Christianity vs. Taoism: What’s the Difference?

Christianity and Taoism are two of the world’s major religions, each with its own unique beliefs, practices, and history.

While Christianity originated in the Middle East and is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, Taoism emerged in China and is rooted in the philosophy of Laozi.

This article will explore the key similarities and differences between these two religions, examining their sacred texts, beliefs, practices, and historical development.

Taoist temple
Is Christianity or Taoism larger? See below

Comparing Christianity and Taoism: An Overview

“Christianity” comes from the Greek word “Christos,” meaning “anointed one,” referring to Jesus Christ, with the suffix “-ianity” denoting a belief system.

“Taoism” derives from the Chinese word “Tao” (or “Dao”), meaning “the Way,” with the suffix “-ism” indicating a philosophical or religious system.

SizeApproximately 2.3 billion adherentsApproximately 12-20 million adherents
Date StartedAround 1st century ADAround 4th century BC
FounderJesus Christ (central figure), Apostles (founders)Laozi (traditionally attributed)
Key BeliefsBelief in one God (Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit); Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior; Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ; Resurrection of Jesus ChristBelief in the Tao (the Way) as the ultimate reality; Balance and harmony with nature; Emphasis on simplicity and non-action (wu wei); Cultivation of inner peace and spiritual insight
Key PracticesPrayer, Worship services, Reading the Bible, Baptism, Communion (Eucharist)Meditation, Tai chi and qigong (physical exercises), Feng shui (harmonizing with the environment), Traditional Chinese medicine and herbalism
DivisionsRoman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, ProtestantismPhilosophical Taoism, Religious Taoism, Folk Taoism
Central LocationVatican City (Catholicism)
Various locations for other denominations
China (origin and central location)
Sacred TextsThe Bible (Old and New Testaments)Tao Te Ching (Daodejing)
I Ching (Yijing)

Who was Laozi?

Laozi was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer, traditionally considered the founder of Taoism. He is credited with authoring the Tao Te Ching, a foundational text of Taoist philosophy.

Laozi’s teachings emphasize living in harmony with the Tao, an underlying principle that governs all existence.

What’s the difference between philosophical and religious Taoism?

Philosophical Taoism focuses on the teachings of ancient texts like the Tao Te Ching, emphasizing harmony with the Tao and a natural, simple life.

Religious Taoism involves rituals, deities, and practices for spiritual cultivation and immortality. While both share core concepts, they differ in their practices and beliefs.

Christian cross
What do Christians believe about ultimate reality? See below

Contrasting Christian and Taoist Beliefs

God or godsOne God, existing in three persons (Trinity): Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy SpiritThe Tao, an impersonal ultimate reality; various deities and spirits in religious Taoism
The universeCreated by God; a temporary existence that will be transformed in the end timesA manifestation of the Tao; a dynamic balance of opposites (yin and yang)
Ultimate realityGod is the ultimate reality; eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresentThe Tao is the ultimate reality; an unchanging, underlying principle that governs all existence
Human beingsCreated in the image of God; inherently sinful due to the Fall of Adam and EvePart of the natural order; inherently good but can be led astray by desires and societal influences
The problem with the worldSin, resulting from the Fall of Adam and Eve; leads to suffering, injustice, and separation from GodImbalance and disharmony; caused by straying from the Tao and natural order
The solution to the problemSalvation through faith in Jesus Christ; repentance and forgiveness of sinsReturning to the Tao; living in harmony with nature, simplicity, and non-action (wu wei)
The afterlifeHeaven (eternal life with God) for the righteous; Hell (eternal separation from God) for the unrighteousVaried beliefs; some Taoists seek immortality, while others focus on living in harmony with the Tao in this life

What is the Trinity in Christianity?

The Trinity in Christianity is the belief that God exists as three persons in one essence: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Each person is distinct yet fully God.

What does yin and yang mean in Taoism?

In Taoism, yin and yang represent the dual forces of the universe. Yin is associated with passivity, darkness, and femininity, while yang represents activity, light, and masculinity.

They are interdependent and complementary, creating balance and harmony in the natural world. The interaction of yin and yang shapes all existence.

yin yang symbol
What kind of offerings do Taoists make? See below

The Practices of Christianity and Taoism

PracticeChristian PracticesTaoist Practices
PrayerCentral to worship; personal communication with GodUsed in rituals and ceremonies; often directed to deities and spirits
Worship ServicesRegular gatherings for communal worship, prayer, and Bible readingsRituals and ceremonies honoring deities, ancestors, and natural forces
Reading Sacred TextsReading and studying the Bible (Old and New Testaments)Reading and studying texts like the Tao Te Ching, Zhuangzi, and I Ching
Dietary PracticesVaries by denomination; some observe fasting or abstain from certain foodsDietary practices based on traditional Chinese medicine; some Taoists observe fasting or vegetarianism
RitualsBaptism, Communion (Eucharist), Confirmation, Marriage, Anointing of the SickOfferings to deities and spirits; rituals for purification, protection, and blessings
SymbolsCross, fish, dove, bread and wine, lambYin-yang symbol, trigrams and hexagrams (I Ching), images of deities
Moral and Ethical ConductFollowing the teachings of Jesus Christ; emphasis on love, forgiveness, and charityFollowing the Tao; emphasis on simplicity, harmony, and non-action (wu wei)
Physical PracticesSome Christians practice meditation or contemplative prayerTai chi and qigong (physical exercises); meditation and breathing practices
Cross of Christ
When was the Bible written? See below

The Sacred Texts of Christianity and Taoism

“Bible” comes from the Greek word “biblia,” meaning “books.” It refers to the collection of sacred texts in Christianity.

“Testament” derives from the Latin “testamentum,” meaning “covenant” or “agreement.” The “Old Testament” contains texts before Jesus, while the “New Testament” includes texts about Jesus and his teachings.

AspectChristian Sacred TextsTaoist Sacred Texts
Name of TextsThe BibleTao Te Ching, Zhuangzi, I Ching
Number of Books66 books (39 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament)Tao Te Ching (1 book), Zhuangzi (1 book), I Ching (1 book)
Language of CompositionHebrew, Aramaic, GreekClassical Chinese
Date of CompositionBetween 1400 BC and 100 ADBetween 6th and 3rd centuries BC
AuthorshipVarious authors, including prophets, apostles, and other leadersTraditionally attributed to Laozi (Tao Te Ching), Zhuangzi (Zhuangzi), and unknown authors (I Ching)
ThemesGod’s relationship with humanity, salvation through Jesus Christ, moral and ethical conductThe Tao (the Way), balance and harmony with nature, simplicity and non-action (wu wei)
Role in WorshipCentral to worship services, sermons, and Bible studiesUsed in rituals, meditation, and philosophical study
InterpretationInterpreted through the teachings of Jesus Christ and the ChurchInterpreted through the teachings of Taoist masters and sages
three crosses
When was Jesus born? See below

10 Significant Events in Christian and Taoist History

Christian EventsTaoist Events
1. Birth of Jesus Christ (circa 4-6 BC)1. Composition of the Tao Te Ching (circa 4th century BC)
2. Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (circa 30-33 AD)2. Composition of the Zhuangzi (circa 3rd century BC)
3. Conversion of Paul the Apostle (circa 33-36 AD)3. Establishment of the Way of the Celestial Masters (circa 2nd century AD)
4. Council of Nicaea (325 AD)4. Development of Taoist alchemy and immortality practices (circa 4th-5th centuries AD)
5. Conversion of Emperor Constantine (312 AD)5. Founding of the Quanzhen School (circa 12th century AD)
6. Great Schism (1054 AD)6. Compilation of the Daozang (Taoist Canon) (circa 15th century AD)
7. Crusades (1096-1291 AD)7. Spread of Taoism to other East Asian countries (circa 6th-7th centuries AD)
8. Protestant Reformation (1517 AD)8. Persecution of Taoism during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976)
9. Council of Trent (1545-1563 AD)9. Revival of Taoist practices in modern China (1980s-present)
10. Second Vatican Council (1962-1965 AD)10. Recognition of Taoism as a religion by the Chinese government (1980s-present)

[1] Taoism – BBC
[2] Taoism – Wikipedia
[3] Christianity – Britannica

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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