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12.4: Study Questions on Similarities and Differences

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    Between Evangelical Christianity as represented by the excerpts from Billy Graham's writings andJodo-shin-shu as represented by the excerpts from Shinran's writings, the similarities are striking-so much so that one may be led to overlook the differences.9 It should not prove difficult to identify the main features of each. In answer to the following questions, keep in mind both the danger of generalizing from these specific instances of the way of devotion to all forms of the way of devotion in either tradition and how much may be involved implicitly in the actual practice of these specific forms that may be going unsaid in the two accounts just given. Spend some time comparing the accounts.

    1. Note as many similarities as you can. Seek to identify not just superficial similarities, but deep structural similarities. (For example, how is the respective ultimate realityo conceived? What in each account seems to be the key that releases the flood of divine grace? What kind of life changes allegedly result from turning over one's life to the "other power of Amida," on the one hand, and "the love of God in Christ," on the other?)
    2. Assuming that both of these movements exemplify the same generic way of being religious in two distinct religious traditions, what if anything do the similarities identified in answer to the first question indicate that is essential to that way of being religious (which the framework identifies as the way of devotion)?
      1. What, if anything, do these two accounts have in common regarding their respective means of approach to ultimate realityo?
      2. What characteristic existential problems is each concerned with and seeking to address?
      3. Is there anything that indicates the characteristic way each interprets its broader tradition's scripture and symbol system as distinct from other traditional ways of taking them? What sorts of features of ultimate realityo does each specifically highlight? That is, what kind of "face" does each envision ultimate realityo to have?
      4. What sorts of social structures (social organization, group activity, roles and responsibilities, etc.) does each have?
      5. What specific virtues in the practice of its religious life does each appear to commend, whether explicitly or implicitly, and what specific vices in that practice does each appear to condemn? (Be careful here to distinguish criticisms each may apparently offer of the religious practices of others from critical expectations set for its own members.) That is, what ideal(s) of practice does each uphold? And what sorts of things would fall short of those ideals?
    3. Finding so many deep structural similarities, it may seem difficult to identify differences. Try now to identify what dissimilarities there are between ]adoshin-shu and Evangelical Christianity-not what is better or what is worse, but just what is different about each.
    4. What among the differences identified in question 3 seem specifically due to different theologicalo convictions of Buddhism (or specifically Jado-shinshu Buddhism) and Christianity (or Evangelical Protestantism of the sort that Graham represents)? For example, what differences in the two accounts directly reflect differences in their respective central stories-that is, differences between the story of Dharmakara becoming Arnida Buddha and the story of the Son of God, Jesus, coming to die on the cross for the sins of the world-and doctrinal beliefs built upon those stories?
    5. There is an apparent similarity between the use of the Nembutsu (calling upon Arnida's name) among followers of Jodo-shin-shu and the use of the Jesus Prayer among Eastern Orthodox Christians as described in the excerpt on the way of mystical quest in Christianity in Chapter 9. Explore that apparent similarity. Does it imply anything more than an apparent similarity? For example, could it perhaps indicate a fusion of the ways of mystical quest and devotion in each or at least some overlap in ways of being religious between them? What would justify such a conclusion? What would count against it?

    This page titled 12.4: Study Questions on Similarities and Differences is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Dale Cannon (Independent) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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