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Church in China: Faith, Ethics, Structure

The Heritage of the Reformation for the Future of the Church in China


Aiming Wang

The Protestant Church in China is growing very fast. However, the role of the Church in society is still fragile and marginal. The Church needs a strong ethical and structural development. This study analyses the theological, ethical and ecclesiological heritage of the Reformation and it shows how this can build the foundation for the future of the Church in China. Four models serve as orientation: the Reformers Luther and Calvin and the theologians Bonhoeffer and Barth in the 20th century, with their vision of Christian faith and a humane society. The critical analysis of the missionary heritage since the 19th century shows its contribution for the acceptance of the tradition of the Reformation for the growing Church in China.
The author combines this theological and ethical perspective with the inculturation in the strong ethical tradition of the Chinese culture. He proposes the encounter between the spirituality of the Western culture and that of the traditional culture of China through the relationship with Confucianism. The book also offers elements for the dialogue around modern values such as human rights and civil society. In this dialogue, Chinese Protestantism can play more and more an important role.


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3 The Ideal Type I: The Ecclesial Ethics of Martin Luther 211


3 The Ideal Type I: The Ecclesial Ethics of Martin Luther 3.1 Introduction When we think of the orientation of the Church while facing the world in the process of evolution radically and frequently, we always prefer his- toric representative figures as references in order to benefit from their thoughtful insights and successful experiences as possible solutions to our issues today. In terms of my central theme, the ethical position of the Church regarding the role of the church and its relationships with society is closely connected with theological thoughts of great figures of the church in history. And their theological thoughts usually are contained in ecclesiastical doctrines and principles as fundamental voices of the Church of the proper period. Martin Luther and John Calvin are such historic figures with great historic statues. As the fathers of Protestant- ism, Luther made so many theological initiatives in the process of the reformation,1 and then Calvin realized many theological ideas of Luther in the practical ecclesiastical works. So, the most important concern for Luther during the Reformation was the theology not the moral regenera- tion of the society according to the secular criteria. He claimed: “Doc- trine directs us and shows the way to heaven […] We can be saved with- out love […] but not without pure doctrine and faith.”2 We could say that Calvin finally achieved the ideal of Reformation of Luther through his ecclesiastical practices in Geneva and prepared the basis for further development of the church, which differed...

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