Christianity · philosophy · religion

Why it’s best not to bow to the teachings of the Tao

Yin and Yang symbolTaoism, an ancient Chinese religious philosophy, is growing in popularity although it’s followers are still small in number compared to Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. The “Tao” in Taoism mean “the way” or “the path” and its main doctrinal text is the Tao Te Chingwhich was written in the late 4th century BC. It’s a collection of sayings primarily from two Chinese philosophers–Lao Tzu (the founder) and Chuang-Tzu (who added his writings to Lao Tzu).

The Taoist religion is one of many Eastern mystic philosophies and the “Tao” basically refers to “the true nature of the universe, which lies beyond our full grasp and beyond capture by mere language … the source of everything that exists and the driving force behind the universe.”

Here are a few of its doctrines compared to the doctrines of the Bible:

■ According to Taoism, the Tao is of unknown origin and existed before God–“I do not know whose son it is. It might appear to have been before God,” (Tao Te Ching chap. 4). This denies the idea God has always existed.
■ The Bible says all things that exist were created by God and that God is from everlasting to everlasting–he has always existed (Psalm 90:2; Colossians 1:16; Rev. 4:11).

■ When the Tao had no name, it was the “the Originator of heaven and earth,” and when it had a name, it was “the Mother of all things,” (Tao Te Ching chap. 1).
■ The Bible says God is the Creator of heaven and earth and everything in them, that he has always had a name, and that he is the Father, not the Mother (Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 45:18; Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 63:16).

■ In order to be harmonious with the Tao, one must fulfill wu wei, which is  the idea of allowing Tao to have its way by one’s nonaction–meeting goals without effort, in harmony with the natural universe, thereby discouraging the idea of competing or striving (Tao Te Ching chap. 8, 48). However, this concept in Taoism is contradictory since it encourages individuals to take action and effort to understand and implement Tao. It teaches against competing and striving, yet by purporting that it is “the path” to harmony on Earth, it automatically competes and strives against all other philosophies–a glaring contradiction that violates the law of noncontradiction.
■ The Bible teaches that life, by default, will have competition and striving and that we should compete and strive when they glorify God (Luke 13:24; Romans 15:20; Ephesians 6:12). Competition and striving can be positive when they are used to justifiably preserve or enhance one’s life (e.g. hunting to eat, applying for a job, etc.).

■ Taoist philosophy teaches that yin and yang are two necessary opposite yet complementary forces in the universe. Yin is dark, negative, evil, and feminine. Yang is light, positive, good, and masculine. Their interaction maintains harmony in the universe (Tao Te Ching chap. 42).
■ The Bible says that evil, or spiritual darkness, should be resisted and that it is the cause of disharmony in the universe. The Bible also says light will one day destroy the darkness to restore the universe back to the harmonious state it was meant to have (John 8:12; Eph. 5:8; 2 Thess. 2:8; 1 John 1:5).

■ Taoism teaches that the ruling sage (ascended master) must discourage his people from acquiring knowledge to keep things in their proper order–“Therefore the sage, in the exercise of his government, empties their minds, fills their bellies, weakens their wills, and strengthens their bones. He constantly (tries to) keep them without knowledge and without desire, and where there are those who have knowledge, to keep them from presuming to act (on it). When there is this abstinence from action, good order is universal,” (Tao Te Ching chap. 3). (This sounds like churches I’ve attended in the past where pastors tried to keep the laity ignorant.)
■ According to the Bible, lack of proper knowledge among the people is what causes disorder, so God encouraged his people to acquire proper knowledge to spiritually strengthen themselves and their society (Prov. 18:15; Eccl. 12:9; Hosea 4:6; James 3:13; 2 Pet. 1:5).

Sources:

Wikipedia, Taoism.

Tao Te Ching, translated by James Legge, 1891, www.sacred-texts.com.

Antonia Blumberg, Lessons From The Ancient Chinese Text You Never Knew You Needed, Huffington Post, November 24, 2015.

Harry A. Gaylord

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One thought on “Why it’s best not to bow to the teachings of the Tao

  1. Although I know this is a summary, there are some misconceptions (perhaps due to it being a summary of a summary?):

    First, I’d like to say that Zhuangzi derives his work from Laozi but does not add to Taoism, that is, he furthers it. I’ve read the Zhuangzi, but not the Tao Te Ching, so my understanding will be from Zhuangzi. The Tao is boundless, so defining it with words leads you far off the mark of what it is. Sure, you can approximate it, but one who approximates it show that he does not fully understand the Tao; and if he does not fully understand the Tao, how can he provide an approximation of the Tao without it being inaccurate? Of course one can approximate it, acknowledging the lack of understanding, for the sake of other men.
    I see many “contradictions”, or more accurately paradoxes, in the Zhuangzi, such as act with inaction, the greatest understanding is when it cannot be expressed in words, the distinction between things when nondistinction is taught, the writing of the book itself, etc. Yet, one of the points of the Zhuangzi is to show that language bounds things and doesn’t establish clarity. So one is supposed to read it by looking past the superficial ideas towards the meaning being expressed. This makes for some interpretation, though, and that interpretation can be very different from others’ interpretation. If you’d like to see the concept of acting with inaction more clearly, read the chapter in Zhuangzi called “In the world of men,” or feel free to read the summary of philosophical Taoism here: https://taopracticed.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/our-understanding-of-the-zhuangzi/

    Liked by 1 person

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