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China's House Church Researcher on Faith and Public Life: How do Chinese Churches Better Adapt to the Tendency of Publicity?(Part 2)

China's House Church Researcher on Faith and Public Life: How do Chinese Churches Better Adapt to the Tendency of Publicity?(Part 2)

chior chior(Christian Times)
ByRuth Wang October 09, 2015
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During thirty years of reform and opening up, the freedom of religion being implemented, and China Christianity also usher in a new era of vigorous development. The growth of the number of Christians and churches has gradually brought a new urgent trend that we need to face: publicity.

How do the Chinese Church and Christians better correspond to face the challenges and changes in this trend? Recently a House-church researcher Ran Liang, who has been doing researches on House-church, accepted an Exclusive Interview of CCD to share his observation and thoughts on this topic. 

CCD: You have just mentioned that the Chinese Christian Church and Christians should have the idea that "I am a normal part of the normal society". But the church is basically in the family and private space in the last decades, and the church has been more emphasis on the concept of "holy and profane dichotomy ", which also gives the Chinese Church a lot of obstacles. How do the Chinese Church and Christians change their minds, in your opinion, to better promote them into public space? 

Ran Liang: In fact, this is a historical problem. Actually, churches in China have been facing the two main problems since 1949. One problem is the extremely external environment. At that time, many priests and Christians were arrested and killed. Such a situation resulted that the Chinese house church is always in a dark state, which makes the church cannot participate in public affairs. They just stay far away from political affairs.

Another problem is that the church was affected a lot by the concept of "holy and profane dichotomy". They think the gospel is the most important thing. The world is like a ship to sink, and what we can do is to save the soul. Saving souls is the most important thing, which has a great impact on the Chinese Church.

It's no doubt that preaching the gospel is always one of the most important things for the church. But we don't know when Jesus Christ will come. If Jesus Christ comes 100 years later, we will have a schedule, so we can write an order of priority, but the fact is that we can't know, and the Bible says only our heavenly father knows that time; no one else knows. In this process, we admit that saving souls is important, but the salvation of Jesus Christ is not only embodied in souls saving, but reflected on holistic save and change.

"Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven" in the Lord's Prayer means not to say that build the heaven on earth. It's impossible to oppose any efforts to create a heaven on earth, and the idea is very harmful. But this does not mean that we are not in the pursuit of justice and righteousness on the ground. Fairness and justice are the foundation of the Christian faith, the Bible stressed that point and Prophet Micah says "He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

This determines that our Christians and the church in the world must be salt and light to govern and manage the world. In this aspect, the Chinese church must make many breakthroughs on their mind of theology, the bible, the church, and many other aspects. We should realize that many old ideas are formed under specific historical conditions and environment, and today historical conditions and various aspects change. There are a lot of deviations from the old ideas, and we should make a lot of positive changes in these areas today.

CCD: You just mentioned the history. Protestant has been into China for more than 200 years. Missionaries and Christians have given a lot of trials and cases in promoting public affairs, what do you think we should do to deal with and learn from the historical experience?

Ran Liang: There are many experiences and lessons in history. In my opinion, for Chinese house churches and Christians, they need more time to learn from the history. What you've just mentioned is very important. We need to study earnestly on the history of Nestorianism in the Tang dynasty and the Morrison after one hundred years. 

For example, the growth of the Christian is very slow for more than 100 years. Statistic in 1949 shows the number of Christian (protestant) is 800000 or so, and the number of Catholics is around 3 million. It was a small proportion of the population of 400 million Chinese. However, Christianity plays a very profound and important role on the development of the modernization of China. That mainly benefits from what we call "the trinity" missionary mode: the Gospel, the education, and the medical charity. Many missionaries put their main energy in the aspects such as education, health care, and they see those ways as the preliminary work of the Gospel. The result is good. 

You can see that Christianity participated in public affairs a lot at that time. At that time, churches and Christians played an important role in many aspects, such as in charity, education, medical treatment, news, sports and talent training. They made so much contribution to China's development and progress, which we should remember. I think, for our church, these are very worthy to study. Many Christians made a lot of contributions.

When it comes to participation in public affairs, there are two wrong tendencies: one of them is that what we just talked about "holy and profane dichotomy ". Christians go without focusing on public affairs. They just emphasize the Gospel-preaching, souls-saving, going to heaven when death coming. They ignore politics, economy, law, education, academic, and other fields. The other tendency is similar to the social Gospel of the liberal theology, emphasis too much on the point that Christians should participate in social affairs, even establish a new society, treating the social transformation as the purpose; simply speaking is to establish a paradise on earth in the world. That tendency has a big problem and error and will cause many negative effects. 

For today's Christian, when we participate in public affairs, we should not only oppose to "holy and profane dichotomy ", but also oppose to ignore the essence of the Gospel and salvation to participate in social transformation, to participate in the construction of the so-called "the world heaven". This is not realizing that Christians are "dwellers". 

When we say Christians do not belong to this world, it doesn't mean that we completely ignore the world. The world is polluted with sin, but it is God who created the world, with a certain degree of justice and righteousness from God. We hope that the principle of God's righteousness and mercy and love embodied in this society, and we can try our best to make the moral, ethical, legal, education philosophy of the society in line with the principle of the Bible, but we don't hope and seek - what I call "radical Christian fundamentalist "who is seeking to establish a new society, and this is very terrible. 

Today's society is so different from before. We cannot imitate it blindly. In late china, there are some models, such as Shimenkan's "trinity", and the model that Timothy Richard paying too much attention to culture and the top route, and the model of the mainland that lays particular stress on the Gospel. We should treat and understand them carefully. Today the mission of preaching the gospel is very important, cultural mission is also very important. We need to be more in line with the truth and have an equal understanding. We must have a neutral point of view and avoid two wrong tendencies, to participate in public affairs in conformity with the principles of neutrality, influent and develop social ethics.

To Be Continued.
- Translated by Jenny

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