Calvinism in China

Andrew Brown, blogging at the Guardian’s website, writes about his conversation with Rev. Dr. May Tan, who seems to be a Chinese Christian from Singapore.  She explained that Reformed Christianity is growing rapidly in China among university students, which contrasts with the growth of Pentecostalism among the poor of Africa and Latin America.

And in China, the place where Calvinism is spreading fastest is the elite universities, fuelled by prodigies of learning and translation.Wang Xiaochao, a philosopher at one of the Beijing universities, has translated the two major works of St Augustine, the Confessions and the City of God, into Chinese directly from Latin. Gradually all the major works of the first centuries of the Christian tradition are being translated directly from the original languages into Chinese.

Dr. Tan believes that the future of the Chinese church is in the house churches, which “have youth, future, and money,” and that the majority of university students may become Christian.  Interestingly enough, one of the attractions to Reformed theology was that it dealt with resistance to a hostile government.  She even argues that the Communist China’s assault on Confucian traditions had an unintended consequence:

And, though the communists stigmatised Christianity as a foreign religion, they also and still more thoroughly smashed up the traditional religions of China: “The communist, socialist critique of traditional religion, and of Confucianism has been effective”, she says: “The youngsters think it is very cool to be Christian. Communism has removed all the obstacles for them to come to Christianity.”

Brown seemed to overstate a couple things in his post.  When he says that “Calvinism is shrinking in western Europe and North America,” he doesn’t seem to be taking into account the Reformed revival in the US.  Also, his statement that “Calvinists despise pentecostalists” might be generally true (is “despise” too strong a word?), but it’s not true of this new wave of Calvinists in the US (see here and here for examples).

Overstatements or not, his conversation with Dr. Tan adds another vantage point from which to view the dynamics of global Christianity.

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