Christian Lessons Learned From Taoism

Everyone has the tendency to look for reasons that prove their religion is right over another. It’s natural. People are banking their eternity on this set of beliefs to which they ascribe, so that’s kind of a big deal.

However, there is value in understanding the commonalities of religious thought as well. This isn’t about just morality, which is a big part of religious teaching, rather the way religions describe the cosmos and the role people play in the universe.

Now, the modern Christian world, built on Jesus’ teachings seems to be aligned closely to Judaism and contrary to most other religions. But, with a little bit of reading, it becomes apparent that the doctrines of Taoism and proprieties of Confucius.

For starters the word Tao translates to the Way. Not only were early Christians a sect of Judaism that called themselves the Way, but Jesus states, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” Jesus is claiming here to be the incarnation of what Christians call God and Taoists call Tao.

The similarities continue in the exploration of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, which is a poetic description of early Chinese religious cosmogony. It describes their understanding of God and how to interact with God as an individual.

The Way seems empty. As it is tried, it is found inexhaustible.

Oh, how profound it is! It seems to be the Forefather of all beings. It quiets impetuosity. It looses bonds. It tempers its splendor. It follows lowliness.

Oh, how pure it is! It seems to abide forever. It is the Son of I-know-not. It seems to have been before the Lord of Heaven.

Explaining the Christian message in this should be unnecessary. It calls the Way the Forefather of all beings, just as Christians call God the Father who gave life to Adam and Eve. Lao Tzu says the Way slows reaction and breeds deliberation of action. It looses bonds as Jesus said, “I am the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” It follows lowliness and tempers splendor, which means it is present in humility and tears down the arrogant. He says it lives forever as the son of I-know-not. This is the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. Jesus is the Son of God, he is the Incarnation of the I-know-not.

Clay is fashioned into vessels. The use of the vessels depends on the empty space within. Doors and windows are framed in making a house. The use of the house depends on their empty spaces.

Therefore utility depends on what is manifest, but the use of a thing depends on what is manifest.

This is how the material and immaterial worlds work together. The idea is that it is the empty part of the vase, that which cannot be observed or accounted for, that gives it its purpose. Paul states, “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” Because people can never understand God until fully in his presence in the afterlife, He must communicate by explaining purpose through what can be observed. This is why He had to become man and walk with us. The only way to be the perfect vase is to have the perfect empty space within. Jesus had to be the perfect example as his “empty space within” is God, and his becoming man made it possible for us to understand.

The partial becomes complete. The crooked becomes straight. The empty becomes full. The worn out becomes new. He who has little (desire) finds the Way; he who has much, goes astray.

Therefore the Master keeps the oneness of the Way; he is the model of the world. He seeks not to be seen, therefore he gives light. He does not magnify himself, therefore he gives inspiration. He does not vaunt himself, therefore he has true worth. He does not glorify himself, therefore he is above all. He strives not, therefore none in the kingdom can stand against him.

The saying of the ancients: “The partial becomes complete,” is not an empty phrase. When a man has attained, the whole world is subject to him.

The first part is obviously in line with Christian teaching as Jesus heals the wounded and brings joy to the unfulfilled through their faith in Him. It is by trust and faith in Jesus that the broken people become whole.

The second part describes bending the will of one to God’s will. He keeps the oneness of the Way, therefore to be one with the Master is to be one with the Way, and Jesus says this. He says good works do not get you into Heaven, rather faith in Him does. By having faith in Him, the works will follow and will be the true will of God, not the will of the one acting on behalf of God. Following these actions that help to identify God, makes a person one with God.

The last part is a way of identifying the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. When people live the proper Christian values, the world is subject to them. That does not mean they are king of the world, rather they are masters in understanding the material through their understanding of the immaterial. This is not a conquering through oppression, but a changing of hearts to bring them into oneness with the Way, or in Christian words, into community with Christ.

The lessons of religion, when read deliberately can be shared. Common ground can be found and used as a foundation of peace and tolerance. These two religions seem contradictory at first, but there are a lot of important similarities between them that can create bonds between cultures. Instead of trying to prove religions right and wrong, delve into the details and find common ground that can lead to a better common understanding.

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