Princeton Seminary Danielle Shroyer

Presbyterian Princeton Seminary Cheers Soul Ninja’s Syncretism to “Become Better Humans”

on October 17, 2019

Princeton Theological Seminary is endorsing and supporting a graduate who maintains that the practice of Mahayana Buddhism and Christianity is compatible.

No one has expected Princeton Seminary to be a bastion of evangelicalism since the early twentieth century. This new development, however, has caused me to raise my other eyebrow at Princeton (resulting in a look of disbelief and confusion). Mainline Protestantism’s strange mix of culture and Christ is old news. Combining two entirely different religions is a somewhat new beast coming out of Protestantism. It is as if Thomas Aquinas did not merge Christian philosophy with Greek philosophy, but the Christian religious tradition with the Hellenistic pantheon.

Author, ordained minister, and a speaker Danielle Shroyer graduated Princeton in 1999. After preaching as pastor of Journey Church in Dallas, Texas for eight years (a church affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), she became Journey’s “theologian-in-residence.” Since then, Shroyer published three books, spoke around the world, and became Emergent Village’s national co-director, a multi-religious group which provides “[c]hurch and ministry leadership resources to better equip, train and provide ideas for today’s church and ministry leaders.”

This is a prestigious résumé for a relatively young minister. Only within the last year have her more unorthodox views become apparent with the publication of her blog, “Soul Ninja,” which has been publicized by Princeton Seminary itself.

Soul Ninja” is Shroyer’s digital home for all things “Christhism,” for lack of a better term. The “About” page tells the reader that this is the place to “become better humans.” There is no mention of God (or Buddha, for that matter). It’s a page dedicated to encouraging people to “face the uncertainties, fear, and anxieties of life with clarity, composure, and strength.” Shroyer mentions “inner harmony through mindful living,” which sounds like she spent more time in her Tibetan study of Buddhism than in her Princeton study of Christianity.

Shroyer rectifies Mahayana Buddhism and Christianity in a Princeton Seminary page on her work:

The more I learn about Mahayana Buddhism, the more I’m like, “Yes, Jesus. Yes!” Shroyer says. “I’ve been asked, ‘So are you still Christian? Or are you Buddhist now?’ I say that the great thing is that I don’t have to choose because Buddhism isn’t a religion based on a God. You can practice Buddhism as a Christian, as many people do.

Shroyer is correct that Buddhism is not a religion based on a god. The concept of reincarnation, and eventual achievement of nirvana, runs counter to the Christian principle of the saving grace of God, and his Son’s death on the cross as an atoning substitute for those otherwise separated from God. There is not space in this blog post to dissect the reasons why Buddhism is not compatible with Christianity, but that is easily the most significant problem.

The majority of Shroyer’s blog posts begin with a citation from an Eastern philosopher or spiritual guide. One post begins with a quote from Richard Rohr, of the Center for Action and Contemplation, a Roman Catholic priest who believes that “Jesus Christ loves everyone and is in everything.” The first phrase, sure. The second phrase – well, that’s just panentheism with extra steps. At least one of Shroyer’s Christian sources, then, is heterodox. On top of combining two diametrically (and hemispherically) opposed religions, Shroyer only cites fringe Christian thinkers.

Don’t misunderstand me: Buddhism does offer wisdom. Inner harmony is great; looking to spiritual advisors – also great. Living at peace with the creatures of the Earth and your fellow man is admirable. All of this, though, including living without anxiety, fear, and uncertainty, is all taught in the Bible, in Matthew chapter 6, verse 34. Peace does not come from learned inner harmony.

Shroyer says, “[Y]ou won’t find a better guide than the ninja” for freedom from worry.

My counterpoint: the best guide is God, who presides over this and every world, who cares for every member of the planet, who wrote the handbook on good living, and who sent His Son to die for those who will accept His gift of eternal life. An omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient Father is a better spiritual guide than “the ninja.”

  1. Comment by Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret.) on October 17, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    “Princeton Theological Seminary is endorsing and supporting a graduate who maintains that the practice of Mahayana Buddhism and Christianity is compatible.”

    That’s quite remarkable. Thanks for sharing the story. Here’s a similar one, but different.

    In the late 1990’s, Perkins School of Theology (World Class) New Testament Professor William R. Farmer, an ordained UMC minister, decided to test the depth of the seriousness of the BoD provisions supporting ecumenism by joining a local Dallas Roman Catholic Church (RCC).

    It was the sort of thing that those of us who knew Bill did not find out of character.

    The North Texas Annual Conference gave him a year to withdraw from the RCC. Bill maintained that there was nothing in the BoD that forbid from belonging to both churches.

    When he didn’t disavow his RC affiliation, the Executive (all Clergy) Session of the next Annual Conference took a vote as to whether or not to expel him from the UMC. Many of those voting had been his students at Perkins.

    103 voted to expel him. 105 voted to keep him.

    The vote was appealed to the Judicial Council (JC) by those who wanted him out, and the JC overturned the NT Conference ruling. Bill was removed from the rolls of the UMC.

    He subsequently was given an office at the RCC’s University of Dallas where he was the editor of the newest edition of the RCC Bible, printed in multiple languages. He knew virtually all of the world class Bible scholars and was the ideal man for the job.

    I saw a picture of him handing the galley proof of the new Catholic Bible to Pope John Paul II in Rome. They were both smiling.

    When the then chair of the Judicial Council was asked why Bill had been voted out of the denomination, the chair said, “Because we said so.” And hung up.

  2. Comment by Search4Truth on October 21, 2019 at 10:36 am

    One is an example of blatant heresy, the other is an example of extreme human arrogance and prejudice. I don’t understand the comparison.

  3. Comment by Loren J Golden on October 18, 2019 at 10:39 am

    Archibald Alexander, Samuel Miller, and Charles Hodge would be deeply disappointed in the depths to which the seminary they founded and in which they labored for many years has fallen.

  4. Comment by Lee D. Cary on October 18, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    Yes, sir, and as I recall (and since I’m old, my recollection may be incorrect), the fall was completed by 1936 with the demise of the Presbyterian Church at the hands of the Modernists. (Who are alive and well today under a new moniker and a new “progressive” agenda.)

  5. Comment by Loren J Golden on October 18, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    With respect to Princeton Seminary, the fall was completed with the reorganization in 1929, with two Auburn Affirmationists added to the Board of Directors.  Machen and most of the other stalwarts on the PTS faculty recognized the proverbial handwriting on the wall and departed at that time, to form Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.  A few stalwarts remained, such as Caspar Wistar Hodge, Jr. (Charles’ grandson), who taught Systematic Theology at PTS until his death in 1937, and Geerhardus Vos, who taught Biblical Theology there until his retirement in 1932, but PTS was definitely not the same after the reorganization.  Today, buildings are named after the great professors of the past, but their theology is, tragically, no longer taught there.

  6. Comment by David on October 19, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Buddhism has been around a long time and over a wide geographical area. Various sects have arisen with differing beliefs. The many Buddhas have at times taken on god-like status.

    “Now, I, Vairocana Buddha am sitting atop a lotus pedestal; On a thousand flowers surrounding me are a thousand Sakyamuni Buddhas. Each flower supports a hundred million worlds; in each world a Sakyamuni Buddha appears. All are seated beneath a Bodhi-tree, all simultaneously attain Buddhahood. All these innumerable Buddhas have Vairocana as their original body.”

    The various Buddhas are assisted by Bodisatvas, highly virtuous beings that have refused to pass to their final reward for the sake of helping others on their spiritual paths and relieving human suffering. These and the Buddhas are objects of worship and prayers.

    The final goal of Buddhism is non existence. This is quite different from the Christian and Muslim belief in “heaven.” The afterlife in Judaism is a murky concept. Even at the time of Jesus, this was rejected by the priests and scribes, the bible scholars of the day, for not being found in scripture.

  7. Comment by Joan Sibbald on October 22, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    If you believe in God you must believe in Satan because God says he’s real.

    Ever wonder who’s behind transforming America and Europe from Jesus Christ as Savior to “whatever turns you on,” mother’s comfortable killing their own son’s and daughter’s in the womb, LGBTQ…. teaching children there’s no sin only “all kinds of love and all kinds of genders?” It’s not God!

  8. Comment by David on October 22, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    The nature of Satan has changed over the years. At the time of Job, he was making regular appearances in heaven. He has been identified with the talking snake in Eden despite comments that this was a just creature. The decline of Christianity in the West has more to do with people following reason and rejecting the supernatural.

  9. Comment by jeff taylor on November 14, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    I am a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (MDiv ’83). During my time there, few of the faculty were evangelical in the usual sense, but very few, if any, would have endorsed Ms. Shroyer’s approach. PTS was one of the last bastions of Neo-orthodoxy, and the first choice for most conservative UP students. I mourn what PTS has become over the last 20 years.

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