Bible & Values – The Role of Christianity in Modern China

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Shanghai, China  What does the Bible say about values? “Psalms 116:15 says, The Lord values the lives of His servants. We know that Jesus came to bring abundant life. The Bible values life – it enables people to discover life and let it flourish,” shared Prof Paul Williams, Chief Executive of British Bible Society (BFBS) at the opening ceremony of the 6th Bible in China Seminar held in Shanghai, attended by Chinese academics and researchers of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and Shanghai Communist Party School, Christian leaders, seminary students, members of Bible Societies and international guest speakers.

The annual Bible in China (BiC) Seminar, themed Bible & Values this year, was jointly organized by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), Centre for the Studies of Religion and Culture (CSRC) and Shanghai Association of Ethics (SAE), with the support of United Bible Societies (UBS).

L-R: Prof Fang Songhua and Bishop John Chew at the opening ceremony

Opening the seminar amidst China’s recent crackdown on corruption and propagation of Socialist core values, the need to talk about values was highlighted by Prof Fang Songhua, Director & Research Professor in the Institute of Chinese Marxism Studies at SASS. “China is on the threshold of national revival. At the same time, we are seeing environmental damage and the erosion of morality and spirituality. Hence, it is important to talk about values.” He then quoted President Xi Jinping who talked about the ‘common destiny’ of humanity based on universal values that transcends national boundaries.

Bishop John Chew, UBS Global Council Member, also highlighted the Conference’s significance in light of global socio-political developments like the recent elections in the US. He said, “These seminars are not just academic talks, they discuss real life issues in the global context of international events taking place in the regions. And we trust that something good will be brought forth from this seminar.”

The key seminar organizer, Prof Yan Kejia, Director and Research Professor of Institute of Religious Studies at SASS, shared that the seminars were meant to be helpful platforms for interaction and exchange of understanding between people in China and Christians overseas, between religious believers and non-believers.

Prof Edwin Judge presenting his paper

To that end, a total of 24 papers were presented out of which eight were by foreign presenters. Two distinguished historians from Macquarie University in Australia, Prof Edwin Judge, Emeritus Professor of History and Dr. John Dickson, Honorary Fellow in the Department of Ancient History, presented their research, the former on how Western rationality and experience have shaped people’s response to the world and the latter on the ethics of humility.

Prof Nigel Biggar, Oxford University’s Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology shared on “The Bible, Christianity and Patriotism”. Dr Paula Gooder, theologian in residence for BFBS, sharing from the Epistles to the Colossians, asserted that Christian values stems from ‘understanding the nature of Christ and the difference that his death and resurrection make’ to believers.

Prof Lee Sing Kong, former Director of Singapore National Education Institute shared on “Value and Education” while Mr. Richard Magnus, Singapore’s Retired Chief District Judge and his daughter Stephanie, contributed a paper on “The Rule of Law in Singapore and The Aetiology of the Rule of Law”.

From China, Prof Zhang Chunmei, Director and Professor of the Philosophy Department of Shanghai Communist Party School shared that the Internet is the ‘biggest variable’ faced by the Chinese Communist Party and there is need to ‘construct core values in the Internet language environment’ by careful management of various relationships in the cyber world. Imam Jin Hongwei, Chairman of Shanghai Islamic Association, wrote a paper on “The Koran and Socialist Core Values”, highlighting that the ‘spirit of Islam in China stresses harmony’.

This year’s conference saw the largest turnout since its inauguration with more than 100 participants that included seminary students from Huadong and Shandong Seminary. The successful completion of each BiC Conference for the past 6 years has always been met with much thanksgiving.

L-R: Kua Wee Seng, Prof Yan Kejia, Bishop John Chew, Prof Paul Williams, Greg Clarke (CEO, Bible Society of Australia)

“We are thankful that we are able to share about Biblical values and to show the positive contribution of Christianity towards the core values which the Chinese leadership is promoting amongst its people.  We pray that the growth of Christianity in China will continue to bless China with the spread of Biblical values in the society,” said Kua Wee Seng, UBS China Partnership Director.

See photos of the 6th Bible in China Seminar here.

Story: Angela Teo
Edited: Cynthia Oh
Photo:  UBS CP
2016 © United Bible Societies China Partnership