A Study of Bishop Ting Kuanghsün’sTheological Reconstruction in China
Author(s)Tee, An Chu
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AbstractMore than half a century has passed since the Protestant Three-Self PatrioticMovement was established, and quickly rose to monopolize institutionalizedProtestantism in China. The Three-Self theology remains poorly understood,however, both on mainland China, and abroad. This study intends to uncover whyTing’s work has been constructed in the way it has been, to delve beneath itstotalizing discourses as they were shaped and reshaped in the transitional period, andon into the 1980s, when Three-Self theologians were active again. As Ting’s work isconsidered an official guide to Theological Reconstruction, this examination ofTing’s theology also aims to show how, and why, the CCP accommodated orendorsed Ting’s projects, discourses and evaluations, and what the impact of thiswas. Centring on the idea of the Three-Self, each of the chapters of this study willfurther elaborate upon the emergence and development of Three-Self principles inChina, and how it helped to form the core of Ting’s theology, most particularly inthe 1980s. Chapter One presents the Three-Self’s original meaning. Simultaneously,close attention is paid to how Chinese Christians practised the Three-Self principles,tackled various issues such as the interaction with traditional Chinese culture,religion and science, and Christianity and revolution in the 1920s and 1930s. Thekey theme of Chapter Two, consequently, is located in the question of how theThree-Self has mutated as a political instrument, and transformed itself into theThree-Self movement between 1950 and 1979. Chapter Three, from a politicalperspective, is devoted to presenting how we are to understand Ting’s TheologicalReconstruction, in comparison with the Three-Self in the 1950s. The keyconsideration of Chapter Four is to engage with Ting’s idea of TheologicalReconstruction in 1980s, which includes his particular way of appropriatingChristianity in the contemporary Chinese context. In the light of Stephen Bevans’classification of contextual theology, this chapter’s three thematic parts point to threepatterns which were adapted to construct Chinese theology in the past andcontemporary history of Christianity in China. Surveying the central concept of the‘Cosmic Christ’, and why/how Ting has been so passionate about popularizing thisidea in China, this chapter will provide a thorough review of the particular work inTing Kuanghsün Wenji (Collected Essays of Bishop Ting), and this detailed accountprovides an opportunity to observe how Ting weaves Marxism, process theology andliberation theology into his theological construction, and how he links his theologicalproposal to mainstream theology. In the final chapter, this study will investigate thestrength and weakness of Ting’s Theological Reconstruction. I will argue that Ting’smain purpose in transforming, as well as reconstructing, Christianity is not to try tomake Christianity more easily accepted by the Chinese in their cultural and socialsituation, but it is instead intended to be used as a ‘post-transformationalChristianity’, specifically as an instrument to provide help for the CCP to find a wayout of its political situation.
TypeDoctoral level ETD - final