Christ and the Tao
Christ and the Tao by Heup Young Kim, published by Christian Conference of Asia in Hong Kong, 2003, 186 pp.
Prof. Kim Heup Young's book is the fruit of a serious theological reflection in the intellectual context of East Asia where the Confucian and Taoist philosophical framework has been decisive in all aspects of the life of the peoples. This book is composed of six separate articles. Though they are written separately they form an organic whole and are interconnected.
In the first part of the book, the author engages in a Confucian-Christian dialogue, using two sets of thinkers. The first set is 'Wang Yang Ming and Karl Bath' and the second set is 'Yi Toe Gye [a great Confucuian scholar] and John Calvin'. Prof. Kim regards this engagement as a part of his theological enterprise. He discusses meetings of three sets of ideas between Confucian Ch'eng and Christian agape, between the Confucian Liang-chih (Inner Sage) and the Christian notion of the humanity of Christ, and between the Confucian T'ien-ming (heavenly mandate) and the Christian Imago Dei. In the second part of his book, Prof Kim develops a Christian theological link with the east Asian philosophical notion of Tao, leading to a Christological reflection, and makes an important Christological statement that 'Christ is Tao'.
Prof. Kim states his theological enterprise as follows: 'Asian theology as an integrated articulation of the Asian Christian community of faith about God, humanity and life in the world should not only be emancipatory, but also open-minded, ideological, ecological and inclusive. We should construct a new paradigm of Asian theology that can break down the vicious cycle of the socioeconomic injustice prevailing in Asia and at the same time that can own up to Asian religions and Asian religions and cultures as part of our identities.'
The three focuses in this statement are that Asian theology should be radically emancipatory and liberational in relation to socioeconomic and political justice, which are radically inclusive in relation to gender justice and radically integral and holistic in relation to the integrity of life. He says, 'Theotao as a tao of Asian people invite us to participate in the common quest for our true subjectivity, in solidarity with the exploited life including Minjung, women and polluted nature.'
In many of our Asian theological efforts, such as indigenisation, the liberation motive has been weak due to emphases on indigenous religions and cultures, which should be subjected to theological scrutiny in regard to issues of justice. Prof. Kim sends out his theological trajectory into an emancipatory orbit. This is a remarkable definition of the theological task. In taking Asian religions, philosophies and cultures as theological resources, Asian theology should be clear in the affirmation of a liberative and healing spirituality in religion, identity and creativity in culture, justice in socioeconomics, politics and geopolitics and integrity and wholeness in the cosmos of life. Prof. Kim is embarking in this direction in his construction of Asian theology.
I wish to point out three distinct contributions in Prof. Kim's theological construction. The first is taking Asian religious, philosophical and cultural foundations and ideas to tackle the historical issues of Asian people in a Christian perspective. The ideas of freedom, liberation and justice are thought to be of Western origin and, therefore, it is wrongly believed that the Western Christian theology contains those dynamics, and that Christianisation, Westernisation and modernisation are closely connected and liberational. Prof. Kim points a new direction in Asian theology.
Secondly, Prof. Kim takes an Asian cosmic religious and philosophical framework to tackle the issue of integrity of life in the cosmos. He realises that Western philosophy and modern science has fundamental flaw in dealing with this question. In his discussion of the Tao, this is clearly stated.
Thirdly, I believe that Prof Kim has taken a very important step to develop an Asian pneumatology in a Christian perspective.
Prof. Kim is quite a Christological thinker in all these developments. This is natural because Calvin and Barth are Christological and East Asian religions and philosophies invite Christological thinking, rather than abstract theological thinking. The cosmos and humanity are one in which God is present. This invites a Christological direction.
We are aware that many Asian theologians are engaged in creative theological engagement. We have this tradition in the past, and we are embarking on a new stage of Asian theological construction. This is taking place in China, represented by K.H. Ting, in India, represented by Dalit theology, and also in Asian feminist theology, represented by many Asian women theologians. I see in Kim's work this creative theological engagement.
by Kim Yong Bock
(Prof. Kim Yong Bock is Chancellor of the
Advanced Institute for the Study of Life, Korea.)