Chapter 23 A Contextual Comparison of Conceptual Categories: A Christian-Confucian Test Case in Taiwan from a Ritual Perspective

In: A Companion to Comparative Theology
Kijin James Wu
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During the past three decades, Taiwan has experienced a thriving political and scientific development and transformed herself radically into a modern democratic state open to the world. Yet, Taiwan is far from being a secular state. Taiwan is typical of a developing society imbued with multiple religions – a religious backbone portraying the unique cultural character of Taiwanese society today. Among the diverse religious activities, the ancestral rite or the rite of offering sacrifices to ancestors (ji zu, 祭祖) best describes the common socio-religio activity in Taiwan. For the Taiwanese people, offering sacrifices to ancestors through ritual expression is culturally indicative because it articulates one of the highest moral values in Taiwan, filial piety (xiao, ). As such, the rite is the bedrock of socio-religio practice in Taiwan, underlining the religious and cultural sentiments of the Taiwanese people. The protestant Christians in Taiwan, however, generally refuse to observe the rite while believing that the rite is religiously syncretic by nature. This raises a question of theological judgment, questioning this Christian judgment if it is religiously and culturally adequate. To address this question, this paper first identifies the Chinese Rites Controversy as the historical consciousness of the ritual engagement inherent in the society of Taiwan today. Second, this paper argues that the idea of ritual is a theological category proper for interreligious dialogue in a comparative context to examine the nature of ancestral rite in its Confucian context on the one hand and to portray its religious connotations concerned with Protestant Christian theology on the other. Finally, this paper concludes with an argument that comparative theology is relatively adequate in Taiwan as a Christian contextual theology interpreted and reconstructed with theological concerns over the ritual questions inherent in the society of Taiwan. I hope that this paper properly addresses the ritual issue from a multiple-religious contextual perspective, which in turn paves a way to pursue a relatively adequate Christian theology in Taiwan.

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