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Taoism or Daoism

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

The Chinese culture has been strongly influenced by Taoism and on the positive side of this movement it has left an indelible mark of behavioral mannerisms which I find highly attractive and pleasant when corresponding with these beautiful people via the internet.

In my experience with the Chinese they have been very courteous, polite, and respectful in their interpersonal relationships of which I believe the world could take a lesson from regarding this kind of ethical behavior and though these features are commendable is it enough in the final analysis to pass the test of its truth claims?

To begin with Taoism supports a schizophrenia of belief which operates with oppositional views which have internal conflicts as they are unable to reconcile through their interrelatedness as being both a philosophy and a religion.

Yet Taoism claims to be the ultimate source of reality through its alchemy mixture of philosophy and myth which has served as an elixir of hyped intoxicants to its practitioners for achieving its false claims of immortality.

This movement may also claim exclusivity but it also shares commonalities between Confucianism and Buddhism and for some who practice this discipline they identify themselves with the syncretistic values of all three schools of thought.

To further complicate this system of belief is its mystery of origin which lacks a credible historical identity. The popularized view of its elusive beginnings has been accredited to its supposed founder Laozi or Lao-Tzu. However, Lao-Tzu may not even be a proper name but rather a word which means “old philosopher”. (1)The biography of this character Lao-Tzu is recorded in the Shih-chi and this account at best is between 300 to 500 years removed from his actual existence which may have led some scholars to say that he never existed or perhaps he was another individual such as Li Her.

In association with Lao-Tzu is his sacred text which is refereed to as the “Tao Te Ching”or “Daodejing” which has various interpretations to its meaning such as the “Classic of the Way”, (2)“The Way and its Power”, “The Way and Moral Principles” and even though the writing of this script may be attributed to Lao-Tzu in reality it may have been influenced and originated from another source, namely I Ching.

In addition to this it is believed that this work may be a contribution from several other authors versus just having one reference.

Alongside of the Tao Te Ching is another Taoist text which is “Zhuangzi” which dates to around 400 A.D. which claims to have originated 7oo years prior to this date and   therefore its likelihood for authenticity is diminished because of such a large gap in time which gives space for embellishment and as with the Tao Te Ching some believe this text to be a composite work likewise.

As I mentioned in my opening statement Taosim has transitioned and alternated between philosophy and religion or magical Taoism which has made it controversial in nature because these two approaches at points are opposed to each other with one having an atheistic position while the other having a polytheistic god view which even deifies its beloved founder.

Anyway there are various conceptual ideas that are related to the “Tao” which is defined as the way, path, or course. Some of the means by which Tao is described is as an impersonal and supernatural power or force which creates and orders all things as (3)“The Great”.

It is said to be the original source, the first cause, and the necessary being and that which represents eternal supreme goodness as an expression of deep love and forgiveness.

Yet the paradox to this equation is to attempt to define something that according to their definition is indefinable and therefore it becomes a vain attempt to pursue a goal of knowing something so as to obtain oneness with it and yet be unknowable or unattainable. How can a person approach something without apprehension and understanding?

Also to embrace such a transcendent view can be a deceptive move in reality due to the lack of evidence which is inadequate to ultimately confirm its position and for someone to give such credence to such an outlook is really a blind leap of faith.

Finally to give such characterizing attributes of “being” to a non-personal power or a nameless force is nonsensical. These manifested forces or powers must come under the scrutiny of the cosmological and teleological arguments of design which demands a designer. This perhaps may be the reason why philosophic Taoism alone has not fulfilled the niche of the religious Taoist who innately discerns that complexity and uniqueness begs for an intelligent designer.

For those who are committed to an atheistic view I would offer you the challenge of reading my blogsite on this subject at:

Atheist and Agnostic

Now regarding those who hold to Taoism as a religious form of belief  have deviated from the original intent of this movement which was only initially philosophical and therefore magical Taoism wasn’t developed until later as an add on.

This mystical view of Taoism has discouraged such disciplines as the validity of scientific inquiry by maintaining unfounded primitive notions such as the moral attributes of nature as well as the achieving of immortality.

Magical Taoism has supported such false beliefs as the practice of alchemy in attempting to find an elixir to promote longevity of life which led at one time to search for the mythological island of immortals called Penglai along with its magic drug.

This saving concept of immortality may be idealized but it is never actualized because all die.

I actually wrote a blog on the after life which may be of interest to you as well

Other values within this movement which I find contradictory are the views that relate to morality where on one hand the practitioner values the aspect of a non-aggressive soft approach of inaction or wu-wei along with the ethical values of the three jewels of compassion, moderation and humility.

Yet on the other hand they hold to a belief that there are no objective moral distinctions or absolutes to right and wrong as this would require a determinative being such as a supreme law giver. This is because the “Tao” is said to be an impersonal force which doesn’t have the capability to this kind of intelligence and yet ironically it is believed that this power somehow regulates and governs the universe.

If there is no standard then how can we know then if evil is really evil or if good is really good since these concepts of good and evil can be relative terms given the person(s) preference or point of reference since there are no moral laws and no one to enforce it. Also without moral objectives how can we properly discern balance and harmony? Is personal appraisals even possible then since our lives would just be like a coin that due to functional necessity must have both sides in order to have real value as to what constitutes  the coinage of ying and yang and yet to tamper with the positional status by flipping the coin would really only be just a wasted effort in achieving a distinction since moving the coin isn’t really going to change its value and yet thats what is done when a person tries to manipulate the coin by going through the “actions of non action” for in so doing what does it profit a man or achieve except a sore thumb.

If the Tao doesn’t make such distinctions then why should you? After all you could unwittingly and arbitrarily tip over the apple cart by leaning to far to the ying or to the yang due to your disorientation and lack of direction. By placing value on the action of non action Taoism in essence is really making a moral distinction but in so doing could this potentially create an imbalance through focusing in on wu- wei as a common perceived good?

In essence Taoism wants to make a moral commitment without a commitment to a God concept and perhaps this is because this would somehow interfere with the original intent and values of Lao-Tzu who was committed to opposing any type of hierarchical control or an imposing authoritative figure.

Yet the only logical conclusion to these paradoxical equations is when we see a divine intelligent being that is recognized as  God who displays personal characteristics of intellect, will, and  emotions who in nature  is eternally righteous and just and who has the attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence as One who holds all things together, Colossians 1:17.

The bible refers to the general revelation of God which mankind intuitively knows and understands through the created order of the universe and we are even given the tools of  a moral compass of right and wrong which either affirms our actions or leaves us with a sense of guilt and shame which speaks of judgment so therefore we are without   excuse, Romans 1:18-32, 2:14-16.

Also these directives were given to start you out on the path in order to ultimately guide you to the “Way” of Jesus who is God’s special and personal revelation of Himself. In John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

God is described in the bible as deep love and in John 3:16 it says 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have the immortality of eternal life.

Jesus mission towards his action in non action was to be a servant and to give his life as a ransom for many therefore laying down his life to pay our debt of sin or selfishness Matthew 20:28, John 10:17 . Our selfishness is what has brought disharmony and unbalance to the created order to begin with and yet though nature temporarily groans in the travail of pain it will one day be completely liberated as Jesus is the restorer of all things,1 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 9:15, Romans 8:19-25, 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.

Essentially Jesus life was exchanged for ours so that we can have the benefit of forgiveness, Colossians 1:14 .

In Jesus you are assured to experience the peace of God having removed all fear, guilt and shame from our lives. For the scripture says that 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love, 1 John 4:18.

The scripture also encourages us in Philippians 4:7

7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Jesus having died and rose from the dead for us can transform your life not through self effort but in making you “One” with Him by depositing the life giving Spirit in you guaranteeing for you heaven, 2 Corinthians 1:22, John 17:20-26.

The Spirit that Christ gives is likened to living waters in the life of the believer.

38 Whoever believes in me, asb the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive, John 7:38-39.

Perhaps you are thirsty for these living waters which can only quench and satisfy your soul and He invites you to come and drink deeply of his love John 4:13,14 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but 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.”

Finally, Jesus is calling to you softly by stating 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

In conclusion would you base your life on the questionable historicity of a person who ran away from societies problems or would you embrace a savior who was personally and intimately involved in the removal of your personal problems by taking upon Himself your guilt and shame of sin and selfishness that you might be free because He whom Jesus has freed is free indeed, John 8:36.


How to know God

Taoism or Daoism Resources


“Reprinted by permission.  “Illustrated Guide to Religions, James A. Beverley, 2009, Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville, Tennessee.  All rights reserved.”

AMG’s World Religions and Cults, AMG Publishers,Chattanooga, Tennessee

All marked references are attributed to:

© 2009 Josh McDowell Ministry. All rights reserved. No part of these Materials may be changed in any way or reproduced in any form without written permission from Josh McDowell Ministry, 660 International Parkway, Richardson, TX 75081. +1 972 907 1000. Used by Permission.

Hume, Robert E., The World’s Living Religions, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, rev. ed., 1959, pp. 151.