Taiping Theology: The Localization of Christianity in China, 1843–64. By Carl S. Kilcourse. New York, NY, USA, Palgrave Macmillan 2016. Pp. xvii+281. $100.00.
As Christians around the world have been commemorating the quincentenary anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, many have reiterated one of its most famous dicta: sola Scriptura. These two Latin words have been used to summarise the spirit of Protestantism, especially as found through the reading of the vernacular bible. However, one often forgets that many of the translations were accompanied by copious notes to clarify words and expressions, and to comment on ‘correct’ Christian doctrine. While the Protestants behind each of these bibles held to the principle of sola Scriptura, they also held to a very strong sense that the bible read ‘incorrectly’ could be wielded — not as a sword of truth, but as a sword of blasphemy. In many ways, the book under review offers a profound case study of the power of the bible and the attempts of a religious leader in asserting his ‘correct’ reading of that vernacular text. Carl S. Kilcourse has provided a magnificent study of ‘Taiping Theology’ and the thinking of the main leader behind it, Hong Xiuquan. Continue reading “Carl Kilcourse’s ‘Taiping Theology’ – A Book Review”
China’s Urban Christians: A Light that Cannot be Hidden. By Brent Fulton. Eugene, OR, USA, Pickwick Publications 2015. Pp. ix + 145. $21.00.
One of the greatest forces to remould the landscape of mainland China in the last two decades has been the country’s push towards rapid urbanisation. Contrary to the measured approach the sociologist Fei Xiaotong recommended to the communist cadre, the speed of constructing and populating China’s urban centres has undoubtedly resulted in many significant societal challenges. Likewise, urbanisation has had significant consequences for the church in China which once was known as having a ‘Christianity fever’ amongst the rural poor but is now seeing a formidable force of urban intellectuals and entrepreneurs.
The volume under review addresses this complex reality. Continue reading “Brent Fulton’s ‘China’s Urban Christians’ – A Book Review”
This past weekend I had the privilege of offering the keynote at the AGM of the Friend of the Church in China (FCC). I was asked to speak about two figures of whom I have written about academically: K. H. Ting 丁光训 (1915–2012)1 and Wang Weifan 汪维藩 (1927–2015).2 This was an especially interesting treat as Ting gave his famous speech about the cosmic Christ at the 1991 meeting of the FCC, and I was now asked to speak about him and another key leader in the state-sanctioned Protestant church of China, the TSPM and the CCC.
Now, if you read the literature about Ting, you will encounter many strongly polarised views. Continue reading “The Legacy of K. H. Ting and Wang Weifan”
This summer, I attended two academic conferences offering a presentation about a key figure in the development of Protestant Christianity in China since the 1980s: the Reformed missionary, Jonathan Chao 赵天恩 (1938–2004). The focus of my paper was on how his theology and approach has shaped his engagement with the house church movement. The surprising thing is that most of the questions that arose from my presentation was not about Chao himself, but about why there has been a recent rise in the interests in Calvinism in China.
Of course, as Calvinism (and Christianity) is on the decline in the West, this has caught the attention of a lot of people, reporters and academics.1 Here, let me offer five reasons for these developments:
Continue reading “The Rise of Calvinism in China Today: Five Reasons”
As today is the Fourth of July, churches throughout the United States this past weekend have been celebrating their love for their country alongside their love for their God – a strong spirit of patriotism. One recent survey reports that 61 percent of Protestant pastors in America say it is important for worship services on the weekend of the Fourth of July to incorporate patriotic elements to celebrate America’s birth, with 66 percent wanting to include special music honouring the country. In other words, American Protestants often have no problem with American patriotism.
Given that this past weekend has also had the 95th anniversary celebrations of the Communist Party of China, it is worth considering what ‘patriotism’ means for religion across the ocean. In contrast to what happens in America, many American (and Chinese) Christians are unnerved by groups in China such as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement or the Catholic Patriotic Association – state-sanctioned organisations of Christianity – and believe that the ‘true’ church is in the unregistered house churches or underground churches. Like in the US, I want to claim that most churches in China (registered or unregistered) also hold a very strong love for their country alongside their love for their God – but we should be calling this nationalism, not patriotism. Continue reading “Patriotism and Christianity in China: A Reflection on the Fourth of July”