After Imperialism: Christian identity in China and
the global Evangelical movement
Richard R. Cook and David W. Pao, editors
Lutterworth Press £19.50
Church Times Bookshop £17.55 (Use code
IT IS commonly held in China that Buddhism arrived from India on
the back of a white horse, while, many centuries later,
Christianity came from the West accompanied by gunboats. These
historical connections have tainted Chinese Christianity with a
sense of cultural and colonial imperialism.
A conference at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Illinois,
in May 2008, invited Chinese and American academics to explore some
of the ways in which contemporary relationships between Chinese and
Western Christians might learn lessons from historical precedent
and from close biblical readings. The 12 chapters in this volume
are a result of that conference.
Three of the scholars directly address the Chinese Christian
historical experience. Of these, Kevin Xiyi Yao is particularly
helpful in outlining the various attitudes towards social service
held in the missionary and Chinese churches before Mao's Liberation
in 1949, highlighting a continuing issue among contemporary Chinese
The other, more exegetical chapters deal with an assortment of
topics ranging from ancient Hebrew attitudes towards Holy War, or
contextual biblical criticism in the United States and China, to St
Paul's table fellowship. Finally, there are three chapters
questioning aspects of Evangelical Christian identity in the
diverse cultural contexts of China and the United States.
Mark Noll has noted that ahistoricism is a hallmark of
Evangelical Christianity, and it can be frustrating to watch
Christian commentators of various hues trying to annex an emerging
indigenous Chinese Christianity to their own global brand. This
volume helpfully outlines some ways in which imperial readings of
the Bible and Christian history have led to the inexcusable
importation of Western divisions into Chinese church life. The
relevance of labels such as Evangelicalism to Chinese Christian
experience remains moot. Nevertheless, the invitation of Chinese
scholars into discussions on the past and future development of the
global Church is a welcome step forward.
Lawrence Braschi is the director of the China desk of
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.