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AletheiaRivers

Christianity And Taoism

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This is a quote from a blog I found when doing a net search on "Christian Taoist". The writer is a vicar in the Church of England.

 

I actually think God is dynamic, alive, and apart from being above time (which is a bit hard for me to get my head round) must also therefore be capable of change in some sense. I need to think that he is interested in what I might do because it is possible for him to be surprised and delighted by it, as he sees how this unique work of art he has created in me, turns out. This seems to me to be far more pastorally useful, and consoling, than the idea that somewhere out there / up there, is a Being who is above and outside of change.

 

It seems to me the Taoists have got it worked out better, with their doctrine that the only permanent thing is change, and that there's a constant dance of yin and yang which moves the universe, and as soon as things reach one extreme, they already include the seed of the change to move back to the other.

 

As a 'Christian Taoist', I want to assert that the Triune God is that dance of change. We have nothing to fear from change, or resist in it (or seek restlessly in it, either), because the dance and the stillness is God. We are caught up in it whether we choose or not. So let go! Move with the dance! Let the rhythm and the music take you and move you, in their enchanting, enchanted flow.

 

Any thoughts?

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Hmm...

 

I suppose if I accept the notion that God went from being formless into manifesting himself as a relative universe on his own free will, then I would have to accept the possibility of a dynamic God.

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Fatherman! I've missed you. :)

 

I used to accept the classic philosophical notion of changlessness being necessary for God to be God without even batting an eye. It was what was taught in church, so it HAD to be true.

 

Now I can't understand the idea of changelessness. I wonder how something can BE changeless?

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Only book re Taoism I have is the one by Alan Watts, "Tao: the Watercourse Way."

This thread prompted me to review it again and be reminded how much Taoist thought resembled Chan/Zen Buddhism and vice versa, (supposedly introduction of Buddhism into China was falvored by pre-exisitng Taoism). Here's a quote from the book from Chuang-tzu:

 

"The Tao has reality and evidence, but no action and no form. It may be transmitted but cannot be received. It may be attained but cannot be seen. It exists by and through itself. It existed before heaven and earth, and indeed for all eternity. It causes the gods to be divine and the world to be produced. It is above the zenith, but not high. It is beneath the nadir, but it is not low. Though prior to heaven and earth, it is not ancient. Though older than the most ancient, it is not old."

 

Love the metaphor of water as re to spirituality be it Tao as "watercourse Way" or Thomas Moore's quoting Heraclitus' notion of "Panta rei-" everything flows. All good descriptors for me perhaps not so much of the Divine but of "right relationship" with the Divine.

 

"Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:14

 

I think that when we "Panta rei" with the "Tao," we're in the "God" flow-simultaneously timeless and eternally flowing, motionless and moving; more attuned with the rhythms of the Divine. Take care, Earl

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Any of you read "The Universe Story" by Brian Swimme? He talks about the universe making changes-- billions of years pass and the universe goes from formless to having form, then goes from particles to atoms, etc.

 

I'm not one claiming the universe IS God, but if the universe changes like that maybe it is God that is changing as well.

 

I'm not bothered by a changing God...

 

--des

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This is the stuff that I find both fascinating and intuitively sensible. I do not know much about taoism but am given to understand that zen and tao do share a lot of common wisdom. The idea of a changing God, or perhaps a God that manifests, in one way, as change, is not problematic for me.

 

In zen it is suggested that nothing is permanent, all is changing all the time. If we posit a God that includes all of creation, I don't see how it can be any other way except that this God is changing, too.

 

Perhaps we're too quick to assign the dualistic qualities of good and bad to the idea of permanence/impermanence.

 

I think many people tend to feel that a permanent quality of some sort would be "good"... that is to say, it would provide some sort of haven from the unpredictibility of life. Yet, I have found that when things are really observed, I am hard pressed to find a single thing that is not subject to change.

 

Accepting that change is perhaps the only true constant means accepting that, like it or not, we really do walk our respective paths in uncertainty, with no real permanent thing to attach to.

 

I think that, perhaps, this desire for permanence is what happens to religions as they evolve. We want to codify tradition into some set of unchanging rules and forms, because we feel that if we have something to hold on to that doesn't change, we'll find or create a safety zone in that religious practice.

 

So we build up institutions to try to clarify what "should be" and to establish rules and protocols with the assumption that there can exist some really True and unchanging Truth that is the same from all perspectives, throughout time. These rules and protocols become ossified, etched into stone, accepted unquestioningly. We seek a safe haven in them and in so doing we shun the unfolding, everchanging experience of living that is available to us right now, in every moment.

 

Okay, I'm rambling here... just some thoughts on impermanence and change which came to mind today as I read this thread.

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"and that there's a constant dance of yin and yang which moves the universe, and as soon as things reach one extreme, they already include the seed of the change to move back to the other."

 

The quote was from:

http://www.godspell.org.uk/2004/10/eternal...gelessness.html

 

What a great website!

 

Huston Smith book, The World's Relgions, says that if Taoism sounds very much like Zen, it should; for Buddhism processed through Taoism became Zen. (pg 216)

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The dynamic aspect of God (A God who risks) is something discussed in the Openness Theology. Read some of Dr. Greg Boyd's works. He is an evangelical but has had a rough ride from his evangelical brethern who see it as akin to heresy. I am exploring Openness Theology and see it as closer to what we actually experience than traditional Arminian and Calvinist explanations. There are many aspects that would appeal to a Progressive. Boyd gets away from the blue print model of traditional theology, which he sees as heavy Greek philosophical infuences on early Christian (and later), thought.

 

North

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1. I like Greg Boyd's works.

 

2. A possible similarity between Christianity and Taoism, IMO, is the "negative theology" of the Eastern Orthodox Church; i.e. their "apophatic" notion that God cannot really be defined by humans. Such a notion is akin to the beginning of the Tao Te Ching where it says "The tao that can be named/defined is not the tao."

 

; )

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That said, one major difference is that the Taoist way of least resistance (wu-wei) is the opposite of Jesus' Way of the Cross; i.e. the way of self-sacrificial love.

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I haven't read any of Boyd's books yet (just some online stuff), but he still on my "to read" list. :)

 

I'm struck by the idea that Jesus' death, as an act of self-sacrificing love, may have been the path of least resistance. He could have run, he could have hidden, he could have fought, but he didn't. He (in that instance at least) was a passivist. He went with "the flow". He put his "fate" in the hands of the authorities and let them take him where they wanted.

 

I'm not trying to marry Taoism to Christianity. I do see the fundamental differences in the philosophies, but still ...

 

Any thoughts?

Edited by AletheiaRivers

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That said, one major difference is that the Taoist way of least resistance (wu-wei) is the opposite of Jesus' Way of the Cross; i.e. the way of self-sacrificial love.

 

I think today's offering at dailyzen -- http://www.dailyzen.com -- offers us a way to integrate these two seemingly opposite positions:

 

Calm in quietude is not real calm;

when you can be calm in the midst of activity,

this is the true state of nature.

Happiness in comfort is not real happiness;

when you can be happy in the midst of hardship,

then you see the true potential of the mind.

 

- Huanchu Daoren

 

Zen Buddhism integrates Buddhism with the Tao.

 

I believe Jesus achieved this state of mind and teaches us to seek that state of mind.

 

I don't believe that Jesus tried to end up on that cross. The authorities saw him as a threat. He was simply being authentic in the same way that Tao and Zen and Progressive Christian and other Wise Masters are authentic.

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I don't think that Jesus "was trying" to get nailed to the cross, but He knew full well what the likely consequences of His radical actions would be. IMO, instead of seeking a way of harmony and least resistance, He chose a path of great resistance - with defiance even.

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more food for thought:

 

Taoism and Christianity - Probe Ministries

Are Taoism and Christianity compatible? The author says that even though there

are some similarities, Christianity's uniqueness remains separate from all ...

www.probe.org/content/view/892/0/ - 43k - C

 

Fast Facts on Christianity - ReligionFacts.com

Chart showing major similarities and differences between Christianity and the

... comparison charts on Christianity, compare similarities and differences ...

www.religionfacts.com/christianity/charts.htm - 39k -

 

Zen and the Art of Digression: Faith and Taoism

So this exchange got me to thinking about the similarities and differences ...

I suspect that one thing Christianity and Taoism can agree on is this: We do ...

zendigress.blogspot.com/2005/09/faith-and-taoism.html -

 

Taoism, religions in China, Tao, dualism, yin and yang, tai chi ...

Christian compare and contrast style site about Taoism.

religion-cults.com/Eastern/Taoism/taoism.htm - 19k -

 

Similarities of all Religions

Christianity: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, ...

Taoism, Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as ...

biblia.com/theology/religions.htm - 42k

 

Taoism, Confucianism and Christianity

Informations about the relation between Taoism, Konfucianism and Christianity.

... In this additional page we go into the similarities and differences ...

www.ways-of-christ.net/topics/taoism.htm -

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Thanks for the links Rog. I especially liked what the author of the blog had to say:

 

One of the tenants of philosophical Taoism is balance: To be balanced one should not dwell on depression, discouragement, or bad things to the point where they rob us of the ability to act. Moreover, the counter is equally as important. That is, when we encounter something that appears to be an advantage one should not get carried away with ecstatic excitement--especially to the point where we become blind to the bad which may be hiding in the advantageous.

 

According to the Tao Te Ching: Misfortune is what fortune depends upon. Fortune is where misfortune hides beneath. Naturally, the story of Sai Ong's son illustrates this notion.

 

Perhaps a better example for the Western mind is the notion of moderation. Without moderation, life can be series of extremes--a series of highs and lows. One moment you are high on success; the next you crash and burn. According to Taoism, nothing can survive long by going to extremes. Once you realize this, instead of non-stop highs and lows that are out of control, life becomes a series of gentle rolling hills. The extreme ups and downs become the exceptions, not the rule.

 

Comparitive religion is somewhat of a hoby of mine and I give credit to that interest in bringing me back to Christianity, because in my studies, I found Christianity to hold the most "truth", both philosophically and theologically.

 

I appreciate much of Taoism and Zen and think that they have alot to offer philosophically. The Zen concept of life being a journey that we shouldn't miss because we are so focused on a destination, is something I try to remind myself of regularly. Stop and smell the roses, in other words. Much of Christianity is "gotta get to heaven ... gotta survive God's war ... gotta avoid hell ... " Those are interpretations of the Bible that miss the point, imo.

 

I hold to a modified Christus Victor view of the cross. (I don't think Jesus was a legalistic, judicial style, ransom, propitiatory sacrifice for my sins.) I do think Jesus' death was a snub at the authorities (both material and immaterial) and a defiant snub at death. I think the resurrection has as much to teach us about the meaning of Jesus as his death did, and I think his life example, of course, is just as important as the other two. :)

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Today's post at www.dailyzen.com is again pertinent IMO.

 

One who has attained the Tao

is master of herself,

and the universe is

dissolved for her.

Throw her in the company

of the noisy and the dirty,

and she will be like a lotus flower

growing from muddy water,

touched by it,

yet unstained.

- T'u Lung

 

Again, I see a common approach in the Tao and Jesus. Resistance, even defiance, is appropriate to the forces of the universe which are not authentic. Resistance or defiance toward God (or the authentic forces of the universe) is not a good idea. If my memory serves me right, the Tao is aimed at Chinese leaders who have armies and will use those armies with the blessing of the Tao Masters! The issue is timing and making sure that those armies are not used in self-defeating ways (US in Viet Nam, Iraq etc.). So, the Tao teachers are certainly not opposed to resistance and defiance. They teach that timing is everything. Sounds like Jesus to me.

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Some forms of Christianity are highly Hellenized, i.e. assimilated Aristotles notions of an "unmoved mover" (omnipotence, omniscience, etc..)

 

However, there are more open-minded schools of thought within Christianity, e.g.;

 

Denver Journal - 5:0301 - Most Moved Mover. A Theology of God's ...Denver Journal - 5:0301 - Most Moved Mover. A Theology of God's Openness.

www.denverseminary.edu/dj/articles2002/0300/0301.php -

 

Amazon.com: Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God's Openness (The ...Amazon.com: Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God's Openness (The Didsbury Lectures): Books by Clark H. Pinnock.

www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ tg/detail/-/0801022908?v=glance

amazon.com review

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Guys!

 

Take a look at Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Tao Te Ching from the mid 80's. I believe that you've all been dancing around the issue here, but his translation intuitively presents a poetic physics treatise on attaining natural balances in a continuing process that is also dynamic. He addresses these foundational elements of our world with simple and elegant language.

 

flow.... :)

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Spiritual harmony may be hidden from us for a while, but it cannot be taken away because sooner or later we will have the ability to see through this illusion of duality and materiality. We only need to acknowledge God’s presence and our spiritual sense will awaken our original, eternal self to God’s rhythm and the harmony that is operating undisturbed. Turning from material beliefs to spiritual beliefs changes our perspective and reveals the ever-present divine Love that I like to call pure consciousness. Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and others point the way. For pure consciousness one may substitute, Tao or God the Father.

 

God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. He is in the history and science of the world and in every aspect of the universe on all levels of existence from the simplest life forms to the most advanced. To discover God in everything our minds must play a vital part. We need to use the wealth of our scientific discoveries, be conscious of their limitations and attempt to bring an outlook to society that stands up to the problems of life. God is in the world in these problems and differences, He just wants us to be tested and transform these problems into good. We must face up to and make conscious the ills of society so we can solve them and see pure consciousness, the inner source of life moving through and around obstacles from the inorganic to the organic, from the organic to the mind and forward from the mind to the soul. The pure consciousness within will show us that God is not far removed from us, but with us in the here and now. Jesus also said this when he gave us the saying; The Kingdom of God is within.

 

All that exists in this world from the vast universe down to the minutest atom exists in God so only the form changes. God the Father is the eternal witness seeing everything inwardly, and in reference to us he sees everything internally and externally through our eyes. Pure consciousness pervades everything and is the linking force of all that is. Therefore, our duty is to expand our minds and make contact with this force that maintains our life. The force that maintains our life is the same consciousness that controls the stars and the planets in the universe. This happens through the law's of nature and as we know the pull of gravity. Man's true knowledge of himself; therefore, includes the external knowledge of everything or the universe. With this knowledge that we are part of something larger than ourselves, we form a silent partnership with God so His pure consciousness guides us in every way. Divine Intelligence flows, inspires, guides and enables us to take and put more back into life. All we have to do is to recognize that pure consciousness exists and accept its action in our lives. I hope I didn't bore you, but I love this stuff.

 

http://thinkunity.com

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This is the stuff that I find both fascinating and intuitively sensible.  I do not know much about taoism but am given to understand that zen and tao do share a lot of common wisdom.  The idea of a changing God, or perhaps a God that manifests, in one way, as change, is not problematic for me. 

 

In zen it is suggested that nothing is permanent, all is changing all the time.  If we posit a God that includes all of creation, I don't see how it can be any other way except that this God is changing, too.

 

Perhaps we're too quick to assign the dualistic qualities of good and bad to the idea of permanence/impermanence. 

 

I think many people tend to feel that a permanent quality of some sort would be "good"... that is to say, it would provide some sort of haven from the unpredictibility of life.  Yet, I have found that when things are really observed, I am hard pressed to find a single thing that is not subject to change. 

 

Accepting that change is perhaps the only true constant means accepting that, like it or not, we really do walk our respective paths in uncertainty, with no real permanent thing to attach to. 

 

I think that, perhaps, this desire for permanence is what happens to religions as they evolve.  We want to codify tradition into some set of unchanging rules and forms, because we feel that if we have something to hold on to that doesn't change, we'll find or create a safety zone in that religious practice. 

 

So we build up institutions to try to clarify what "should be" and to establish rules and protocols with the assumption that there can exist some really True and unchanging Truth that is the same from all perspectives, throughout time.  These rules and protocols become ossified, etched into stone, accepted unquestioningly.  We seek a safe haven in them and in so doing we shun the unfolding, everchanging experience of living that is available to us right now, in every moment. 

 

Okay, I'm rambling here... just some thoughts on impermanence and change which came to mind today as I read this thread.

 

Lolly, I love your rambling. You can ramble here all you want as far as I am concerned.

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This is a quote from a blog I found when doing a net search on "Christian Taoist". The writer is a vicar in the Church of England.

 

I actually think God is dynamic, alive, and apart from being above time (which is a bit hard for me to get my head round) must also therefore be capable of change in some sense. I need to think that he is interested in what I might do because it is possible for him to be surprised and delighted by it, as he sees how this unique work of art he has created in me, turns out. This seems to me to be far more pastorally useful, and consoling, than the idea that somewhere out there / up there, is a Being who is above and outside of change.

 

It seems to me the Taoists have got it worked out better, with their doctrine that the only permanent thing is change, and that there's a constant dance of yin and yang which moves the universe, and as soon as things reach one extreme, they already include the seed of the change to move back to the other.

 

As a 'Christian Taoist', I want to assert that the Triune God is that dance of change. We have nothing to fear from change, or resist in it (or seek restlessly in it, either), because the dance and the stillness is God. We are caught up in it whether we choose or not. So let go! Move with the dance! Let the rhythm and the music take you and move you, in their enchanting, enchanted flow.

 

Any thoughts?

 

 

Hi Aletheia,

 

 

I enjoyed your post...especially the part where you said"the dance and the stillness is God". Some wise person said,"Stillness is the ONLY voice of our God".

I am truly coming to believe that, because I find myself more and more retreating

into that silence as my form of prayer. As I pray,I notice that I use much fewer words....and just listen.

 

Blessings,

 

 

Jerryb

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I wish I could take credit for that beautiful line, but alas it was actually a quote from a blog I found a while ago.

 

Is is how I see God though: A dance of opposites that rely on each other for their existence, which are not two however, but one. Duality in unity that make up a trinity. I think we are called to join that dance, both now and after death.

 

I listen to the silence too. I listen for the dance, the heartbeat of God, both without and within myself as well.

 

Sheesh, listen to me. I'm waxing poetic. :rolleyes:

Edited by AletheiaRivers

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