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The Tao of Jesus : An Experiment in Inter-Traditional Understanding Paperback – 1998
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"...a gem of a little book tailored to the furtherance of acceptance and inclusivity sourced in mutual respect..." -- Journal of Church and State (Baylor University)
"An invaluable resource." -- Spiritual Book News
"No one else puts it together in such a whole and holy way." -- Richard Rohr, O.F.M.
"Profound and contemplative reading." -- The Midwest Book Review
An invaluable resource. -- Spiritual Book News
Beautifully crafted. -- Journal of Ecumenical Studies
No one else puts it together in such a whole and holy way. -- Richard Rohr, O.F.M.
Profound and contemplative reading. -- The Midwest Book Review
Their observations go a long way toward expanding insights. -- The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ)
This is one example...of the fruits of interreligious relations among people of good faith and practice." -- John Borelli, USCC
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The book has a concise introduction to the nature of interreligious dialogue, a brief history of Taoism, and is broken up alphabetically into sections like Darkness, Abundance, The Teacher, Flora Imagery, Limitlessness, Non-Attachment etc. Each section offers you to compare direct quotes of Jesus' teachings with the work of Lao Tzu and other great Taoist philosophers, as well as an intellectual collaborative take on the section-theme by the authors (including a Christian theologian and a Taoist priest, all three are Phd's)
A paradigm of this format is the theme "Of life, death, and the logic of reversion" where the authors cite both Lao Tsu and Chuang Tsu to describe aporias that challenge human wisdom, as does for example the section from Lao Tsu's Tao Te Ching which observes:
"Flexibility preserves wholeness; Bending leads to straightness; Hollowness leads to fullness, Wearing out leads to renewal; Deficit leads to gain; Plenitude leads to perplexity."
This is compared to Jesus' dictum that "many who are first will be last, and the last will be first" and also with Luke's version of the beatitudes, as well as Jesus' observation about losing one's life to save it, and the importance of the grain of wheat dying before it can produce much fruit.
In the commentary related to this theme, the authors both compare and contrast Taoist and Christian applications of the "logic of reversion" and cite both St. Paul and St. Maximus the Confessor to support their contention that "Living in Tao-harmony and living out the Christian ethos exhibit close similarity when fullness-of life and death-to-self are the terms of reversion." It seems that the authors' goal, much like the symbol of Taoism itself, is to show the interpenetration of Taoist and Christian values, even while demonstrating their uniqueness and difference. One could also argue that at the heart of the Christian Way is the Tao (the unnamable Way --- transcendence itself made immanent) and at the heart of the Taoist vision lurks "The Way, the Truth, and the Life."
In addition to many fine meditations on the relationship between Taoism and Christianity, the book offers many original sketches drawn by the internationally respected Chinese artist, Yu Peng. These sketches enliven the text and give the book itself a wonderfully aesthetic flavor. There is also a list of sources in the back of the book that would be especially helpful to the Christian reader who wants to know more about Taoist thought.
The book is subtitled as an "experiment' and it is not without its experimental flaws. I believe that one of these is the fact that in the presentation of several topics, e.g., 'nonviolence', Jesus gets rather short shrift. On this topic, after a whole page of quotations from the Tao Te Ching, Jesus' observations on the subject are limited to: "Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Mt 26:52). Surely there is more in the Gospels dealing with nonviolence than this single line.
Another problem is that the quotations for some topics don't deliver what they promise. A good example of this is "The Unity of Opposites" where the Gospel quotation (again too short) is "You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above" (Jn 8:23). The Gospel writer didn't intend this as a paradox or a dialectical relationship (a unity of opposites), but as a genuine opposition between grace and sin. The authors should use the same Gospel quotes as the did in the section "Of Life, Death, and the Logic of Reversion," where they quoted the beatitudes and other truly paradoxical sayings of Jesus.
Even with its "experimental flaws," the art work, many of the selections (especially from Taoist sources), and the theological commentary make this a wonderful book to bring on a Summer retreat.
The introduction discusses the difference between religious discussion (in which both parties seek understanding of the other side's view) and religious argument (in which one party has to prove the other wrong). As a Reconstructionist Pagan, I know that I will be referring to that clarification often, as even I get overheated sometimes.
The book then refers to themes found in both the Tao Te Ching and the Gospels. They are all in alphabetical order, so you can skip around and find those topics that interest you most. Some of the connections aren't particularly strong - the use of certain symbols, for example. Others cut straight to the philosophical core, clearly showing where the two schools of thought overlap and where they are in direct opposition.
What I particularly liked was the fact that the scholars who analyzed both pieces of literature were not the authors themselves. There was no obvious effort to squeeze the literature into a format that would suit their argument the best. In fact, sometimes I forgot about the theme of the book entirely. Just learning more about the meaning (especially with the Scripture) was fascinating.
It's a shame that the Taoists here are writing such poor reviews. Why can't Christians see Taoism in a fair light alongside something they already know? And why can't the Taoists appreciate some deeply moving works of another faith?
In summary, if you love philosophy or are curious about either Taoism or Christianity, do get this book. It's an absolute delight.
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and object part
is to set apart
from the whole (hole)
Be at rest