Two Controversial Working Principles

For the sake of introducing the concept of result of Sino-Christian theology in Mainland China, two veterans of Sino-Christian theology and I are co-editing two series of book, which explicate Sino-Christian theology from the broad and narrow senses. HE Guanghu and I are co-editing a gigantic work A Reader for Sino-Christian Theology, which selected writings from Jingjiao documents to contemporary Chinese theological treatises. LI Qiuling and I are co-editing three volumes of Contemporary academic and Sino-Christian Theology. It is a record of the essays written on Sino-Christian theology in the last ten more years, and is expected to appear by the end of 2007.


In the process of editing, I am reviewing the entire movement of Sino-Christian theology. Salute must first be made to all who have dedicated their wisdom and effort to this movement, and the supervising work of the board of directors. Because of their collective wisdom, ISCS is insisting on two controversial working principles. Although they may be queried and criticized by many, we have never been moved.

1.        The origin of contemporary Sino-Christian theology is the humanities of Mainland China, therefore the soil of its growing is naturally the same. From the perspective of the history of theology, the initiators and participants of Sino-Christian theology know that theology is “from” and “for” the church. But who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has known that the Chinese intellectuals in the 80s of the last century made a little “Macedoniancall”? Who has known that the small institute then would have responded to this call and achieved a surprising result? Early in 1999 I wrote in the Christmas card to friends and organizations that our journey is like that of Abraham. We were called to leave the prosperous place we know for the unknown “promised land”. At that time the board of directorsand I only saw a hazy vision: let Christian studies be a constituent of Chinese academic tradition… After more than ten years, this vision is no longer ambiguous, but has become a workable and achievable project. This is also the blueprint of our next decade.

2.        The narrow sense of Sino-Christian theology should not be dependent of ecclesial theology, but they should have mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation. From the very beginning we have indicated clearly that the Chinese academia does not only need the theological resource of one denomination. What they need is a holistic and ecumenical resource. Our strategy is first to introduce the thought and culture of the Christian religion, so as to do dialogue and integration with the humanities of the Chinese academia. Dogmatic theology will be introduced subsequently. Since the Sitz im Leben of this Sino-Christian theology is the Chinese humanities, it is not subordinated to ecclesial theology. But they should have mutual respect and dialogue.

On the other hand, since Sino-Christian theology of the Chinese academia is not against the hegemony of the church in the history of the west, it understands Christianity by analyzing its close relationship with modernity. Therefore the Christian studies of the Chinese humanities respect and learn from the church from the start, and insist on academic independence. Theyare not concerned with what is called “orthodox”, but only the theories and influences of different discourses. From this we are not too surprised that theologies of the fundamentalist and evangelical can also attract the scholars if they are rich in academic expressions. It is more important that from the very beginning we have invited scholars and institutes from different denominations for cooperation, in order to enhance the mutual understanding and communication between scholars from churches and the Chinese humanities. We believe that both parties can have good communication in knowledge and spirit if we have mutual respect and aim at building one fellowship.

Lastly, as the religious policy of China has gradually become more open and rational, many of the new generation of Chinese scholars in Christian studies are believers. We are optimistic that their emergence will increase the plurality of Sino-Christian theology. They will observe the rules of the humanities to construct theology of this realm with their personal experiences. This is not only good for the Chinese academia, but also for the whole world.