In his Fundamentals of the Faith, Peter Kreeft writes that "there have only been two people in history who so astonished people that they asked not 'Who are you?' but 'What are you? A man or a god' They were Jesus and Buddha."From the essay:
He then contrasts the striking differences between the two men: "Buddha's clear answer to this question was: 'I am a man, not a god'; Christ's clear answer was: 'I am both son of Man and Son of God.' Buddha said, 'Look not to me, look to my dharma [doctrine]': Christ said, 'Come unto me.' Buddha said, 'Be ye lamps unto yourselves'; Christ said, 'I am the light of the world.'"
It is presently common to find Christ brought down to the level of "philosopher" or "great teacher," just as Buddha is sometimes elevated to a state of divinity. Yet there remain profound differences between the two.
- Christ claimed to be the one and only true God who came to suffer, die, and rise again, establishing a unique and everlasting covenant with man. Buddha is believed to be one of many thatãgata (thus-come-one). The historic Buddha is just one of several thatãgata who come in various ages to teach man that life is an illusion and to strip away human desires and attachments.
- Christ taught that He is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Buddha teaches that every person must find their own path to enlightenment, or nirvana, the extinction of self.
- Christ preached the reality of sin, the nature of God the Father, and the need for repentance and salvation. Buddha preached the untenable nature of existence and the means to escape suffering.
- Christ taught that God is completely Other, but also taught that God wishes to share His divine life, given through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Buddha taught individuality must perish and that everything is One.
- Christ established a Church, with a structure of authority, based on His words and Person. Buddha left a teaching in which each person must find his own path.
- Christ rose from the dead, once and for all, and is returning as King of Kings. He claimed divinity by saying, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." (John, 8:58). For Buddhists, Buddha is a model, regardless of whether or not he was a historical person. Buddha suggests that, "There is no 'I'; there is no 'self'." At his death, when he experienced pari-nirvana, or "final extinction," he stated that the question of the afterlife was, "not conducive to edification." What's important is that man escapes desire by being extinguished.