Transcending Time and Space: About Lao Zi vs. the Bible
Editor: Many readers expressed interests in Lao Zi vs. the Bible: A Meeting Transcending Time and Space, the new book by Yuan Zhi-ming, a researcher at Overseas Campus. The book has now been published by The Light of the Universe Press in Taiwan. This article is an interview with the author.
Q: Lao Zi is part of the essence of the traditional culture in China and the Bible is the corner stone of Christian culture. How did you manage to put these two books together to study, the two seemingly very different books?
A: I began to study Lao Zi when I was a philosophy student. Later on, I believed in Jesus and went to study in a seminary. The subtle similarities between Lao Zi and Christian beliefs fascinated me and encouraged me to spend over three years studying them before I finally completed the book Lao Zi vs. The Bible!XTranscending Time and Space.
Q: What were your findings?
A: A lot of people may be surprised: How can the Word in Lao Zi be the same Word in the Bible? Can the Saint that was the incarnation of the Word in Lao Zi be Jesus who was Word becoming flesh? Can Lao Zi's cultivating in the Word be the same as Christian spiritual cultivation?
We know that God had to find a spot on earth to fulfill His plan of Word becoming flesh and to reveal His truth to mankind. History already told us that the spot was Israel instead of any other nation. But God is the God of all mankind and the Word is the Word of all mankind; therefore God must have left His footprints in all nations and must have prepared in all nations for His salvation. I believe that Lao Zi is God's preparation in China. The book is a wonderful testimony for the Gospel of Jesus.
Q: Some may ask that Lao Zi was written over two thousand years ago and that scholars for Lao Zi were at least in the thousands. Why is it that you alone have had such a discovery?
A: What I can say is that everything on earth has its own timetable. A complete understanding of Lao Zi cannot occur until Lao Zi's proclamation becomes reality. Before the Word whom Lao Zi described became flesh and before the Word was revealed to the Chinese people in a significant and profound way, the Word would naturally remain a mystery, which people kept guessing and tried in vain to comprehend. Isn't that so? In the past two thousand years or so, the book of Lao Zi was like the cloud in the sky, facing upward toward God and reflecting Divine light, and looking downward toward the world and possessing human wisdom. Human beings stood beneath it and saw nothing but sketches of human wisdom full of mysticism, mystery and dimness. It is not until we recognize the heavenly light through Jesus do we start to clearly understand what Lao Zi is really about.
From human point of view, nobody has ever seen through this breathtaking mystery. This is probably because none of the Lao Zi scholars knows the Word of Jesus well enough. On the other hand, most of the Christian scholars who are also enthusiastic about Chinese culture focus mainly on Confucianism. In fact I am not alone. Mr. Lin Yu-tang, who accepted Jesus at an old age, once said: "Spiritually Lao Zi and Jesus are brothers." Unfortunately he didn't get any farther than that.
If I had not spent over two years intensively experiencing the Word of Jesus in a rural area of the South, if Jesus, who is Word becoming flesh, had not become the light of my life, then the Word of Lao Zi and his Saint would not have come to my special attention. Today, when I read Lao Zi, its Word and Saint become so familiar and dear to me that I am just anxious to share them with you. I'd like you all to come to enjoy, share and praise the wonderful work of the Lord!
Q: Do you believe the Word of Lao Zi is the same Word described in the Bible?
A: In China, everybody seems to know a little about the Word of Lao Zi. But at the same time nobody really knows it for sure. Some say the Word is theism; others believe it is atheism. Some hold it is mysticism; others claim it is existentialism. Some say the Word has its own materialistic existence; others insist the word is misty hypothesis!K
We can now see clearly through the Divine light that the Word of Lao Zi, in Chinese language, provides testimony for the Lord in the Bible: "And the Word is God." (John 1:1)
The Word is self-existence. "Man dwells on earth; the earth dwells in the heavens; the heavens dwell on the Word; the Word dwells on itself." The Word dwells on itself. It is self-existence.
The Word is the Creator. It is "the mother of the heavens and the earth." It "likes to raise the created." Lao Zi said he didn't know the name of the Word.
The Word is transcendence. It surpasses human wisdom and human morality. It surpasses all beings.
The Word is life. Lao Zi often described the Word with terms like mother, faith, grace, power, love, authority, judgment, morality, justice, life, forgiveness, salvation, etc.
The Word is revelation. Human beings cannot know the Word through their own wisdom and knowledge, but the Word can reveal itself to mankind. Such revelation may be in words or may not be. Lao Zi claimed that he had received revelation from the Word.
The Word is justice. It is the most powerful of all. It is the utmost legislator and it is the highest judge.
The Word is the savior. The theme of the Word, Lao Zi claimed, is to proclaim salvation from the Word. Lao Zi pointed out that the entire world was drowning in its sins and death. The summation of sins is greed. Lao Zi used concepts of rebellion, return, restore, and long-lasting to demonstrate some of the Christian beliefs like repentance, salvation, and eternity.
Please read Chapter 62 of Lao Zi: "The Word is the master of all things. It is the treasure for good people. It is the atonement for sins. Nice words win respect and so do good deeds. But how can evil deeds be erased? One can be a king or a high-ranking official; one can be extremely rich or prosperous, yet none is better than living in the Word. Why did our ancestors pay special attention to the Word? Isn't it because in the Word they found what they were looking for and they were forgiven of their transgressions? Therefore, the Word is the most valuable of all!"
The above summary is brief, but the seven attributes discussed above apparently represent the Lord in Christian belief. What is more fascinating is that Hegel, the philosopher, once researched and proved that the name Yahweh appeared in Lao Zi.
Q: What is your basis to claim that the Saint described by Lao Zi is in fact Jesus?
A: There are 81 chapters in Lao Zi, 29 of which described a Saint. In the past two thousand years, all researchers of Lao Zi believe that the Saint is merely a hypothesis and he does not exist in reality. Nevertheless, why did Lao Zi, who was known for his conciseness, spend so much effort describing somebody that never existed? I believe things are not that simple!
Take a close look at the Saint and you will find that his being is real and distinguishing. He is not one of the ordinary saints, nor a regular wise man, nor one of the great historic figures. One of the fascinating characteristics of Lao Zi is that it never ever mentions anything about historic figures, historic events, dynasties and ancient geography. The book seems to abruptly come into existence, transcending time and space. The Saint is the incarnation of the Word. And he possesses all attributes of the Word:
He accomplishes great things, but he never considers his accomplishment something to be grasped. He appears small but his accomplishment is huge.
He possesses the original form of the Word. Everybody under heaven will come to him to obtain "security, peace and ease".
He inherits the light and eternity from the Word, so that he is able to save mankind.He strives for honor and guards against evil. He strives for justice and guards against evil. He is the means through which the world gets to know the Word.
He delivers us out of our transgressions.
He has no pretty form, but his inner self is full of treasure.
He suffers from insults and hardship, but he is also king and the most high.
The Saint Lao Zi described has three characteristics. Internationalization: It is not confined to the Chinese nation or any particular geographic settings. Eternity: Its emergence does not fall into a particular year or any historic period. Reality: Its existence does not depend on any hypothesis or premises.
The Saint also has four kinds of unification. The unification between the Word and mankind: The Saint is a man with the quality of the Word. He possesses the image the Word; he demonstrates the deeds of the Word; he deserves all descriptions of the Word. He is simply an incarnation from the Word. The unification between the glorious and the humble: He knows he comes with glory, power and holiness, but he is willing to live among the humble, the weak and the corrupted so that he can become the mediator between God and man. The unification of love and justice: He has compassion to everybody. He appreciates people's sentiment and he willingly keeps souls from falling. He is also clearly aware of worldly sins and he has a strong sense of justice. He is the guardian for sinners. The unification of sacrifice and power: He gives up his own body for the people and to the people. Yet the more he suffers from insults and hardship, the more he gains. He is the king of kings.
Throughout human history, who is like this Saint, the incarnation of the Word, other than Jesus, the Word becoming flesh? The complete and precise proclamation of Jesus in Lao Zi is indeed one of the most wonderful miracles in human history! Lao Zi demonstrated God's wonder of transcending time and space; he also demonstrated that Jesus is also the savior for the Chinese people.
Isaiah, the Israeli prophet who was Lao Zi's contemporary, called Jesus the Saint, who came from Israel and really belonged to the entire world: "See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you." (Isiah 55:4-5)
Q: Lao Zi often mentioned cultivating in the Word. Is this related to Christian spiritual cultivation?
A: Drawing analogies from babies, water and light, Lao Zi concisely discussed about the principles of cultivating in the Word with regard to viewpoints of obedience, surpassing laws and humbleness. I believe this is complementary to the Christian spiritual cultivation. But I'm not going to talk about this in details here.
The Word (God, the incarnation of the Word who is Jesus), the cultivation in the Word (spiritual cultivation) become the three parts that categorize all of Lao Zi. This is indeed a miracle!
Q: The theme of the current edition of Overseas Campus is Transience and Eternity. How did Lao Zi describe eternity?
A: The third section of the first chapter of the book Lao Zi vs. the Bible is entitled The infinity of the Word: continuity. I quote a portion from the section as follows:
The continuity of the Word: It doesn't die and its fame never fades. Nothing is immortal, except for the self-existence who created the heavens and the earth. Lao Zi said, "The formless Divine being lives forever and never dies", and "Ever since the beginning his name has never faded", and "We must worship and praise this perfect being in the generations to come".
Human awareness of continuity: Out of the awareness of continuity comes light, and out of the awareness of continuity stems forgiveness.
How are we related to eternity? Lao Zi said: "Out of the awareness of continuity comes light. To know eternity is to have light.
Why is it that knowing eternity is to have light? Under natural light we see with our eyes; under the light of wisdom we see with our brains. But we don't usually see far away. Looking at the world, we can now see a quark, and we can see the origin of the Big Bang. But we still cannot see what is inside a quark or what was there before the Big Bang. More so when we look at human life. We can't even see what the next step is in our journey of life, let alone what is after death. Our light of life and light of wisdom are all limited, and we can only see this far. Nevertheless, if you can see as far as eternity, then you know the way to eternity. How great is the light with which you see the way to eternity! And how bright the path will be!
Lao Zi also said: "Out of awareness of continuity stems forgiveness." When you know the way to eternity, you will forgive all things. When you see eternity, you will understand the transient nature of human life. With this mindset, you will not take any worldly things too seriously, accomplishment, opinions or material gains alike. On the contrary, if you do not know the way to eternity, you will bet all you have on your life and you will fight for everything as if this life of yours were your last chance. And your forgiveness will be nowhere to be found. Lao Zi said: "He who does not know continuity does evil."
The inheritance of continuity: "We may not perish after death."
Lao Zi believed that to know eternity is to inherit eternity and to enter eternity. "The Word lasts forever and we will not perish even after death." If we enter the Word, we will get eternity. Even if our physical body perishes, we will still live in peace.
Lao Zi said that the Saint "inherits the light" and the world "inherits continuity". This is very significant. On the one hand, "the Saint is able to save the world and nobody is doomed to being abandoned. This is the light in which human beings inherit the Word." On the other hand, human beings "return to the light because of the light transmitted by the Word, and they will never perish; and this is the meaning of inheriting eternity". The mystery is that human beings must go through the Saint to inherit eternity. Lao Zi said that the Saint produced light and guarded against darkness, and that He entered the world to become the mediator between human beings and the Word.
With the Saint, we no longer talk about light but we return into the light. To inherit continuity is to inherit eternity. We can see here that the Saint, for the sake of human beings, makes the way to eternity the way to everlasting life.
In Lao Zi, one can also find quite a few discussion sections on everlasting life. For instance, "dies but does not perish", "no death", "the way to longevity", etc. It is unfortunate that people invented longevity pills and tricks to forever young based on Lao Zi's way to everlasting life. They do not really understand what Lao Zi meant.
The book is available in all Christian bookstores.