by Bill Nugent
Many of us have seen the bumper sticker which says “My Carma Ran Over Your Dogma.” The interpretation of the bumper sticker is that it claims that the Hindu concept of carma (correct spelling: karma) is replacing Christian dogma in western civilization. New Age religions and Buddhism, so popular in the West, are derived from Hinduism and share the doctrine of karma. The bumper sticker is also mildly politically incorrect in that it evokes the image of a car running over a dog. This may upset some of the P. E. T. A. people.
Let’s start with a definition of terms. Karma is the Hindu concept of retribution. According to the doctrine of karma whatever evil you do in this life you will have to suffer for or make up for in a future life. It ties in with the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation in that in a future reincarnation you suffer for your present sins. You must make your own atonement.
“The law of karma, which makes morality like a law of nature, does not allow for the possibility of forgiveness. Its consequences are inevitable and inescapable.” (The Compact Guide to World Religions Edited by Dean Halverson p. 91.) Karma excludes the concept of forgiveness and is therefore utterly lacking in grace. No amazing grace in the Hindu derived faiths.
Dogma is a term that refers to authoritative Christian doctrine. Dogma also has a colloquial meaning as “certainty.” When someone is very certain about a point and won’t compromise we say that he is dogmatic about it. The branch of philosophy called epistemology has to do with the study of knowledge or how we can be certain about what we know. How can we be certain that Christian dogma is true?
Let’s take a look at the epistemological underpinnings of Christianity. The basis for Christian doctrine is the Bible. There are several categories of evidence that provide a high degree of certainty that the Bible is inspired by God and therefore a true guide to sound religious doctrine. Here is a partial list of the evidence:
1) Archaeological evidence: Archaeology has consistently confirmed the accuracy of the Bible as I have discussed in several DTF articles.
2) Manuscript evidence: There are far more ancient manuscripts in the original languages of the Old and New Testaments than there are of the writings of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus and Tacitus put together.
3) Prophetic evidence: The many hundreds of predictive prophesies contained in the Bible and their accurate fulfillment in history and on down to our present time offers proof of the supernatural (divine) origin of the Bible. No other sacred writings of any other faith has anything that approaches this record.
4) The Bible declares itself to be the inspired word of God in over 5,000 places with phrases such as “thus saith the LORD” (Ex. 5:1) and “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (II Tim. 3:16).
5) Modern science: The Bible is scientifically accurate where it deals with science. The Bible provided the philosophical underpinnings for the inductive principle and the scientific method. The pioneers of science including Roger Bacon, Blaise Pascal, Newton, Boyle and virtually all others were Bible believing Christians.
6) Social justice: The Bible gave western civilization the concepts of the sanctity of human life and the dignity and freedom of the individual. The Bible teaches popular sovereignty (royal priesthood) which means that each person has royal, governing prerogatives and priestly prerogatives (I Peter 2:9). This doctrine, taught by Thomas Hooker (1586-1647) and others, gave rise to democracy in America long before the secular “Enlightenment.”
The above evidence gives us epistemological certainty that the Bible is the word of God and that the theological doctrines contained in it are certainly true.
Karma and other tenets of Hindu derived faiths are based on the Hindu scriptures called the Vedas and scriptures of lower authority including the Ramayana, the Mahabharata Epic, theVedangas and others. These writings are not supported by anything like the mountain of evidence listed above that supports the Bible. Karma is based on little more than the words of ancient sages. Karma and its companion doctrines are essentially freestanding truth claims that are unsubstantiated.
I (and I hope you) will continue to hold to our Christian dogma not out of stubbornness or narrow mindedness but because we have a sound base of epistemological certainty that Christian dogma is TRUE! We also have a personal relationship with God and God has given us experiential revelation of the truths of the Bible. God’s Spirit speaks to our human spirit (Romans 8:16).