A Sense of Awe: On the Differences between Confucian Thought and Christianity

in Frontiers of Philosophy in China
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The fundamental importance of reverence is recognized by all major world cultures. Confucianism’s account of “The three things of which the sage is in awe” is seen in Chinese culture through the value placed on reverence. “The three things of which the sage is in awe” both manifests itself as an approach to value and is also an expression of practical ethical guidance. The essential aspect of reverence is a sincere and ethical outlook; accordingly it is a part of virtue ethics. In this kind of virtue ethics, ethical practice accords with self-conscious conduct that is guided by a sense of reverence, and this forms the guiding thought of Confucianism. From a comparative cultural perspective, the Confucian sense of reverence founded upon ethical self-awareness and Christian sense of reverence founded on divine worship are different. However, both take reverence to be the root of culture, thus proving that reverence is an element that none of the world’s major cultures can be without. In the early modern period, a sense of reverence was seen something enchanted and harmful to the rational progress of civilization. However, the contemporary reenchantment movements in some ways call up a return to such reverence.

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