A reader has asked the question in response a recent article about Tiger Woods, “If Tiger Woods is a Buddhist, then why does he have to ask God to forgive him?” It’s a good question; a curious one too. After all there are large differences between the two religions. Buddhism sees God mostly as an illusion while Christianity teaches that God is the Creator of the universe and present in our everyday lives.
In his apology to the world, Woods said, “Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside [myself] causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint.”
Buddhism teaches the idea of redemption as achieving Nirvana — the highest state of being for an individual to reach — a realization that sets one free from greed, hate, and delusion. That is much different from the teachings of Christ whom taught that fullness in life is not something that can be acquired but that through him when our physical bodies die, our souls can be ascended into heaven.
Many are familiar with Fox News anchor Brit Hume whom, when asked how Tiger Woods can recover from what has recently taken place in his personal and public life, stated, “The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith. He is said to be a Buddhist. I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger would be, ‘Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.’”
However, Hume did not explain what he meant when he said Christianity offers forgiveness. Will converting to Christianity completely erase what Tiger has done and remove the burden of offense that he has brought upon himself? Will it repair the damage that has been done to his personal and private life, completely restoring his integrity to the watching world? I believe the answer is no.
Christianity does not offer a “get out of adultery free” card, nor any other crime committed against mankind; the consequences are still left to bear. Simply converting to the Christian religion alone will not change anything about Woods’ current status before God. Christianity is far more than religion, it is about the forgiveness of sin. So then why is it important that a Buddhist or any other person from a different religion humble themselves before the Christian God and seek forgiveness?
To answer this question it is important first that we take into account that the Bible is unlike any other religious material in that it is held to be the actual living word of God. In it, not only do we find complete and fulfilling instructions for living, but also the necessary requirements for attaining eternal life, not your best life now. Other religious materials that have been handed down throughout the course of history were written by men who claim authority for themselves; however, the Bible rests on the authority God, not men. In it God has revealed Himself to us that we may know him and have a relationship with him.
In the Bible we find that God, Creator of the universe and everything in existence, has very specific expectations for our lives and how we live them. And although God reveals his law to us through His word, He has also written his laws on our hearts that we may know sin apart from the law (Romans 2:12-15). Woods verified his understanding of this when he said, “I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply…I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me.”
Regardless of what religion one belongs to, the Bible says that all of mankind has sinned against God’s perfect law (Romans 3:23) and that we will all face God some day and be judged by Christ according to how we have lived our lives compared to his perfect standard (2 Corinthians 5:10). Anything contrary to God’s law is sin.
The Bible says there is a specific punishment for sin: “The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and so the only way one can be redeemed from the sin he or she has committed in this life is to turn to God for forgiveness that has been made available only through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. For the Bible says the gift of God to us is eternal life through Christ (Romans 6:23).
Turning to Christ will forgive the offense of sin before God, not before man. By trusting in Christ for the only solution to the problem and consequence of sin, the Bible says whoever does so will be saved.