Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What elements of Christianity are similar to Buddhism's Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path?

The Four Noble Truths Counterparts in Christianity
Life is suffering. "In the world you will have tribulation . . ."1
The origin of suffering is desire. Do not covet (wanting what others have).2
Ceasing to desire will end suffering. Coveting naturally produces suffering. However, many kinds of suffering are not the result of desire (e.g., cancer, accidents).
The Noble Eightfold Path will lead to a cessation of suffering. See next chart.

The Noble Eightfold Path Counterparts in Christianity
Right View: Realize the Four Noble Truths. See previous chart.
Right Intention: Intend to renounce desire, have goodwill toward others, and develop compassion. Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."3
Right Speech: Do not lie or bear false witness. Do not use harsh or idle words. Do not lie or bear false witness.4

He who calls his brother a fool is a murderer of him in his heart.5

"And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them."6
Right Action: Do not harm any conscious beings (i.e., people and animals). Do not steal. Abstain from sexual misconduct. Do not hurt other people.7

Do not steal.8

Abstain from sexual misconduct.9
Right Livelihood: Only engage in legal and peaceful ways of making a living. Do not be associated with making weapons, butchering animals, prostitution, selling intoxicants/poisons. "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."10
Right Effort: Devote your mental energy to wholesome goals and activities. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."11
Right Mindfulness: Try to see things objectively without jumping to conclusions. "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."12
Right Concentration: Be single-minded. Practice meditation. "No one can serve two masters."13

"But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."14

Q: The type of Christianity described in this comparison is quite different from what I have experienced, which is a religion based on rules and guilt. Have I missed something?

There is a reason this question follows the discussion on hypocrisy, because hypocrisy is quite common in rules- and guilt-based churchianity. The next chart provides some contrasts between churchianity based on legalism and biblical Christianity based on grace and faith in Christ.

Churchianity Based on Guilt and Obeying Rules Christianity as a Personal Relationship with Jesus
Obedience to Do's and Don'ts is the highest priority. Developing a growing and interactive relationship directly with Jesus is the highest priority.
Characterized by tedious memorization of Do's and Don'ts and some Bible verses. Characterized by interaction through prayer and personal Bible study and reflection.
Referring to publicized list of Do's and Don'ts, or to priests/ clergy, to decide how to act. Looking to Jesus, and relevant biblical passages, for specific guidance in each situation.
Guilt over past sins creates an obligation to submit to priests/clergy to confess and atone. Submission is directly to God instead of to clergy.
Fearing God and submitting to church leaders are both critical. Worshipping God and giving him glory are critical. The focus is on the love and grace of God.
Main motivators are guilt and fear of punishment. Main motivation is gratitude toward God that he took the initiative in seeking to rescue mankind from the penalty for sin (i.e., death and condemnation).
The ability to behave is based on self-discipline, with little or no help from God. People are enabled by the filling of the Holy Spirit and being inspired by the love of God (in spite of our unworthiness).
The church is a building. The church is an interconnected group of believers who worship and study the Bible together and pray for one another.
People focus on maintaining a façade of correct conduct and language, but there is little caring for one another, and a tendency to quickly judge others. People share their real hurts and weaknesses in small groups and support one another in prayer, compassion, and forgiveness.

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1John 16:33b (NKJV).
2Exodus 20:17.
3Matthew 22:37-40 (NKJV).
4Exodus 20:16.
5Matthew 5:21-22.
6Matthew 6:7-8a (NKJV).
7Matthew 5:21-22.
8Exodus 20:15.
9Exodus 20:14.
101 Corinthians 10:31 (NASB).
11Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV).
12Matthew 7:3-5 (NKJV).
13Matthew 6:24a (NIV).
14James 1:5-8 (NASB).

Scripture References

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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