Chinese Church Voices

Interview with Yang Fenggang on the Oxford Symposium

Chinese Church Voices is an occasional column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.

Earlier this week, the ChinaSource Blog published a piece about the recent Forum for Chinese Theology Symposium, which was held in Oxford in August. The author of that post, who had attended the forum, shared his observations in a post titled The Tyranny of History and the China Dream.

Today, in the new NYT blog Sinosphere, Ian Johnson interviews Christian Scholar Yang Fenggang about the background and significance of the symposium. The title of the post is Q. & A.: Yang Fenggang on the Oxford Consensus and Public Trust in China.

Here's a sampling:

Q. Its interesting that Christians were included. Of course, it started as a Christian theological forum, but the participants from the other groups evidently felt it was appropriate to be talking to Christians and scholars of Christianity. The government sometimes views Christianity as a foreign religion and less favorably than other religions.

A. A few years ago someone published a book which listed the main groups in China. It included the traditional Left, social democrats, socialism with Chinese characteristics, plus some newer groups but no Christians. You could ignore Christianity because it had no social impact. But now Christians are part of the discussion. I see this as an introduction of Christian scholars to the public forum.

Q. But wasnt there the cultural Christian movement a decade ago?

A. What they did was to introduce Christianity as a cultural phenomenon and a cultural resource, but not to express social or political concerns. It was cultural: theology, history and the arts. But this time its about expressing social and political concerns, like rule of law and that power should come from the people, equality, justice.

Q. A key Christian contribution to this debate is the idea that rights are God-given and not state-given, meaning a state or government cant take them away as it pleases. Was this brought up?

A. Yes, definitely. An interesting case is He Guanghu. He signed Charter 08. He was the only scholar who studies religion who was among the initial signers. Since then he has been more public in making his position known. His Christian faith has become publicly known. For many years he tried not to say anything about it, but now he feels confident to be out.

The full text of the report issued by the symposium is available here.

Image Credit: Center on Religion and Chinese Society, Purdue University

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