Preamble to Dr Manfred’s Kohl’s talk: by Alex Anderson
Lessons Learnt from the past
To be pickled is to be preserved in a strong liquid solution devised to instil or create a particular flavour and quality. A brine is often used for this purpose.
After 1948 South Africans– particularly whites– were subjected to a government inspired propaganda process to entrench the concept of Apartheid. We were enveloped in a brine—-pickled to saturate an attitude of indifference, even ignorance, as to the concept of racial prejudice and protection of human rights.
It took 40 years to pursue that dastardly policy that contributed to significant interracial hatred. Much damage and inequality was occasioned. Many Western powers we seen to give the “nod” to the consequent status quo in South Africa.
Many of us today regret, particularly those who were teenagers and school goers at the time, that we were made to be unaware of the then “pickling process”.! For the most part, many Eurocentric South African parents took a somewhat supine view. They seemed to be averse to matters of controversy that could intrude on their comfort zone. Some Christian denominations preached the view that the government of the day was “ordained of God.”
Now being wise after these tortuous events, there is some benefit from the lessons of the past. We can identify when things are repeating themselves. As they may thus already be taking place under the present African National Congress government. They have a policy of a National Democratic Revolution ( NDR).
The situation in totalitarian ruled China today, also has possible parallels when we consider the situation of the growth and development of the Chinese government supported” Three Self Churches” (self-government, self-support and self-propagation). The so-called “House Churches” on the other hand do not receive the encouragement of the Chinese government. This being because the interests of the Communist Party take precedence over the rule of law and the honour and veneration that Christians give to the incarnation and the Lord Jesus Christ.( Refer June Economist article on Chinese activist Li Heping]
Manfred Kohl will explain the situation more fully to us this morning.
Suffice it to say that it has been our South African experience that governments and political leaders often have a fiendish ability to exploit the gullibility of people as a means overachieving ignoble ends.
It is surely incumbent upon us as Christians to be “wise as serpents” Matthew 10 verse 16 in working to counter leadership that is inconsistent with the Christian gospel and the democratic tradition
Note to the Reader: At a discussion of the ARF commmittee, after Dr Kohl’s talk, we have edited in comments arising from a consideration of the Lausanne Covenant (See after Dr Kohl’s paper for the Lausanne Covnenant Text). These comments are intended to further discussion of the issues raised when considering the nature of the Church in China
CHINA: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORY AND CURRENT STATUS OF CHRISTIANITY
Dr. Manfred W. Kohl, Canada
ARF South Africa July 2017
So far there is no definitive proof that Christianity came to China during the first centuries, although there might have been some early Christians who came along the well-known Silk Route sharing the gospel.
Nestorian Christianity was introduced in China in the ninth year of the Zhen’guan period of the Tang Dynasty (635 A.D.) and experienced repeated rise and fall. From the inscriptions on the Nestorian stele we know that Christian temples/churches were built in several locations.
For the next millennium no records have been found referring to Christian activities. Protestant missionary activities began in the early 1800s. Morrison came in 1807. However, the Catholic missionaries came earlier. Matteo Ricci arrived in the late 16th century. He was an advisor to the Imperial court in the Ming Dynasty. Although enormous credit has to be given to the sacrificial commitment of numerous missionaries from around the world, one also has to point out some of the negative influences. Literally thousands of denominations, missionary agencies, and para-church groups began work in China, with the result that the Chinese Christians themselves eventually rejected foreign influence and developed the “Three-Self-Principles” (self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating) for the church in China. This movement began in the early 1900s, especially after the 1911 revolution and in the midst of the anti-Christian movement.
Given that this Chinese Christian “Three Self” development was the direct result of the government initiated “anti-Christian movement”, care must be taken “to reject as derogatory to Christ and the Gospel every kind of syncretism and dialogue which implies that Christ speaks equally through all religions and ideologies.”
During the Communist era, beginning with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and especially during the Cultural Revolution from 1966, Christianity – as well as all other religions – was forbidden. Churches and theological schools were closed, and some destroyed; all Christian leaders (pastors, teachers, etc.) were imprisoned or killed; and all missionaries were expelled. The church went underground and grew, multiplying many times in size and endurance. Christianity became a movement led by lay people. Very few facts were available during this period about the suffering church in China.
During the last three decades two main streams of the church have developed: the official, registered, China Christian Church (CCC), with headquarters in Shanghai, and the non-registered house churches – both groups with approximately the same number of believers. (The total figures of Christians are recorded as being between 50 and 80 million, but the exact number is not known.) There are some other groups of churches in China, such as the “Little Flock,” the followers of Watchman Nee, and the rather new urban church groups for professional and internationals, to mention just two.
When the government of China allowed the churches to be reopened in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the underground churches in China shared their miracle of growth during persecution.
The registered China Christian Church has tens of thousands of churches. Many are mega churches, with thousands in attendance, with up to four services on Sunday. Besides these churches there are numerous “meeting points” in every city, town, and village. These churches and meeting points have total freedom to worship as they follow the Three-Self-Principles established decades ago. Most of these China Christian Churches are evangelical in their theology and their local mission outreach.
Manfred’s presentation indicated that there was an apparent requirement of the Chinese government that churches must not or should not carry the sign of the Cross. The extent of this is not clear?. We need to remember however that the Lausanne declaration states “But a church which preachers the Cross must itself be marked by the Cross.”
Lausanne goes on to state “The church is the community of God’s people rather than an institution, and must not be identified with any particular culture, social or political system or human ideology” are the three self churches not possibly a manifestation of a political culture or political system?
The CCC has twenty-two official theological seminaries and many bible training programs. The theological seminary in Nanjing has national status, providing Master degree programs, and will soon offer PhD programs as well. Other theological seminaries train pastors for a province, still others for an entire region. As of 2013, according to reports, there were 7000 believers for every ordained pastor. Many lay people are engaged, especially serving the many “Meeting Point” gatherings. The CCC has only one denomination.
The non-registered churches, or house churches, meet in homes, apartments, or special places of worship. Many of the house church groups have links with denominational and mission groups outside China, receiving funding and other support; this is a point of contention with the authorities. There are hundreds of thousands of these house church groups all over China meeting in the cities in the big new apartment blocks and office buildings, as well as in small towns and villages. They worship freely, although some interference from the government is still reported.
Lausanne clearly indicates that that we have a Christian responsibility for “the concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men from every kind of oppression.”
The house churches also have many good training programs for their pastors, teachers, and lay leaders.
Recent history is replete with authoritatively reported instances where the house churches and their leaders are often victimized. This presumably being occasioned by the concern of the Chinese government of there being a potential danger by way of “sociopolitical involvement”. Lausanne underlines the fact that such involvement, even activism , is “part of our Christian duty”.Being “necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and man, our love for our neighbor and obedience to Jesus Christ”. Second Corinthians chapter 3 verse 18, James chapter 2 versus 14 to 26.
Lausanne further stipulates that, in dealing with Freedom and Persecution “it is the God appointed duty of every government to secure conditions of peace, justice and liberty in which the church may obey God, serve the Lord Christ and preach the gospel without interference.”
“We also express our deep concern for all who have been unjustly imprisoned, and especially for our brethren who are suffering for their testimony to the Lord Jesus.”
Although the one official, registered China Christian Church and the numerous house church groups are seeking ways to cooperate, and in many places – especially in the theological training programs – partnership has been achieved, real unity is still unrealized. There are indications, however, that the Chinese government is moving toward a policy of “separation of church and state,” as in many other countries in the world. Then Chinese Christian leaders from both streams will have to deal with the issues of co-operation and unity.
In connection with the various Bible Societies around the world, especially the United Bible Scoiety, in the 1980s the Amity Press was established in China. They now print, every year, some 20 million bibles for distribution within China. They also print bibles in English and other foreign languages for export. The various bibles, as well as new theological textbooks written and printed in China are available in Christian book stores inside China.
We have no information as to what version of the Bible is used in this translation. New English, King James et cetera?. The new Testament makes clear that Christ is the head of the Church. The emphasis in the literature and supporting documentation of the three Self-Churches iis that the hierarchical authority of the church is dominated by the unequivocal overall totalitarian answerability of the Chinese people to the Chinese government and not Jesus Christ. Lausanne cautions that we must be careful to prevent “the activity of our enemy, not only in false ideologies outside the church, but also inside it in false gospels which twist scripture and put man in the place of God.”
A final point. It would be incumbent upon those ministering to the loyal and faithful people in the Chinese official churches, to draw the attention of their congregations to the fact that, under a totalitarian secular regime, the Lausanne declaration calls them to “stand against injustice and to remain faithful to the gospel whatever the cost. We do not forget the warnings of Jesus that persecution is inevitable”.
THE LAUSANNE COVENANT
Adopted 1974 by the International Congress on World Evangelization, Lausanne, Switzerland.
We, members of the Church of Jesus Christ, from more than 150 nations, participants in the International Congress on World Evangelization at Lausanne, praise God for his great salvation and rejoice in the fellowship he has given us with himself and with each other.
We are deeply stirred by what God is doing in our day, moved to penitence by our failures and challenged by the unfinished task of evangelization.
We believe the Gospel is God’s good news for the whole world, and we are determined by his grace to obey Christ’s commission to proclaim it to all mankind and to make disciples of every nation. We desire, therefore, to affirm our faith and our resolve, and to make public our covenant.
1. The Purpose of God
We affirm our belief in the one eternal God, Creator and Lord of the world, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who governs all things according to the purpose of his will. He has been calling out from the world a people for himself, and sending his people back into the world to be his servants and his witnesses, for the extension of his kingdom, the building up of Christ’s body, and the glory of his name.
We confess with shame that we have often denied our calling and failed in our mission, by becoming conformed to the world or by withdrawing from it. Yet we rejoice that even when borne by earthen vessels the Gospel is still a precious treasure. To the task of making that treasure known in the power of the Holy Spirit we desire to dedicate ourselves anew.
2. The Authority and Power of the Bible
We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written Word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice. We also affirm the power of God’s Word to accomplish his purpose of salvation.
The message of the Bible is addressed to all mankind, for God’s revelation in Christ and in Scripture is unchangeable. Through it the Holy Spirit still speaks today. He illumines the minds of God’s people in every culture to perceive its truth freshly through their own eyes, and thus discloses to the whole church ever more of the many-colored wisdom of God.
3. The Uniqueness and Universality of Christ
We affirm that there is only one Savior and only one Gospel, although there is a wide diversity of evangelistic approaches.
We recognize that all men have some knowledge of God through his general revelation in nature. But we deny that this can save, for men suppress the truth by their unrighteousness. We also reject as derogatory to Christ and the Gospel every kind of syncretism and dialogue which implies that Christ speaks equally through all religions and ideologies. Jesus Christ, being himself the only God-man, who gave himself as the only ransom for sinners, is the only mediator between God and man. There is no other name by which we must be saved.
All men are perishing because of sin, but God loves all men, not wishing that any should perish but that all should repent. Yet those who reject Christ repudiate the joy of salvation and condemn themselves to eternal separation from God. To proclaim Jesus as ‘the Savior of the world’ is not to affirm that all men are either automatically or ultimately saved, still less to affirm that all religions offer salvation in Christ. Rather it is to proclaim God’s love for a world of sinners and to invite all men to respond to him as Savior and Lord in the wholehearted personal commitment of repentance and faith.
Jesus Christ has been exalted above every other name; we long for the day when every knee shall bow to him and every tongue shall confess him Lord.
4. The Nature of Evangelism
To evangelize is to spread the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord he now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gift of the Spirit to all who repent and believe.
Our Christian presence in the world is indispensable to evangelism, and so is that kind of dialogue whose purpose is to listen sensitively in order to understand. But evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ as Savior and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to him personally and so be reconciled to God.
In issuing the Gospel invitation we have no liberty to conceal the cost of discipleship. Jesus still calls all who would follow him to deny themselves, take up their cross, and identify themselves with his new community. The results of evangelism include obedience to Christ, incorporation into his church and responsible service in the world.
5. Christian Social Responsibility
We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men from every kind of oppression.
Because mankind is made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, color, culture, class, sex, or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with man is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty, for both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and man, our love for our neighbor and our obedience to Jesus Christ.
The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist. When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world. The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.
- The Church and Evangelism
We affirm that Christ sends his redeemed people into the world as the Father sent him, and that this calls for a similar deep and costly penetration of the world. We need to break out of our ecclesiastical ghettos and permeate non-Christian society.
In our church’s mission of sacrificial service, evangelism is primary. World evangelization requires the whole church to take the whole Gospel to the whole world. The church is at the very center of God’s cosmic purpose and is his appointed means of spreading the Gospel. But a church which preaches the Cross must itself be marked by the Cross. It becomes a stumbling block to evangelism when it betrays the Gospel or lacks a living faith in God, a genuine love for people, or scrupulous honesty in all things including promotion and finance.
The church is the community of God’s people rather than an institution, and must not be identified with any particular culture, social or political system or human ideology.
- Cooperation in Evangelism
We affirm that the church’s visible unity in truth is God’s purpose. Evangelism also summons us to unity, because our oneness strengthens our witness, just as our disunity undermines our Gospel of reconciliation. We recognize, however, that organizational unity may take many forms and does not necessarily forward evangelism. Yet we who share the same biblical faith should be closely united in fellowship, work and witness.
We confess that our testimony has sometimes been marred by sinful individualism and needless duplication. We pledge ourselves to seek a deeper unity in truth, worship, holiness and mission. We urge the development of regional and functional cooperation for the furtherance of the church’s mission, for strategic planing, for mutual encouragement, and for the sharing of resources and experience.
8. Churches in Evangelistic Partnership
We rejoice that a new missionary era has dawned. The dominant role of western missions is fast disappearing. God is raising up from the younger churches a great new resource for world evangelization, and is thus demonstrating that the responsibility to evangelize belongs to the whole body of Christ. All churches should therefore be asking God and themselves what they should be doing both to reach their own area and to send missionaries to other parts of the world. A reevaluation of our missionary responsibility and role should be continuous. Thus a growing partnership of churches will develop and the universal character of Christ’s church will be more clearly exhibited.
We also thank God for agencies which labor in Bible translation, theological education, the mass media, Christian literature, evangelism, missions, church renewal and other specialist fields. They too should engage in constant self-examination to evaluate their effectiveness as part of the church’s mission.
9. The Urgency of the Evangelistic Task
More than 2,700 million people, which is more than two-thirds of mankind, have yet to be evangelized. We are ashamed that so many have been neglected; it is a standing rebuke to us and to the whole church.
There is now, however, in many parts of the world an unprecedented receptivity to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are convinced that this is the time for churches and parachurch agencies to pray earnestly for the salvation of the unreached and to launch new efforts to achieve world evangelization. A reduction of foreign missionaries and money in an evangelized country may sometimes be necessary to facilitate the national church’s growth in self-reliance and to release resources for unevangelized areas. Missionaries should flow ever more freely from and to all six continents in a spirit of humble service. The goal should be, by all available means and at the earliest possible time that every person will have the opportunity to hear, understand, and receive the good news.
We cannot hope to attain this goal without sacrifice. All of us are shocked by the poverty of millions and disturbed by the injustices which cause it. Those of us who live in affluent circumstances accept our duty to develop a simple lifestyle in order to contribute more generously to both relief and evangelism.
10. Evangelism and Culture
The development of strategies for world evangelization calls for imaginative pioneering methods. Under God, the result will be the rise of churches deeply rooted in Christ and closely related to their culture.
Culture must always be tested and judged by Scripture. Because man is God’s creature, some of his culture is rich in beauty and goodness. Because he is fallen, all of it is tainted with sin and some of it is demonic. The Gospel does not presuppose the superiority of any culture to another, but evaluates all cultures according to its own criteria of truth and righteousness, and insists on moral absolutes in every culture.
Missions have all too frequently exported with the Gospel an alien culture, and churches have sometimes been in bondage to culture rather than to Scripture. Christ’s evangelists must humbly seek to empty themselves of all but their personal authenticity in order to become the servants of others, and churches must seek to transform and enrich culture, all for the glory of God.
11. Education and Leadership
We confess that we have sometimes pursued church growth at the expense of church depth, and divorced evangelism from Christian nurture. We also acknowledge that some of our missions have been too slow to equip and encourage national leaders to assume their rightful responsibilities. Yet we are committed to indigenous principles, and long that every church will have national leaders who manifest a Christian style of leadership in terms not of domination but of service.
We recognize that there is a great need to improve theological education, especially for church leaders. In every nation and culture there should be an effective training program for pastors and laymen in doctrine, discipleship, evangelism, nurture and service. Such training programs should not rely on any stereotyped methodology but should be developed by creative local initiatives according to biblical standards.
12. Spiritual Conflict
We believe that we are engaged in constant spiritual warfare with the principalities and powers of evil, who are seeking to overthrow the church and frustrate its task of world evangelization. We know our need to equip ourselves with God’s armor and to fight this battle with the spiritual weapons of truth and prayer. For we detect the activity of our enemy, not only in false ideologies outside the church, but also inside it in false gospels which twist Scripture and put man in the place of God. We need both watchfulness and discernment to safeguard the biblical Gospel.
We acknowledge that we ourselves are not immune to worldliness of thought and action, that is, to a surrender to secularism. For example, although careful studies of church growth, both numerical and spiritual, are right and valuable, we have sometimes neglected them. At other times, desirous to ensure a response to the Gospel, we have compromised our message, manipulated our hearers through pressure techniques, and become unduly preoccupied with statistics or even dishonest in our use of them. All this is worldly. The church must be in the world; the world must not be in the church.
13. Freedom and Persecution
It is the God-appointed duty of every government to secure conditions of peace, justice and liberty in which the church may obey God, serve the Lord Christ, and preach the Gospel without interference. We therefore pray for the leaders of the nations and call upon them to guarantee freedom of thought and conscience, and freedom to practice and propagate religion in accordance with the will of God and as set forth in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We also express our deep concern for all who have been unjustly imprisoned, and especially for our brethren who are suffering for their testimony to the Lord Jesus. We promise to pray and work for their freedom. At the same time we refuse to be intimidated by their fate. God helping us, we too will seek to stand against injustice and to remain faithful to the Gospel, whatever the cost. We do not forget the warnings of Jesus that persecution is inevitable.
14. The Power of the Holy Spirit
We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Father sent his Spirit to bear witness to his Son; without his witness ours is futile. Conviction of sin, faith in Christ, new birth and Christian growth are all his work.
Further, the Holy Spirit is a missionary Spirit; thus evangelism should arise spontaneously from a Spirit-filled church. A church that is not a missionary church is contradicting itself and quenching the Spirit. Worldwide evangelization will become a realistic possibility only when the Spirit renews the church in truth and wisdom, faith, holiness, love and power. We therefore call upon all Christians to pray for such a visitation of the sovereign Spirit of God that all his fruit may appear in all his people and that all his gifts may enrich the body of Christ. Only then will the whole church become a fit instrument in his hands, that the whole earth may hear his voice.
15. The Return of Christ
We believe that Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly, in power and glory, to consummate his salvation and his judgment. This promise of his coming is a further spur to our evangelism, for we remember his words that the Gospel must first be preached to all nations. We believe that the interim period between Christ’s ascension and return is to be filled with the mission of the people of God, who have no liberty to stop before the End.
We also remember his warning that false Christs and false prophets will arise as precursors of the final Antichrist. We therefore reject as a proud, self-confident dream the notion that man can ever build a utopia on earth. Our Christian confidence is that God will perfect his kingdom, and we look forward with eager anticipation to that day, and to the new heaven and earth in which righteousness will dwell and God will reign forever.
Meanwhile, we rededicate ourselves to the service of Christ and of men in joyful submission to his authority over the whole of our lives.
Therefore, in the light of this our faith and our resolve, we enter into a solemn covenant with God and with each other, to pray, to plan and to work together for the evangelization of the whole world.
We call upon others to join us. May God help us by his grace and for his glory to be faithful to this our covenant!