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“Listen to What One Says and Watch What One Does”- Remarks on the “Sino-Christian Theology Movement”

The “Sino-Christian Theology Movement” can be traced back to the mid-1980s, when Chinese academia was blossoming and contending. The renaissance of Chinese culture and introducing Western thought were two main streams with the same purpose of exploring the way of China’s modernization. At that time, some Chinese scholars found that Christianity was an important part of Western learning. Without Christian studies, one cannot understand the foundation of Western culture and historical thought. Sino-Christian Theology was born in such a context. The initiators are Mainland Chinese scholars, who pay attention to culture and knowledge, while ISCS plays the role of facilitator. We have developed academic programs according to the research interests of Mainland scholars, and cooperate with them on the basis of mutual respect and equal dialogue.

Since ISCS began promoting “Sino-Christian Theology”, we have been frequently queried by the church community in spite of the fact that our work has been broadly accepted among the Chinese academics. However, in recent years, we are faced with new criticism from some atheistic scholars of Mainland China. They think that our purpose is to “evangelize” by “infiltrating” Chinese academia under an “academic guise”.

When I was on a business trip in August, a friend emailed me inquiring about ISCS’s ultimate mission. I was in the middle of a conference, so I replied directly: “ISCS is a legally registered non-profit organization in HKSAR. As an academic organization, it enjoys independence and autonomy; it does not belong to any religious institution. The constitution of the organization does not include any goals of evangelization. The mission of ISCS is to promote the dialogue and integration of the pluralistic tradition of Christianity and the pluralistic tradition of humanism. We do not have a particular system of thought we want to import into China. In contrast, we emphasize an interdisciplinary integration of Chinese and western scholarship in the spirit of mutual respect to achieve a kind of “creative transformation”, so as to foster a brand new knowledge system acknowledged by Chinese academia, further enriching its diversity and offering responses to the challenge of the country’s modernization. We refer to this process as the ‘Sino-Christian Theology Movement’ and to its result as Sino-Christian Theology’”. This friend, also in a direct way, summarized the features of our work and reminded me that these features are the most important reasons why the academy chooses to cooperate with us:

.  Academic, rather than evangelistic

.  Inclusive, rather than discriminative

.  Cross-cultural, rather than Wester-centric

His reminder made me review our three core projects of the last 20 years: academic publication, nourishing a new generation, and dialogue and exchange. I found that the above features listed have already been our latent rules in conducting these academic projects. Therefore, we have indeed earned approval and positive reception from Mainland academia, as well as overseas academia and church communities. There is an old Chinese saying “listen to what one says and watch what one does”. And we will continue dialoguing with critics with an open mind.