My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of the greatest occurrences in the world today, and this is not one iota of hyperbole, is the fruit of the Gospel being harvested amongst our brothers and sisters in China. Millions(!!) are coming to faith in a land that until relatively recent history was actively opposed to any Christian influence. This has created a wonderful problem of how the Church of China should go about organizing their local bodies and how the Church global can be of assistance to them. This led to a conference addressing the issue hosted by RTS-Jackson and this wonderful book, China’s Reforming Churches, as a result.
China’s Reforming Churches sets out to survey Presbyterianism in China. It is broken into four sections: The History of Presbyterianism in China, Presbyterianism in China Today, Challenges and Opportunities for Presbyterianism in China, and Appropriating a Tradition. Each section has 3 or 4 chapters covering a wide variety of topics related to the explosion of Christian growth in China and the necessity of a proper, ordered, Scriptural government of these young churches.
This work is broad and exhaustive. China’s Reforming Churches covers large portions of Chinese culture, history (in general and much in regards to the history of Christianity in/missions to China), and the current state of the nation and the Church in China. I cannot begin to list what new information I gained from this work because, in large part due to my lack of any in-depth knowledge of China, missions to China, or Presbyterianism, it was essentially the entire book. There were a few things I walked away with that made the time spent reading well worth it.
First, my understanding of the state of Christianity in China was a bit of a caricature. I was under the impression that, for the most part, the Church in China was still heavily persecuted. I believed that, as a whole, they must meet “underground” and that they were deprived of the Bible in their language and any types of Christian resources. While I did not think it was a situation like Iran, I thought it was pretty close. This understanding is quite a bit off base. China’s Reforming Churches does a great job diving into the specifics and nuances of the issue but, basically, this type of persecution is not the case in China currently. While there remain reasons that many churches are “underground” and the Church there does not enjoy the freedom to which we in the West are accustomed, there is a significant Christian presence in China that meets and worships and has Bibles and Christian literature available. While they do not have the abundance of resources we have, and Reformed publishing was addressed in a great chapter, it is not the lockdown Communist caricature that I have always had in my mind.
Going along with that, impressed greatly on my heart was the need for Christian publishing and theological education in China. The saying that in China the 2-year old Christian teaches the 1-year old Christian is often pretty accurate. Many young believers are thrown into leadership positions due to the rapid rate of conversion and the lack of church structure often present in China. The need for solid theological education is great as is the need for solid, Reformed, Biblical literature, books, and studies. There is much in China as far as prosperity teaching but there still remains relatively little in regards to solidly Reformed literature. Theological training, while having a relatively lengthy history in China, is needed desperately.
I also finished the book feeling the desperate need for Biblical Presbyterianism to take root in these Chinese churches. Compelling arguments were made for the possibility of Churches already seeking this type of polity, the likelihood of the government seeing it in a positive light, and, most importantly, the case from Scripture for the necessity and requirement of a Presbyterian form to govern the church.
More than anything though, I read China’s Reforming Churches and walked away rejoicing in what God is doing around the world. It is quite difficult to read an account like this, of so many coming to faith and seeking the Lord diligently, and walk away not encouraged and not praising God for being so faithful to his promises. Bruce Baugus and the good folks at Reformation Heritage Books put together a great group of essays covering a wide variety of topics. These essays worked together perfectly to leave the reader excited, encouraged, and challenged to be a part of the mighty works God is doing. This book is a blessing!
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through Cross Focused Reviews.
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