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”
When I was first interested in Christianity in China, the Protestant terrain was laid out very clearly to me. There are two churches in China: (1) the true and faithful house churches who’s members endure persecution to live the faith and (2) the Three-Self churches who’s members are not really Christians because they have compromised the gospel to communism. Over time, I have come to realise that these characterisations are far from representative of these two groups, and a lot of good can come out of discarding them.1 Continue reading “(Dis)unity in the Church in China”
A few years back, I was delivering one of my first academic papers in a conference in North America. I was discussing the controversial figure Bishop K. H. Ting (丁光训), saying I did not agree with many of his actions, though I did think a theology that tried to encourage the church to engage non-Christians was a good thing. One of the respondents from the audience stood up and basically spent the next ten minutes explaining to me that this type of theology was neither biblical nor Evangelical. I responded by saying that Ting’s theological approach could arguably find resonance in the thinkings of a few notable Evangelical theologians, but this in no way appeased the fury of this man (it probably angered him even more!). Continue reading “Can anything good come out of the TSPM?”
In 1985, Bishop K. H. Ting (丁光训) introduced to students at Nanjing Seminary several foreign theologies that he felt could inspire Chinese Christians.1 Though he was particularly drawn to process theology and the theology of Teilhard de Chardin, his comments on Latin American liberation theology were quite curious. He believed that, rather than focusing on an otherworldly theology that asks whether ‘one goes to heaven or hell after death. The central theological problem should be the human world, how we enable people to live a life of human dignity once they are in the world.’2 Ultimately, however, Ting believed China did not need a liberation theology because China was already ‘liberated’ through the communist victory of 1949.3
Yet liberation theologies (e.g., Latin American, Black theology, Minjung theology, Dalit theology, etc.) often emphasise two reformulations of classic Christology: Christ as a liberation and Christ as a fellow-sufferer. While the more triumphalist understanding of Christ as liberator may not be prominent in post-Mao China, Christ who accompanies those who suffer has. Continue reading “Has post-Mao China Developed a Liberation Theology?”