About Religion (3)--Confucianism and Christianity

Anton, a nice and interesting friend, gave me a chance to sort out my thinking about Confucianism and Christianity. It is still vague. As I have said to him, I am really dumb and there are tons of tons of questions that I can not answer. There is an Chinese saying to describe those who are wise and knowledgeable that “explain the profound in simple terms”. I am not able to do that. The only reason is that I am too dumb to understand those myself. I am in awe of the world.

Jesus and Martin Luther rarely appear in philosophical literature and Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel and Marx do not feature prominently in religion. Though Taoism and Confucianism are philosophy not religion, they both represent religious dimension. The religiousness make them different from philosophy of Socrates, Plato etc. By saying that, I made no judgement but illustrated personal understanding of the difference. What complicates the situation is that there are so many intersections.

One of the key issues in Confucian philosophy is the relationship between “Centrality and harmony”. Chinese have been exploring it for centuries and the goal is to cultivate centrality and harmony with thoroughness. But the self-cultivation is by no means a private affair. To quote someone else’s word: “an experience of the original tranquility of human nature is an experience not only of quiescence before the basic feelings are aroused in the psychological sense but also of the ultimate reality, or in Chung-yong’s words, the great foundation of the world, in the ontological sense. Similarly, the harmonization of one’s basic feelings in accordance with the standards of the human community is a manifestation of the path of being human in the ethic-religious sense as well as in the psychosocial. Indeed, the unity of men and heaven (not the heaven in bible) is a fundamental theme that underlies all of Chung-yung’s philosophical articulations.” That is how the last sentence in the passage come: “To cultivate centrality and harmony with thoroughness is the way to bring heaven an earth to their proper place and all things their proper nourishment.” The organismic” version of Chung-yung is a conceptual difficulty. First, Chung-yong asserts that human nature is imparted by Heaven. In this sense, it affirms the belief in a purposive and caring Heaven as the ultimate arbiter of human affairs. Second, Chung-yung also says it is through the understanding of things at hand that Heaven’s true intentions are manifested. So in the view of Chung-yung, the human way is neither theocentric nor anthropocentric. Or in other words, the human way ,originating in Heaven and rooted in the nature of every person, has both metaphysical and psychological significance. As it is said that :”human way points to the mutuality of Heaven and man…….In a strict sense, the relationship between Heaven and man is not that of creator and creature but one of the mutual fidelity; and the only way for man to know Heaven is to penetrate deeply into his own ground of being Consequently, any inquiry into philosophy or religion must begin with a reflection on the problem of man here and now.”

I understand that it is crucial important to realize the gap between God and man. Man as a creature is fundamentally different from God as his ultimate reason for existence. To say that man. by self-effort without a strength of faith, can become one with the Creator is blasphemous in Christian frame work. The separation makes the mode of thinking in Chung-yong radically different from the predominant religious trend in the West.

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