Introducing World Religions

A Christian Engagement

Materials available for professors by request only


6. Taoism and Confucianism

Discussion Questions

  1. Compare and contrast the Chinese and Christian views of creation and history.
  2. Chinese “religion” is not immediately accessible because there is no specific term equivalent to “religion.” However, Tao means “way,” which communicates a broader understanding of “religion” than mere doctrines or practices. In what ways is Christianity a “way” rather than a “religion,” as generally defined by Western scholars?
  3. Feng shui discerns the proper harmony of vital energies. Are there features of Christianity that display a similar recognition of energies? Related to this, many Christians in the West are incorporating Chinese herbal medicines and acupuncture into their healthcare. Would there be any similarity between the Holy Spirit and the energy of the universe?
  4. During China’s Axial Age, massive changes impacted Chinese society and culture. What kinds of changes occurred during that time in China? Describe the changes that are occurring in China today (e.g., economics, culture, religion) and how might Chinese traditional philosophies be reconfigured due to those changes?
  5. Compare the concept of Tao and the biblical notion of God. What similarities and differences do you see between Tao and God? Some have claimed that Jesus Christ can best be seen in East Asia as the incarnation of the Tao. What do you think? What are the contributions of this perspective and what are the drawbacks?
  6. In Chinese religion and philosophy, stability and change in the universe—in both small and large ways—is considered a result of the interaction and fluctuation of the forces of yin and yang. Describe the kinds of changes resulting from the interaction of these fundamental, complementary forces. How do Christians understand stability and change—that is, is there a particularly “Christian” understanding regarding stability and change?
  7. Yin and yang forces are not to be seen as “good vs. evil.” Rather, balance is “good” and imbalance is “evil.” That said, considering this insight, how might Christians affirm that God dwells in both the “light” and “dark” and even in emptiness?
  8. Describe the characteristics of the Tao, as communicated in the Tao Te Ching. Compare and contrast these characteristics with Christian virtues. For instance, might there be any common features between wu-wei and Christian faith and action?
  9. Would it be possible to be both Confucian and Christian at the same time? When comparing Confucianism and Christianity, what similar and dissimilar virtues can you identify? Also, Confucians believed that leaders (junzi) should be knowledgeable as well as virtuous. How might the junzi concept be positively applied today?
  10. Thinking about Confucianism applied to the modern West, what are some of the positive and negative features of the insights on equal and hierarchical social relationships?