My friend Kris Maloy read the exchange between myself and Wade Burleson here. He offered this comment which I asked if I could post. I will paste a little more back and forth we had in the comments section.
I've enjoyed reading your blog posts. I thought I might add my 2 cents to it, but then I thought I'd just send it here, and you can post it if you like, or not:
It is just these considerations that you and Wade have discussed--of the reality of and nature of Sin, of Salvation, the Problem of Evil, the Foreknowledge of God, the problem of Penal Substitution, the confluence of the issues of religious diversity, religious evangelism, and positive conduct (i.e. your question about a single mom doing her best and living well and rightly, but as a Hindu)--that have led me to become a practitioner of Zen. (Just to be clear, I am not a Buddhist and one need not be Buddhist to become Zen).
Zen, at least my particular brand of it, would answer those questions in the following ways (grossly oversimplified for brevity):
"God" is really a concept of being. God is not a creator being, or a being at all, but the very force of creation, the ground of all being in the universe. One should meditate, pray, or whatever, to try their best to see the universe from this vantage point.
Thus, appeals to a God who can act for or against us are futile. (There is no problem of evil if "God" is not a being who chooses whether to act.)
The concept of "sin" is really a concept of the health of the soul, both individually and collectively (for a Zen person seeks to realize that all is really one and we are all connected to each other and all things). To "sin" is not to defy any set of "rules" or doctrine or the "will of God"--a false construction--but to act in such a way that one's spirit is diminished rather than enriched. Acting in such a negative way diminishes the collective spirit of all things and increases disharmony in all things, but centrally in one's own existence. There is no problem of sin, or of evangelism and religious diversity, if the measure of our conduct and beliefs is simply whether they are enriching or diminishing given the situations in which we find ourselves.
the Problems of Evil, the Foreknowledge of God, and Penal Substitution are also "solved" inherently if one does not believe in a God who chooses and acts: There is no choice on the judgment of all based on the sacrifice of one, there is no discussion of whether God answers prayers or allows children to die of starvation and brain cancer if God is simply not a being who makes such decisions, and there is no need to believe in foreknowledge, since such a thing is impossible. This only comes into conflict with the doctrine of omniscience if one chooses to believe in a master and creator God.
Instead, "evil" is really the manifestation of the fact that we are all connected, and some act in ways that are diminishing and/or misguided. We all make choices that effect all of us collectively and all of us together determine the path the world takes (at least in so far as we have an effect--in the great cosmic scheme of all things, we don't have much of one[!], other than our effect upon one another).
It is my belief that the Christian solutions to the aforementioned issues are much like the argument for the Geocentric model in the 15th century--the equations worked, but only with quite a lot of complicated contingencies, whereas the Heliocentric model was elegant, and simple...but very uncomfortable for many. Similarly, I have found Zen to be simple and beautiful, and enriching...but lacking the god concepts to which many are accustomed and feel that they need, whatever intellectual tap-dancing may be needed for them to avoid calling into question their cherished beliefs and traditions.
Interested to hear your response, should you like to make one.