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Sino-Christian Theology and Academia

The essays in this issue are written by Prof. Zhang Qingxiong and Prof. Wang Xiaochao. Both are close friends of ISCS over the last decade, witnessing the development of the Sino-Christian theology movement. And both of them discussed the contemporary relationship between theology and the public sphere. It is interesting that when they mentioned the language of theology in the public sphere, both articulated some characteristics of Sino-Christian theology. Prof. Zhang in “Political Theology, Public Sphere and Separation of Church and State” wrote “citizens no matter with or without religious attachment can participate in democratic dialogue in public spheres, sharing their own thoughts, and going through criticisms of others. Their thoughts may be discarded or refined and being supported by others, and then integrated into the citizens’ consensus…This is not only because the state should remain neutral among different religions and denominations, in order to secure the freedom of religion, but also because the legitimacy of a democratic legal state should be based on democratic procedures and public consensus, instead of any specific ideology…In the public sphere they have the right to express their opinions or criticize society from their religious view, but they cannot set their religion as the standard of truth. Through rational criticizing and being criticized, defending and refuting, their opinions would blend into public communication. Their beliefs and thoughts can influence others, and the beliefs and thoughts of others can influence them.”

Prof. Wang Xiaochao’s “To Study Religions and to Study Theology” also discussed the principles that theology should observe in the academia, “The term ‘theology’ may refer to any discourse related to the topic of God. Regardless of the result that God is present (theism) or not (atheism) or undetermined (agnosticism), anyone who reflects on this topic participates in the broadest sense of theology… If no one has ever been thinking about God, then there would never be theology. In an age of globalization, every major world religion has its own theology. But just like the time of ancient Greece, there is theology developed inside and outside the believing communities… Theology is a kind of rational thinking, an instrument to raise the quality of religion. In face of the unique contemporary Chinese situation, academia should study religions and cannot neglect theology. Only to study religions without theology (including academic criticism) is not only impossible, but is harmful.”

From my reader’s response perspective, both scholars stated a principle for Sino-Christian theology which emerged from the humanities: perspectives from the church and from the public realm should respect each other. It also articulated the characteristics of Sino-Christian theology in the humanities. This coincidence is like the working spirit of Tao Fong Shan: “The wind blows according to its will, and so it was.”