This Is the Way: How the Dao Helps Chinese People Understand Christ

Ancient philosopher Zhuangzi’s teachings can be a means of evangelism.

In the opening lines of the Gospel of John, God’s eternal presence is rendered as “the Word,” a translation of the Greek word logos. In many translations of the Chinese Bible, including the popular Chinese Union Version, you will find this concept rendered as “the Dao (Tao).”

In English, Dao is commonly translated as “the Way.” In Chinese, the word (道) indicates a teaching or way of living that aligns with the heavens. It can also refer to the omnipresent essence of all creation in Daoism, a tradition of thought and religious practice that encourages its followers to seek immortality and achieve wisdom for discerning right responses to circumstances.

What does the Dao, or Word, of God have to do with the Dao of Daoism?

When I lived and taught in China, I encountered many sensitive hearts and inquisitive minds that were open to spiritual matters. Yet these seekers would often turn to the traditions of their ancestors for answers before considering the Christian gospel. My lack of familiarity with Chinese religion and philosophy hindered my witness, and so I decided to become a serious student of Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions.

Now, as a scholar of Chinese Christianity and religions, I have a much better sense of the ways that Chinese philosophy and religion can both converge with and diverge from Christian thought. I have a clearer sense of how people of Chinese descent connect their cultural heritage to their Christian faith.

Christian missionaries and scholars have a long-standing tradition of sincere dialogue with other religious and philosophical traditions. In Acts 17, Paul observes the inscription to an unknown God in Athens, Greece, and proclaims …

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