Engaging Eastern Religion

Kelly James Clark

Kelly James Clark Kelly James Clark is Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College and Executive Director of the Society of Christian Philosophers. He is author, co-author or editor of over a dozen books including Return to Reason, The Story of Ethics, Philosophers Who Believe, When Faith is Not Enough and 101 Key Philosophical Terms and Their Importance for Theology. Clark is the Chair of SCP's China Committee and Program Director for the Calvin/SCP Templeton Grant for science and religion in China.

Address: "Was Confucius a Theist?"

It has become commonplace among philosophers who specialize in Chinese philosophy to deny that Confucius was a theist. Hall and Ames, for example, deny that Confucius has any notion of transcendence at all. They endorse the widely held idea that Heaven (Tian) is a departure from Shangdi, the personal deity countenanced by previous generations, and that Tian evolves into a naturalistic/ moral force by the time of Confucius; they contend that while Tian may have been religiously significant, there is no evidence that Tian was considered a personal deity. I shall argue that the transcendent is operative and important for Confucius and that the claim that "there is no written basis for determining whether or not... t'ien was held to be a personal deity" is simply false given the abundance of ancient bronze inscriptions, oracle bones and texts. I will conclude with some reflections on these matters of interest to Christian philosophers.


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