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.”