Is Christianity Contrary to Chinese Traditional Culture?

By CCD Contributor: Zhi Yong, March 05, 2017 02:03 AM

The Forbidden City in Beijing(pixabay)

New things can arouse people's curiosity, but curiosity is not equal to acceptance. If someone accepts something new, it must be when that meets his need. The acceptance of any culture is related to the high level of human needs, which requires reasoning.

In the Bible, Acts 17: 17-18 records that Paul was met with a great obstacle in Athens and some scholars from certain philosophical schools argued with him, which was different from what Paul experienced in other places where people were willing to listen to his teachings. The obstacle may be caused by the fact that Athens felt proud of their own culture. Though some people believed in Jesus after Paul's work, Paul did not build any church in Athens according to the Bible.

When Christianity was introduced into Europe, the local culture was not strong, and the gospel helped people build their culture, making Europe bear a Christian culture. So is the North America for Europeans brought the gospel there. 

In contrast, China's five thousand years of history gives Chinese a sense of superiority about their culture. In the past Chinese emperor thought of China as the center of the world, the heavenly country on earth, and the Western countries were collectively referred to as "foreign states." This strong tradition creates great resistance to accepting the gospel. In Qufu, Shandong, because of the opposition of some Confucianists, the Christian Church was still not allowed to build and believers can only meet in a temporary make-do shelter. Some Chinese insist that they will not celebrate Christmas because he is Chinese. 

In fact, Christianity is a global religion for everyone regardless of their countries for there is only one God for humankind by reasoning. So it is imperative to argue for such faith on a cultural height. 

The Chinese Christian Church has developed rapidly over the past three decades. In the past most of the Christians were well educated. In contrast, despite the fact that there are many Christians, they are largely from the countryside, middle and small cities. The rapid increase of Christians in China has not affected the intellectuals until recently we hear some anti-Christian remarks. Does it mean that Christianity has begun to impact the circle of the highly educated?

There are a large number of people who were well educated in big cities and who are often taking the lead in the development of society. With the increase of Christians in big cities, the tension would naturally appear between Christianity and the traditional culture. 

In history, there used to be a wave of great anti-Christian air. In 1922, when Christianity began growing fast, it encountered much opposition, resistance and attacks from the academia. College students were called upon to stand together and attack Christianity to prevent it from continual development in China. Christianity was regarded to be superstitious.

Today, Christianity encountered far less opposition from the academia than the attacks it faced in last century but the reasons are still the same, regarding it as superstition and foreigner's religion. What is China's traditional culture? Do we have to put Chinese culture on a divine plane so as to be a Chinese? What is the universal truth? How should Chinese culture be positioned in the world? It really deserves our thinking that how can Christians share the gospel with their family and friends without hurting them.

"One more Christian, one less Chinese" has long been a popular aphorism in China, since Christians are thought to believe in "foreign gods." But who is the Chinese god? Guanyin? The Buddha? The mother? There are many different gods in China. However, this world clearly was created by the one God who controls the world. Moreover, the existence of God is beyond the human existence. Whether we believe his existence or not, He exists.

Some people say that the Chinese people should believe in Confucianism. But Confucianism simply never mentions God. Confucianism teaches people about social system and the norms of man but it cannot lead people to know God, without which it is impossible to find the salvation.

To burn incense for ancestors on their graves is a big challenge for Chinese Christians. Deference is important in traditional culture. It is good to bow down before ancestors to show respect for them but to wish for good luck and fortune on ancestors' graves means worshiping idols. While Chinese did not know the true God and there were many gods, the gospel of Jesus has come to China, which is a great blessing for Chinese. In history, only Jesus rose from the dead, proving that he was from God with the power to conquer death. The Bible declares that there is no salvation except through Jesus. Therefore, it is better to believe in Jesus than worshiping dead ancestors.

As a Chinese, we are proud of the traditional culture. But we have to know that the human tradition regardless of how good it is, God's teachings are better. The culture is created by the limited man, but God is the creator who is the highest good. To make traditional cultures divine is the action of nationalists. If we know that there are dross in the tradition but blindly insist on it, this nation has limited its potential for growth.  that this nation is to the point of self-restraint. Wise people change themselves when they hear good wisdom, so should a nation do.

But a man is willing to accept new things only when he understands the benefits of new things. The need in their heart makes him accept things willingly. It has been proved again and again that Christianity could bring many benefits such as the people of Christian countries tend to show more respect for people and have a stronger economy and more effective productivity.But this does not mean that Christians should despise traditional culture on a higher level. After people see the change the Christian faith brings about in a man, they will begin to realize the benefits of Christianity. So Christians should try to affect people around by love. Your testimonies are stronger in strength than your words. Only by doing so, we can show forth the power of faith. Our mission is to bring more people to come to know the gospel and make Christianity the mainstream culture instead of becoming an enemy to traditional cultures. If so, the gospel cannot spread far. 

In fact, any culture is changing, because people's things are always changing. Only God never changes. Many past traditions have been abandoned such as the notion that it is virtuous for women not to have any knowledge and the outlawed rule that a man can have many wives. Tradition is the norm for a group of people in a certain time. Even since Robert Morrison came to China, Christianity has been in China for 210 years, and China has enjoyed the benefits of Christian education, medicine and so on, and even the invention of words for some ethnic minorities. Are they not part of Chinese culture today?

So today, Chinese Christians have an important mission to seize the opportunity to spread the gospel. When more people believe in Jesus, the social moral standards will improve. And we also bring China closer to God to be blessed. That is our act showing that we truly love China.

About the author: Zhi Yong, doctor of Philosophy in Physics, manager at a software company in Beijing, converted in 1990. Original title: On Patriotism.

Translated by Alvin Zhou  

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