One of my favorite things about teaching World Religions from a Christian perspective is the opportunity to compare and contrast each religion with Christianity. When comparing a belief system with Christianity I believe it’s important to be as fair as possible. After all, Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
While there are many differences with Taoism and Christianity, in this post I want to highlight a major similarity in their teachings.
Before we get to that similarity, here are a few basic facts about Taoism:
- Founded by Lao Tzu in China around 500 B.C.
- Lao Tzu wrote the basic text of Taoism called the Tao Te Ching
- According to Taoism, the key to life is living in harmony with Tao.
- Tao = the Way of nature. Tao is the source and sustenance of everything, but it is not a personal creator.
- Tao is composed of two equal yet opposite components which are in complete harmony with one another—yin and yang.
- The yang is the strong, positive, active, competitive, and masculine side (it’s the light side in the symbol).
- The yin is the weak, negative, passive, noncompetitive, and feminine side (it’s the
ark side of the symbol).
- The yang has a little bit of the yin and the yin has a little bit of the yang, so ultimately, everything is relative.
According to Taoism, our problem is that we are imbalanced. We practice far too much yang. The solution is to be more yin by practicing humility, noncompetition, and pacificism. We must practice more weakness.
Okay, now for a striking similarity between Taoism and Christianity. In chapter 78 of the Tao Te Ching, we find these words:
“Nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water
Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong
This is because nothing can replace it
That the weak overcomes the strong
And the soft overcomes the hard
Everybody in the world knows
But cannot put into practice
Therefore sages say: The one who accepts the humiliation of the state
Is called its master
The one who accepts the misfortune of the state
Becomes king of the world
The truth seems like the opposite”
Remember those words were written in China five centuries before Jesus! Five hundred years later in a Roman prison, Paul wrote:
“have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:5-11)
The weak truly overcame the strong. And the one who accepted the ultimate humiliation of the state became king of the world. It seems that God gave a witness of us his ways in China long before Jesus lived.