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Cultural elements in the construction of a Chinese Christology
2023-08-25 Author: Wang Jiawei Source: Chinese Theological Review


Christology holds an important place in the history of dogmatics and systematic theology, and is the key to Christian theology because it is closely related to other theological themes such as the doctrine of God, soteriology, anthropology, ecclesiology, sacraments and eschatology. In the first half of the 20th century Chinese Christian scholars such as Wu Leichuan 吴雷川, Y. T. Wu 吴耀宗, T. C. Chao 赵紫宸 and Nai Zin Zia 谢扶雅 dedicated themselves to reflecting on Christology and its contextualization through the combination of faith with the idea of the nation’s destiny and traditional Chinese culture. Since the second half of that century, Chinese theologians such as K. H. Ting 丁光训 , Chen Zemin 陈泽民, Shen Yifan 沈以藩 and Wang Weifan 汪维藩 have developed the paradigm of a “Cosmic Christology” from the perspective of Incarnation, combining Chinese social culture with the contextual situation of the church in a post-denominational era. Given the vicissitudes and changes of the past century, the focus of Chinese Christology has been different at every stage but the organic combination with Chinese culture has never ceased, and is constantly being deepened and improved. This constitutes the response and announcement of the Chinese Church to the question posed by Jesus Christ to his disciples, “Who do you say I am?”

In this essay, I will first discuss the relationship between theology and culture from the perspective of the incarnation and analyze the cultural factors present in the construction of Chinese Christology. Then, through the interpretation of several representative Chinese theologians’ work on Christology with Chinese cultural characteristics in the 20th century, it will demonstrate the close connection between Chinese Christology and its context and culture. Finally, in the conclusion, this essay proclaims that in the process of “the Further Contextualization of Chinese Christianity” 基督教中国化, the Christology of the Chinese Church will inherit the universal classic doctrines, while continuing to deepen the integration of theology and culture. In this way, the Church in China could construct a more comprehensive, inclusive Christology with a Chinese cultural style in the 21st century.

(By: Antony Hyson S)

Theological Thinking of Incarnation in the Chinese Church

Incarnation, as an important doctrinal theme of Christology, has long been the center and focus of discussion among theologians and church leaders. Chinese Christians believe in the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed, and generally accept the doctrine of incarnation of the Word, expressing their personal understanding and interpretation to others in the form of sermons or articles. In the post-denominational era, Chinese church leaders and theologians such as K. H. Ting, Chen Zemin, Shen Yifan and Wang Weifan etc., have been enthusiastically constructing a Christology that includes incarnation, the unity of creation and redemption, mutual learning between theology and culture and so on, and have left a valuable thought legacy for later generations.

In his writings, Bishop Ting has frequently emphasized the importance and rich connotations of the doctrine of incarnation.

It can be said that it is one of the important theological elements underlining the influence and significance of incarnation toward human beings and the universe. Through the “incarnation of the Word,” Bishop Ting has emphasized the transcendence of God and his attribute of love, that is, God’s love is universal. Additionally, it highlights the cooperation between God and humankind as in the willingness of the Virgin Mary to participate in the co-creative process of incarnation and the “collaborative” relationship between God and human beings, all of which inspires Chinese Christians to actively participate in the construction of the Chinese Church and socialist society.

(By: Ahmad Ossayli)

Firstly, Bishop Ting believes that God’s incarnation in Christ has a far greater impact on human beings than the fall of Adam. The name of God is Love, and he focuses on the work of creation, which is to make human beings participants in creation through redemption, education and sanctification, thereby reaching perfection as free and intelligent co-creators.

This reflects a theological approach centered on creationism. In his elaboration of the “Cosmic Christ,” Bishop Ting points out that “Christ has been and is with God, in all the creative work in the universe to this day. He has to do with creation just as much as he has to do with redemption. Redemption is a part of God’s ongoing work of making a world of his design.”

Secondly, the incarnation of the Word manifests the transcendence of God. God’s transcendence indicates that he has the ability to bridge the gap between God and humankind, and the Word of God assumes human nature and becomes human. Humanity is also enhanced by communion with divinity in Christ, enabling people to live out the “image of God” and transcend their original selves. He says “God’s Love Transcends Our Sin”:


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(By: Beatriz-Perez-Moya)

About author:

Dr. Wang Jiawei is Associate Professor in the History of Christian Thought at Nanjing Union Theological Seminary.

Editor: Xiao Tang