Confucianism and Christianity

M. Douglas McKinney
Philosophy of Religion

The premise of Confucian teachings are centered around the idea of Jen
or the ³virtue of humanity (Ching 68).² 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 (Hopfe). 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 ³
cultivated 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 (Ess ed. 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 (O\'Briére).
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 one\'s 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).²
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
individuals 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: