Buddhist-Christian Studies 39 (1):217-226 (2019)

THE PROBLEM OF EVIL IN CHRISTIANITY AND BUDDHISM ABSTRACT In his prolegomena to “the problem of evil in Christianity and Buddhism” Masao Abe compares how Christianity and Buddhism explain the conflict between good and evil, the absolute ethical imperative to do good and avoid evil, and the problem that human beings inevitably fail to comply with that imperative. Abe argues that Buddhism and Christianity agree on the absoluteness of the imperative, but that Buddhism’s notions of the relativity and interdependence of good and evil and “absolute nothingness” beyond good and evil make intelligible, as Christianity does not, the necessity of evil without undermining the ethical imperative to do good, and solve the problem of the failure of to overcome the duality of good and evil at the ethical level. I explore advantages and disadvantage of the responses of Buddhism and Christianity to the problem of evil, according to Abe’s analysis. I argue that Buddhism enjoys an advantage in dealing with the origin of evil and the conflict between good and evil without the burden of Christianity’s problem of theodicy, but suffers a difficulty in explaining why commitment to the ethical imperative is a prerequisite to enlightenment. Christianity’s identification of the good with God gives an advantage in explaining the relation between the ethical imperative and the religious ultimate, but encounters the problem of explaining the origin of evil.
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DOI 10.1353/bcs.2019.0016
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