By Zach Van Houten
This year I stumbled upon a Christian version of the ancient Chinese contemplative work the Tao Te Ching. What made me excited about this is that it does what I feel is often missing in our dialogues with other faith traditions: translate religious texts from one spiritual language into another.
Many westerners struggle to relate with foreign concepts such as the Tao, since the word is entirely new to us. To add new words to the Christian vocabulary may not be very helpful. But if we look closely we can easily see that Tao is simply a Chinese word that can be translated as God or Spirit, or even Christ. And this is done here by baptist minister Marshall Davis in The Tao of Christ: A Christian Version of the Tao Te Ching.
The Tao Te Ching tackles many topics in a very subtle and paradoxical way. It isn’t an easy read if you approach it with a analytical mind, but if you let the words hit you, and allow space for the paradoxical style, it reveals wonderfully beautiful nuances of contemplative life that can barely be put into words. Thankfully Marshall simplifies it even further here for readers who may find the original Taoist text daunting.
There are many great passages, and I will share one here that hit me this morning. It speaks to the way Christ lived in the gospels, and how He works in Creation:
Associate with the righteous and the unrighteous.
Accept people as they are without judging them.
If you love the world unconditionally, it will be like returning to Eden before the knowledge of good and evil.
The world is formed from nothing,
like a bowl formed from a block of wood.
The bowl is made of wood, yet it is the empty space that makes it useful.
So does God make and use all things.
If you try to fix the world, you will fail miserably.
The world is God’s to fix.
Can you do better than God?
In trying to make things better,
You will only mess things up.
That doesn’t mean you should do nothing.
You should act according to your nature.
Some are meant to lead, others to follow.
Some struggle, others take things easy.
Some are strong, and others weak.
Some play it safe, others take risks.
Christ sees everything as it is.
He sees God at work in all events, and does not usurp control.
Keeping in the center of the Divine will, he accomplishes all things.The Tao of Christ, verses 28-29
I encourage everyone to order the book/buy the ebook, since it is a wonderful addition to anyone interested in, or familiar with Christianity who also wants a fresh perspective on the spiritual world. Paperback version can be purchased here. Marshall also has a wonderful podcast by the same name which can be found here.
For those who want to experience the full force of the original Tao Te Ching translated into English, I would recommend this audio version on YouTube since it is such a beautiful reading and translation. For those interested in a more introductory version using Christian terminology, I recommend The Tao of Christ.
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