Journalist Brit Hume who urged Tiger Woods to "turn to the Christian faith" was right when he drew distinction between Buddhism and Christianity in terms of the concept of forgiveness and redemption, said a prominent evangelical theologian.
"I admire Brit Hume for saying something that was at the risk of bringing on this controversy because it really puts on the table the fundamental distinction of worldview: worldview A being Buddhism, worldview B being Christianity," said Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., on his eponymous radio program last week.
Mohler, a sought-after commentator who has appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" and ABC's "Good Morning America," noted that while other major religions in the world believe in a god or gods, Buddhism is a non-theistic faith.
Buddhist teachings say that existence itself is the problem and the major goal in life is to achieve nirvana, or total absence of existence. To live is to suffer, adherents are taught, and the way to end suffering is to detach oneself from life by following the Noble Eightfold Path.
"That is not what Christianity is about at all. There is a dramatic distinction," declared Mohler, who highlighted that nirvana's non-existence goal is about "emptiness rather than filling."
In contrast, Christianity does not view existence as the problem but rather sin as the issue. Existence is good, especially humans who are made in the image of God. Moreover, heaven is "maximum…forever, eternal…perfect, glorified existence."
Sin, the Bible explains, is not just a personal issue but it is an offense against a holy God who will judge the person. By comparison, there is no god in Buddhism that holds a person accountable for his "sins" (there is no concept of sin in Buddhism). Wrongdoings are seen as foolish choices that result in bad karma. The consequences of foolish choices are the kind of existence a person becomes after he is reincarnated and the delay in the process of reaching nirvana.
But in Christianity sin has eternal consequences, which makes God's atonement and forgiveness of our sins through the death of His son remarkable.
"Christianity is a faith of redemption. Redemption requires a God who redeems," the theologian stated. "Buddhism is a philosophy of life that points in a different direction. Brit Hume understands that when he said, 'I don't think Buddhism will get you to where you need to go in terms of dealing with your sins.'"
On Jan. 3, Hume participated in a roundtable on "Fox News Sunday" and among the subjects discussed were sports and Tiger Woods. He famously called on Woods to seek redemption and forgiveness found in the Christian faith rather than the golfer's reported Buddhist faith.
"Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether or not he can recover as a person I think is a very open question, and it's a tragic situation for him. I think he's lost his family, it's not clear to me if he'll be able to have a relationship with his children, but the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal – the extent to which he can recover – seems to me to depend upon his faith," Hume said.
"He's 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," the veteran journalist said. "So 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.'"
Hume received heavy criticism for "preaching" during a news show and for his "arrogant" advice to Woods.
Tom Shales, television critic for The Washington Post, wrote in a commentary that Hume's remark would be remembered "as one of the most ridiculous of the year."
Shales went further and wrote, "If Hume wants to do the satellite-age equivalent of going door-to-door and spreading what he considers the gospel, he should do it on his own time, not try to cross-pollinate religion and journalism and use Fox facilities to do it."
But Hume's supporters argue that it was an opinion-based news session and Hume approached the Tiger Woods scandal from a Christian worldview. They also contend that Hume had a right to express his opinion, as "there is no religious liberty without the possibility of conversion and persuasion," wrote Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, in a commentary for The Washington Post.
"In this controversy, we are presented with two models of discourse. Hume, in an angry sea of loss and tragedy – his son's death in 1998 – found a life preserver in faith," Gerson wrote. "He offered that life preserver to another drowning man. Whatever your view of Hume's beliefs, he could have no motive other than concern for Woods himself."
The under-fire journalist, who said he came to a real relationship with Jesus Christ after his son's suicide eleven years ago, maintains that he does not regret his comments.
"I don't want to practice a faith that I'm afraid to proclaim. I don't want to be a closet Christian," Hume said in an interview with Christianity Today. "I'm not going to stand on the street with a megaphone. My principal responsibility at Fox News isn't to proselytize. But occasionally a mention of faith seems to me to be appropriate. When those occasions come, I'll do it."