Different religions have different standpoints about creation of the world. According to the Catholic Church, Bordwell and Vatican, Catholics revere creation as show of God’s power and believe that the presence of God is exhibited in the works of his creation (718). Catholics also believe that God’s creation is above all powers in the world and therefore clinch the truth of creation “with firm certainty and with no admixture of error” (Catholic Church, Bordwell and Vatican 719). On the other hand, according to Schmidt-Leukel, the theory of God being the creator of the universe is dismissed by Buddhists who believe that the universe has no origin and therefore has no creator (40). According to Buddhists, there is nothing like an almighty God and creator and “the universe has no first cause, and hence has no creator, nor can there be such a thing as a permanent primordially pure being” (Schmidt-Leukel 40).
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This paper presents a dialogue between two believers- a Catholic and a Buddhist concerning creation of the world. The arguments are based on the differences in perception about God and creation as highlighted above.
A Catholic believer suggests to the Buddhist that he must understand that creation bears witness to God’s sovereign power and also points out that there is a major difference between God and his creatures. The Catholic believer says: “God created the world from nothing and made it what it is today. God is all-powerful and needs no pre-existent thing or any kind of help in order to create (Catholic Church, Bordwell and Vatican 719). You can’t question the power and might of God!” The Buddhist is obviously not impressed with the Catholic’s supposition and retorts, “My friend there is nothing like creation by God. The theory that God is the creator of the world is a total contradiction to the Buddhist beliefs. Let me tell you, the universe has no origin, and therefore this tells you that it had no creator in the first place (Schmidt-Leukel 40). How can something that has no origin be declared to have been made by some powers? What you are referring to as creation by as almighty God is sheer fallacy according to me” (Schmidt-Leukel 40).
Not satisfied with the Buddhist argument and belittling of God, the Catholic speaks in defense of his opinion and what the Catholic doctrine says about God and creation. “My friend, you must understand that God did not create the universe for nothing. Tell me, if you did not have an origin would you be existing? You have to understand that God created the world and provides for the creatures freely. The created world gets proceeds from God’s free will (Catholic Church, Bordwell and Vatican 719). God gave his creatures the power and ability to share in his being, goodness and wisdom (Catholic Church, Bordwell and Vatican 719). Now tell me, if God were not providing for you, would you be able to stand with me here today?” (Catholic Church, Bordwell and Vatican 719). But the Buddhist, after listening carefully, points out a number of issues which contradict the Catholic’s belief that the world was created.
He argues, “Let me tell you the truth. Your point that the world was created by God is baseless and vague. Creation occurs repeatedly through time (Neville 172) and you can’t convince me that it was just done once by God. My point lies in the fact that the different components of the universe arise from a series of kalpas or landforms, darkness and the surface of water (Neville 172). Thus, the different forms of spirits which existed in the universe in the previous are kalpa are usually reborn at the beginning of each new kalpa. Of the different forms of spirits, one takes the form of a human being and that begins the human race (Neville 172). In the process the universe is engulfed with unhappiness and misery, as we are experiencing today. This eventually leads to a destruction in which all spirits are destroyed as the universe dissolves, and a new cycle of living creatures begins thereafter (Neville 172).”
“Thank you for your point,” replies the Catholic. “But I am not buying any section of it. We can’t ignore the work of God who created the world. I will still emphasize that creation is the work of the Father. In your argument you didn’t specify the origin of landforms, darkness or water. By creating the world, God revealed that creation is the first covenant between him and his people (Matzko and Lysaught 154). Your argument that creation repeats itself is ill-advised. What evidence do you have to reveal that creation repeats itself? The fact that the world is today clouded with unhappiness does not mean that it is about to dissolve. God commanded his creatures, including human beings to procreate and that is how different generations arise.
If a being can command human beings to fill the universe and enjoy its provisions, doesn’t this show the being’s (God’s) all powerful love?” But seemingly unconvinced with the explanation, the Buddhist reacts sharply: “Your argument seems to take a position that the work of God cannot be questioned since he is all powerful. You also seem to imply that God’s creation is permanent and that different generations arise from each other. However, I want to remind you that in Buddhist belief is that life is a constantly evolving phenomenon. In addition evolution is an impermanent process and that is why generations keep on changing (Schmidt-Leukel 41). I still hold the opinion that nothing in the universe endures as you tend to suggest about God’s creation (Neville 172). Moreover why should God’s work not be subject to questioning? If indeed the theory of creation were true we would be able to study it and justify it. The point is that anything that is a process, such as creation should be readily analyzable and worthy of dividing into various steps in order to critique each step independently (Neville 172). The theory of creation has no basis because it cannot be critiqued, nor can it be proved.”
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The Catholic’s counterargument is based on evidence that God exists in three forms: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He argues: “What evidence of creation exists than the revelation that God is present in three forms? Creation is the work of the Father and this reveals his love for the universe (Catholic Church, Bordwell and Vatican 719). Creation is the work of the Son as revealed in the New Testament. And as is recorded in Revelations, all of God’s creation was done through the Son for him. The mystery of the Son is indeed a revelation of the mystery of creation (Catholic Church, Bordwell and Vatican 719). God made creation a mystery because of his sovereignty over the universe (719). In addition, it is through the work of the Holy Spirit that human beings were given the power to live. It is through the Holy Sprit that humankind and all creatures are able to exist (719).
The point that there is no proof of creation therefore has no substance”. In reply, the Buddhist says that according to Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, the universe is not a pure land and the therefore needs no all-powerful leader as God is perceived to be (Schmidt-Leukel 41). He notes: “No creation is possible in Buddhism. There is no cause for life of creatures or anything else in the universe and the different actions of different creatures in the world belong to the sentient beings who use it…it is not because God or something else is in control. The beings’ actions, also known as karmas originate from the intentions and motivations possessed by those beings that are yet to control their minds. It is not a matter of the Father, Son or the Holy Spirit as you posit. The minds of beings are controlled by factors that have no beginning. In the same way, life on the universe had no beginning and remains to be so. In Buddhism, there is nothing like an all-powerful being having control over life”(Schmidt-Leukel 42).
“Your point that everything in life and the universe have no beginning is misleading,” replies the Catholic. “Do you also believe that you have no origin and that some of your actions may be due to you not having control of your mind?” He adds.” That is not true- God was in charge of creation and controlled every part of the created world. God created the world as a gift to entrust to man (Matzko and Lysaught 154) – this is why everything in the universe is under the control of human beings. The world is an inheritance bestowed upon human beings and they have the responsibility to take care of it and have dominion over it (Matzko and Lysaught 154). It is for this reason that God gave humanity an intelligent and free mind as a way of completing his creation.” The Buddhist in turn answers by questioning the significance of statements used by Catholics in explaining the evidence of creation as follows: “The Catholic stance about the involvement of God in creation is questionable. God is depicted as being omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, but where is the evidence? For instance, the standpoint that God created everything in the universe implies that he was omnipresent.
However, the Catholic doctrine fails to address a number of issues which are very crucial in understanding the origin of the universe and its contents. For instance, if the world was a desolate form that had nothing in existence, where was God at the time of creation and in what place did he carry out the creation? And if God indeed created the world, who created him, and what evidence can be used to confirm this? If God is omnipotent, why is it that he did not could not create the world in its entirety at one time? Had that happened we could not be experiencing the changes that are observable in the universe this day. Therefore, there is no convincing point that the world was created by God, what we have as human beings are independent minds that are not influenced by any form of deity as is perceived by the Catholics. Everything that we have in the world springs from the primordial breadth of openness and is in a form totally independent of any kind of powerful influence.”
It is inarguable that the standpoints taken by Catholics and Buddhists about creation cannot be dismissd by theories from either of the two religions. Whereas Catholics provide many arguments in support of the theory of creation, Buddhists counter the arguments with as many points. Catholics argue that the universe was created by God, who is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient, yet they do not tell the origin of God. On the other hand, Buddhists argue that that there is no all-powerful God, but do not state the origin of the universe. This leaves the topic of creation amenable to discussion.
Catholic Church, Bordwell, D. and Vatican. Catechism of the Catholic Church. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002.
McCarthy, David Matzko and Lysaught, M. Therese. Gathered for the Journey: Moral Theology in Catholic Perspective. NJ: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007.
Neville, Robert C. The Tao and the Daimon: Segments of a Religious Inquiry. New York: SUNY Press, 1982.
Schmidt-Leukel, Perry. Buddhism, Christianity and the question of creation: karmic or divine? London: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006.