Four Reasons Why Heresy Persists in the Chinese Church
By CCD contributor: Paul Wu , April 28, 2017 00:04 AM
The church currently faces many challenges and amongst all of these challenges, heresy is the most prominent one. Apart from the nationally pronounced heresy from the East Lightning (Almighty God), the Shouters and the three classes of servants, many heresies from other parts of the world are flooding into China, such as Jehovah's witness and Mormonism from the USA, Manmin Central Church from Korea, and they are badly affecting the churches in Mainland China.
Why are heretic groups so rampant and growing without restraint in China? Four factors may have caused it.
First of all, it is a consequence of the trend for all churches to become one. Since the Reformation, in order to oppose the Roman Catholicism which had too much power in the period, the reformers have uplifted the authority of the Bible and emphasized the importance of one's personal interpretation of the Bible. Although this led to the formation of Protestantism in Christ, which was good to the development of the Church and the spread of the Gospel, the power of the Church was weakened as well. The cause of this formation is because authority was missing to judge some of the theological questions raised. Some individuals or organizations regard their own interpretation of the Bible as the absolute truth, dividing the Protestant church into many denominations.
Although most of the Protestant denominations have right doctrines, some people twist the Bible and propose theories contrary to the actual principles of the Bible and church tradition where everyone is allowed to interpret the Bible as he wishes, forming heretic groups.
The rise of the Charismatic Movement in the church in the twentieth century, coupled with the appearance of modern theories in the world including postmodernism, disrupted the original function and structure of the church.
Not only are the world's emerging religions (including cults) growing rapidly, the traditional big denominations of religion are constantly being divided into all kinds of new sects. These sects are similar to heresy because they often teach doctrines contrary to that of traditional churches. These heretic groups, regardless of their origin, evangelize people everywhere with strong enthusiasm higher than the traditional church in order to increase their number of followers. Therefore, heresy became rampant throughout the country.
Second, the church's teachings are becoming increasingly superficial. Historically, the church has always been a fortress to resist heresy and defend the truth. To resist heresy, it canonized the Bible, formed statements of faith, held several ecumenical councils and wrote sermons and books. However, the church pays little attention to teaching the truth, talking too much about grace and care for people and other related topics. The vast majority of believers only have a superficial understanding of the truth and lack the ability to discern heresy.
Some churches also purposefully belittles the importance of teaching the whole truth of the Gospel in order to attract people and may have caused the phenomenon of heresy to persist. Meanwhile, missionaries lacking understanding of the truth are also an important reason why heresy cannot be determined. Some preachers dedicate themselves to service of God, not because of faith, but in order to make a living. I heard a sister saying once that if her son could not go to college, she would ask him to study theology.
If the church lacks a high-quality pastoral team and cannot spread the full gospel truth, how can it fight heresies with strength?
Third, the cultural psychology of folk beliefs opens the door to heresy. The cultural background of Chinese folk beliefs is deep. Folk religion has the characteristics of being untheological, emphasizing experiences and personal interests. Living in such environment for a long time, Chinese believers also have developed the mindset which, as a whole, leaves room for heresy to enter into. Not caring about theological rightness causes believers to forego making a serious effort into understanding the truth in great depth. As a result, they lack the ability to discern heretic ideas. Emphasizing experiences causes these believers to believe in all kinds of spirits as long as they can perform some miracles regardless of their origin. Emphasizing personal interests leaves a great door to the success of theology, which often becomes popular in the church.
Finally, the church's lack of care also offers opportunities to heresy. Many heretic groups care for the newcomers very well in order to rob the church of its believers. Some brothers and sisters leave the church because of the conflicts in the traditional church or they feel that the church has not taken good care of them. They become the ideal prey for heretic groups. For instance, a sister left her church, where she had been serving for some time, when she noticed that the church cared more about the rich people and those in high status, lacking warmth towards ordinary believers. Meanwhile, her daughter studying in the USA happened to have joined a Chinese heretic church there. When the heresy came into China, she joined it. Many brothers and sisters she met in the group cared for her very much, making her feel that the group was a warm family, and helped her walk out of her pain of being abandoned by her husband and solved her loneliness. Thinking highly of the group, the sister persuaded people everywhere to join the group. The example of the sister shows us that if the church does not care for her believers well, they will become prey for heretic groups, which we should keep in mind as a warning.
The author is a believer from Sanyi church in Gulangyu, Xiamen
Translated by Alvin Zhou
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