Bishop Barron on Grace and Karma

Added 30 October 2017 by Bishop Robert Barron

Bishop Barron shares his reflection on two basic approaches to religion throughout the world: Grace and Karma.

Just a couple weeks ago I had a privilege of meeting dr. Steven Davis who is a retired professor of the philosophy of religion at Clermont and in advance of the meeting I read his book on a Christian philosophical theology which was very interesting. And one of the chapters in that book is on a basic division between the religions of the world what he calls religions of karma and religions of grace. So religions of karma are very prominent of course in the East and a karmic religion has a lot to recommend it and that's why these religions have been so strong for so long, what's the law of karma, but a kind of cosmic law we were buying, good acts are rewarded and wicked acts are punished. Now, maybe not immediately remember John Lennon's song "Instant karma's gonna get you" as we are playing on that because karma might not be instant, it's usually delayed and it might not even be in this life might be in the next life. But karma will assert itself, good deeds are rewarded and evil deeds are punished. As I say it satisfies our sense of justice. It seems right and fair. Well, to that we contrast religions of grace and now these can be found in the Abrahamic religions, I think largely of the West very much including Cristianity, biblical religions, our religions of grace. What's going on here? Well, not so much everybody gets exactly what he deserves, but rather you know as the Bible says everyone sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, I mean as Paul says there is nobody righteous, I mean not one of us. Nevertheless, God gifts us with His forgiveness, with His love, with the gift of eternal life that we don't get what we deserve right as in a religion of karma, we get something that we don't deserve. Think now of maybe the most fameous line of Christian poetry ever which we sing all the time in Christian churches. "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me". Well, in a purely karmic religion wretches don't deserve to be saved, a wretch deserves a wretched fate right, but yet "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved that gave a gift to a wretch like me. So there is a religion of grace and of course you've seen on display throught the Bible. Think of Jesus great story of the workers hired at different times of the day. You know, one works eight hours, one works five, one works two, one works for a half hour and yet, they're all paid the same. Yet there is a gracious gift given to those who worked only a short time. It is not a strict karma situation, everyone gets who he deserves or think of maybe the most fameous parable of Jesus, the prodigal son. Here is this kid that insults his father, takes his money, squanders it on a dissolute living, comes crawling home. Was that kid deserve in a karmic point of view he deserves you know to be punished, rejected and yet the father lavishes him with his grace. In fact, the older brother in that story it is kind of a religion of karma type of person. Here is this son of yours is run off with your money and squandered it, I've been back home dutifully folowing your will what do I get in return? And that's why a lot of people sympathize with the older brother. But a religion of grace says God doesn't operate that way. Now, before we get all kind of self-righteous about well, don't we have a better religion, religion of grace...

Bishop Robert Barron

Bishop Robert Barron

Los Angeles

Bishop Robert Barron is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of LA.

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