H is for holy

A theological dictionary
No! blurted the expert on Japanese Buddhism. He was a member of a group of interreligious and interdisciplinary thinkers charged with coming up with a consensus statement. His no was prompted by a proposal from the Vati can’s representative, who wanted the group’s discussion of human dignity and human rights to include at least some words about God. Why the Buddhist no? The scholar explained that while Bud dhists are religious, they do not believe in God.

So the well-meaning questioner tried again: “Well, then, can we agree that we agree on ‘the Sacred’?” The Buddhist was even more emphatic: “We have sacred books and shrines and practices, but we do not have ‘the Sacred.’”

Ever since I heard the exchange I’ve thought about the functions of “the Sacred” and wondered whether it would be better to invoke the concept of “the Holy.” The two terms can seem synonymous, but Jewish and Christian theology and usage suggest that there are differences.

 

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