Grace Over Karma

Bono sharing his signature sunglasses with St. John Paul II

Bono sharing his signature sunglasses with St. John Paul II

“It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma. . . I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace. . . You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.”

– Bono interview with Michka Assayas, from Christianity Today, 2005

About William Ockham

I am a father of two with eclectic interests in theology, philosophy and sports. I chose the pseudonym William Ockham in honor of his contributions to philosophy, specifically Occam's Razor, and its contributions to modern scientific theory. My blog ( explores Ignatian Spirituality and the intersection of faith, science and reason through the life and writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pictured above).
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12 Responses to Grace Over Karma

  1. claire46 says:

    Karma is a concept I am so accustomed to… Very nice comment on grace. It all makes sense. Thank you.

    • Hi Claire:

      Thank you for your comments. I am all too familiar with Karma also, for better and worse. I loved the quote from Bono as it gives me hope :-). Hope all is well.

      W. Ockham.

  2. Lynda says:

    Bono’s comment on Grace led me to think of Bernard Lonergan’s ” The Law of the Cross” where our Lord who was reviled turned the occasion of his suffering into an expression of great love. Christ invites us to be his partners in overcoming evil by self-giving love rather than by force. This is revolutionary thinking and living. And not easy for us to follow Christ’s example – it requires Grace.

    • Lynda:

      Thank you for sharing the reference to Lonergan. You are so correct that the Christian concept of self-giving love is revolutionary in a world that is ruled by force (economic, military, etc.).

      W. Ockham

  3. ptero9 says:

    Hi Wiiliam,
    Very interesting comparison between grace and karma. I had not thought of karma as an eye for an eye before, but I suppose there is an element, albeit and impersonal one of likeness.
    Perhaps the idea of Karma is popular in some circles today because it is a bit more impersonal. The idea that the Universe is allowing you to receive back what you give does not place evil doings on individuals like and eye for an eye does. Something to think about.
    Greetings from Durham! 🙂

    • Hi Debra:

      I absolutely agree with you that one of the reasons for the increase in popularity of Karma and more broadly Buddhism is that it provides a coherent framework that is consistent with a more impersonal theology (of course an understandable disillusionment with Christianity is also a factor). I am fascinated by these issues and have some familiarity with Buddhism. We live out in the country near a mid-size city and there are two Buddhist temples within walking distance, both of which are closer than the nearest Christian Church. I have deep respect for the Buddhist tradition and certain of its meditation practices. In my own personal journey, I traveled from my agnosticism through Buddhism on my way to Christianity. Ultimately, it was the nature of God that was the difference for me; many strands of Buddhism downplay or ignore that question and those that address it, view the Creator as impersonal. It was the subjective experience of deep feelings and emotions such as love, joy, pain and loneliness that convinced me that ultimate reality (God) was more than an impersonal force of nature and more than mere biological components or aspects of my pscyhe. As John Haight described it:

      “[T]he problem with denying the personality of ultimate reality is that if God is somehow impersonal, nonpersonal, if ultimate reality lacks ‘thou-ness,’ then it is somehow less intense in being than I am. . . [I]f I subtract the mystery of subjectivity from being altogether, I’m left surrendering myself to something that lacks what I consider to be the most impressive type of experience that we can have in our worldly existence, and that’s the experience of another person. So God is at least personal. God is also more than personal. God is this infinite, inexhaustible depth dimension. And even if this depth expands to the multiverse, and even if I have a vision of reality that includes trillions and trillions of worlds, if at the core of that reality I don’t sense the pulse of personality, then in some sense that whole of totality is less intense in being than I am.”

      Hope you are enjoying North Carolina. It is generally beautiful this time of year!

      W. Ockham

      • ptero9 says:

        Hi William,
        It is fascinating how our journeys sometime parallel each others. You sum it up nicely:

        “It was the subjective experience of deep feelings and emotions such as love, joy, pain and loneliness that convinced me that ultimate reality (God) was more than an impersonal force of nature and more than mere biological components or aspects of my pscyhe.”

        Without knowing what to make of God or the ultimate mystery of ourselves, I can never believe that we are the ultimate Knowers without including some aspect of the cosmos in that knowing.

        North Carolina is treating me well. Durham, where my sister lives and my niece is attending grad school, is a beautiful little city.


  4. Pingback: U2, Religion and Spirituality | Teilhard de Chardin

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