Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

Moral Arguments for the Existence of God in Late Ming and Early Qing: Matteo Ricci's "Moral Ability as Institution" and His Appropriation of Mencius' Ideas

Author: JI Jianxun, Lecturer, School of Humanities and Communication, Shanghai Normal University



This study focuses on how Matteo Ricci proved the the existence of God through “moral arguments” in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties. On the basis of a close reading of Ricci’s works, the author shows how Ricci first tried to prove the existence of God via orthodox theology to the Chinese people, before appropriating the Chinese philosopher Mencius’ ideas on “the original goodness of human nature” (ren qin zhi bian) and “huaman moral knowing and moral ability” (liang zhi liang neng), interpreting God as “the origin of morality” in a Confucian context that stresses moral ethics. By relating Ricci’s ideas to Catholic theological tradition, in particular Thomas Aquinas, the author suggests that Ricci’s moral argument for the existence of God is grounded in the accommodation and inculturation of Christian theology to Mencian ideas. Such an approach sheds light on our understanding of the meaning of Immanuel Kant’s critique and Paul Tillich’s cultural theology in the present. Ricci’s “theory of moral ability as institution” and moral arguments for the existence of God might serve as the origin of Chinese theology.



Matteo Ricci‎, Existence of God, Chinese Theology, moral arguments, human good nature


Full Text (International Version):

JI JianxunSCN JSCC.pdf


Full Text (Simplified Chinese Version): 

JI JianxunSCN JSCC.pdf