This book sustains a promising essence concealed in a Christian straight-jacket. Its promise kept my attention through the whole work, but its final disappointment only served to remind me why I should not read modern Christian theology.
In that he is "nice" to Buddhism and the Buddha, I commend Richard Henry Drummond, Ph.D. That is, he doesn't take the wide spread Protestant stance that all other religions are worthless or demon-led. In fact, I can quote from pp.217 that "in spite of the distortions of Buddhist monasticism and the failures of popular religion, much if not most of that which has been noble and good in Asian history may be attributed to the influence of the Buddha." In the preface he truthfully forewarns us that,"no one, in academic context or not, operates from a life posture that can be called completely impartial or objective." His Christianity though is a far stance from anything near a fair objectivism. He knows that there is not the mathematical accuracy in regards to Christology that people are impressed with erroneously from John Dominic Crossan, but he begins with the view that we can derive a true outline of Christ's life. (I'm not suggesting that this should be denied, only that biases like this are a framework for his Christian views.) When comparing the lives and workings of the two thaumaturges, I could not believe some of the things that I read. "there is no reason of significance--historical, literary, or scientific-philosophical--to doubt that Jesus did perform mighty works, which we may call miracles, largely as reported in the New Testament accounts." (LAUGH... I suppose there aren't whole books written on that subject alone, namely against such a notion) What really restrains this book from its potential is the cherished 'uniqueness of Jesus.' This begins to play an active role in his analysis of Christ's miraculous resurrection which he in the end uses as a means to elevate Christ over Buddha. pp.150 says that, "I should like to explore the possibility that we have in the case of Jesus of Nazareth what we do not percieve in either Gautama, Zarathustra, or Muhammad; that is, a consciously chosen vicarious-redemptive role." He tries to preserve the seat of his uniqueness where he has the perfect chance to discuss the fascinating miraculous similarities extant betwixt Gautama and Yeshua. I thought without a doubt that he would deal with the alleged water-walking and storm-calming attributed to the Buddha and then the Christ. Not one mention!!! With our refusal to give up Christ's uniqueness, this implies mythical borrowing from the Axial Period. And if he actually did represent a "broader vision" this would be given spiritual attention and explanation. In the philosophies of the Christ and the Buddha, there is juxtaposition of spiritual teachings. He draws the similarities between the 'Kingdom of God' and 'Nirvana,' described as religiously transcendant but realizable in the world, and maintainable beyond. But in the end he seems reluctant to ever actually equate them, not to mention in the end still promulgating "the spirit of sacrifice and mystery of the cross" as our method of salvation, not this relationship with the spirit of the primordial tradition. Accordingly the comparisons are made more so with the Mahayana school than Theravadin, with the concepts of universal salvation.
Drummond's work and juxtaposition is very thorough and comprehensive, but as I have aimed to point out either ignorance or preservation of Jesus' uniqueness caused him to exclude some of the most valuable study between the Buddha and the Christ. I expected that a 'broad vision' comparing two religious leaders would not take the side of one of them, and that is where I was utterly disappointed. I expected the title to imply a "broader vision" than Christianity, that had room to hold Buddhism in equal importance, or even a quasi-Baha'i perspective as Buddha and Christ essentially being one in spirit as manifestations in different settings. But I realized this was not the case on pp.170, "the Christ event is unique; it is also the pivotal, the single most important event of human history."
I am very glad that a Christian author acknowledges the Buddha with high spiritual regard, but one question I would propose to Drummond, "Is he in Hell?"
I found this book to be informative and enlightening. I have always wanted to compare these two spiritual leaders and this book as helped me to start my own search. I found the writing easy to read and understand. Some of it was a bit wordy but that was no big deal.