Introducing "Seeking Truth in Love"

The theology of K.H. Ting, the spiritual head of the Protestant church in China, has defied labelling. Having led the church over five decades, Bishop Ting has had his fair share of criticism from the extreme right and the extreme left, yet his writings appeal to both evangelicals and "ecumenicals" alike. As the comments and analyses of fifteen authors and scholars from around the world attest, his writings are responses to the demands of the times spanning five decades in China's turbulent contemporary history.

The bilingual volume "Seeking Truth in Love" compiled by Wang Peng is a very welcome addition to the growing number of books by and about Bishop K.H. Ting (or K.H. as he is affectionately known to his friends.) It provides biographical details and insights that help throw light on the many and less known influences on K. H.'s life and theological perspective. We learn that K.H. is not a dialectical theologian, that he has an appreciation of natural theology, that he does not put much emphasis on the concept of original sin but stresses the goodness of human nature.

The articles, written by theologians and other scholars from Asia, Europe and North America, help us to appreciate the enormity of the tasks confronting the Christian leadership in China. K.H. has faced difficult challenges with quiet strength and wisdom. In his "A Chinese Contribution to Ecumenical Theology," Philip Wickeri notes that K.H. is a "Christian thinker who loves the church and a Christian theologian who loves China." He has a remarkably consistent vision of Christian faith in the Chinese context and has guided Chinese Protestant churches through being part of a patriotic movement to being a "church in formation." His position as Vice Chair of the NPPCC (National People's Political Consultative Conference) allowed him to push the boundaries of religious freedom in China and to serve as an advocate for reform and change at the highest levels of government. Elaborating on this, Danny Yu in his article highlights Ting's contribution to church-state dialogue on legal rights for Chinese Christians and for religious believers as a whole, including seeking fairer treatment of Christianity among academe.

As a Christian leader, K. H. has challenged Chinese Christians first in responding to the Chinese revolution and today, to the demands of modernisation in a highly secular society. The central theme of his theology is "Love" which has held a strong appeal to those disappointed and disillusioned by the Cultural Revolution in China. He stresses the healing role of the church in a post-Cultural Revolution China where God's redeeming love binds, unites and renews, overcoming suffering and conflict. His themes of reconciliation, forgiveness, seeking the common ground rather than emphasizing the differences, have an appeal not only for the Chinese but strike a responsive chord with Christians overseas.

Several authors in this book point to the innovation and creativity of Ting's theology. K.H., the visionary, is always far ahead of his time. Raymond Whitehead points out that as early as 1979, Bishop Ting had talked of the need for theological reconstruction, something that has only emerged as a movement in the Protestant churches nearly two decades later. According to Whitehead," Ting commented then that the inherited theology (from Western missions) was "alienating, revolving around the exclusivity of belief." It was only after thirty years, in the light of historical change that Chinese theology has "shifted to the pluralistic language of practice."

For K. H., local theology has global significance and is not simply "Chinese" theology. His Chinese-ness stems from constant engagement with the Chinese context and is not an artificial attempt to incorporate "Confucian" elements or what Western scholars would see as "Chinese" elements into a "normative" theology. K.H. is free from trying to please a Western-educated audience. He writes mainly for Chinese Christians even as he tries to interpret the experiences of the Chinese church to audiences overseas.

We are grateful to Wang Peng for putting together this volume. It will go a long way in helping audiences both in China and overseas to further appreciate the significant contributions that K.H. Ting has made to the Church in China and to Chinese theology.

Theresa Carino

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