Defense of Taoism

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by Ben Huot

www.benjamin-newton.com

November 5, 2021

person in corn maze

My Defense

I have united the major philosophical schools of Christian Existentialism and Philosophical Taoism although I still am a born again Bible believing Christian. This is a defense of my philosophy, my studies, and writing for several decades. I do not care what you think but I think it worthwhile to explain as it brings up some important problems in the church which come up naturally in a serious defense of my position.

I believed that it is hard to say that Christianity is the best religion if you have not read, understand, respect, and learned from other belief systems. So I studied and wrote about major world belief systems for several decades. I believe this has made me a better Christian as my faith is stronger and I am not easily swayed by hearing about challenges to my faith.

I never practiced any religion other than Christianity and I never considered giving up my faith or converting to another religion. I think Philosophical Taoism is a closer fit for Christianity than the Enlightenment or ancient Greek thinkers like Aristotle and Plato.

My unique perspective can be described as being Taoist philosophically but I never changed my theological or philosophical views. It just describes how my mind and personality naturally understand the world in technical terms.

I have found similar ethics to Christianity in Philosophical Taoism. Furthermore many ideas that I previously believed like paradoxical interpretations of Scripture where I believe in both sides of most major splits in the Church can be explained better through Taoist concepts.

It makes Christians seem willfully ignorant, intellectually lazy, and open to all sorts of bad doctrine to not study philosophy. This is an American and somewhat European thing, not historically a Christian thing. Christians studied other cultures and other belief systems for evangelical and cultural reasons for centuries. Furthermore it is almost impossible to study Asian history without studying religion and philosophy as the exact same writings often are classics in many different academic disciplines. I first studied Taoism in a college level Chinese Literature class.

Technical Details

Philosophical Taoism is not about a road to heaven and is not meant to be a religion. It is a revival of an earlier method of ruling China, a system of ethics based on humility and compassion, and takes the philosophy of the I Ching minus the religious aspects.

It is considered acceptable to take the parts you like of an Indian or Chinese Philosophy or Religion but not other parts you don’t like. This concept forms the basis of well know and respected belief systems like Zen Buddhism, Neo-Confucianism, Sikhism, Tibetan Buddhism, and many aspects of Hinduism after the Vedas.

As a side note, which really confuses the issue, is that there is a form of Taoism called Religious or Esoteric Taoism which is the traditional Chinese folk religion. This is basically a form of animism but adding many other elements as well. Philosophical Taoism is based on the I Ching minus the religion but Religious Taoism adds back in a religious element.

It pays to really understand your subject and I do not recommend every Christian read about Asian philosophy and religion as there are other forms of animism that are mixed into the practices. The vast majority of traditional Chinese philosophy and literature deal almost solely with Philosophical Taoism.

Religious Taoism is a much later development in Chinese history in about the European Dark Ages. Most of the texts are still only in Chinese and I have not read any of them or any other form of animism. Philosophical Taoism started as we now know it at the time of Aristotle and when Buddhism started in India.

Examples of Cultural Confusion

One of the things that limited the Gospel in China was that the Catholic Pope said at the time of the Ming Dynasty that the Christians in China could not take part in Confucian rituals. Again, they assume the word ritual means religious when it has not been religious for thousands of years even at the time of the European Renaissance. Even at the time of Confucius the rituals mean the same in Europe as manners and had no religious meaning for at least hundreds of years prior. The emperor understood the difference between animism and humanism very well and could not accept that kind of ridiculous confusion of the pope between totally different things.

Recently the Eastern Orthodox Church banned Yoga because they mixed up the Yoga which is a path to Enlightenment with western gymnastics and stretching exercises. Yet churches have no trouble having kids hunt for easter eggs or put up Christmas trees which were used solely for pagan rituals until much more recently.

Historical Church Synchronism

Early Christians in the Roman Empire synchronized Christianity with Greek Philosophy where we get doctrines like the confusing explanation of the trinity, scholasticism (where people understand the Bible through reason first and faith second), and the Protestant Reformation which led to a deterioration in the authority of the church and the Bible culminating in the Enlightenment and later Nationalism and Colonialism.

Whereas Taoism does not define who God is Plato argues for Gnosticism which is based on the idea that the devil created the world, Jesus being God but not Man, and that we are saved by secret knowledge. The Gnostic Scriptures are literally later additions to the Bible that contradict the Old and New Testament canons. Augustine was a Manichean which is a form of Gnosticism before he converted to Christianity.

What to Remember

It pays to really understand your subject and I do not recommend every Christian read about Asian philosophy and religion as there are other forms of animism that are mixed into the practices. Things are more complicated than you can explain in a soundbite. Most Christians soon realize Christianity is very complex, subtle, and vaste. Different people even Bible believing Christians have vastly different ideas about the Bible even in important doctrines.

So the other major world religions do not need to be totally avoided or totally embraced but just like a medical doctor or a scientist is especially careful with certain things, so a theologian or philosopher needs to be as well. What you hear in the popular media and popular culture is at best poorly reasoned and ultra simplified. Most serious news outlets now cost more money than most people feel they are willing to pay. Professional writers and serious journalists need to eat too and most people cannot afford to do all that in their spare time.

The introduction of Eastern philosophy occurred mostly during and because of the major wars we fought there in World War 2 and the Cold War. Most Americans are only interested in other nations in as much as we fought them in a war. The media and Hollywood mixed things up considerably in their effort to mass market it and use it as a method of spreading their own ideology.

Bottom Line

Once someone comes up with an interesting cultural idea the first response of Hollywood and the media is to make money on it by making it mainstream. Look no further than the media's representation of the Church and Christians. Most Americans have traditionally had a very poor understanding or appreciation of anything outside business and now math and science.

Think of it this way. The marketer's questions are this: How can this belief system make money as it is or how do we need to change it to make money? Does Yoga as a path to enlightenment make us money or can exercise make us money by being themed as Hindu?

Think of it another way. What is easier to do and more exciting - exercising or being a moral person? You also need to make things different enough but not too different to sell them. Exercise with a twist of Asia sound just similar enough and just different enough to market well amongst Americans.

The reason the media and Hollywood hate Christianity so much as it works against their business and ideological interests. The values of Christianity and the insistence on sticking to doctrine are very corrosive to the idea of getting people to buy things to make their lives easier. Christianity is not new and it is not easy. This is a marketing nightmare.