What Are the Commonalities Between Confucianism & Christianity?

Category: Culture & Society

What Are the Commonalities Between Confucianism & Christianity?

Confucianism is a system of thought and a way of life that, for two and a half millennia, has had a huge influence on the cultural, religious and political development of China, as well as of Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Christianity is a world religion, which, over the past two thousand years, has had an enormous impact in shaping Western culture. Though two paths have significant differences, they share, above all, a concern with how humans should treat each other.

Jesus and Confucius; the Founders of Christianity and Confucianism

  • Both Confucianism and Christianity are called after their originators, though both religions have been substantially shaped by their followers over the succeeding centuries. The traditional dates for the life of Confucius are 551 to 480 B.C., while scholars believe that Jesus lived between 6 B.C. and A.D. 37. Miraculous stories about the life of both teachers are important elements of the tradition about them, including stories of a miraculous birth. Central teachings of Christianity and Confucianism can be found in collections of the sayings and works of their respective founders, collated by followers and published after their deaths. In the case of Confucius, we have the Lunyu, or Analects, while accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus are in the Gospels.

Ren and Agape

  • “Ren” is a concept central to Confucianism; it can be translated as humanity, compassion or social virtue, and it sums up the loving and considerate attitude and behavior with which people should treat each other. Ren has been compared to the Christian concept of “agape,” a Greek word encapsulating the selfless love that God shows to his people, and that people, in return, should show both to God and one another.

The Golden Rule

  • The Golden Rule is a teaching which can be found, in some form, within most belief systems, and expresses the ethical ideal that we should treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves. Several of Confucius’ sayings, including, “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others,” embody this principle, which is expressed in Jesus’ teaching, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Religious Beliefs; Tian and God

  • Confucianism has little emphasis on the concept of God, compared to Christianity. It is a philosophy grounded in the idea that human beings should work to perfect themselves and do good to others in order to live well on earth, rather than depend on a deity or preoccupy themselves with an afterlife. Confucius does, however, identify “Tian” -- heaven -- as the supreme source of goodness and morality. Confucius believed that he enjoyed the special favor of Tian, and that Tian had a special destiny for him, which, by the age of 50, he claimed to have unraveled.

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