By Editorial Staff
Published April 24, 2008
In the perspective of history, what happened in Tiananmen Square, when over 1000 pro-democracy students were slain in the streets by government soldiers, will probably be seen not as the end of a decade of reform and increasing freedom, but as the beginning of an age of upheaval.
It was also the time when China’s intellectuals began to consider Christianity in a search for truth and meaning. In defeat, students and intellectuals have learned much – including the true nature of their atheistic government. The storming of Beijing on June 4, 1989, enraged and alienated a generation of China’s brightest and best, not just in the capital, but across the country.
Ever since 1989, the authorities have sought to control the students and intellectuals through various means, but they have failed to address one of the fundamental problems magnified by the pro-democracy movement – the lack of a sound ideology.
The Role of Intellectuals in 20th Century China
Looking at China’s 20th century history, Chinese intellectuals have played a major role in shaping the nation’s destiny. This was true in the overthrow of the Ch’ing Dynasty in 1911. The student riots of May 4, 1919 were an important watershed in the development of student nationalism in China. This nationalism grew through the 1920s and 1930s.
Prior to the Maoist revolution of 1949, students saw themselves as the voice of public opinion. Many were involved in human rights movements and espoused patriotism and democratic ideals. Such concepts did not just suddenly explode onto the scene in Tiananmen Square in 1989, but have been a part of a long development.
The events of June 4, 1989 have served as another turning point in Chinese history, but they have also acted as a catalyst in turning thousands of Chinese students to Christ. In many respects, the spiritual awakening within the Chinese intellectual community has no historical parallel in Chinese history.
The strand emerged, initially, in Beijing and subsequently spread to many other cities throughout China. Many of those who have embraced Christianity since June 4, 1989 are graduate students, university professors and scientists. A number are academics within the Chinese Academy of Science or the Chinese Academy of Social Science.
This phenomenon has not gone unnoticed by Chinese authorities. Newspaper reports have mentioned there are now more Chinese students/intellectuals becoming Christians than those joining the Chinese Communist Party. In Beijing and other cities, over one-quarter of the government approved Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement congregations are composed of university students.
“Night and day we are busy with students and professors wanting to believe in Christ,” said one house church leader in Beijing. “We’ve never seen this sort of turning to the Lord before by Chinese intellectuals.”
Spiritual Awakening in the 1990s
Several factors have contributed to the unprecedented numbers of students and intellectuals embracing Christianity since June 1989. One is the worldwide “crisis of faith” in Marxism. Chinese authorities have linked the recent spread of Christianity in Eastern Europe with the demise of communism there.
Another reason for the intellectual revival in China in the 1990s is the perceived inept management of social, economic and political reforms by Chinese authorities. While searching for political reform and democracy, students and intellectuals came into an even more vigorous search for Truth. Truth, as an absolute, is not found in other Chinese philosophies, eg. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism or Marxism.
Overseas, the response to Christianity since June 1989 has been remarkable. Several key student leaders in the pro-democracy movement who escaped to the West have since become Christians, while many others are attending Bible study groups.
The turning to Christ by Chinese intellectuals in China and their subsequent integration into the Chinese church is essentially a Chinese phenomenon – and it is continuing.
Recently, a young Chinese university professor, who converted to Christianity in the wake of the Tiananmen Square incident, shared the gospel with his 20 students. Over half the class committed their lives to Christ that day. In another city, a young professor of music was asked to train his students to sing Christmas carols in various hotels. He asked the students if they understood what they were singing. He later shared the gospel with them and over 20 of his students (from a class of 40) became Christians.
The Chinese Church, however, is still ill-equipped to accommodate and teach these young believers. There are a number of reasons for this: a lack of theologically trained pastors, the low academic standards of pastors who have been trained in seminaries, the inability of these pastors to answer the questions of intellectuals, the sheer numbers of new believers, and the lack of materials for training the new Christians.
A New Generation
There are a number of significant factors which point the way to the emergence of the Christian student work in the future.
Since June 4, 1989, Bible study groups have begun on many Chinese campuses, now joined by undergraduates, graduates, professors and researchers. Also, since the mid-1980s there has been a marked growth of Chinese teachers and professors who have become Christians. Throughout a number of Chinese cities, professors are now supporting and encouraging Christian student groups.
Further, in at least 12 Chinese cities new Christian fellowship groups have been established in the past year. In each case these are Chinese-led with little or no involvement by foreign Christians. Some of these university fellowships number at over 100 students.
Lastly, in several cities there are house churches working exclusively with university students. However, there does not seem to be any structural organization or network at either the provincial or national level.
There remains a tremendous openness to the gospel among China’s intellectual community. Lack of resources, however, will make the challenge of training the intellectual community a critical issue for the Church. The need for Christian literature and apologetic resources written by Chinese Christian intellectuals in simplified Chinese script is critical.
Christians outside of China must now consider creative ways in which to establish a partnership with Chinese Christian intellectuals in order to facilitate their effectiveness in evangelizing and training this new generation of Christian students who are part of the legacy of June 4, 1989.
Forerunner - Home » The Mandate Newspaper » The Mandate - Volume 2, Number 1
Your comments are welcome!
That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!
Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.
Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)
Download the Free Study Guide!
Just what is Calvinism?
Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?
This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.
Running Time: 257 minutes(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)
“Here I stand … I can do no other!”
With these immortal words, an unknown German monk sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the world.
The dramatic classic film of Martin Luther’s life was released in theaters worldwide in the 1950s and was nominated for two Oscars. A magnificent depiction of Luther and the forces at work in the surrounding society that resulted in his historic reform efforts, this film traces Luther’s life from a guilt-burdened monk to his eventual break with the Roman Catholic Church.
Running time: 105 minutes
Special offer: Order 5 or more for $5 each; 10 or more for $4 each; and 100 or more for $2.50 each.(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)
Perfect-bound Paperback — 740 pages
The Book of Daniel in Preterist Perspective
“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44).
The overarching message of Daniel is that Jesus the Messiah is even now ruling over the nations. He is the King of kings. Daniel tells us that Messiah’s kingdom will advance in the whole world from “generation to generation” (Daniel 4:4,34). Christ’s dominion is “given to the people of the saints of the most High” (Daniel 7:22). Our purpose then is to see “all people, nations, and languages … serve and obey him” (Daniel 7:14,27).
This comprehensive work offers a fascinating look at the book of Daniel in preterist perspective. Great attention is paid to the writings of ancient and modern historians and scholars to connect the dots and demonstrate the continuity of Daniel’s prophecy with all of Scripture.(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)
High Quality Paperback — 200 pages
A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism
Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner
The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.
Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.
Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)