Confucianism and Christianity :
The premise of Confucian teachings are centered around the idea of
Jen or the ³virtue of humanity (Ching 68). To accomplish this divinity,
five relationships must be honored: ruler and minister, father and son,
husband and wife, elder and younger brother, and friend and friend
(Hope). These relationships led a push for a revolution of the
political system to adopt the methods of Jen. Confucius sought to revive
the ancient Chinese culture by redefining the importance of society and
government. He described a society governed by ³reasonable, humane, and
just sensibilities, not by the passions of individuals arbitrarily
empowered by hereditary status² (Clearly). He felt that this could be
achieved through education and the unification of cultural beliefs. He
believed that a nation would be benefited by citizens that were
³cultivated people whose intellects and emotions had been developed and
matured by conscious people² (Clearly). He felt that those born into
the feudal system were had a personal duty to excel socially by means of
power. Those who were of lesser class should also seek out education to
better themselves. All purposes for betterment of man and society as
one whole is known as Li. Li means ³the rationalized social order²
(Yutang). Confucius felt that love and respect for authority was a key
to a perfect society; this strict respect was practiced through rituals
and magic (Smith). The Confucius traditions have caused a tradition to
set within its institution and is extremely active. It has,
unfortunately, allowed the political institution to manipulate the Confucius system As with Christianity.
Christianity also preaches a divine, brotherly love. Modern
Christianity seeks to discover a ³rational understanding of the person²
as did Confucius (Essed. 381); yet, Christianity feels that faith in
the Jesus Christ as a personal savior is essential to this enlightenment.
It was also under the guise of Christianity that it had to confront
totalitarian systems ³[dehumanize] uses of power in its sphere of
influence (state and church, and [these] systems triumphed under the
banner of de-Christianization (Ess ed. 384). Unlike Confucius
reformers of their corrupt state pushed the beliefs of the true ideals of
Confucius, Christians believed in an ³Absolute against all absolving of
the relative, can protest in the name of God (Ess ed. 384).² Some would
argue that Confucius did support and an Absolute, but he described it as
the entirety of Heaven. Several scholars believe that his Heaven was
analogous to the God unto which Christians served. Christians feel that
in order to also gain a Jen-like status one must have a serious
relationship with the church and Jesus Christ himself. Confucius
differed in that they feel that the body, mind and soul must be
recognized as one to reach Jen (Smith).
Through education or ritual practices one gains wealth. With
wealth one achieved power. These are the essentials to living a good
life (O¹Briére). However, relationships between men is the most
desirable. These aspects are the embodiment of Li. Li was love for
authority and respect for others (Alexander). Christianity also looks
at wealth in a slightly different manner. ³At the heart of the Christian
faith and at its source of its traditions in Scripture is the belief in a
covenant (Carmen 17).² It is the promise between God and the individual
that ensures (through faith) that one¹s kindly actions on Earth will be
divinely awarded. The five relationships of Jen are also honored in
Christianity with references to ³Honor thy father and mother, for this is
the first commandment with promise (Ephesians 6:1).
It is prevalent that Christianity and Confucius are very similar in
their philosophy. Some would argue that Confucius lack of a strong
theology is its failure to comply with the Christian ethics. Others
would say it is there drive to be a virtuous individual compensates for
this tedium. They equally feel that relationships with neighbors and
family is an integral part of becoming virtuous. Even the spiritual
outlook on the self is equivalent in the sense of purification.
Christians rely on the teachings of Jesus while the Confucius look
towards those who have wealthy estates. This point conveys that
Christians may be more dependent on their spiritual guidance opposed to
the Confucius examination of the worldly infrastructure of trial and
error. Thus it is not surprising that when faced with a choice of both
religions, an individual’s merit may be the deciding factor on which is
more ideal for them.
Ahern, Emily M. The Cult of the Dead in a Chinese Village. Stanford
University Press, Stanford, California; 1973.
Alitto, S. Guy. The Last Confucian: Liang Shu-ming and the Chinese
Dilemma of Modernity. University of California Press, Berkeley; 1979.
Alexander, G. G. Confucius, the Great Teacher. Kegan Paul, Trench,
Trübner and Co., London; 1980.
Beversluis, Joel. A Source Book for Earth¹s Community of Religion. New
Carmen, John B. and Donald G. Dawe. Christianity Faith In a
Religiously Plural World. Orbis Books, New York; 1978.
Chan, W. T. Religious Trends in Modern China. Columbia University
Press, New York – 1953
Ching, Julia and Hans Küng. Christianity and Chinese Religious.
Doubleday, London – 1988
Clearly, Thomas. The Essential Confucius. Harper, San Fransico; 1992.
Cochrane, Norris Charles. Christianity and Classical Culture. Oxford University Press - London; 1972
Conzlemann, Hans. The History of Primitive Christianity. Abingdon Press, New York – 1973
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