Book: Listening to Shin Buddhism
Chapter: The Concept of Grace in Paul, Shinran and Luther (1976)
In the present volume the basic positions of Shin Buddhism itself, as presented by Shin Buddhist writers, are followed by some reactions from western writers. These authors were all looking at Shin Buddhism in a comparative perspective, from western starting points. While the Swiss theologian Fritz Buri (1907–1995) maintained a clear Christian position in his exploration of Shin Buddhist concepts, Alfred Bloom (1926–), who was formed in the American Baptist tradition, adopted the Shin Buddhist tradition as his own. Buri’s contribution apparently represents the first substantial comparative study of the concept of grace in the two religions. Indeed in its reflectiveness, it is an example of “comparative hermeneutics”.12 For example he explains how the structure of thought focused on salvation by grace gives rise to similar problems in other fields, such as ethics. While Buri takes significant steps in seeking to understand Shin Buddhism, perhaps not always achieving quite accurate perceptions of the relations between the teaching of Shinran and “Amida Buddhism” in general, he also resists some of the images of Christianity which seem to have been current among Japanese Buddhists (such as Suzuki Daisetsu) at the time. It may be noted that not all Christian writers necessarily expound a monolithic understanding of their tradition, for there is a complexity of positions to be found, just as there is within the Buddhist family. Buri’s essay undoubtedly formed a valuable jumping off point for later dialogical interactions.