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Canadian Social Science Vol.3 No.6 December 2007


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A Comparison between the Christian and Confucian Major Doctrines:

a Survey



Dong Rui1


Abstract: Many people wonder about the differences between Chinese people and the Westerners especially in their thinking patterns. As a matter of fact, the influence of Confucianism and Christianity has played a very important role in cultivating the people’s ideas. Although Christian doctrines share a lot of common cores with Confucian theories, a great many differences still exist particularly in beliefs, human nature and life. This paper is aimed to make a comparison between the two systems. Key Words: Confucianism, Christianity, Jesus, Confucius, religion, cultural differences

Résumé: Beaucoup de gens s’intéressent aux différences du peuple chinois avec les Occidentaux, surtout en ce qui concerne leur modèle de penser. En effet, l’influence du confucianisme et du christianisme a joué un rôle très important dans la formation des idées du peuple. Malgré de nombreux noyaux communs entre eux, il existe quand même beaucoup de différences, notamment sur la foi, la nature humaine et la vie. L’article présent tente de faire une comparaison de ces deux systèmes. Mots-Clés: confucianisme, christianisme, Jésus, Confucius, religion, différences culturelles


1 Beijing Foreign Studies University, China. * Received 6 August 2007; accepted 5 October 2007

It is well-acknowledged that both Christianity and Confucianism are great. Their teachings have helped to form the value systems of Western and Eastern cultures, which have guided millions of people in spirit, behavior, mind and relationships. Go through their doctrines, we can find something in common. However, if we take a close look, we can see that the whole systems of their philosophies are quite different. In this essay, I am going to compare the major doctrines between the two religions, mainly about the differences.

It is true that Christianity and Confucianism share a lot in common in their doctrines. The first big similarity in the two philosophic systems is about love. We all know that the essential teaching of Christianity is “Love all people as yourself”. We are told to love God more than anything else; love your neighbor as yourself. What’s more, we are also taught to “love your enemies

and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be the children of your Father in heaven.” The definition of love has been extended, so love can apply to anyone in any occasion in people’s life. Tuning to Confucianism, one of the main themes in Confucian teachings is called ren, which is frequently translated as love, goodness, or human-heartedness. “The Master said, To rule a country of a thousand chariots, there must be …love for men”. According to Confucius, only the great sages of antiquity truly possessed ren, but it was a quality that all should seek to develop. Thus, Confucius taught that people should love each other and practice respect and courtesy towards each other in their daily life. We can see that love in the teachings of Jesus is almost the same as ren in Confucian doctrines, both served as the core of the two philosophic systems.

Actually many detailed doctrines in the two systems



Dong Rui /Canadian Social Science Vol.3 No.6 2007 112-115


have a lot in common. For example, Jesus taught us to “treat others as you would like to be treated.” But we find the golden rule in the Chinese traditions 500 years before him: Don’t do to others what you do not want to have them do to you. In addition, we can find lots of similarities in their teachings about humanity: not to murder, not to steal, not to lie, not to abuse sexuality. Generally speaking, Christianity “respects order, reveres the past, holds the family sacred, and yet is able also to make continual progress in science, in art, in literature, in the comfort of the whole community. It therefore accepts the good and the truth in the doctrines of Confucius, and adds to these another element of new life.”

Although the ethical standards are almost the same, there are many profound differences between the two systems, which make the two religions diverge much. That’s why throughout the history, many priests made great efforts to try to preach the teachings of God to the Chinese people, but ended up in failure.

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