What does today’s China teach us?

Last week’s Economist magazine published an article, “Class Struggle,” in its China column, addressing the value struggles in today’s Chinese universities. With China opened its door to the world (again) in 1979, economic and cultural exchanges were made available between China and the capitalist countries. KFC and McDonald’s could be found in almost every city in China. This also provided opportunities for the churches in the West to re-enter (the forth attempt) the harvest field in China. However, this attempt is very different from the time of Morrison and Milne by the end of the Qing dynasty. With the rule of the Communist Party, especially with the establishment of the TSPM churches, the persecution of house churches (or the non-conformists), and the national disaster of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the Christian church in China had its root solidly in the soil, and by God’s grace has endured and passed the test. Unlike the previous generations, the gospel of Jesus Christ could not be wiped away (cf. Nestorianism in Tang dynasty, Roman Catholicism in Ming and Qing dynasties). As theologian and church historian, the late Dr. Jonathan Chao observed, the church grew in persecution. [1]

No matter how open China would be, there is always a tension of worldview (or value) struggles. From last year’s news of the demolition of churches in Wenzhou, we are reminded again that Christians should not put their trust in human government. Though we are told in Scripture to obey and pray for the governments (cf. Rom 13:1–7; 1 Tim 2:1–4), its ultimate end is to honour God, from whom all authority and power were given. As the Scripture tells us that humanity is corrupted with sin –– total depravity –– we can do nothing but sin, against God. In other words, no man/woman is morally incapable. If the government is constituted with men and women, how convenient it is to conclude that the governments are morally corrupted. If that is the case, which is true, we then have to come back to Augustine’s City of God, where he argued: the City of Man, where has “only one citizenship, the citizenship of the present world; but the City of God has dual citizenship… the City of God must perform a delicate balancing act, exercising citizenship in the earthly city but ultimately loyal to its higher citizenship in heaven.” (G. Forster, The Contested Public Square, 64) [2] With this in mind, many Christians in China, when were asked to join the “established church (TSPM)” in and after 1950, they refused, and stated that they suppose to obey God, over than man.

Back to China. Canadian evangelical magazine Faith Today, reported that a study published by the China Economic Review found that “Christianity is the only religion which has a consistent ‘significant and robust effect on the economy.'” (vol 33, no 2 [March/April 2015], 13) With the revivals of the later and early decades of the 20th and 21st centuries, Christianity, as a “Western” worldview, has entered into the lives of common Chinese people. A few universities offer classes on the Bible. Also with the return of many international students, “right-wing” culture has also been orientated in the academy. Such changes in the academy alarmed the official, as the “danger of ‘harmful Western influences’ on campuses, and the need to tighten ideological control over students and academic staff.” (The Economist [Feb 28, 2015], 37) Thus, “an old-style propaganda campaign [of Marxism] is now unfolding” among the college students.” (ibid.) Interestingly, the author of the Economist article pointed out: “Marx himself was a Westerner.” Thus, the root of such conflict is about ideology, or a better term: worldview.

If Marxism is self-consistent, it would be followed voluntarily without any form of force. Yet, this is not the reality, as we see the “evolution” of Marxism, and the downfall of the whole theory. It has been proved that Marxism cannot be self-consistent, nor could it solve the problems and matters of humanity. At the same time, we see the worldview war is not only happening in China and its universities, it is also a reality here in the West. With the dawn of modern secularism, which has been prophetically summarized by Charles Taylor, now in the West, it is impossible to believe God. The consequence of such radical change is the abandon of the biblical moral norms, especially reflected in modern feminism and homosexual liberation movement. As it found its philosophical foundation at Michael Foucault, these two particular movements aim to establish a new norm through legal, political, cultural, and moral “reforms.”

The recent controversy of Ontario premier’s agenda of sex-education curriculum reform is the instance came to my mind when I first read the article “Class Struggle” in The Economics. However the premier and her government would argue, it is undeniable that this controversy reflect the fundamental worldview war of the City of God and the City of Man. Many Christians have given voice on this matter, yet there seems to be no space for rational argument, as the will of the provincial government is so sure, and there seems to be no negotiation. If that is the case, what is the difference between the Ontario government and the Chinese officials, when dealing with “ideological” differences? How ironic it would be that the activists called for toleration, yet there would be no toleration for Christians?

When we criticize the Chinese government, and its policies, shall we not forget ourselves? It is surely about human sinful nature, as we are naturally hypocrites. “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log out of your own eye? ” (Matt 7: 3–4) Neither Communism, Socialism, Liberalism, Capitalism, or even Conservatism can be self-consistent. The key to the City of God is not human wisdom, but the truth himself –– Jesus, who is God.

What does today’s China teach us? We all need the good news of Jesus the Messiah, who is now the King of kings, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. Only Christ can solve all human problems, no matter how hard it is.

________________

[1] See http://issuu.com/theseminarian/docs/march_2015 (p 12–14).

[2] Also see James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford, 2010).

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