Greg Bahnsen’s Critique of Buddhism

Notes from Greg L. Bahnsen’s A Biblical Introduction to Apologetics series.

Summary of Presuppositional Approach
By a presuppositional approach, we mean that we will compare worldviews. A worldview is a network of presuppositions in terms of which every aspect of man’s experience is interpreted. Everyone has a basic understand of how we know what we know, what is real and how we should live our lives. The fact that everyone has a worldview doesn’t mean that everyone is self-conscious of their worldview.

The difference between a philosopher and the layperson is not that one does philosophy and the other doesn’t. It is that one does it self-consciously and does it well. When we get ready to argue with unbelievers, the difference will be our worldviews. The presuppositional approach compares worldviews and what we are comparing are not hypotheses. Its not like the unbeliever has an explanation for things and the believer does and we are attempting to see which facts comports with them. We are saying that our worldviews determines how we interpret evidence. We must argue from the impossibility of the contrary. We are going to look at the unbeliever’s worldview and do an internal critique of it. We are going to demonstrate that on his worldview, we couldn’t know anything at all. On his worldview he could destroy morality, laws of logic, science etc. Then we will show that your worldview doesn’t have these problems.

Siddhartha Guatama is the founder. He grew up in a Hindu environment. He became the Buddha after he had a number of life experiences. Siddhartha lived a life of luxury being the son of a fudal lord. He renounced his life of luxury and the world when he saw a vision of a four passing sights. Siddhartha saw an old man, a sick man, a dead man and a shaven monk. Seeing these four sights, he started his plunge into the forest of refuge to search for the reason of suffering in this world. He joined a Hindu ascetic cult and practiced self-beating and almost died. It was at this point in life that he was enlightened to the truth of the middle way. What we must do in life is to stay in the middle of of two extremes of asceticism and pleasure. Siddhartha claimed that under a fig tree, Mara the evil one, tempted him and Siddhartha overcame his temptation and became enlightened to become the Buddha. Having found enlightenmnet, he went into rapture for 49 days. Afterwards, he set out to tell everyone of his experience. There is a lot of suffering and we need to find out why. Siddhartha is saved from the suffering and now he is going out to evangelize the world. When Buddha would teach, he taught in a way that was devoid of authority. He said that the Hindu priests taught poorly and that he taught on the basis of experience. His religion would be devoid of ritual, speculation and tradition. Buddhism is a religion of intense self-effort. One must completely work out his own salvation and breakaway from samsara–the wheel of life. Buddhism gets rid of the cast system; we can now go to nirvana directly. It is egalitarian and denies the supernatural. Siddhartha said the supernatural is a form of speculation that should be avoided; it is atheistic. It attempts to teach the cause and effect relationship that brings about suffering. The main problem to be dealt with in Buddhism is what is suffering and how do we deal with it? Suffering stems from man’s desires.

four noble truths
1. Bad things happen: life is suffering both physical and mental
2. The cause of suffering is pleasure or being individualistic. The reason we suffer is because we want things and we want to be our own.

Note: On the one hand, we are told to find salvation on our own, but on the other hand, suffering is caused by being individualistic.

3. Suffering will cease when desires cease. We must get rid of desire.
4. The cessation of desire comes from perfect detachment. We acheive it through the 8-fold path.

The eightfold path
1. You need right views to accept the four Noble truths.
2. You need right desires –be free from lust, ill will, and cruelty.
3. You need right speech –be truthful and don’t talk in a vain way.
4. You need right conduct –be charitable and don’t kill living things.
5. You need a right livelihood –you must promote life in what you do.
6. You need right effort –stressing the will to overcome evil.
7. You need right awareness –think of your body as loathsome. Sin is not your problem, ignorance is.
8. You need right meditation –you need to do the rasa yoga, with a mantra.

The eightfold path has 10 fetters that get in the way of following the 8-fold path
1. Belief of real self
2.Confidence in rituals
3. Unkindness
4. Pride
5. Ignorance
6. Doubting what Buddha says
7. Sensuality
8. Desire for a seperate life
9. self-righteousness
10. ?

When you see a religion that is this structured (four noble truths, eightfold path, ten fetters) aren’t you at some point going to question “Who says?” What’s the difference between what Gautama is saying, and what someone else says ? It comes down to on what authority I should accept these things, apparently it is the Buddha’s authority. However, who made him the authority? The Buddha made himself the authority. No worldview escapes self-authority. The ultimate authority must authorize itself, or else it’s not the ultimate authority. Buddha held to the doctrine of karma, an impersonal cosmic law of retribution. The way you live your life will affect the way you live in the next life. The law of deeds still holds good according to Buddha. The way you live your life is going to determine the outcome of your life. Your karma is what makes you who you are, and what holds you together.

The Buddha had another doctrine– the anatta, which in Buddhism means “no soul”. Man does not have a soul according to Buddhists. But if man doesn’t have a soul, then what gets reincarnated? If I come back as an aardvark, seeing as I would have a different body, what is it that would make the aardvark me if it doesn’t have my soul or spirit? Buddha saw this problem, and he said it’s like two candles sharing one flame. The flame (karma) is passed from one candle to the next. But the problem is that there’s no personal continuity then. If this is a moralistic religion and tells me that I’m going to get bad karma when I do bad things, and then Buddha turns around and tells me that that bad karma is going to be passed on to the next candle, I’m going to say “Well so much the worse for the next candle.” This religion is moralistic, but it doesn’t really tell you why you should be moral, because your karma is going somewhere else. There is no soul that is being passed to the next body. The doctrine of Nirvana in Buddhism amounts to the ethical state where future rebirth is not something to worry about. You’ve reached nirvana in Buddhism, if you’ve extinguished all your cravings and you’ve been released from suffering and from karma. You don’t have to worry about the the flame being passed on to the next candle.

Theravad and Mahayana Division of Buddhism
-stress tradition in the way of the elders
-we should be involved with ourselves
-man finds salvation on his own
-emphasizes wisdom
-it produces saints
-says avoid philosophy
-exclude all ritual
-no such thing as prayer, only meditation

is the more elitist approach
-They say they we should be involved with other people
-man finds salvation from the help of others
-emphasizes compassion
-it produces bodhisattvas (saviors)
-keeps some rituals
-there are petitionary prayer to others

Zen Buddhism: It is based on contemplation and mediation. You must meditate on zen koans which will help you have enlightenment.

Short Critiques:
1. The Buddhist says to seek what is good for yourself by denying yourself. This is contradictory. We get rid of suffering by detaching ourselves.
2. Enlightenment cannot be described. If enlightenment is incommunicable, then why and how should we follow someone who says only he was been there?
3. They have a doctrine of reincarnation but without a soul. What is it that is reincarnated?
4. It teaches that the body is bad, but where does the evil of the body come from if there is no creator? Why should anything be evil?
5. If everything is an illusion, then we can say that our discussion with the Buddhist is also illusion. Once you say reality is ultimately illusory, there is no reason to believe anything. It undermines truth, science and rationality.


One thought on “Greg Bahnsen’s Critique of Buddhism

  1. Pingback: Greg Bahnsen’s Critique of Buddhism – fjcrmlife

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