Chinese Theological Review 14

On Strengthening Theological Reconstruction

Han Wenzao

This assembly has passed a resolution on this topic, and much has already been said of the great importance of strengthening theological reconstruction for the building up of our church. I won't add feet to the snake by adding to the discussion. Rather. I would like to add my own personal views to those which have been reflected during our discussions.

(1) One delegate said that theological reflection should be grounded in the Bible and evidenced by two creeds: The Apostles (iced and tire Nicene Greed. Someone else observed that faith is unchanging, but theological reflection can be diverse I agree with both these views. This is in no way to imply that our meeting has stopped focusing on the Bible using the two creeds as evidence. But this comment serves as a good and important reminder to avoid giving rise to misunderstandings in the grassroots church.

(2) Another delegate said that we must be cautious in our work of theological reflection. We must be concerned for believers' ability to accept it. But another delegate felt that this potential difficulty on tile believers part should not be used as a reason to hinder the development of theological reflection. I think these vies are also important reminders. Naturally we must take the believers' actual situation into account and we must be cautious, but not overly cautious; over-caution becomes capitulation. Our direction must be clear; then our methods should be appropriate. We must not speak in terms that could be easily misunderstood or lead to giving way. We do not want to give way, instead we must train and educate.

(3) It was also said that thinking theologically is something done at seminaries and there should be a professional team to do it. Seminaries should play a leading and guiding role in promoting theological reflection, going one or even several steps ahead. According to the work report from the Sixth National Chinese Christian Conference. The central issue is, on what kind of theological thinking shall we base our theological education?" I hope the leaders of every seminary and bible school will highlight this statement, refer to it frequently, assess, inspect and guide our work of theological education on its basis. But it cannot be said that theological reflection is the business of seminaries only. The pulpit also has a role to play in guiding theological reflection. Problems in the church, especially in the rural church, should perhaps be addressed theologically.

As for a professional team, I would hope there could be one. But realistically speaking, this is something we cannot achieve at present.

(4) One delegate felt that the agenda for this meeting was too vague. My Feeling is that we can't just immerse ourselves in work. The reality is that we also have to look up from our tasks and urge theological thinking forward. This may be a bit vague, but it is very important.

(5) One delegate suggested that the national lianghui should learn from the government, setting concrete goals each year, which are assessed at year's end. This is a fine idea. I, too, promote concrete accomplishments for the church. I have already suggested to the General Secretary of the CCC and the Secretaries General of the TSPM that at the end of this year or the beginning of next year, they should absent themselves from the minutiae of day to day work and spend several days drafting a three-year plan for running the church well. The first year would be spelled out more concretely and the last two years in a more general way.

(6) A few delegates very much fear that promoting theological education will be like mounting a (political) movement, or a big criticism. I think such fears are groundless. What is important at present is creating an atmosphere tolerant of theological reflection. We must promote mutual respect and oppose branding people as this or that. Only once we have mutual respect will we be able to learn from each other, share and go forward together.

(7) Another delegate said that the goal of` enlivening theology shouldn't be simply to enliven theology for its own sake, but to address theologically on the basis of the two creeds, problems the church is facing leaving no openings for heresy, splitting hairs or getting into more and more abstruse topics

As for adapting to socialist society, I mentioned this in my opening remarks. For the ongoing existence and development of the church, we must take the initiative in this regard, not that others want us to adapt, but that we want to adapt. We must adjust those theological views that are not compatible with socialism. This is very necessary.

Adapting to a socialist society does not of course mean just echoing current ills, just the opposite I applaud what some delegates said, that we should speak to problems in the voice of the prophets.

Nanjing Theological Review , No. 2, (1999), p. 4.

Dr. Wenzao Han Is President of the China Christian Council and General Secretary of The Amity Foundation.