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Was Confucius Religious?

Updated January 13, 2022
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Was Confucius Religious? essay

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Confucius was a great Chinese philosopher, political figure and teacher with devoted followers that continued to teach and carry out both his beliefs and legacy after his passing. The philosopher’s teachings focused on creating ethical models of public and family interactions as well as setting educational standards. At a young age, Confucius was a lover of literature, art, music, archery, traditional ceremonies, and life in the courts of nobles. He secured his first job at the age of seventeen as the keeper of the granary accounts for the Chi family, which was one of the three great baronial houses in the ducal state of Lu.

Although the job was of limited status, the experience it provided, opened his eyes wide to the injustices of systems that burdened peasants with heavy taxes to support leisure and luxury for the extremely small ruling class (Matthew pg. 189). Securing a job in government ignited his interest in wanting to make a difference in his community by leveling the playing field for the under privileged. Although teaching was his passion, Confucius believed his greatest impact on social change could be made in government positions. Before leaving to pursue other interest, he worked five years for the Duke of Lu in several posts. Unfortunately, he did not have any luck securing additional governmental roles. Therefore, he went back home and focused on his writing and teaching to help change the beliefs and culture of his people.

The Chinese culture was absorbed in the religion of animism; a belief that gods and spirits abide in natural senses. Furthermore, there was a belief in ancestor worship; a belief that the spirits of the dead needed to be honored and cared for by the living family members. https://probe.org/confucius/ In the same manner, Confucius’ teachings were more humanistic and rationalistic than they were spiritualistic. In my opinion, his teachings and beliefs indicate he did believe in spirits and the supernatural, but not as a core value. Therefore, I do not believe Confucius was religious, but he merely had good moral values and respectable principles which he taught and lived by.

The word tells me in the book of James 2:19 KJV, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble (Life Application Study Bible pg. 2482).” Additionally, Confucius had a fundamental principle that humans by nature are good. He added a second principle, humans who are naturally good, learn best through example. The absolute need in every society is a model human being; a person who will set an example for others to follow. Confucius called his model person a “junzi (chun-tzu).”

Confucius’ ultimate goal was not only to inform but also to form and reform. He taught principles of conduct that could be measured in human social interactions. His goal was to reform corrupt societies through princes, nobles, and civil servants who based their lives on the example of the junzi. The principles of the junzi are the Li and Jen. Li is the principle of harmony that should rule the home, the society, and the empire. Jen is humaneness, the quality of being a genuine human being to other human beings. Jen seeks the good of others as well as the self.

Compassion for others is the mark of a good person (Matthew pgs.190-191). In the circular world, there is definitely evidence of many good-natured people in the world that do great things for humanity and society. Some of these people live their life to please mankind and achieve all the riches this world has to offer. Likewise, we have philanthropist seeking to promote the welfare of others by offering generous monetary donations to good causes. Their names are plastered across institutions, colleges, governmental buildings, and public buildings. All of these things are earthly rewards and are temporal with no eternal value. I compare this with Confucius ethics which centers around humans being engaged in practical life, living by principles derived from the traditions that transcended present time and the confines of earth.

As Christians, we believe we were created by God in his image to enjoy his creation. As a result of the fall of humanity, mankind was separated from God in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Sin was then introduced into our lives and from that time forward we are no longer just good people by nature. Psalm 51:4-6 KJV states, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom (Life Application Study Bible pg.1121).”

The fellowship that was broken between God and mankind during the fall of humanity can only be restored through Jesus Christ. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (Life Application Study Bible pg. 2311).” 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 KJV From my perspective, we are to live in this world but are not of this world. I trust the Apostle Paul’s writing to the Church of Rome in Romans 12:1-5 KJV, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another (Life Application Study Bible pg. 2251).” Confucius does acknowledge a supreme power, which he refers to as the “Mandate (ming) of Heaven” and he utters, “When you have offended Heaven, there is nowhere you can turn to in your prayers (Matthew pg.191).”

Despite his acknowledgment of a supreme power, his recognition of such illustrates to me a lack of divine reverence for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly Jesus opened the communication lines between us and God when he died on Calvary and is now sitting on the right hand of God interceding on our behalf. When Jesus took his journey back to his heavenly throne, he left us a comforter; the Holy Spirit. The Comforter helps us live through the trials and tribulations we experience here on earth. Never the less this earth is not our home, we have a heavenly promise that is waiting for us. The Confucius ethical system teaches his followers that one must be careful not to violate the will of heaven. Confucius wrote, “He who put himself in the wrong with heaven has no means of expiation left.”

But, for believers, we have confidence in Romans 6:22-23 KJV, “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Life Application Study Bible pg.2238).” Therefore, we can see where Confucius focused on life here on this earth, while our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ focused on eternal life in heaven. As Christians, everything we believe should be God-Centered and built on a relationship with a living Savior who is involved in our life here on this earth. For in Proverbs 3:5-7 KJV Jesus told us to, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil (Life Application Study Bible pg.1226).”

Taking everything into account, I refute what Confucius taught about life is confined to this earth with the promise in John 14:1-6 KJV, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (Life Application Study Bible pgs. 2087-2088).”

Was Confucius Religious? essay

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