from the time he left home until the time he, “came to my senses and came back, in a big way!” He doesn’t know me from Adam, but if I get a chance I’ll forward your question his way.
You might be interested in listening to some of the Alan Watts audio files I have; Watts (1915-1973) was once and Anglican priest, then a Buddhist, then neither, but one of his specialties was interpreting eastern thought and attitudes about life and religion for westerners. This could give you a much better basis for understanding her question.
Meanwhile, I might be tempted to tell her that Jesus is part of the Catholic mythology (don’t get upset; mythology doesn’t mean it is false) who we believe was the son of God Himself and came to teach us and suffer for our sins. I find that practically everything that I hear taught by Buddhas has some counterpart in Christianity, especially when taking both kataphatic and apophatic traditions into account. Jesus, in fact, could have been the ultimate Buddha IMO from the standpoint of the spiritual enlightenment for which Buddhas strive. In Christianity, there are many schools but only one Teacher.
Others who know more about Buddhism can help me here. Meanwhile I have posted a few Watts audio files about Buddhism and Jesus, for another purpose. Be aware if you listen to these; sometimes Watts gets critical of organized religion in general, especially western religions, but I still think it could help you understand where your friend is coming from, or at least the heritage of her religion.