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Now Blogging Afresh at Ad Orientem 西儒 - The Western Confucian

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Confucius and Buddha Visit the Baby Jesus

Would Confucius and Buddha have joined the Three Wise Men to visit Jesus at His birth? G.K. Chesterton's answer:

Such learned men [Confucius and Buddha] would doubtless have come, as these learned men [the Three Wise Men] did come, to find themselves confirmed in much that was true in their own traditions and right in their own reasoning. Confucius would have found a new foundation for the family in the very reversal of the Holy Family; Buddha would have looked upon a new renunciation, of stars rather than jewels and divinity rather than royalty. These learned men would still have the right to say, or rather a new right to say, that there was truth in their old teaching. But after all these learned men would have come to learn. They would have come to complete their conceptions with something they had not yet conceived; even to balance their imperfect universe with something they might once have contradicted. Buddha would have come from his impersonal paradise to worship a person. Confucius would have come from his temples of ancestor-worship to worship a child.

  • The Everlasting Man
  • pp. 176-7

    Chesterton's is a very Catholic answer. It avoids syncretism and the belief that all religions are equal while at the same time recognizes that truth, albeit imperfect truth, can be found outside of the Catholic Church.

    This passage stood out to me because the three world-views it presents are three most common world-views in Korea. About 25% of Koreans are Christians, about 25% Buddhist, and the remaining 50% have no religion. Christians, Buddhists, and the non-religious all to a certain extent follow at least the precepts if not the actual ancestral rites of Confucianism.

    An American New Ager once told me of Korean Christians who keep a Buddha in their closets. But in my experience, there is little syncretism. Buddhism and Christianity are quite separate, and a healthy tolerance (in the true sense of the word) exists between them. In Korea, Confucianism is rightly viewed as a philosphy, not a religion.