NANJING, China - Liu Dawei, 25, a postgraduate student at Nanjing Union Theological Seminary (NJUTS), was one of the attendees at the 11th SASS Seminar held in 2022 on the theme “The Bible and the Sinicization of Christianity in the New Era of China”.
To Liu, the seminar provided an excellent platform for exchanges and mutual learning on the sinicization of Christianity. “It has broadened my perspective and allowed me to view Bible ministries and Christianity from multiple angles.”
Organized by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) with the support of United Bible Societies (UBS), the seminar brought together academicians, church leaders, and government officials to discuss and dialogue on the positive role and impact of the Bible on Chinese society. The aim is to foster a deeper understanding of the Bible’s influence not just in the Church, but also in the academia, arts, and the public sphere.
Contextualization of Christianity Through Bible Preaching and Teaching
As Christianity continues to grow in China, its engagement with the wider society has become more frequent. It was through the SASS seminar that Liu understood that part of the calling of the church involves presenting the Christian faith to a larger audience in China.
“Before the seminar, I didn’t understand much about Sinicization and the process involved. Now, I have a deeper understanding and see its importance,” said Liu.
“Christians need to speak in a way that people can understand. This would help people not to see the Christian faith as an outsider or a foreign religion. For me, that is the Sinicisation of Christianity.”
To effectively communicate the Christian faith and gospel message, Liu said, “Christians need to speak in a way that people can understand. This would help people not to see the Christian faith as an outsider or a foreign religion. For me, that is the Sinicization of Christianity.”
What is crucial in this process, Liu believes, is the sound interpretation and exposition of the Bible. In this regard, the paper presented by Rev Gao Ming from Shandong Provincial Christian Council resonated deeply with him. Rev Gao emphasized that the Bible is at the core of the Sinicization of Christianity. "The Bible is the only classic of Christianity," he stated, “from which all principles for ministries are derived.”
In this regard, the ministry of preaching and teaching based on the Bible is vital. Pastors and preachers must explain and preach the Bible and relate its teachings to the context of the modern world. Rev Gao said, “The Bible is both for the spiritual nourishment of Christians as well as for the betterment of the society. I learn that the Bible has both spiritual as well as social value.”
Church's Social Engagement Based on the Bible
The dialogues and interactions at the seminar involving local and overseas scholars and academicians have informed and inspired Liu to envision his future ministries.
In today’s China, Christians not only need to have a rich spiritual life but also to manifest Christ in their daily interaction with society and integrate into it. “Thus, this Bible seminar is a good platform for the church to understand how it is being perceived by the society, recognize its shortcomings and have more dialogue with the wider society. At the same time, non-Christians can get to understand the church better and clear any misunderstandings. In this process, Christianity in China would then take root genuinely”, Liu shared.
"This Bible seminar is a rare and precious opportunity for seminary students to widen our horizon and broaden our minds so that we can more effectively lead the Church on the path of growth and development.”
In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Liu knew it was a call by God to reset his priorities and change his path. The following year, he enrolled in the NJUTS for a postgraduate programme to equip himself for full-time ministry in the church. In the midst of his studies, the SASS seminar came timely for Liu.
"This Bible seminar is a rare and precious opportunity for seminary students to widen our horizon and broaden our minds so that we can more effectively lead the Church on the path of growth and development,” Liu said. "We should have more seminars like this in the future!"
Story: Marcus Xiao
2023@UBS China Partnership