This chapter has continued the comparative survey begun in Chapter 7 with a survey of ways of being religious in Christianity. Christianity divides into three main branches, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism, which differ somewhat in terms of geographic location and culture but mostly in terms of doctrinal emphasis (shading into doctrinal disagreement at times), conception of authority, organizational structure, and prioritization of ways of being religious. All ways of being religious in Christianity are conceived as ways of drawing near to, participating in, and being grounded in the reconciliation of the world with himself that God has brought about in the life, death, and resurrection ofJesus Christ. Eastern Orthodox Christianity places central emphasis on the way of sacred rite in terms of participation in the Divine Liturgy and other sacraments. Orthodoxy's second emphasis is on mystical quest, whereby a person comes to participate in the very life of God, followed by subordinate expressions of the ways of devotion, right action, and shamanic mediation. Little encouragement is given to the way of reasoned inquiry. Roman Catholicism, too, places central emphasis on the way of sacred rite in terms of participation in the Mass and other sacraments. From there on, all other ways of being religious find encouragement and legitimation within the inclusive ambience of the Church (though not all in all places within it), with strong encouragement especially given to the way of reasoned inquiry in terms of systematic theology and other intellectual inquiry (in seminaries and educational institutions), right action in active religious orders, mystical quest in contemplative religious orders, devotion in voluntary practices supplementing participation in formal liturgy, and shamanic mediation in the Charismatic movement.
Being so diverse, Protestantism is more difficult to characterize easily. Virtually all Protestants (with the exception of Liberal Protestanism) emphasize the way of devotion--either foremost, in conjunction with one other way, or as a close second-in terms of coming to experience and cultivate a devotional relationship to Jesus as Savior and Lord. Evangelical Protestantism has sought to elevate and renew this central emphasis until the present day. Because of Protestantism's emphasis on the Bible, the way of reasoned inquiry in the form of scriptural and theological study has a significant place among all Protestants, though not for all in the same respects. Similarly, there has been at least a subordinate emphasis on right action in terms of living a changed life. Beyond these points of comparison, Protestants differ among themselves. Sacramental Protestants centrally emphasize sacred rite along with devotion. Churches of the left, or radical, wing of the Reformation and those they have strongly influenced give central emphasis to right action along with devotion. Pentecostal and Charismatic Protestants centrally emphasize shamanic mediation along with devotion. Liberal Protestantism, however, has shifted central emphasis from the way of devotion to the way of right action.
Because Buddhism and Christianity are so complex and diverse, it is clear that few simple generalizations for the purpose of comparison fairly characterize either tradition as a whole and may very well seriously misrepresent one or more of its parts. Also, because the meanings of the central concepts in each tradition sometimes shift as one moves from one subtradition to another and from one way of being religious to another, any straightforward comparison of concepts from one tradition with those of another is fraught with dangers. Nevertheless, a few comparative observations are ventured.
Most of the main differences between Buddhism and Christianity are rooted in differences between their respective central stories. The peculiarly different prioritizing of ways of being religious, for example, seem to be rooted here. The difference between the Buddha's discovery of saving truth concerning the impersonal laws governing human suffering and the saving revelation of a personal God in Jesus Christ directly gives stimulus to different ways of being religious. Thus, Buddhism gives high priority to the ways of mystical quest and reasoned inquiry, in which great emphasis is placed on individual initiative, rational inquiry, and verification for oneself. Accordingly, these ways are not so freely encouraged in Christianity lest one lose hold of the content of divine revelation, downplay the sovereignty of God, or take for granted divine grace. Conversely, the ways of sacred rite and devotion find strong stimulus in Christianity, whereby sacramental return to the "saving event" of the Gospel is made possible and devotional appropriation of its relationship to oneself is realized. These ways find less direct encouragement in Buddhism, because there is no special need to gain access to a unique "saving event" and relatively little sense of "a saving personal relationship" with ultimate realityo apart from the Pure Land scriptures.