Descriptions of life in China today often contain words like “unprecedented” and “fast-changing.” Yet in an effort to capture all that is new, such descriptions miss the fact that, in many respects, China has come this way before. As a civilization that has experienced cycles of opening and closing, renewal and decline, China’s current changes need to be viewed through the lens of history in order to be fully understood.
In the autumm issue of ChinaSource Quarterly, we examine the importance of this lens for understanding where China’s church finds itself today. Guest editor Andrew Kaiser writes:
Today’s questions and challenges are repetitions or at least variations of things that have happened before. Knowledge of the past is an invaluable tool for understanding the present, enabling informed students of history to avoid some of the pitfalls and stumbling blocks that waylaid previous generations of servants.
Our contributors in this issue come at the significance of history from several different angles. They examine its importance both for a new generation of believers who may be unaware of the Chinese church’s rich spiritual heritage, as well as for foreign workers who need desperately to understand the history of the communities where they are serving in order to make sense of what is happening there today.
Among the questions addressed in this issue:
- What has been the unique role of women in China’s church development?
- How can the church’s past struggles aid in our understanding of how it is responding to current challenges?
- How has the church’s own self-understanding influenced its response to political change?
- What factors account for what appears to be a lack of historical consciousness among China’s Christians?
- What are the dangers of ignoring the Chinese church’s history?
- How can past attempts to indigenize the gospel inform our Christian witness in China today?
For as much as China has changed and continues to change, the ties to its rich history cannot be ignored. Only by understanding how China and its church have weathered the changes of the past can we fully appreciate the dynamics at work in China today.
Image credit: Key by Pippa Buchanan via Flickr.
Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of China Ministries International, and from 1985 to... View Full Bio