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From Confucius to Christ

Chinese Families in Tension

The latest issue of ChinaSource Quarterly takes an in-depth look at the pressures facing young Christian families in urban China.

A key theme that emerges is the contrast between the Confucian notion that love flows from authority and the Christian concept, seen in the extraordinary sacrifice of Christ himself, of authority emanating from love.

In traditional China the ideal family was held together by respect for authority and emphasized duty within a system of hierarchical relationships over love. Expressions of love were limited, and to show inordinate love to those outside the family was seen as an offense against one’s parents.

With the demise of the traditional family structure, the strength of this relational “glue” is greatly diminished. Yet parents and members of the extended family still often seek to use their authority to force decisions upon young married couples or upon young singles who are considering marriage. Meanwhile, the pull of materialism and the social demands for status further twist the meaning of marriage, emphasizing its immediate personal benefits.

As most urban Christian couples are first-generation believers, these pressures, along with a lack of teaching about marriage in the church, result in much stress and confusion as they seek to work out their faith within the context of marriage.

For ethics professor Jun Wang, the key is prioritizing humans’ relationship with God, whose love makes possible a transcendent love for others:

Establishing authority and order, while teaching children in accordance with Christian love, is the current family-building mission of Chinese Christians. Judging from the current status of their families, this challenge is great, as traditional ideology must be replaced. Although the old value system has disintegrated, the inherent influence of the traditional system is still great. 

Ma Li, who guest edited this issue with her husband Li Jin, writes that the Chinese church can make a difference in two ways:

First, the church must go back to the Bible to teach its members the truth about what it means to be a family. Second, the church, as a community, should demonstrate the heavenly order on earth as well as strengthening the families in its community.

Ma and her co-authors hold out the hope that, as Christian families in China are transformed, these families will in turn have a transforming effect upon the larger society.

Join us for a penetrating look at the state of the Chinese family and how China’s Christians are seeking to address these challenges in the latest issue of ChinaSource Quarterly, "Christian Ethics and Family Living in China."

Image credit: Les Whittle
Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Dr. Fulton served as the first president of ChinaSource until 2019. Prior to his service with ChinaSource, 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 …View Full Bio

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