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One of the most striking differences is about their beliefs. Christians believe in one God, who created the universe and all that is in it. God is a person, but of a somewhat different type than human beings. “Great is Thy power, and Thy wisdom infinite.” But “man, a particle of Thy creation; man, that bears about him his mortality, the witness of his sin, the witness that Thou resists the proud”. Unlike humans who have both physical and spiritual elements, God is entirely spiritual. He exists in a sphere outside the normal physical universe. In other words, God is beyond our world. Christianity has drawn a clear line between God and humans. Someone may argue that God and humans do not have tremendous differences in that in Genesis, God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness”. In this way, the focus is on the similarities rather than the differences. In order to explain this point, we have to bear it in mind that humans were created in the image and likeness of God does not imply that God has a physical nature. The “image” conferred to the human being represents the personal character of God. Humanity is defined primarily by the ability to have communion with the creator and other people. The “likeness” is defined as a way of being. It corresponds to a free will relationship of obedience to the creator, an attribute that has to be built up through exercising the relationship with God. In order to follow God, we have to leave our real world to reach the holy land, the Heaven.

Different from Christian belief, Confucians have no specific beings as their gods. Confucius himself has never talked about gods, ghosts, or even afterlife. Because of this, whether we should take Confucianism as a religion is a controversial issue. Many scholars hold the view that Confucius did not establish a new religion for a lack of god. All his efforts were channeled into finding an ethical system that could improve the Chinese society of his time. His main concern was social life and the principles that should govern it for

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society, family, and personal life. Although Confucius respected the existent Chinese religious traditions, he gave them a mere ethical interpretation. However, some other scholars think that Confucianism do have their belief that is Tian, which is translated as Heaven. Tian is the upholder of the moral law. Nothing can escape from his control. It seems that Heaven is something intangible, but actually it is everywhere. All the natural phenomena and living things on Earth are part of Heaven. What’s more, Heaven also lies in the basic principles of the world as well as morality which will guide people’s mind and behavior. In a word, Heaven is within the world. To obey the laws of Heaven, we have to focus on the presence, the physical universe. In this case, Confucianism can be regarded as a religion.

Besides beliefs, the second major difference I am going to talk about is their ideas about human nature. To Christian eyes, the sin nature is in every one of us. Human beings are all born with a sin nature that can be traced back through our ancestors to Adam and Eve. In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Soon after that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit of the tree. This disobedient act toward God was the original sin. This tendency for us to disobey God, our sin nature, continues till today. It represents a natural tendency toward evil and manifests itself through the conscious sins we commit with our thought, speech and deeds. Here I want to reemphasize that we inherit neither the particular sins of our ancestors, nor sins we have done in alleged previous lives, but the sinful nature of mankind, which can be found in the Bible,

For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil thoughts come, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from within, and they defile a person. (Mark)2

According to the Jesus’ saying, the attitude of relying on inner resources in order to find a “true inner nature” is a result of spiritual pride, the very cause of the fall. The Bible teaches that humans do not possess an intrinsic divine nature, and thus are incapable of saving themselves from sin. The only “true inner nature” humans possess is a sinful nature. In order to be forgiven and to be saved, humans have to make efforts, to open their heart and receive the free gift of God, through faith. It requires complete trust in God’s promises. Faith is the proper human response to God’s initiative, not a mere form of positive thinking.

On the contrary, Confucians believe that man is naturally good. We are born with benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom. While Confucius only implied the natural goodness of man, another great philosopher, Mencius, stated clearly that human beings posses innate knowledge of the good as well as the 2 Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Amity Printing Co.ltd, National TSPM & CCC,1995, P74 The Gospel According to St. Mark

 

 

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

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innate ability to be good. Mencius was born in 372 BC, just over a century after the death of Confucius in 479. He dedicated his life to the promulgation of the teachings of Confucius. In his teachings, he stated that,

“The tendency of man’s nature to good is like the tendency of water to flow downwards. There are none but have this tendency to good, just as all water flows downwards.

Now by striking water and causing it to leap up, you may make it go over your forehead, and, by damming and leading it you may force it up a hill;– but are such movements according to the nature of water? It is the force applied which causes them. When men are made to do what is not good, their nature is dealt with in this way.”3

He affirmed that evil is caused by people’s inability to avoid the negative influences of their environment. He believed that we can be taught to recapture our original goodness, and that the end of all learning is the recovery of our “lost mind.” Sympathy, shame, reverence, propriety, humanity and wisdom are natural attributes of human beings and are found universally. In this way, we have to pay much attention to self-cultivation in order to be a gentleman. So we can see, the two philosophic systems share different attitudes towards human nature.

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