Implications For Christianity In East Asia

Implications for China and the Chinese diasporas

As mentioned earlier, those who are interested in Christianity, especially the better educated, have to depend largely on work produced by scholars who are outside the church (extra ecclesiam). Not only that, even educated Chinese Christians, including those in the Christian ministry and seminaries, often have to rely on the non-Christian market for the supply of literature on Christianity. There are obviously both positive and negative aspects to such a strange phenomenon. Positively, writings produced outside the church provide the readers with views and perspectives rarely found within the church. Negatively, such literature can unwittingly misrepresent and misinterpret biblical faith. Moreover, a high percentage of those who are writing seriously have a highly theoretical and philosophical approach, which may not have much to do with the life and witness of the Christian readers. It is due to the lack of training in the biblical languages, Hebrew and Greek, that few Chinese scholars have attempted serious writings in biblical studies. However, Hebrew is taught at Beijing University and elementary Greek has been offered by a couple of visiting professors at a few leading universities. Nevertheless, both the positive and negative aspects of Christian studies in the Chinese academia have caused concern amongst conservative leaders of the Chinese church.31 Perhaps only God knows how many Christians there are in China today. The estimate ranges from a conservative 15 million to an (obviously exaggerated?) 70 million. Some observers think that some way between the two figures (around 40 million?) may be a more reasonable and intelligent guess. This is an enormous figure, although in proportion to the total Chinese population of 1,300 million it is still rather small. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to assume that the number of Christians who worship on an average Sunday in China may far outnumber those in Britain, Germany and France put together. Furthermore, the potential market' for Christian literature must be viewed from the perspectives of the total population of China.

31 For different views on a similar issue, see Lo Ping Cheung's article, Can Any Good Theology Come Out From the University?' in Lo and Kang (eds.), University and Christian Studies, pp. 373—89.

Implications for China's immediate neighbours in East Asia

Both culturally and linguistically, the Koreans and the Japanese have the best background and greatest advantage to appreciate literature written in the Chinese language, respectively called 'Kanji' (literally the words of the Han people) by the Japanese and 'Hanmun' (literally the language of the Han people) by the Koreans. The Chinese language had for centuries been a kind of lingua franca for the whole of East Asia, including Vietnam. Even to this day, it is still common to find older and educated Japanese and Koreans who are well versed in Chinese language and culture. In direct response to a rising modern China, there has been a revived interest in recent years in the learning of Chinese among younger Koreans and Japanese.32 Again, here is a potential market for Christian writings produced by Chinese scholars outside the church (extra ecclesiam). Many young Koreans and Japanese are eager to learn both English and Chinese. The Korean or Japanese scholars who can write in the Chinese language will, at least potentially, have nearly a quarter of the human race as their market, one that is much larger than the Korean and Japanese markets put together.

In the last couple of decades Korean Christians have been very active in their mission outreach to China, especially in the north-eastern part where the great majority of Chao Xian people are living. They are ethnically the same as the Koreans. On the other hand, there are also a considerable number of Chao Xian Christians from China who have received their theological education and training in South Korea. Such contacts and networking are expected to increase.

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