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Tao Teh Ching

by John C.H. Wu translator

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Parts of the ancient Chinese holy book the Tao Teh Ching sound like a badly translated fortune cookie: “When the world is in possession of the Tao, the galloping horses are led to fertilize the fields with their droppings. When the world has become Taoless, war horses breed themselves on the suburbs.”

I have no idea what that means. Fortunately, other parts of the Tao Teh Ching speak directly to the modern American, even uncomfortably so: “There is no calamity like not knowing what is enough. There is no evil like covetousness.” At these moments, we understand why a book that often sounds quaint or abstruse has survived for more than two millennia.

But the most important parts of the Tao Teh Ching, for the Christian student, are the passages that articulate the idea that “all is one”—an idea that has been co-opted by the modern New Age movement. The prevalence of the yin and the yang (the symbol for Taoism) in modern Western culture is not merely a reflection of the fact that it is an arresting symbol; its ubiquitousness is also an indication of the readiness of many postmoderns to accept the illogical doctrine that good and evil, light and dark, are really a unity. For the New Age proponent such a doctrine is inescapable, because they believe that all living things are ultimately part of the great unity of the god-force.

The term “Tao” refers to the Way, and the central teaching of the book is that men follow the Way when they recognize that seemingly antithetical concepts are essentially the same, part of a greater harmony. Thus, the Tao Teh Ching also teaches, “When all the world recognizes beauty as beauty, this in itself is ugliness. When all the world recognizes good as good, this in itself is evil.”

Such disregard for the law of non-contradiction characterizes Taoism, but it also characterizes the New Age movement. Christians who want to share their faith with adherents to either worldview should familiarize themselves with the Tao Teh Ching.

by Jeff Baldwin