Contact and Conflict: Integral Experience in Classical Chinese and Reformational Philosophies

In: Journal of Chinese Theology
Ryan McIlhenny PhD; Professor of Liberal Arts, Shanghai Xing Wei College Shanghai China

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This essay offers a comparative analysis of aspects of classical Chinese philosophy with those of Reformational (Neo-Calvinist) philosophy. Such aspects form a shared root in prioritizing temporal experience (over abstract reasoning) and conceptualizing the entirety of reality as contingent and relationally dependent. At the same time, however, what marks the divergence between the two philosophies is the underlying assumptions as to what this integral reality points toward – a directionality that is critical to meaning and being. For classical Chinese philosophy, the source and meaning of reality is found within reality itself, not beyond it, construing such reality not as independent and self-contained but necessary and sufficient. This conflicts with the notion of reality as contingent and dependent. From a Reformational perspective, on the other hand, reality (i.e., all of creation) is constituted as it stands in relation to an independent and necessary Creator. The crux of Reformational philosophy is that the origin and meaning of all reality must point outside of itself to its origin in God.

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