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Christ in China

30 November 2012

Lawrence Braschi reads about faith and its obstacles there

jeremy hunter

Prayer climax: the Biswa Ijtema in Tongi, Bangladesh, a global gathering of the Muslim mission that gives its name to Zacharias Pieri's study Tablighi Jamaat, in the new series Handy Books on Religion in World Affairs (Lapido Media, £10; 978-0-9573565-0-4). The mission is well-known in the UK for plans for a so-called "megamosque" in east London. Dr Philip Lewis, an adviser to the Bishop of Bradford and a regular Church Times reviewer, commends this account as "accessible, balanced and informative"

Prayer climax: the Biswa Ijtema in Tongi, Bangladesh, a global gathering of the Muslim mission that gives its name to Zacharias Pieri's study Tablig...

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 CT242 )

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 churches.

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.

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