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Towards Greater Insight: The Christian Church, the Chinese State, and How Foreigners Can Move Forward Open Access

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A growing enthusiasm about the Protestant Christian church in China among outside observers has, unfortunately, failed to be paired with an adequately increasing and improving insight into that church. Rhetoric is passionate but uninformed; action is with zeal but without understanding. As foreigners bolster their ignorant fervor over the issues that confronted the Chinese church twenty, forty, and sixty years ago, China has grown far beyond those old stereotypes and the stale rhetoric. Foreigners are left with only two options: continue on the current trajectory, which will result in being essentially obsolete and detached from the Chinese church at best and fully antagonistic at worst, or begin to faithfully and effectively pursue the much-needed insight into the realities of the Chinese Christian experience in order, hopefully, to become a positive actor on the stage. This thesis questions the role of foreigners with regards to the Protestant church in today's China. It begins with an honest consideration of the Chinese conception of Christianity as a "foreign" religion and ends with some recommendations for the very real role foreigners can play in bringing the Christian gospel to the Chinese today. The greater part of the middle is what connects the two: it is that place of pursuing insight and understanding, in order to be able to beneficially respond to the justifiable allegations of Christianity's "foreignness." This pursuit of understanding takes the conversation to the widest possible variety of angles on the Chinese church, from its history to its relations with a Communist government; from its legal status to the question of persecution; from its own disunity between the Three-Self and the unregistered churches to the possibility of greater cooperation. In the end, lessons from the past provide insight into how foreigners ought to move forward, so that they may no longer be ignorant and Christianity may no longer be a foreign religion.

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