As Buddhism continues to take hold in the West, many are finding a sense of compatibility between their Western/Theistic beliefs and practices and those of Buddhism and many scholars have entered into the fray attempting to demonstrate the possibility or impossibility of such compatibility.
For my own part I tend to think that compatibilities are possible, if only because all religions exist in some state of flux. Buddhist scholar Richard Gombrich has argued that one can have two religions at once as long as one served soteriological goals (dealing with salvation/enlightenment – ultimate ends) and the other served communal purposes. He uses this to explain why Buddhism can exist in such radically different cultures and not feel the need to change or ‘civilize’ them, especially in terms of rituals.
But here is an interesting quote from a recent article by Abraham Vélez de Cea, a scholar currently at Georgetown University (where I would be most happy to be working…):
Although itis true that the Pāli Nikāyas do not explicitly state “God exists” or “God does notexist,” there are texts that clearly show the negative Buddhist stand on the theistic concept of God. For instance, in the Brahmanimantanika Sutta (Majjhima Nikāya I.326–331) the Buddha challenges the belief in a God explicitly described as almighty, omniscient, provident, creator, and the father of all present and future beings. The belief in the eternal existence of this theistic concept of God is attributed to the work of Māra, the Buddhist equivalent of the Christian devil, and accordingly it is considered a product of ignorance. [p.145]
Food for thought.
“A New Direction for Comparative Studies of Buddhists and Christians: Evidence from Nāgārjuna and John of the Cross” – Buddhist-Christian Studies 26 (2006) 139-155
Abraham Vélez de Cea