Lai Pan-Chiu: Chinese Culture and the Development of Chinese Christian Theology

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For China, Christianity is a foreign religion imported from a fundamentally different cultural matrix.  As some tension between the Christian tradition and Chinese culture seem to be quite unavoidable, an inevitable question for the Chinese Christians is whether inheriting the Christian tradition means embracing a foreign culture and betraying the Chinese cultural identity.  How to handle the relationship between Christian faith and Chinese culture has been a major problem for Chinese Christian theologians for centuries – probably since the introduction of Christianity into China during the seventh century.  In fact, there are already many studies attempting to compare Christianity with Chinese culture, especially with Confucianism.  This kind of comparative or typological study tends to assume a static view of Chinese culture, identifying Chinese culture with the traditional or pre-modern Chinese culture, and overlooking the dynamic movements and upheavals taking place in modern China.

During the 19th century, with the invasion of modern Western civilization, including western science, technology, philosophy and social or political ideas, many Chinese intellectuals began to recognize the decline or backwardness of China. Many of them examined critically the validity of traditional Chinese culture and even proposed radical measures for cultural change by learning from western culture. Shortly before the end of imperial China in 1911, the traditional national examination based on the Confucian classics had been abolished. During the 1920s, under the influence of the May Fourth movement of 1919, traditional Chinese culture, particularly Confucianism, became the target of criticism for many Chinese intellectuals. It was also during more or less the same period that China saw the rise of scientism and anti-religious, particularly anti-Christian, ethos. After the establishment of the Communist regime in China, especially during the Great Cultural Revolution starting in the 1960s, traditional Chinese culture was further demolished. These developments in Chinese culture raise serious questions with regard to the relationship between Christian theology and Chinese culture, especially the adequacy and necessity of adopting traditional Chinese culture with regard to theological indigenization, which had previously been considered the most vital task for Chinese theology.  In recent years, globalization has become another major trend of cultural development worldwide. Globalization may mean that the transmission of a particular tradition goes far beyond the existing boundary, but it may also bring forth the extinction of many others. As more and more Chinese are exposed to the influence of Western culture, an interesting as well as perplexing question is, if the Chinese cultural tradition is going to die out soon, why should Christian theology bother to inherit it? If, on the other hand, Chinese culture is going to be globalized, how will Christian theology respond to it?

This paper aims at discussing the development of Chinese Christian theology and its relationship to Chinese culture. Through a review of the development of Chinese Protestant theology in the 20th century and its relationship with the development of the Chinese culture, this paper will consider how Christian theology and Chinese culture will be related in the 21st century.  The suggestion to be made is that although theological indigenization has become less important and less necessary than before, Chinese culture remains vital for the desirable or healthy development of Chinese Christian theology.  With Chinese culture as part of its resources, Chinese Christian theology may make a significant contribution to the creative transformation of Chinese culture and the further development of Christian theology worldwide.



Chinese Protestant theology has undergone several ups and downs in the 20th century.  During the first half of the century, the most significant development took place during the 1920s and 1930s – as the aftermath of the May Fourth Movement.  During this so-called “Chinese Christian Renaissance,”[2] a large number of theological publications were produced and a vast diversity of theological positions voiced.  The major contributing factors for the intensity of the theological activities during this period included the dramatic social change and the severe criticism that Christianity met with.  At that time, Chinese Christianity had to face a lot of issues, such as its relationship with traditional Chinese culture, religion and science, Christianity and revolution, Christianity and nationalism, etc. Given the denominational and theological diversity of the Chinese churches, the theological responses to these issues were understandably very pluralistic.[3]

For the twenty years following 1950, the theological activities in Mainland China slowed down dramatically – with fewer theological books being published and the theological positions becoming more and more homogenous.  This was because Chinese Christianity in the Mainland began to concentrate on one single issue concerning the way in which the Church should accommodate herself to the new Communist system. The theological responses to it, especially within the circle of the institutional church or the so-called Three-Self Church, were highly standardized.  Most of the theological publications simply parroted the slogan of the Three-Self movement, with a view to implementing government policies, assisting patriotic education and joining the united front campaigns.[4]  The dominance of this kind of theological discourse ended with the Great Cultural Revolution, which caused all theological activities to disappear from the public realm. When the Chinese government adopted the policy of reform and openness at the end of the 1970s, it cleared the ground for the theological revival that has been taking place since the 1980s.

Owing to their political separation from the Mainland, the development of Christian theology in Hong Kong and Taiwan has, since the 1950s, been significantly different from that in Mainland China.  Theologians in Hong Kong and Taiwan, especially from the 1970s onwards, gradually began to formulate their theologies in response to the challenges arising from their respective social contexts.  Combined with the development in the Mainland, a revival of Chinese theology as a whole began in the 1980s and built up its momentum during the 1990s.  The revival is clearly demonstrated by the quantity, if not also the quality, of the theological journals or book series in lieu of journals launched during this period. [5]

Since the late 1980s, faced with the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, many Chinese, including Christians, emigrated to North America, Europe, Australia, etc. This dramatically increased the number and enlarged the size of the existing overseas Chinese communities, which can be found in various countries in North America, Europe, South East Asia and Australia.  For many of the overseas Chinese, who are the second or even third generation living outside China, inheriting Chinese culture is a question of personal choice rather than a matter decided by birth.  The overseas Chinese Christian communities significantly intensified the diversity of Chinese theologies and enriched the discussion concerning Christian theology and Chinese culture experienced in their hybrid cultural contexts.[6]

Through this brief outline of the development, we can see that the development of Chinese Christian theology is closely related to the cultural, social and political developments of the Chinese people.  In the following examination of the development of the Chinese Protestant theology of the 20th century, I would like to show how the Chinese cultural tradition has been related to the theological construction of Chinese Christians.



In the past, especially before the 20th century, many Western missionaries and Chinese Christians considered indigenous Chinese theology to be the goal of their theological endeavours.  They thought that their task was to make Christian theology indigenous to Chinese culture. Since traditional Chinese culture was understood primarily as a culture dominated by Confucianism, theological indigenization virtually meant the “Confucianization” of Christian theology – using the Confucian terminology or philosophical framework to articulate Christian theology.

This approach to theology seemed to be quite natural and necessary for Chinese Christians or Western missionaries working in the Chinese context.  This was particularly true when Roman Catholic missionaries encountered the problem with Chinese culture in the late Ming Dynasty and when Protestant missionaries continued to face it in the 19th Century. However, from the late Ching dynasty onwards, the validity of traditional Chinese culture was called into question by the intruding modern “Western learning.”  The question most discussed by the intellectuals was not just “how” but also “whether” to inherit traditional Chinese culture.  Whereas some Chinese intellectuals proposed the formula of “Chinese learning as the substance, Western learning as the function,” many others preferred the radical solution of “total Westernization.”  The May Fourth movement brought forth not only severe criticism of traditional culture but also an anti-tradition ethos.[7]  Some scholars argue that what the May Fourth movement as a whole attempted to do was to reform traditional culture and to add new elements to it, rather than to reject it entirely.[8] However, for some critics, Confucianism was closely associated with the “ancien regime” and was to be blamed for China’s backwardness.  This anti-tradition ethos was reinforced by Marxist ideology together with the Communist regime established in 1949.  In subsequent decades, the acquaintance with or sense of belonging to traditional culture has further diminished for the contemporary Chinese as a whole.

Interestingly, at more or less the same time as the May Fourth movement, although some intellectuals ignored or despised the Confucian tradition, others attempted to revive or reform it.  Against the mainstream of the cultural ethos, a small number of Confucian scholars, notably Xiong Shili (1885-1968) and Liang Shuming (1893-1988), endeavoured to argue for the value of traditional culture and to revive, if not reinvent, Confucianism as a spiritual tradition.  Their influence has continued to grow among many Chinese scholars in Hong Kong and Taiwan since 1949 under the leadership of Tang Junyi (1909-1978), Mou Zongsan (1909-1995), etc.[9] When defending the value of Chinese culture, the New Confucians tend to argue that the value of Confucianism is even higher than that of western culture, including its religion, namely Christianity.[10]

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Chinese Christian community was exposed to an extensive range of theological problems amid challenges on various fronts. On the one hand, it faced the issue of the relationship between Christianity and traditional Chinese culture. On the other, the ideological impact of the new cultural movement highlighting science and democracy, together with the rapid social and political changes, constituted serious challenges to Chinese Christianity. In response to the criticisms of Christianity voiced by the Anti-Christian movement (1922-1927), Chinese Christian intellectuals endeavored to prove that Christianity was not contradictory to science and that, as a progressive and revolutionary religion, Christianity was set to make positive contributions against the emergent national problems.  Meanwhile, in order to respond to the criticism that Christianity was a foreign religion, many Chinese Christians proposed various ways to Christianize China with an indigenous Chinese Christianity and enkindled the indigenous church debate during the 1920s.[11]

From the 1920s onwards, the rapid changes in the social and political situation in China compelled some Chinese theologians to develop various political theologies in order to demonstrate the revolutionary nature of Christianity.[12]  Gradually, the focus of discussion among Chinese Christian theologians shifted from “how to indigenize Christianity” to “whether and how Christianity might save the nation.”  During the 1930s, the dominant position of theological indigenization was subtly taken over by the theological contextualization approach.  Whereas theological indigenization attempted to make Christian theology compatible or even united with traditional Chinese culture, theological contextualization aimed at making Christian theology relevant to the contemporary social and/or political context.[13] It is interesting to note that, at that time, even when some theologians, e.g. Wu Lei-chuan (= Wu Zhenchun, 1870-1944), were apparently discussing issues concerning Christianity and Chinese culture in their writings, they were also critically examining the validity or relevance of both traditions vis-à-vis the contemporary Chinese context.[14]

Facing the Anti-Christian movement of the 1920s, some Chinese theologians attempted to translate some western theological literature in order to respond to the accusations that Christianity was unscientific and against the progress of human society.  This approach of answering critics by translating foreign works was quite inevitable at that time.  In fact, many of the popular criticisms of Christianity voiced in China at that time were based on western ideologies, such as the theories of evolution, materialism, atheism and scientism. Besides, the challenges that the Chinese Christians were facing, such as Communism, Socialism, Nationalism, etc., were not entirely unlike those in western societies.  As a supplement to the work written by Chinese Christians, translating western theology to respond to the challenges to Christianity that originated from the West seemed to be quite appropriate.  Apart from the translation of books concerning religion and science,[15] many books by proponents of the social gospel were translated into Chinese.[16]  The aim of these translations was to emphasize that Christianity was thoroughly ethical, social and revolutionary, so much so that the Christian social gospel might meet the needs of modern China.[17]

The responses of Chinese theologians to the social and political issues did not stop at translation, but while they attempted to do their own theologies, they were not entirely immune to western influence.  Zhao Zi-chen (= T. C. Chao, 1888-1979) was a typical example.  Zhao published extensively on Christianity and Chinese culture, suggesting various ways to indigenize Christian theology and to harmonize Christianity and Confucianism.  In his book on Christian Philosophy (jidujiao zhexue), he turned to the charges made against the Christian faith by contemporary Chinese intellectuals from the perspective of scientific positivism.  As Zhao himself admits, he had made extensive use of western theological resources, particularly Borden Parker Bowne, William James and Henri Bergson.[18] Under the influence of these western theologians, Zhao suggested that Christianity could contribute to the social progress and the solution to national crisis by forming the personality required.[19]  Some years later, Zhao made some critical reflections on his previous works on indigenization and saving the nation through personality formation, after he had been exposed to and influenced by Karl Barth’s theology. Apart from writing what was probably the first Chinese monograph on Barth,[20]Zhao’s later works were also influenced by Barth’s thought.  For example, in his Ethics of Christianity (jidujiao de lunli), the emphasis is on a theocentric ethics, God’s transcendence, Christian ethic as being distinct from other ethical thoughts, the divine Word of God as being distinct from other cultures without confusion or compromise, etc.[21]  Apparently, Zhao’s position shifted from theological liberalism to a position more in line with Neo-Orthodox theology.  However, the evolution of Zhao’s thought was not only due to the influence of Barth, but was also derived from his experience in prison during the Japanese invasion of China.[22]  Whether Zhao changed his theological position after 1949 cannot be ascertained because his writing came to a virtual end after that time. Zhao’s proposal to save the nation through a reforming of the individual personality, reminiscent of the Confucian approach, had been found to be too individualistic, too gradual, or too liberal to be adequate for the urgent situation of China by some other Christians even before 1949.  Some Chinese Christians, e.g. Wu Yaozong (=Y. T. Wu, 1893-1979), preferred a much more radical proposal of Marxism and revolution, which might involve the use of violence.  Wu Yaozong’s theological position became popular within the institutional church in Mainland China after 1949.



The development of the theology of the institutional church after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, especially after the 1970s, has focused on the affirmation of humanity, the present world and human history.  The “official” theology adopted by the institutional Church can be summarized as follows.  In terms of ontology, agape is emphasized as an attribute of God’s essence, expressed in His Creation, providence, redemption and sanctification. Another emphasis is on the immanence of God, the belief that all good things originate from God and therefore Christians should learn to appreciate all the good things taking place outside the Church, because they too come from God’s love.[23]  In terms of Christology, the key concept is the notion of the “Cosmic Christ,” with an emphasis on Christ as God incarnate and on human beings seeking redemption, renewal and reconciliation in him.  As Christ is cosmic, God’s redemption is universal.  In line with the universality of Christ, the Holy Spirit is also not to be restricted to the visible church.  Rather, the Spirit of the Almighty God, which is the universal life-giving spirit constantly moving and at work in the universe, is in all and through all in human history.[24] As to the theory of human nature, it stresses that human beings are created in the image of God, which was corrupted in the fall but not totally lost.  Concerning Christian living, “glorifying God and serving fellow human beings” is the supreme principle; and social justice as well as personal spirituality should be pursued.  The doctrines of sola fides and sola gratiaare important, but the danger of upholding faith at the expense of works should also be avoided.[25]  It is apparent that this theology is designed for the institutional church in Mainland China, in response to its socio-political environment.  It encourages Christians to appreciate God’s universal work in human society beyond the boundary of the Church, to affirm the value of non-Christians and groups other than the Church (not least the Communist government and its members), and to contribute diligently to social development.

Central to this kind of theological discourse is the concept of the Cosmic Christ, an idea emphasized from time to time by Ding Guangxu (Bishop K. H. Ting).[26]  According to him, the concept of the Cosmic Christ asserts the unfolding of historical events as part of the process of Christ’s creation and redemption, since redemption may be regarded as part of creation. Christ redeems not only the Christians but also all humanity and the entire universe. In Ding’s words, “Christ is guiding the entire creation towards the goal of unity in God. Within this redemption work of Christ, all human movements fighting for progress, liberation, democracy and universal love are bonded together.” [27] Chinese Christians will come to appreciate that Christ’s lordship, care, and providence extend over the entire universe with love as their essence.  Bishop Ding believes that these concepts will help Chinese Christians to understand the “truth, goodness and beauty outside the Church,” especially the honorable virtues of certain Communist officials.[28]

The concept of the Cosmic Christ has, indeed, its basis in the Bible, but as Ding himself admits, his exposition of the concept was shaped also by the contemporary social situation.[29]  He also admits his indebtedness to some foreign theological movements, including process theology, liberation theology and the theology of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.[30]  This is not to say that Ding adopts these theologies uncritically.  For example, he points out that China has already been liberated, so for her, the more important issue is reconciliation rather than liberation,[31] an observation also made by other Chinese theologians.[32]  Although Ding mentions briefly that the concept of cosmic Dao (Tao) in Tao-te-ching has prepared the Chinese to accept the concept of the Cosmic Christ, Ding’s adopting the concept is due primarily to his understanding of the contemporary Chinese context rather than a commitment to traditional Chinese culture. [33]

At the very end of the 1970s, Mainland China began to embark on political reforms, which created a more “relaxed” environment for the development of theology.  Since the 1980s, even Jinling Shen Xue Zhi(=Nanjing Seminary Review, which adopted Nanjing Theological Review as its new English title in 2000), the official organ of the institutional church, has been publishing many translations and introductory essays introducing theologies from Europe, North America, other parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa.  Some of them, deliberately or not, fail to toe the party line.[34]  The monopoly of the “official” theology supporting the existing political regime thus ended.

The domination of the “official” theology was further undermined by the so-called “Cultural Christians.”  The term “Cultural Christians” refers to a group of intellectuals from Mainland China, who are interested in Christian theology and who even take Christianity as their personal faith, without officially becoming church members.  They have translated some works of western theology into Chinese and some of them, notably Liu Xiao-feng, have even attempted to formulate their own theologies.  Their theological style and approach are radically different from both the “official” theology of the institutional church in the Mainland and the indigenization approach adopted by many theologians in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The concern of the “‘cultural Christians” lies primarily in contemporary Chinese culture rather than traditional culture.  In his article introducing the theology of Karl Barth, Liu Xiao-feng writes,

The practices of sanctifying secular authorities, idolizing historical politicians and mystifying secular regimes are not only western, but are also eastern. They are not only to be found in the past. They could still be found today… Issues pondered by Karl Barth are not just concerned with certain times or certain people, they are concerned with all times and all people… If Chinese are first and foremost human beings, then these issues are of course concerned with Chinese people, too. [35]

Liu Xiao-feng’s reading of Barth might be rather one-sided,[36] but given the experience of the cult of personality during the Great Cultural Revolution shared by many Chinese intellectuals, Liu’s elaboration of the political implication of Barth’s theology is quite understandable.  With regard to traditional Chinese culture, Liu Xiao-feng’s attitude is rather negative.  He argues that theological indigenization will inevitably confuse, or even substitute, the Word of God with human words.  Liu Xiao-feng suggests that the Christ-event as the divine revelation, which is also a critique of religion, inevitably contradicts religion and brings forth the crisis of religion, which stands for the national ideology or system of thought.  As Christian theology should have nothing whatsoever to do with the national ideology or system of thought, the programme of theological indigenization was doomed to failure from the very outset.[37]

In the 1950s and 1960s, most Chinese theologians in Hong Kong and Taiwan were basically still pre-occupied with theological indigenization. Since then, probably due to the efforts and influence of contemporary Neo-Confucianism in Taiwan and Hong Kong, some Chinese Christian theologians still take indigenization and the dialogue with Confucianism as the major task for Chinese theology.  For example, Zhou Lian-hua and Liang Yan-cheng (= Leung Yin-shing) view the indigenization of Christianity, especially Christian theology, as the aim of the dialogue with Confucianism.  For them, the ultimate aim of indigenization is to overcome the cultural barrier hindering the conversion of the Chinese to Christianity.[38]  According to this view, Christianity should concentrate its effort on modifying its theology according to the taste of the Confucian Chinese.  In this kind of dialogue, the question concerning whether Confucianism might learn from Christianity will be overlooked.

This kind of theological indigenization is criticized severely by Wu Li-ming (= Ng Lee-ming), a historian of Chinese Christianity.  Wu queries not only the compatibility between Christian faith and Confucian philosophy and the intrinsic merit of those pre-modern Confucian philosophical theories, but also the necessity of using Confucian philosophy to articulate Chinese Christian theology.  Wu observes that since Confucianism survives probably only on the margin of contemporary Chinese society, it is no longer necessary to carry on theological indigenization through Confucianization. As most Chinese do not quite understand Confucianism and may even be critical of it, if Christianity conforms itself to Confucianism, most Chinese will reject Christianity as they abandon Confucianism. Identifying Christianity with Confucianism may even be counter-productive for the preaching of the gospel among the Chinese (Wu Liming, 1983).  During the last decade of the 20th century, there was a discussion among Chinese Christian theologians concerning the methodology of Chinese Christian theology.  Criticisms of theological indigenization were voiced from various perspectives, e.g., from the perspective that it distorted the Christian message, that it was unnecessary to Christian mission, etc.[39]

In Hong Kong and Taiwan, because of the rise in the awareness of the local identity and the social and political issues particular to their respective contexts, the process of replacing the dominant position of indigenous theology by contextual theology has been in progress since the 1970s.  The contextual theologies formulated in Hong Kong and Taiwan have been more or less influenced by the Asian theological movement, which shows some similarities with Latin American Liberation theology. Unlike indigenous theology, these contextual theologies emphasize theological reflection and construction for the present socio-cultural context in relation to the local people’s fight for equality or liberation.  This type of theology shows no particular interest in Western theology as it assumes that in order to develop a theology to meet the needs of its particular context, it should be independent of western theology.  For example, Homeland Theology and Chu-tou-tian (= Chut-hau-thi) Theology, which have been inspired by the theology of C. S. Song, emphasize the Taiwanese identity and the self-determination of the people of Taiwan.  In accordance with their political aim, these theologies make use of the cultural resources indigenous to Taiwan in preference to those originating from Mainland China.

The trend of development of contextual theology in Hong Kong has been slightly different from that in Taiwan, given the differences in the political and social contexts of the two places, especially since the 1980s.[40]  During the 1980s, issues concerning the prospect of Hong Kong returning to Chinese sovereignty gave rise to various contextual theological reflections, among which the theology of reconciliation proposed by Yang Mugu (=Arnold M. K. Yeung) deserves to be noted.  Yang abandoned the indigenous theology approach and turned to contextual theology, even though he was highly critical of Asian theology that focused largely on liberation theology.  Yang argues that as Hong Kong is about to return to China, the most proper motif of a contextual theology is not liberation but reconciliation, which is even more prominent in the Bible than liberation. Similar to Asian theology, Yang integrated contextual analysis with Biblical studies, but he parted company with most Asian theologies by vigorously citing the views of western theologians, including Ireneaus, Tertullian, Augustine, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Albrecht Ritschl, Karl Barth, F. D. Maurice and Reinhold Niebuhr.[41]  Yang’s theology of reconciliation clearly differs not only from Asian theology in both its motif and approach, but also from theological indigenization.  It is rather unclear as to what role traditional Chinese culture plays in his theology, even though harmony and reconciliation may also be important motifs in the Chinese way of thinking.[42]



The above brief survey of Chinese Christian theologies seems to indicate that Chinese theologians have difficulties in inheriting either the traditional Chinese culture or the Christian tradition or both.  Inheriting the Chinese and Christian traditions at the same time remains problematic for many of them.  Admittedly, the development of Chinese theology as a whole has been influenced to a certain extent and in different ways by theological development worldwide, especially Western theology.  However, most Chinese theologians tend to select, translate and adopt western theology according to their own Problematik and their understanding of their own particular situation, without any recognizable commitment to the ecumenical Christian tradition.

For theologians adopting the approach of theological indigenization, the trans-cultural gospel could be adopted without any assistance from western theology.  The most important theological task is to integrate the Bible with Chinese culture.  Western theology as a whole is usually regarded as being redundant or even obstructive.  Elements or characteristics of western culture in Christian theological traditions are nothing but a burden that one has to be freed of as far as possible.

Unlike the theologians adopting the indigenization approach in Hong Kong and Taiwan, both the theologians of the institutional church and the “cultural Christians” from the Mainland are not particularly interested in adopting traditional Chinese culture as one of the theological resources.

For theologians adopting the contextualization approach, the emphasis is laid on praxis and reflection in a concrete socio-political context.  It is often assumed that traditional Chinese culture and traditional Christian theology are basically irrelevant to the contemporary Chinese context.

The indifferent, antagonistic or instrumentalist attitude towards traditional Chinese culture and/or western theology shown in the majority of the prevalent approaches in Chinese Christian theology indicates that the development of Chinese theology remains far from maturity.  As Jaroslav Pelikan suggests,

Maturity in our relation to our parents consists in going beyond both a belief in their omniscience and a disdain for their weakness, to an understanding and a gratitude for their decisive part in that ongoing process in which now we, too, must take our place, as heirs and yet free. So it must be in our relation to our spiritual and intellectual parentage, our tradition.[43]

Accordingly, the healthy development of Chinese Christian theology in the 21st century requires a mature attitude towards its cultural and religious heritage. What is required is not only knowledge of the traditions that shaped us,[44] it requires also a reconciliatory approach to tradition, facing the ambivalence of tradition, namely, both the positive and negative sides of tradition mixed together.  It may involve both criticism of tradition, which aims not at a total rejection of tradition but a creative reinterpretation of tradition, and the discovery or retrieval of its positive meaning for the contemporary context and possibly for the future as well. For Chinese Christians, this should be the attitude in inheriting the Christian tradition and Chinese culture.  However, as it is mentioned above, inheriting the Chinese cultural tradition increasingly becomes a matter of personal decision rather than one decided by birth and so Chinese Christians have to ask the question as to why it is necessary to inherit Chinese culture at all.  Does inheriting Chinese culture mean adopting a dead cultural tradition irrelevant to contemporary daily life?  Other than one’s ethnicity and convenience in preaching the gospel among those deeply influenced by Chinese cultural tradition, is there any theological reason for the adoption of Chinese culture?



In the 20th century, many Chinese scholars called for a “creative transformation” of Chinese culture, especially Confucianism.[45]  Among the contemporary Confucians, Cai Renhou, following Mou Zongsan, contends that traditional Confucianism is strong and even perfect in the aspect of spiritual cultivation or inward sagehood (nei sheng), but rather weak in the aspect of social application or outward kingship (wai wang). The task for modern Confucianism is to further develop or modernize the outward kingship aspect, which means, in concrete terms, science and democracy.  With regard to the aspect of inward sagehood, there is no need to make any change.[46]  According to Confucianism, every human being has the potential to be a sage.  The underlying assumption is that every human being can become a sage through self-power because of the original goodness of humanity, which is, in substance, the same as the Tao or Heaven.  Some Confucians argue that Christianity is inferior because the Christian doctrine of God is purely or outwardly transcendent without immanence, while the Tao in Confucianism is transcendent as well as immanent.  The immanence of the Tao lies primarily in the human heart, which constitutes the basis for the human potentiality for transcendence. This capacity for transcendence, according to some Confucians, is precisely what Christianity, with its doctrine of original sin, fails to recognize.  With regard to the aspect of inward sagehood, it is appropriate for Christianity to learn from Confucianism but not the other way round.

This approach to the transformation of Confucian tradition is found to be too conservative by many other Chinese intellectuals.  For example, Fu Weixun [= Charles Fu Wei-hsun] argues that the suggestion made by the New Confucians, particularly that of Mou Zong-san, concerning the route of developing a new outward kingship through inward sagehood, is not viable. It has not really engaged in an open dialogue of equal footing with other cultures and has not faced the challenges from other spiritual traditions.  Fu urges that, in order to reopen a new generation of Confucian learning, one should give up the cliché of “Chinese substance with Western function” and penetrate into the “substance,” and not merely the “function,” of Buddhism and Western learning, including Christian theology.[47]

As a representative of contemporary Confucianism, Liu Shuxian affirms that Christianity and Confucianism differ from each other with regard to their understanding of human being, world and God.[48] However, Liu also suggests that Confucianism can be creatively transformed by learning from Christianity.  He suggests that Christianity can complement what Confucianism lacks, especially the recognition of the dark side of humanity, which is assumed in the system of democracy and the rule of law.  Furthermore, Christianity’s eschatological orientation may also help contemporary Confucianism to further develop its message concerning hope and transcendence, which is far from apparent.  This may help Confucianism to concentrate more on and be open to the future, and to overcome its tendency to accept prematurely the status quo and its nostalgia for the Golden Age in its past.[49]  It is noteworthy that the transformation that Liu calls for is no longer merely at the level of application or outward kingship, but also involves the Confucian theory of human nature, which should be at the level of inward sagehood.

Liu’s openness to learning from Christian theology indicates that inheriting and integrating Christianity and Confucianism at the same time is not absolutely impossible.  This possibility is based on an understanding of the nature of the transmission of the Confucian tradition.  According to Liu’s understanding,

…Confucianism is not based on the acceptance of a historical legend; it is based on the witness to the clear character of the sagely mind that found its manifestations among the ancient sage-emperors and that is inherent in everybody.  Hence, accuracy of historical details is not that important for those who had faith in the manifestation of the sagely mind in the human world.[50]

According to this view, the transmission of Confucian culture lies in neither a fixed doctrinal formula nor a set of texts, but in mind-heart (xin) or the realization of one’s moral nature, which is the same in all human beings.  This understanding of the transmission of tradition is based on the position of Neo-Confucianism, which was influenced by Ch’an Buddhism.  It is important to note that this understanding of the transmission of the tradition is by no means foreign to the Christian tradition.  According to the classical definition given by Vincent of Lérins, the Christian Tradition is to be identified with the consensus of the faithful of all generations and all places, rather than the fixed doctrinal formula or the Bible.  This understanding of the transmission of the Tradition may clear the way for a person to inherit both the Confucian and Christian traditions.

In recent years, the study of Confucianism enjoyed a phenomenal revival, not only in Taiwan, but in Mainland China as well.  In a book series entitled New Traditionalism, which was recently launched in Mainland China, Zheng Jiadong, the general editor of the series, argues that Confucianism is not of the past, but is a living spiritual tradition inherited by contemporaries.  What the endeavor of the modern New Confucians assumes is that Confucianism has some universal meaning or value – for individuals at least.[51]  This assumption is further highlighted by the contemporary Confucians, notably Du Weiming (Tu wei-ming) and Liu Shuxian.  Unlike the modern Confucians of the previous generations, who took China as their context for their discourse, the contemporary Confucians, Liu and Du take Confucianism as one of the living traditions, which is to be further developed through dialogue with other traditions in a pluralistic global context.  Their attempts assume that Confucianism has some universal value or the potential to be globalized.[52]  Zheng’s observation clearly indicates that Confucianism’s vitality and potential for globalization cannot be ignored.

The globalization of Confucianism is particularly reflected in the appearance of “Boston Confucianism,”[53] which clearly demonstrates that Confucianism is no longer a tradition restricted to the “Sinitic,” “East Asian” or “oriental” world.  The Confucian tradition is no longer the sole possession of the ethnic Chinese and becomes, in principle, a heritage for the whole of humankind.  Furthermore, as Robert Neville and John Berthrong, two of the representatives of Boston Confucianism, are both westerners with a Christian background, their examples underline the possibility of inheriting both the Christian and Chinese cultural traditions at the same time, whether or not one is Chinese in terms of ethnicity.



Through the above analysis, we can see that it is quite possible for Chinese Christians to inherit both the Chinese and Christian traditions.  We also note that this may contribute to the creative transformation of Chinese culture.  In the following discussion, this paper attempts to spell out the theological significance of the integration of Christian and Chinese traditions, which may lead to a Chinese re-interpretation of the Christian tradition.

When Chinese Christians can re-interpret the Christian tradition from a Chinese perspective, this will be a demonstration of the maturity of Chinese theology.  Re-inheriting the Christian tradition with a Chinese perspective is neither the same as inheriting the Western Christian tradition alone, nor the Asian Christian tradition alone.  It means openness to all of the Christian traditions.  To be a Chinese Christian, it is not necessary to take an antagonistic attitude towards the Western theological heritage -– that is, to assume that everything from Western theology must be either irrelevant or harmful.  Neither is it necessary for Chinese Christians to identify Western theology as the norm or totality of the Christian tradition.  This indicates that they no longer have an infantile reliance on Western theological traditions; neither are they in an adolescent rebellion (for the sake of rebellion) against Western theological tradition.

Furthermore, the interpretation of the Christian tradition informed by a Chinese perspective may help Christians of other contexts to see the significance of the Chinese cultural traditions for Christianity, and the vitality as well as ecumenicity of the Christian tradition.  From a historical perspective, as Dale Irvin argues, the Christian tradition has never in its history been monolithic.[54]  In terms of number, European Christians in fact had never been the majority until the middle of the 14th century. Furthermore, since the 1970s, the number of Christians in Europe and America has decreased in relation to those outside these areas.[55]  With regard to the contemporary situation of Christianity, Justo L. González also points out that today’s Christianity is polycentric, with its centers of resources established in North America and Western Europe, and its centers of vitality, evangelistic zeal and theological creativity in Asia, Africa and Latin America.[56]  However, to-date, interpretations of the Christian tradition remain dominated by a western-centered perspective.  At this juncture, a Chinese interpretation of the Christian tradition may contribute to overcoming the dominant prejudice that Christianity is nothing but a Western religion.  In short, for the Christian tradition as a whole, the Chinese interpretation of the Christian tradition may vividly demonstrate the ecumenicity or universality of Christianity.

If ecumenism or the communion of saints is to be realized in theological exchange among Christians of various contexts, rather than upheld as a mystical doctrine, this ecumenical spirit is better manifested in bilateral communication or mutual dependence rather than in a unilateral dependence of one side on the other.  In other words, the relationship between Chinese and Western theologies should be one of mutual respect and inter-dependence in partnership.  In the past, the relationship between Chinese and Western theologies has been one-sided or unilateral, involving the introduction of western theologies into Chinese theology but not vice versa.  In comparison with the impact of Latin American Liberation theology on western theology, the impact of Chinese theology on western theology is negligible.  There are indeed some Chinese theological works being translated and published in western languages.[57] However, the aim of these translations is primarily to introduce the present situation or history of Chinese Christianity to Western Christians, rather than to seek resources for the enrichment or improvement of western theology.  The major criterion of selection is mainly concerned with whether the theological work can reflect the Chinese situation rather than their inherent theological merits.  At the moment, this situation is quite understandable, but it remains far from desirable in the long run.  If Chinese Christian theologians can integrate both Christian theology and Chinese culture creatively, they can offer a reinterpretation of the Christian tradition from a Chinese perspective for Western theologians.  This re-interpretation may contribute to the cultivation of this relationship of inter-dependence or mutual enrichment.

If Chinese Christian theologians can take the potential significance of Chinese culture for the Christian tradition seriously, they may be able to make an important and distinctive contribution to the development of a Christian theological worldview, including western theology.  It might sound overtly optimistic, if not arrogant, to say so in the presence of some of the most brilliant Western theologians. Nonetheless, I am convinced that my hope for the future of Chinese theology is not entirely utopian.

In fact, there is growing awareness among western theologians that theological expressions in the Indo-European language are not necessarily absolute or better.  Some western theologians have begun to take a more open attitude to the use of other religious and cultural traditions in Christian theology.  In addition to Robert Neville and John Berthrong, other western theologians are beginning to recognize the potential contribution of Chinese culture to Christian theology.  For example, in his recent discussions of ecological theology, Jürgen Moltmann, while eventually resorting to the Judeo-Christian tradition for resources, at least admits that Daoism (Taoism) has its own ecological wisdom worthy of attention and appreciation by Christian theologians, and that he, for one, was definitely inspired.[58]  When he presented a paper at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on 19 October 1999, he was asked about the possibility of Chinese theologians using resources in Daoism for the development of a Christian ecological theology. His reply indicated that he was basically very open to – and even supportive – of the idea.  In other words, it is not entirely inconceivable that western theology might draw inspiration from Chinese culture and Chinese Christian theology.  In fact, there are academic studies concerning the way in which Christian ecological theology might learn from Confucianism.[59]

As John McIntyre’s study of Christology suggests, even those who reject the substantialist terms and way of thinking are ready to accept the authority, principle or spirit of the Chalcedonian definition. This reflects the far-reaching impact of Chalcedon Christology, which might have to do with the structure of western languages, especially the substantialist bias in Indo-European languages.[60]  It is rather interesting to note that this character or bias is precisely what the Chinese language does not have.[61] Accordingly, it is quite possible for Chinese Christianity to offer a significantly different interpretation of the traditional doctrines, which employ mainly the substantialist concepts, such as hypostasis, ousia,propsopon, substantia and persona, etc.[62] Whether or not these Chinese interpretations are better than the existing ones, they do enrich the discussion by providing significantly different alternatives.

These two examples, ecological theology and Christology, indicate respectively that integrating Chinese culture with Christian theology does not necessarily lead to a theology irrelevant to contemporary issues or a rejection of traditional doctrines.



In order to promote the equality of bilateral communications between Chinese and Western theologies, both Chinese and Western theologians have a role to play.  Chinese theologians should embrace a local awareness as well as an ecumenical vision.  They should try to interpret the significance of Chinese culture and theology, not only for the Chinese context and their fellow Chinese, but also for Western theology and Western Christians.  Similarly, western theologians should pay more attention to developments in Chinese theology, and consider the input from Chinese resources with openness and respect. [63]



[1] The word ‘Chinese’ is a rather ambiguous term, which could be understood in political, geographical, ethnic, cultural or linguistic senses.  Among these, the linguistic sense is perhaps the least ambiguous.  Accordingly, in this paper, the term ‘Chinese Christian Theology’ (which may be rendered as ‘Sino-Christian Theology’ or ‘Christian Theology in Chinese’ refers to the theologies conceived or expressed in the Chinese language, namely han-yu, the official language of China, not including the languages or dialects of the ethnic minorities in China.

[2] Samuel D. Ling, ‘The Other May Fourth Movement: The Chinese "Christian Renaissance", 1919-1939’, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Temple University. 1981.

[3] Lin Ronghong [Lam Wing-hung], Zhonghua shen xue wu shi nian 1900-1949 [A Half Century of Chinese Theology 1900-1949] (Hong Kong: China Graduate School of Theology, 1998).

[4] Philip L. Wickeri, Seeking the Common Ground: Protestant Christianity, the Three-Self Movement and China’s United Front (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1988); Luo Guan-zong, ed., Zhongguo jidu jiao sanzi aiguo yundong wenxuan 1950-1992[Selected Essays of the Chinese Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement 1950-1992] (Shanghai: Zhongguo jidu jiao sanzi aiguo yundong wei yuan hui, 1993).

[5] Those published in Hong Kong and Taiwan include, Theology and Life, (1977),CGST Journal (1986-), Logos & Pneuma: Chinese Journal of Theology (1994-), Jian Dao: A Journal of Bible & Theology, (1994-) and Hill Road (1996-) and Taiwan Journal of Theology (1979-), etc.  In the Mainland, to name just a few of them:Jidujiao wen hua ping lun [Christian Culture Review, 1990-], Zongjiao Wenhua[Religion & Culture, 1995-], Jidu zhong jiao jan jiu [Study of Christianity, 1999-],Jidu jiao wen hua xue kan [Journal for the Study of Christian Culture, 1999-], etc.

[6] In recent years, there have been some Chinese theological books and journals published in North America.  Some of them take the relationship with Chinese culture as one of its foci, e.g. Weizhen xue kan [Regent Chinese Journal] (Vancouver: China Study Program of Regent College, 1993-) and Wenhua Zongguo[Cultural China] (Vancouver: Centre for the Study of Cultural Renewal, 1994-).

[7] Lin Yusheng, The Crisis of Chinese Consciousness: Radical Anti-traditionalism in the May Fourth Era (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979).

[8] Liu Zai-fu & Lin Gang, Chuan Tong Yu Zhongguo Ren [Tradition and the Chinese] (Hong Kong: San lian shu dian, 1988), 31, 35.

[9] Umberto Bresciani, Reinventing Confucianism: The New Confucian Movement(Taipei: Ricci Institute for Chinese Studies, 2001).

[10] Liang Shuming, Dongxi wenhua ji qi zhexue [Eastern and Western Cultures and their Philosophies] (Shanghai: Shang mu yin shu guan, 1922); Chang Carsun, Tang Chun-I, Mou Tsung-san and Hsu Fo-kuan, ‘A Neo-Confucian Manifesto’ , The World Treasure of Modern Religious Thought, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan (Boston / Toronto: Little Brown, 1990), 361-368.

[11] Sumiko Yamamoto, History of Protestantism in China: The Indigenization of Christianity (Tokyo: The Institute of Eastern Culture, 2000), 323-368.

[12] Yeh Jen-chang, ”Ge ming yu Yesu: yi-jiu-er-ling zhi yi-jiu-er-ba nian Zhongguo jiao hui de zheng zhi sheng xue” [Revolution and Jesus: Political Theology of the Chinese Church 1920-1928)], CGST Journal 12 (1992), 19-43.

[13] According to the typology of contextual theologies proposed by Stephen B. Bevans, the method of indigenous theology in China is basically similar to the ‘translation model’, the method of context theology the ‘praxis model’. See: Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology.(Maryknoll: Orbis  1992), 30-46, 63-80.

[14] Wu Lei-chuan, Jidu Jiao yu Zhongguo wen hua [Christianity and Chinese Culture] (Shanghai: Qing nian xie hui shu ju, 1936).

[15]  E.g. J. M. Coulter, E. G. Conkin and A. S. Wooburne, Zong Jia yu je xue(Religion and Science), edited and translated by Timothy Yu-wan Jen (Jian You Wen) (Shanghai: Association Press of China, 1922).

[16] E.g. Walter Rauschenbusch [in Chinese: Luo-xun-wu], She hui fu yin de shen xue [Theology for the Social Gospel], translated by Lin Hong-fei et al (Shanghai: Guang xue hui, 1923); Harry Ward [in Chinese: Hou-de], Ge ming de Jidu Jiao [The Revolutionary Nature of Christianity] (Shanghai: Zhonghua Jidu jiao wen she, 1926).

[17] Zhao Zichen [T. C. Chao], “Preface to Rauschenbusch”, She hui fu yin de shen xue [Theology for the Social Gospel] (Shanghai: Guang xue hui. Jian, Youwen, 1923), p.3; Jian Youwen, “foreword to Harry Ward”, Ge ming de Jidu Jiao [The Revolutionary Nature of Christianity] (Shanghai: Zhonghua Jidu jiao wen she, 1926), 7.

[18] Zhao Zichen, Jidujiao zhexue [Christian Philosophy] (Suzhou: Zhonghua Jidu jiao wen she, 1925), preface, 5.

[19] Winfried Glüer, Zhao Zichen de shen xue si xiang [Zhao Zichen’s Theological Thought], translated by Deng Xiaoming (Hong Kong: Chinese Christian Literature Council, 1998), 173-184.

[20] Zhao Zichen, Ba-te de zong jiao si xiang [Barth’s Religious Thought] (Shanghai: Qing nian xie hui shu ju, 1939).

[21] Zhao Zichen, Jidujiao de lunli [Christian Ethics] (Shanghai: Qing nian xie hui shu ju, 1948), 3-5.

[22] Wu Li-ming [Ng Lee-ming], Jidu jiao yu Zhongguo she hui bain qian[Christianity and Social Change in China] (Hong Kong: Jidu jiao wen yi chu ban she,1981), 47-55.

[23] Chen Zemin, “Christ and Culture in China: A Sino-American Dialogue”,Chinese Theological Review 8 (1993), 85.

[24] Ibid., 85-86.

[25] Ibid., 86-87.

[26] Ding Guangxun, ‘Yuzhou de jidu’ [The Cosmic Christ], Jinling Shen Xue Wen Xuan 1952-1992 [Jinling Collection of Essays in Theology 1952-1992], edited by Chen Zemin (Nanjing: Jinling xie he shen xe yuan, 1992), 22-31.

[27] Ibid., 27.

[28] Ibid., 22-25.

[29] Ibid., 22.

[30] Ding Guangxun, “Inspirations from Liberation Theology, de Chardin’s Theology and Process Theology,” Chinese Theological Review 2 (1986), 46-70.

[31] Ibid., 52, 68-70.

[32] E.g. Huang Guang-yao, “Jiefang shenxue du hou gan” [After reading Liberation Theology], Jinling Shen Xue Zhi [Nanking Seminary Review] Reissue 3 (1985), 50-54.

[33] Ding Guangxun, ‘Yuzhou de jidu’, 30-31.

[34] Ye Jinghua [Francis Yip Ching-wa], Xun zhen qiu quan: Zhongguo shen xue yu zheng jiao chu jing chu tan [Seeking the Truth and Keeping the Integrity: A Preliminary Study of Chinese Theology and Church-State Context] (Hong Kong: Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion and Culture, 1997), 133-136.

[35] Liu Xiaofeng, “Shangdi jiushi shangdi - ji nian kaer bate shi shi ershi zhou nian” [God is God - Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Death of Karl Barth], Jinling Sheng xue Zhi [Nanking Seminary Review] Reissue 10 (1989), 43-47.

[36] Lai Pan-chiu, “Barth’s Theology of Religion and the Asian Context of Religious Pluralism”, Asia Journal of Theology 15.2 (2001), 247-267.

[37] Liu Xiaofeng, “Xian dai yu jing zhong de Jidu shen xue”[Sino-Christian Theology in the Modern Context], Logos & Pneuma: Chinese Journal of Theology 2 (1995), 40-42.

[38] Cai Renhou, Zhou Lianhua & Liang Yancheng, Hui tong yu zhuan hua[Communion and Transformation] (Taipei: Yu zhou guang chu pan she, 1985), 127.

[39] Yang Xi-nan [Daniel Yeung], ed., Han Yu Shen Xue Chu Yi [Preliminary Studies in Chinese Theology] (Hong Kong: Institute for Sino-Christian Studies, 2000).

[40] Yu Daxin [Carver T. Yu], “Xianggang shen xue fa zhan si shi nian” [Theological Developments in Hong Kong - The Last 40 Years], CGST Journal 25 (1998), 101-129.

[41] Yang Mugu [Arnold M. K. Yeung], Fu he shen xue yu jiao hui geng xin[Theology of Reconciliation and Church Renewal] (Hong Kong: The Seed Press, 1987).

[42] Liu Shu-hsien and Robert Allison, ed., Harmony and Strife: Contemporary Perspective, East and West (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1988).

[43] Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition (New Haven: Yale U. P., 1984), 54.

[44] Ibid., 20.

[45] Lin Yusheng, Zhongguo chuan tong de chuan zao xing zhuan hua [Creative Transformation of the Chinese Tradition] (Beijing: San lian shu dian, 1988); Wei Zheng-tong, Ru jia yu xian dai Zhongguo [Confucianism and Contemporary China] (Taipei: Dong da to shu gong si, 1984), 181.

[46] Cai Renhou, Xin ru jia te jing shen fang xiang [The Spiritual Dimension of New Confucianism] (Taipei: Xue sheng shu ju, 1982), 18-19; Mou Zong-san, Zheng dao yu zhi dao [The Way of Politics and the Way of Government] revised and expanded edition (Taibei: Xue sheng shu ju, 1983).

[47] Fu Weixun [Charles Fu Wei-hsun], “Fo-xue, xi-xue yu dang dai xin ru-xue” [Buddhism, Western Learning and Contemporary Neo-Confucianism], Er-shi-yi-shi-ji [The Twenty-First Century] 38 (1996), 68-79.

[48] Liu  Shuxian, Wen-hua yu che xue de tan suo [Inquiry into Culture and Philosophy] (Taipei: Xue sheng shu ju, 1986), 181-184.

[49] Liu Shuxian, ”Dang dai xin ru jia ke yi xiang Jidu jiao xue xie shen mo shen mo” [What Contemporary Neo-Confucianism may learn from Christianity], Zhe xue yu wen hua [literally: Philosophy and Culture; official: Universitas] 15.8 (1988), 513-517; Ibid., 186.

[50] Liu Shu-hsien [Liu Shuxian], Understanding Confucian Philosophy: Classical and Sung-Ming (Westport: Praeger Publishers, 1998), 179.

[51] Zheng Jiadong, Duan lie zhong de chuan tong: xin nian yu li xing zhi jian[Tradition in Discontinuity: Between Belief and Reason] (Beijing: Zhongguo she hui ke xue chu ban she, 2001), 2-4.

[52] Ibid., 501-511.

[53] Robert Cummings Neville, Boston Confucianism (Albany: SUNY, 2000).

[54] Dale Irvin, Christian Histories, Christian Traditioning (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1998), 104, 106-122.

[55] Ibid., 86-99.

[56] Justo L. Gonzalez, “The Changing Geography of Church History”, Theology and the New Histories, edited by in Gary Macy (Maryknoll: Orbis 1998), 26-28.

[57] For example Chinese Theological Review published in the United States, China Study Journal in the United Kingdom, and in the German Language community collections published by Evangelisches Missionwerk in Deutschland u. China InfoStelle in Germany.

[58] Jürgen Moltmann, “Preface to the Chinese Translation,” Chuang zao de shang di: sheng tai de chuang zao lun [God in Creation: An Ecological Doctrine of Creation] (Hong Kong: Institute for Sino-Christian Studies, 1999), xvii-xix.

[59] Lai Pan-chiu, “Christian Ecological Theology in Dialogue with Confucianism,”Ching Feng 41.3-4 (1998), 309-344.

[60] John McIntyre, The Shape of Christology, second edition (Edinburgh: T & TClark, 1998), 336.

[61] Jacques Gernet, China and the Christian Impact: A Conflict of Cultures, translated by Janet Loyd (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 241.

[62] Lai Pinchao [Lai Pan-chiu], “Cong da cheng Fo xue kan Jiakedun Jidu lun” [Chalcedonian Christology from a Mahayana Perspective], Fu jen zong jiao yan jiu [Fujen Religious Studies] 2 (2000), 231-262.

[63] This paper was first presented at the 4th Heidelberg Ecumencial Forum 2002. The author would like to thank Prof. Christoph Schwoebel, the Director of the Ecumenical Institute, Heidelberg University, and his colleagues and other participants for their comments.

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