Thursday, April 29, 2010

Confucian Catholicism

"In the 16th and 17th centuries, at the time when the West was torn by cruel wars between Catholics and Protestants, Jesuits.... were arguing from the farthest East that a man could be both Catholic and Confucian," reminds Francesco Sisci — Deeper unity lurks in Confucian embrace. Mr. Sisci writes:
    They were suggesting a path of communion with the Protestants, but were also brooding on something that was exotically different from the European and scholastic tradition, elaborating on the finest differences. The deeper unity of man, suggested in their approach, was a leap of reason for the West that ended only temporarily in the 18th century, when they were ordered to leave China.
The author suggests that "the West need[s] Confucius as much as China d[oes]," referring to "a spiritual need of all men trying not to be separated from one another through tiny and ultimately insignificant cultural distinctions."

Hinting at "a path already envisioned by the Jesuits centuries ago when they tried to bring Catholicism and Confucianism together and failed because some Western cardinals thought their own tradition was being endangered," Mr. Sisci suggests, "In a way, Confucius was a vessel and Christianity the content, they argued, as early Christianity absorbed Greek thought in its early stages, and this helped the understanding and spread of the new religion."

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Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

That last sentence strikes me as precisely right. Just as the Fathers and Scholastics purified Aristotle and Cicero and used the philosophical categories of the Greco-Roman tradition to strengthen the presentation of the Gospel, so too it is possible to look at the great philosophical systems of Asia for principles and ideas to assist Christian thinkers in presenting the Gospel to the modern world.

C.S. Lewis, btw, anticipated this move in his book The Abolition of Man, where he used Taoism as a paradigm of natural law reasoning.

11:09 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Indeed. I loved Lewis's use of the Tao, which, of course, means the Way, which is what the Church first called herself. You might find Hieromonk Damascene's Christ the Eternal Tao interesting.

9:09 AM  

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