Chinese Theological Review 16

Faith's Journey: Foreword to Love Never Ends

Chen Zemin

It is a great pleasure as well as an honor for me to read all of the selections in Love Never Ends before the volume went to press. I have known Bishop Ting since 1939, during the early days of the war against Japan. He had graduated from St. John's University in Shanghai and was serving as a Student Secretary in charge of student work with the Shanghai YMCA. I was studying in Shanghai University at the time and during the summer vacation I was assigned to do field work in the Shanghai Y, where he was my advisor. A hard worker, diligent in study, poised and dignified, but enthusiastic and affable as well, he made a deep impression on me. Later I studied at Nanjing Theological Seminary, which had moved to Shanghai during the war. Bishop Ting had received his B.D. from St. John's, and was serving as pastor of the Church of Our Savior of the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui (The Chinese Anglican Church) and the Shanghai Community Church. He frequently came to Nanjing Seminary library to read and borrow books, and I often went to Community Church to hear him preach. At that time nearly half of China had fallen into the hands of the Japanese, and Shanghai was cut off like an "isolated island." In that difficult and dangerous environment, he was earnest in his pastoral care among church members and students, while at the same time continuing conscientious research in theology. I knew him as a man who did theology not by fleeing reality for some theological ivory tower, ignoring the world while pursuing his own academic and moral cultivation, but rather by seeking ways in which Christian faith and teaching could be combined with the cause of national salvation and social transformation. This was reflected in his frequent admonition to students when he became Principal of the Seminary: "In doing theology, one should not distance oneself from political reality; sometimes theology is more subtle politics."

After victory over the Japanese, Bishop Ting was invited to be a secretary of the Canadian Student Christian Movement, where he made friends with some progressive Western Christians (see "In Memory of Rev. Alan Eccleston," the Foreword to the new edition of Christian Missions and the Judgement of God and "In Memory of Rev. Edward Hewlitt Johnson"). He did graduate studies at Columbia University and Union Seminary in New York, where he gained a deeper appreciation of theology as an ideology and worldview that might serve either progressive or reactionary politics. From 1948-51, he served as a secretary of the World Student Christian Federation in Geneva, where some of his colleagues were progressives sympathetic to the Chinese revolution. This happened to be at the very time of the Liberation War in China, when Chinese Christianity was facing a life and death choice whether to follow the progressive path of patriotism, or to shore up the backward forces of reaction. Many prominent Western Christians, with their anti-Soviet, anti-Communist prejudices, were harsh in their assessment of the new China, but Bishop Ting paid no heed to the "well-intentioned" advice of "friends." He and his wife, Siu-may Kuo, returned with their son to Shanghai, where he became involved in the Christian anti-imperialist patriotic movement and headed up the Christian Literature Society as General Secretary.

In 1951, as the Chinese Christian patriotic movement further developed and intensified, 12 Protestant theological seminaries in east China joined together to become Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, with Bishop Ting as Principal, a post he has held right up to the present. In the over 40 years I have been privileged to work with him, I have learned a great deal under his guidance; in particular, how to work in the church, do theology and carry on theological education in the complicated environment of socialist new China. For several decades he has been a true leader of Protestant Churches in China (as Chairperson of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and President of the China Christian Council from 1980-1997, both positions he retired from with the titles of Honorary Chairperson and Honorary President, January 1, 1997). From 1979 to the present, he was Vice-President of Nanjing University and Head of the Center for Religious Studies, Nanjing University. He was Vice-Chairperson of the 5th and 6th'Jiangsu Provincial People's Political Consultative Conference, and a Vice-Chairperson of the 7th, 8th and 9th National People's Political Consultative Conference. In this past nearly half century, while busily engaged in a variety of church activities, academic research and educational work, as well as social and political activities, he has written a number of important essays, some of which have been published (eight appear in Theological Writings from Nanjing Seminary, and several of these are included here), while many have been lost. Included in this volume are some 80 pieces selected and edited by the Bishop himself. With the exception of six earlier ones, all are post-Cultural-Revolution works, most of which are published here for the first time. Bishop Ting is a man of strong commitment, lofty ideals and great enterprise. As a Christian leader of China, his life has been closely linked with the destiny of the Chinese Church. What he had probed and pondered during different periods and phases in the past half century reflected the problems, challenges and responses of the Chinese Church. In a sense, his quests and thought in religious issues are reflections of the church's deliberation on her destiny and future during these periods. Hence the publication of this volume is of great historical significance and relevance to the Church in China.

Bishop Ting has also written many essays in English, some of which have been newly translated into Chinese for this collection (referring to the Chinese edition-ed.). Some have been published in English overseas, such as those in No Longer Strangers: Selected Writings of Bishop K.H. Ting (Raymond Whitehead, ed., Orbis Books, 1989) and in the Chinese Theological Review (published by the Foundation for Theological Education in Southeast Asia). Volume 10 (1995) of the Chinese Theological Review was a festschrift honoring Bishop Ting's 80" birthday and included many essays by

friends at home and abroad. Bishop Ting is a well-known figure in world Christianity, recognized as the main spokesman for and theologian of contemporary Chinese Christianity. this collection of his writings has been made for readers in Christian and academic circles in China. An English edition is being published simultaneously by the Yilin Press.

The contents of the volume can be classified by subject matter as follows: 1) speeches made during overseas visits; 2) religious policy and religious studies, 3)Three-Self and running the church well; 4) theological lectures and sermons, 5) memorials, congratulations, prefaces, etc.

Since the Third Plenum (1978) of the Eleventh Congress of the CPC, the Party and government have been summing up their historical experience-correct and incorrect in religious questions, clarifying the Party's basic viewpoint and policy, and rectifying the errors of the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution." Bishop Ting, as a member of the Commission on Constitutional Revision of the National People's Congress, was involved in the 1982 revision of the Constitution. In three articles in this volume Bishop Ting explicates the United Front policy and religious policy of the Party according to his own understanding. This is the foundation and basis of religious work and church work in the new period of opening-up and reform. In the field of academic studies of religion, there was also a need to eradicate the influence of extreme leftist thought and to return to order. Up until the mid-eighties, there was a debate among Chinese academic circles on the so-called "Third Opium War." Some people had maintained a rigid stance insisting on the concept of "religion as opiate." Bishop Ting took an active part in this debate, opposing this view on scientific and historical grounds, and with an attitude of seeking truth from facts, giving a balanced critique of the notion that "religion is the opiate of the people." He put forward the view that the rich moral and ethical content of religion can be brought into harmony with socialism. Two longer pieces included here, "Recent Developments in the Study of Religion" (with Wang Weifan) and "An Introduction to Religion under Socialism in China" can serve as summaries of this debate. Since then, there has been much more mutual understanding and common language and friendship between religious and academic circles. We are very pleased to see that old taboos have been broken and great successes scored in the study of religion in China today.

In the past 20 years, Bishop Ting has devoted most of his time and energy to the work of building up the Chinese Church. The focus of his work during these years has been on maintaining the correct direction of Three-Self patriotism, strengthening and developing the achievements of Three-Self, bringing Three-Self patriotism to bear fruits in making the Chinese church well-run and effecting the transition from "three-self' (self-governing, self-supporting, self-propagating) to "three well" (well-governed, well-supported and doing the work of propagation well). Following the further implementation of the religious policy nationwide, the Chinese Church has developed very rapidly and the number of believers and church organizations has multiplied. Because pastoral care of believers and education work has not been able to keep pace with this growth, many problems and difficulties have arisen in local churches. In some places the understanding and implementation of religious policy by local cadres has been problematic. Some problems also exist within the church in terms of understanding and practice in the areas of enlarging unity and making the church well-run. Chinese Christianity is in a "post-denominational" stage that began in 1980 with the establishment of the China Christian Council. The "two bodies," the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of Protestant Churches in China (est. 1954) and the China Christian Council, form the national "patriotic organizations" of the Chinese Protestant Church, and function to guide thinking, organization and church administration. Bishop Ting, a man of lofty and penetrating vision and great openness of heart, has made important proposals on mutual respect according to the three-self principle (in doctrine, liturgy and church polity), enlarging unity, "re-ordering the relationship" and running the church well. He advocates seeking greater unity with those church bodies which are not associated with the Three-Self organization by relying on love, service and understanding. In the ten pieces included here that deal with these subjects, his magnanimity, sincerity and earnestness are evident.

Upwards of half the essays in this collection, in content and length, are theological. Over 30 of these were originally intended as sermons. Bishop Ting has always had a very high regard for self-propagation and theological studies. "Theology is the church in the act of thinking. A church that does not think is stagnant and dogmatic; it is a prison of the spirit. A religion that does not speak of theology is crude and primitive. A religion which does not apply reason to problems is unreasonable." The kind of theological thinking Bishop Ting advocates is one which considers how to bring faith and the realities of life together, a theory both rational and with transcendent power. It is neither the mysterious and abstruse subjectivity of the scholastics nor the preserve of "professional theologians" shut away in their studies. In one essay he writes of the "theological mass movement" of Chinese Christianity in the early 1950s, a time when the masses of believers themselves raised many theological questions which still have great significance today.

Bishop Ting has on many occasions spoken of the relationship between the ecumenicity (universality) and localness (particularity) of Christianity. He proposed that the Chinese Church should have its own theology. At the present stage, "Our theology has as a matter of course been constrained by history and the universal church, but it is not a copy, it is the thinking of Chinese Christians ourselves about the problems of the Chinese Church." At present we have not yet constructed or proposed a comparatively systematic or complete theology. We begin with the reality of where we are, and attempt to bring together Christian faith, traditional Chinese culture and special ethnic characteristics. Chinese society today is changing rapidly in a time of openness and reform. We must not raise demands for systematization prematurely in doing "contextualized theology," for, if we do, we will fall into the old ways of plagiarizing or aping traditional Western theology. For decades, from reading the Bible to faith in practice, Chinese Christianity has indeed seen much "new light," and has been engaged in doing theology. In many essays in this volume, Bishop Ting offers valuable, creative views of a breakthrough nature on fundamental theological issues, and selects concepts from modern Western theology for our consideration, adapting it for our use. All this can serve as guides for the future development of Chinese theology. For example, with regard to the Bible (See "Chinese Christians' Approach to the Bible") he refers to the fruits of contemporary Western biblical studies, avoiding pedantic debates and dogmatic "biblicism" of the quoting-out-of-context type. In accord with Chinese Christians' fervent love of the Bible and respect for biblical authority, he convincingly lays down a "biblical foundation" for a whole range of theological theses. In considering our concept of God (see "God is Love," "One Chinese Christian's View of God," etc.) he attests that God's most essential attribute is love; other attributes, such as holiness and righteousness, derive from this love which created all things and embraces all things. He disperses the metaphysical fog and avoids the logical contradictions of traditional Western theology, enhancing the sense of human feeling and warmth, which makes these ideas more easily understood and accepted by Chinese people. His Christology posits the "Cosmic Christ" as an extension of "God is Love," absorbing the "process theology" of Whitehead and Teilhard de Chardin's evolutionary thinking, taking creation, providence, redemption and sanctification of the cosmos to its ultimate consummation, all as the whole process of God's work through Christ. He bypasses the thousand-year-old controversy around the Chalcedonian definition of the perfect deity and perfect humanity of Christ, and corrects the one-sidedness and narrowness of dwelling solely on his work of redemption in traditional Christology. In theological study, there have long been two different approaches: creation-centered and redemption-centered. The former is usually more open and can easily accommodate all sorts of progressive thought and social changes, while the latter is often susceptible to a narrow exclusivism. In "Creation and Redemption," Bishop Ting handles this question very well, alerting us to and providing a corrective for the tendency in Chinese churches today to stress redemption while undervaluing creation. On human nature, Bishop Ting points to the concept in Chinese culture of the "innate goodness of human nature." He contrasts this with the Christian concept of original sin, reminding us that "humans are made in the image of God," and are "unfinished creations of God," "co-workers with God in the work of creation," while also pointing out the necessity of God's saving grace and emphasizing the possibility of human responsibility and development.

I cannot elaborate all these at length here. But these brief indications can be used as the loci to construct a theological system - a locitheologici. If we substantiate and connect these loci, it is not difficult to glimpse the framework of a new system of Chinese theology. Bishop Ting explains his points brilliantly in compelling and easily understood language, more appealing to people than abstruse theological jargon. Further, in many of his essays, he writes of how we are to deal with all the truth, goodness and beauty we encounter outside Christianity. What about atheists? Or the teaching that "believers cannot be yoked together with unbelievers?" He provides answers to these perplexing questions. At the same time he introduces current topics in international theological circles, such as the movement for unity in the ecumenical church, international peace and social justice, liberation theology, feminist theology, eco-theology, etc., all of which serve to broaden theological students' horizons. This volume enlivens theological reflection, challenges theological construction in the Chinese Church and clarifies the way forward. Its publication is a significant milestone in the history of Chinese theology and should be required reading for Chinese theological students.

In the last decade or so, Chinese intellectual circles have become more open toward the study of religion and theology than at any other time. Many friends outside the church have expressed understanding and sympathy toward Christianity. They have even contributed to the field in translating, writing and publishing many high quality works related to Christian theology. These make theological studies in the church, or the sermons preached from the pulpit, seem backward and conservative in comparison. Many intellectuals have been unwilling to be in touch with or to be involved in the church for this reason. Bishop Ting coined the phrase "culture Christians" to describe these people, and although both within and outside the church there are still differing understandings and critiques of this issue, it is an expression of faith which should engender a positive response. Those of us within the church should ponder how to actively raise our own level, liberate our thinking, find a more common language with intellectuals in general, and encourage dialogue. These are issues that touch on whether Christianity in China will be able to break the bonds of being seen as a "sub-culture" and move forward together with all Chinese people. I hope the publication of this book will be noted and welcomed by intellectuals and help them to gain a deeper understanding of Chinese Christianity today.

In K.H. Ting, Love Never Ends. Nanjing: Win Press, 2000, 1-8.

Dr. Chen Zemin retired from his positions as Vice-Principal and Professor of Systematic Theology at Nanjing Seminary in 2002. He is a Vice-Director of the TSPM/CCC Advisory Committee and a member of the 7th Standing Committee of the TSPM.

Bishop K. H. Ting's Love Never Ends is available from:
Foundation for Theological Education in South East Asia
Dr. Marvin D. Hoff, Executive Director
21236 Barth Pond Lane
Crest Hill , IL 60435
US$30 postpaid