Tag Archives: Tao De Jing

Tao De Jing through the lens of a Christian

The Tao De Jing is, essentially, an Easterner’s search for God and the Son of Heaven.

There was Something undefined yet complete in itself. Born before Heaven and Earth. Silent and Boundless. Standing alone without change. Yet pervading all without fail. It may be regarded as the Mother of all the world. I do not know its name; I style it “Tao” (or, in other translation: “I call it Tao”). And in the absence of a better word, call it, “The Great”. To be great is to go on. To go on is to be far. To be far is to return. Hence, “Tao is great. Heaven is great. Earth is great. King is great.” Thus, the king is one of the great four in the Universe. Man follows the ways of the Earth. The Earth follows the ways of Heaven. Heaven follows the ways of Tao. Tao follows its own ways.” — Tao De Jing, Chapter 25, Wu Translation.

Wondering alone in the far east, Lao Tze had a revelation about a Force bigger than he. This Force transcends humanity, the earth, and even the heavens itself. It is something so tangible but unexplainable. It is something that encompasses all things but he doesn’t know what it is. Therefore, he called it the “Tao” “” (or the “Word”, the “Course”, or the “Way”).

This Force, or the “Tao”, is not only omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent — It transcends the very nature of being. To Lao Tze, the “Tao” not only gave birth to all things [1], it is the origin of all things. He goes on the explain, the Tao blunts all sharp edges, unites all tangles, harmonizes all light, unite the world into one whole [15], and give all things its life [17].

To the Christian, we call this “Tao”, “God”. The Apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word” [2]. In Chinese, this “Word” is translated to “Tao” (). It is this “Tao” that transcends all being. It existed before the creation of the universe. It transcends Heaven and Earth. It is the Force that creates all things. It does not have a law that it abides by. It is, by itself, its own Law. He is who He is [3].

The only difference between Christianity and Taoism in this aspect? The Taoist do not dare personify the “Tao”. Rather, they guard it by calling it “Nameless”. “The Mystery of mysteries,” [4] Lao Tze call it. Judeo-Christian religions, on the other hand, speak confidently to it “as a friend” [5]. Here, we are presented with a stark difference between the Lao Tze’s perception of Tao and the Judeo-Christian religion’s perception of God. To Lao Tze, Tao is Formless, Soundless, and Incorporeal. It is, to him, the “imageless image”, the “formless form”. Whenever he tries to get closer to Tao, he will not be able to see his face. Whenever he tries to follow it, he will not be able to see its back. But once he puts on the timeless Tao, Lao Tze realises that he was able to harness present realities (or “master the things of the present”) and to know the how all things come to pass from the Beginning [6].

Lao Tze realises what it meant to approach the Tao for peace. He wrote, “He who holds the Great Symbol (Tao) will attract all things to him. They flock to him and receive no harm for in him they find peace” [7]. Lao Tze knew that “the words of Tao possesses lasting effects” and because “the Man of the Tao “道者” (will be able to) put His superabundant riches to the service of the world” [8]. The Christian perspective of such peace is the peace that surpasses all understanding that will guard our hearts and minds in Christ (Philippians 4:7).

Lao Tze knew that when a great wound is healed, there will still remain a scar [9]. Of course, certain translations translated this as, “when peace is made between great enemies, some enmity is bound to remain undispelled” [10]. From the surface, we can take it as the healing of literal interpersonal relationships. However, if we were to look deeper into the chapter, Lao Tze spoke of a “covenant” and that the Sage (either himself or people who knows the Tao) must perform their part — the “left-hand” part of the covenant. Can it be that if the Sage is in charge of the left-hand portion of the covenant while the Tao must perform the “right-hand” part of the covenant? Can it be that the “great wound” referred to a broken relationship that the Tao is trying to reconcile with humanity and that the Sage is the enlightened one bringing people to it? Can that scar that the Tao must endure be the wound that the Son of Heaven must go through for forgiveness to happen?

There’s a covenant between the Creator and his creation in the Bible too. In Genesis 15, the Lord asked Abram to bring Him a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon. When the sun was down, the Lord made a covenant with Abram by walking through the pieces as a smoking firepot with a blazing torch. God’s portion of the Covenant was to ensure that His word come to pass. Abram’s part, on the other hand, was just to believe that God meant what He said. Likewise, as a Sage, Lao Tze performs his left-hand portion of the covenant with Tao by doing what is right before the Tao. Lao Tze wrote, “The Way of Heaven is to benefit, not to harm. The Way of the Sage is to do his duty, not to strive with anyone” [11]. And what is this duty? To have faith in the Tao, to cultivate the Tao, to be One with the Tao [12].

Lao Tze realises that no matter how bad (or sinful) a person is, the Tao will never reject him (人之不善,何弃之有?) [13]. It is for this reason, the Tao is highly valued in the East.

古之所以贵此道者何?不曰:以求得,有罪以免耶?故为天下贵。” — 道德经;第62章。
“Why did the ancients highly value this Tao? Did they not say, ‘Those who seek shall have it and those who sin shall be freed’? For this reason it is valued by the world.” — Tao De Jing; Chapter 62, Chan Translation.

Lao Tze also realises this — that the forgiveness of sins will happen “when the Son of Heaven ‘天子’ (also translated as “emperor”) is being enthroned or the Three Ministers ‘三公’ [are] installed.” [14]. And when that happens, “it is better (for people to) kneel and offer (to) this Tao” [13]. Lao Tze realises the preciousness of the Tao and how ancients who came before him said that “those who seek shall have it and those who sin shall be freed” [13].

Little was mentioned in Lao Tze’s text about the Son of Heaven. The only mention about the Son of Heaven were that He “exists forever” [15], He is in the “image of God” [16], He is one of the “Three Ministers” [14], and He has not been crowned at the time of writing [13]. However, this is something that we know but Lao Tze didn’t — the the Son of Heaven has been enthroned, and this Son of Heaven has granted forgiveness to all people, no matter how bad or sinful they are. He has secured us victory in Him. And through Him, we will be able to “return to the root to find peace”, to “fulfil our destiny”, to “be constant”, to “understand and embrace all”, to “do justice”, to “be kingly”, to “be heavenly”, and to “be One with the Tao”. And Lao Tze knew, that if we are One with the Dao, we will never die [18].

知常容,容乃公,公乃王,王乃天,天乃道,道乃久,没身不殆。” — 道德经;第16章。
“To be heavenly is to be One with the Tao; to be One with the Tao is to abide forever. Such a person will be safe and whole; even after the dissolution of his body.” — Tao De Jing; Chapter 16, Wu Translation.


[1] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 1, 25, 42, 51, 52.

[2] – John 1:1.

[3] – Exodus 3:14.

[4] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 1, Wu Translation.

[5] – Exodus 33:11.

[6] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 14.

[7] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 35.

[8] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 77.

[9] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 79, Wu Translation

[10] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 79, Lau Translation.

[11] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 81, Wu Translation.

[12] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 23, Wu Translation.

[13] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 62, Chan Translation.

[14] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 62, Henricks Translation.

[15] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 4, Wu Translation.

[16] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 4, Lau Translation.

[17] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 51, Wu Translation.

[18] – Tao De Jing; Chapter 16, Wu Translation.

Click here to read the Dao De Jing in Chinese and English.

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