confucianism-I-text.doc - CONFUCIAN-CHRISTIAN DIALOGUE From...

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CONFUCIAN-CHRISTIAN DIALOGUE From Leonard Swidler, After the Absolute . St. Paul, MN: Fortress Press, 1990) 1. Chinese Religions Besides the major world religions stemming from the Near East, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the major world religions flowing from India, Hinduism and Buddhism, two other major world religions, Confucianism and Taoism, arise from another central source of human cultures, namely, China. Just as Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism have spread far beyond their geographical and cultural origins, so also did Confucianism and Taoism spread beyond the borders of China into the whole East Asian area, including Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia. Hans Küng, with warrant, characterizes this third major stream of world religions as [email protected] religions, in contrast to the [email protected] religions of the Near East and the [email protected] religions of India, realizing of course that all the religions contain elements of all three characteristics. 1 This characteristic of the sage as the great model being held up for all to strive toward is particularly true, of course, of Confucianism; Taoism, in fact, tends rather toward a more mystical direction. In any case, partly because Confucianism has been so dominant for so long in China and has wielded such a profound influence in the rest of East Asia, I will concentrate here on the Christian dialogue with Confucianism. Another reason for doing so is that Confucianism appears to be a more concrete, [email protected] religious phenomenon than Taoism. Then there is the very important reality that there has in fact been launched in a very self-conscious way a Christian- Confucian dialogue. 2 Why should this be? Julia Ching goes so far as to say that she considers AConfucianism to be more compatible with Christianity than is Buddhism, because of a more pronounced, shared ethical concern. Besides, Confucianism does not lack spiritual depth .... Like Christianity, Confucianism possesses both an >inwardness.=... Confucianism has also a definite vertical dimension, rooted in its openness to the [email protected] 3 It should also be recalled here that there are in fact three major Chinese religions: Confu- cianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Even though the latter was imported from China, perhaps beginning in the first century of the Common Era, after several centuries of intense missionary work and major adaptations to the Chinese culture, Buddhism was accepted by a major part of the Chinese (Han) people. In this regard it was different from the other major religions that came into China from the outside, such as Judaism, Islam and Christianity, for none of 1 Hans Küng & Julia Ching, Christentum und Chinesische Religion (Munich: Piper Verlag, 1988), pp. 11ff. 2 June 8-15, 1988, there was held the first International Christian-Confucian Conference in Hong Kong. Well over a hundred scholars from China, elsewhere in East Asia and from the West attended, each of them having written a scholarly paper for the occasion. The conference was felt to be such a success that plans were immediately launched to continue the international conferences.
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