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A Study of T. C. Chao’s Christology in the Social Context of China (1920–1949)

Daniel Hoi Ming Hui

The aim of this book is to show that during the early half of the twentieth century, Chinese society was disillusioned by both internal dissension and external invasion, and the churches experienced many challenges. In response to the traumatic events of 1920–1949, the Chinese theologian Prof. T. C. Chao tried to construct a ‘new religion’ for China, believing that an indigenous Christianity would offer a solution to the national crisis. Chao searched for a new interpretation of Jesus Christ to make him relevant to China’s context and social thought, and tried to develop Christology based on the encounter of Western Christianity, Chinese culture and social change. A personality-focused interpretation of Jesus Christ was developed, and an image of Confucian Jesus was found in his thought. Chao tried to explore his contextual Christology with the purpose of being faithful to Christian faith, and being relevant to Chinese classical culture and the contemporary context in order to enable intellectual Christians to contribute to the national reconstruction of Country.

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Chapter 7 – Analysis, Synthesis and Comparison between the various Periods of Development in Chao’s Contextual Christology


Chapter 7

Analysis, Synthesis and Comparison between the various Periods of Development in Chao’s Contextual Christology

The purpose of this chapter is twofold. First, we shall attempt to analyse the contextuality of Chao’s theology, highlighting its characteristics with particular attention to his ‘theology of relevance. Second, we shall compare his interpretation of Jesus Christ in various periods and seek to understand why, how and in what way his interpretations have changed as well as their relations to each other.

7.1 Social Relevance

In the first period (1915–1922), Chao’s Christology is characterized by his concern for a ‘new religion’ for modern China. Chinese intellectuals were strongly attracted to the West because modern European thought and socio-political systems were seen as sources of progress and power of modern Western societies. Chao shared a similar liberal outlook, perhaps influenced by his education in the USA in the 1910s. Old religions, particularly Confucianism, were regarded as backward and superstitious. A ‘new religion’, according to Chao, should be based on reason and experience, of service to human life, and compatible with modern scientific theories. It should also provide a framework for ethics and morality, and make contribution to the building of a new society. Measured against these criteria, Christianity was also an old religion and should therefore go through a radical re-interpretation, including the Apostles’ Creed, the understanding of the relation between Christianity and culture, the concept of God and the role of Jesus. Chao’s concern...

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