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Saturday, August 22, 2015

China’s Reforming Churches Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom.

"Even the most conservative analyst must acknowledge China is changing. This nation of 1.35 billion people—20 percent of the earth's population, boasting the world's second-largest economy and largest language group (Mandarin Chinese)—is experiencing not just change, but rapid and radical change. And as we survey the scene, the change of greatest importance is the astounding growth of the Christian faith in China." - Jason Helopoulos is the assistant pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, and is the author of A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home (Christian Focus, 2013).

Unapologetically Presbyterian
Baugus and the other authors in this volume are unapologetically Presbyterian in their polity. This jure divino Presbyterianism may discourage some readers from entertaining this work, but my heart was strangely warmed to find so many forthright, conscience-convicted, ecclesiological friends in one place. Still, a non-Presbyterian with any interest in China, missions, or the future of the Christian church will find the contents of this book exceedingly helpful and informative.

China's Reforming Churches is divided into four sections. The first contains three chapters and examines the history of Presbyterianism in China. The initial chapter details some of the early missions work in China by Western countries. It includes a helpful overview of particularly influential missionaries prior to the Communist Revolution and the work of various denominations in the country. A fascinating aspect of this account is the transformation from Old School Presbyterianism to theological liberalism among the Western missionaries in China. One positive of the Communist Revolution was the expulsion of these liberal missionaries from China, combined with the fact that only evangelical missionaries tended to return after the unrest. God was apparently preparing the ground for the fruit we see today. The second chapter details the history and influence of North China Theological Seminary. The third records the history of Korean Presbyterian missions in China, providing insightful analysis of the Korean Presbyterian church and how the lessons it has learned over the years may aid the Chinese Reformed Church.

The second section looks at Presbyterianism in China today, relying heavily on the voices and experiences of current Chinese pastors. Chapter four (“Perceived Challenges to Christians in China”) is especially enlightening as it nullifies some common Western assertions about the Chinese church and highlights the actual pressures she faces. It concludes with some sobering warnings and gentle encouragements for the Western church's relationship with the Chinese church. The fifth chapter is a thorough argument for Presbyterianism and its need in the Chinese church. Luke P. Y. Lu makes a strong case that Presbyterian missions organizations in China should act in accordance with their Presbyterian identity as they pursue this mission. Chapter six is an interesting dialogue between a few Chinese pastors and Baugus. At times this chapter is hard to follow, but is well worth the meandering read. These pastors are significant figures in Chinese Christianity, and their reflections and humility should encourage the reader about the future of the church in China.

The third section of China's Reforming Churches consists of four chapters exploring the challenges and opportunities for Presbyterianism in the country. Chapter seven is a tour de force; it reads as a kind of “State of the Union” address, establishing the basic outline of the current cultural context and how this affects Christianity and missions in the country. Chapter eight explores the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) churches, which are government sanctioned, and the house churches, which are not. In chapter nine, David VanDrunen explores the foundation of two kingdoms theology and how it could assist the Chinese church going forward. The final chapter of this section was written by Guy Waters and looks at the case for Presbyterianism from Acts 15.

The fourth and final portion of the book takes active steps in examining how the Chinese church might be influenced to embrace Reformed theology even further. Chapter 11 is a challenging read about the opportunity currently before the Western church to translate quality Reformed literature into Mandarin and to publish these books legally in China. The author is not naively placing this challenge before the Western church; he notes the difficulties, but the possibilities he relays are reason enough to find motivation. Chapter 12 is a summary of the challenges and advantages of theological education in China. Baugus wrote this chapter, and his pastoral sensitivity and professional optimism is evident. The final chapter by Paul Wang explores the need to indigenize and contextualize the Reformed faith in China. It is a pleasant and necessary ending to the book.

Extracted From:

Joel Beeke: A Puritan Theology

This message is from our 2013 National Conference, No Compromise

In this session, based upon his book A Puritan Theology, Dr. Joel Beeke discusses the puritans' teaching on most major Reformed doctrines, particularly those doctrines in which the Puritans made significant contributions.

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