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Church in China: Faith, Ethics, Structure

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

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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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6 The Ecclesial Ethics of the Church in China 473

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6 The Ecclesial Ethics of the Church in China 6.1 Introduction To research the ethical structures of the church in the present situation of China, we must understand the external social context of China from an ethical perspective. The ethical observation makes clear the structural elements and the essence of the authority in the ethical systems. The central theme of the ethical legacy of the Reformation essentially is the authority of the faith.1 Thus, the social, political, and ethical meanings are very obvious from the ecclesial ethics of Luther and of Calvin. Accordingly, certain ecclesial ideas must be connected with the par- ticular political and ethical situation of the history for the church. Once the external environments evolved, the ethical norms and political model of the church must make certain adjustments for the existence of the church. Otherwise, the church will face the risk of marginalization in society or of the disappearance from history. For instance, the aristo- 1 W. A. Visser’t Hooft claimed very distinctly, “From the first centuries A. D., and through all the history of the Christian church, one fundamental question has con- tinually arisen – what is the proper relationship between the magistri, or theological teachers, and the magisterium, the authority which decides what is the true teaching of the church? In other words, are the magistri simply mouth-pieces of the magiste- rium and completely subject to its control, or do they form part of the magisterium, sharing its responsibility for establishing true teaching? Or again, is...

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