Three-Self church clergy are being forced to interpret the Bible through the prism of traditional Chinese culture as part of CCP’s campaign to make religions “more Chinese”.
On 18 July, the Religious Affairs Bureau of Yuzhou city in the central province of Henan distributed to all local Three-Self preachers, a copy of the book entitled The Analects Encounter the Bible and demanded they prepare their sermons based on it. The book was written by Shi Hengtan, who is a member of the Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and claims to be a Christian. Published in 2014, the book is dedicated to biblical interpretations of the Analects – a collection of the teachings and ideas attributed to Confucius (551-479 BC), the most influential Chinese philosopher and teacher.
The Analects Encounter the Bible is reportedly aimed at building bridges between Christianity and Confucianism – a system of moral and ethical philosophy that is the basis of values and social conduct of the Chinese – and helping Christians learn more about their traditional culture.
However, the book has caused controversy in the religious community, and many Christians view the arguments in the book as misrepresenting the pure Christian doctrine. Some have even described the book as heretical, cautioning Christians to be wary of such CCP-orchestrated doctrinal erosion.
As a preacher from Yuzhou area explained, the arguments in The Analects Encounter the Bible distort the teachings of the Bible entirely and are misleading Christians. For example; the Confucian saying, “All men within the four seas are brothers” is meant to be the equivalent of “Whoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50). The preacher calls such comparison absurd. The Confucius’ message means that if a person treats others with respect, according to a set of morals, then everybody else will treat that person the same way, like a brother, which has nothing to do with “doing the will of my Father.”
Similar activities advocating comparative readings of the Analects and the Bible have been promoted at Three-Self churches in other regions. Some state-run churches have even set up classes to study the Analects and mandated to integrate Confucian teachings into their sermons.
“An Analects study class takes all day long. The participants even had to take photos holding the Bible in one hand and the Analects in the other, and post the images online,” said a house church Christian from Jinan city’s Lixia district in eastern China’s Shandong Province.
Some Christian preachers have pointed out that the government’s requirement for the clergy to engage in mandatory comparative readings of the Analects and the Bible is a way for the CCP to sinicise Christianity and is part of a campaign to contaminate Christian beliefs in China.
Source: Bitter Winter
- Pray the church will be strengthened. Ask the Lord to use this ongoing attempt to water down the Gospel as a way of sharpening the faith of believers and guarding against heresy.
- Pray this development may encourage people outside the church and also those in authority to examine the Scriptures for themselves.
- Pray God will meet the tremendous need for Bibles in China.
Post your prayer in the comments below.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 (NKJV)
October 2017 marked 500 years since the start of the Reformation movement of the church. These reformers were willing to give up their lives so we may have access to the Word of God and experience the freedom of the grace of God.
However, Christians continue to be persecuted and condemned for having a Bible. More Christians are killed today than in the early days of Christianity; the cross is ever present in Christian life and part of their walk of faith.
In Australia, we are so blessed waking up each day with the freedom to read our Bible and attend our church services. We can speak and write freely about our God and His Word to our families, our friends, even to total strangers. Religious persecution is most likely not something most of us have personally experienced. Sadly, this is not the case in many parts of the world, as Christian persecution is on the rise.
The denial of access to the Bible is one of the most commonly used tactics to persecute Christians.
For followers of Christ, the Bible is a source of comfort, peace and assurance of His love. However, for His followers in many countries, the Bible is illegal and having one can mean imprisonment, even death. Under this dark cloud, many Christians living under unimaginable oppression continue to risk everything just to have access to a portion of the Bible.
What is it about the Bible so many find threatening? Never has there been a book which attracts such hate and vile intent towards it.
When Christians open the pages of the Bible, they read about God’s love and how, through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, He has encircled the world with an atmosphere of grace as real as the air we breathe. It speaks of loving one’s enemies and turning the other cheek. It provides courage to stand for the oppressed and comfort in times of need.
And still these Christian persecutors fear the Bible, unabated in their anger with no mercy shown towards anyone who owns one.
Despite this inherent risk and danger even at a cost of their lives, believers know God’s Word is true. They long for a Bible of their own, a precious piece of God’s promise in their hands.
“Will you consider printing Bibles in Iran?” Ahmed considered the question carefully. It had only been two years since he had turned his back on the emptiness of Islam and placed his faith in Jesus Christ. The Islamic government in Iran had made many promises but delivered only hopelessness and hate.
Within a year of coming to know Christ, Ahmed had begun sharing the Gospel and planting churches, an activity he knew could put him in prison. Although printing Bibles carried an even greater risk, Ahmed agreed to do it.
After receiving the funds necessary to purchase the printing equipment, he began his ﬁrst assignment of printing 100 New Testaments each week. Ahmed distributed the Bibles wherever they were requested throughout his country, knowing that God’s Word was the light Iranians so desperately needed.
Ahmed was arrested two years into his printing efforts, leaving the 14 churches he had planted without a shepherd.
He had only been a Christian a few days before beginning the Bible distribution that led to his arrest. Now, shackled and chained, Palani sat in a prison cell where the heat sometimes exceeded 37°C. But for Palani, going to prison was worth it.
Being introduced to Jesus had transformed his life. Palani had once wandered the streets of his village, caring for little more than his next drink. But when his brother, a pastor in Laos, invited him for a visit and shared the Gospel with him, his life changed forever. After placing his faith in Christ, Palani stopped drinking and began telling others what Jesus had done for him. He also started praying for the sick in Jesus’ name. “I was astonished to see many people healed after I prayed for them,” he said.
When Palani returned to his village, he met with a local pastor and asked him how he could serve in the church. “Can you get Bibles from your brother?” the pastor asked. Palani did get the Bibles and immediately began giving them to fellow villagers. “This Bible distribution and praying for the sick was all new to me,” he said, “so I was excited.”
A village leader, unhappy about Palani’s new Christian faith and work, confronted him and told him he could no longer talk about God or distribute Bibles. “You’re a fraud and a drunkard,” he scolded, adding that Palani shouldn’t be persuading people to follow “a foreign religion.”
However, Palani didn’t stop talking about the Good News, and three days later the police arrested him at his home. In prison, police beat him and demanded to know where he had obtained the Bibles. During the third interrogation, they offered to release him if he would deny his faith and tell them where all the Bibles were. He refused and was beaten more severely.
Palani saw three people die from starvation and poor medical care in the overcrowded prison. “Our legs would cross each other while sleeping at night,” he said. After two months in prison, he was released. Now Palani’s prayer is to receive more Bible training and to be used by God to advance His kingdom — even though he knows it could lead to another arrest.
The evangelist stood on a crowded city street in India with his load of New Testaments. The smell of exhaust fumes, raw sewage and spices ﬁlled the air. One by one, Swami handed out the small New Testaments, praying that those who received them would come to know the Saviour revealed on their pages.
Swami’s efforts came to an abrupt halt when members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) approached and began to question him. The RSS is a volunteer Hindu nationalist organisation associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Soon the questioning turned into a physical attack, as the RSS members hit Swami repeatedly on the head and back. Then they dragged him to the police station, where they ﬁled a report against him. He was held for questioning until that evening, when police allowed him to return home. After arriving at his home, Swami fell unconscious and was rushed to the hospital, where he went into a coma. A few days later, he suffered a stroke which has affected one side of his body.
Whatever It Takes
For Ahmed, Palani and Swami, the Bible is worth prison and beatings.
While some countries still ban the Bible requiring us to smuggle God’s Word in a variety of ways and formats, other countries, such as India, Nigeria and China, allow in-country printing. Still, the in-country printing does not come close to meeting the growing need.
As we learn of our persecuted brothers and sisters like Ahmed, Palani and Swami, we are challenged to ask ourselves, “What’s a Bible worth to me?”
I would not believe in a Bible if it would not be worth it to smuggle it in everywhere even at the greatest risk and if it would not be worth it to sit ten days and nights alone in the cold in order to be able to read its wonderful pages — Richard Wurmbrand.
It took a horrific attack on her church for Emily to realise that her understanding of God was wrong. Three years ago, her bishop asked her to move to a new church plant near Mombasa, Kenya. The Joy in Jesus Church in Likoni was struggling, and the bishop thought Emily could help. Over the next several months, the church grew to 60 people.
On Sunday morning, 23 March, 2014, most of the faithful were scattered throughout the pews. Assistant Pastor Philip Ambesta was speaking that morning, and Emily was in the front row. In the middle of his sermon, there was a loud bang outside and heads turned to look, but Pastor Philip told everyone, “Ignore what is going on outside these walls and listen to what God has to say to you.” He continued to preach.
Moments later, two gunmen burst through the back door. One, armed with a machine gun, sprayed the congregation with bullets. From her seat at the front, Emily turned and saw the other gunman aim a hand gun straight at the platform. He fired, and Pastor Philip fell, dead.
It was chaos. The gunmen fled, everyone was screaming and people were running everywhere. Emily moved among the members, reassuring them and offering first aid. She also made sure ambulance and police were called. The ambulance couldn’t carry all the injured, so Emily helped them prioritise which victims needed the most urgent help.
Six people died that day, including Pastor Philip. Twenty-four others were injured, and VOM has helped four of the most severely injured with their ongoing medical care for the past two years. Emily herself wasn’t injured, but she was left with deep scars on her soul.
She struggled to understand why God would have allowed the church to be attacked. She believed that God must have been punishing them for their sin. Discouraged, Emily returned to her home church in Mombasa.
But she continued to read God’s Word. As she did, she realised God wasn’t punishing them. In the Bible, she read how Jesus promised His followers they would be persecuted for His sake. She saw that sin compels evil men to commit evil acts, especially against those who follow the God in whom there is no darkness. She realised that God’s promises to work for our good and to bless us meant not financial good, but spiritual good. Persecution is a promise, not a punishment.
Today, Emily describes the Gospel as a “bitter Gospel.” She says, “I teach the bitter Gospel of the cross and the blood. You have to accept taking up the cross.”
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” – Matthew 25:23 (ESV)
When the man of Matthew 25 left, he did not promise his servants a reward for increasing the talents he entrusted to them. He gave according to ability, then allowed them to respond through their care of those talents. Today we often use this passage to exhort Christians to devote their abilities to the One who gave them. “Use your talents for God,” I’ve heard many times. My response: why?
What gain is in forfeiting the opportunity to show others my abilities and knowledge? In the worldly sense, nothing. Living for Christ means surrendering the chance to be a person the world admires. If I truly follow Jesus, like He was, so I will be: mocked and disregarded, for obedience to Christ makes us the refuse of the world, not its victors. The lives of our persecuted brothers and sisters demonstrate the fact that the world hates us because of the One whom we obey. Their school records are destroyed, houses blown up, and families torn apart because they live faithfully for the King of kings, rather than cave under pressure from the world.
I do not want to feel the world’s pressure. I want to be accepted, appreciated, and loved. If I could use my talents to gain these things, why surrender them to Christ? Unlike the faithful servants in Matthew 25, I have His Word that promises good things will follow my surrender to Christ; however, I do not give only because of those promises. Not just because the things of Christ are better. Not just because He will grant me a place in heaven. Not just because He will give me what I so desire.
The greater reward of surrender to the Lord is knowing the Person of God, who owns our talents, which He has entrusted to us, and who deserves our devotion. As we come to know Him and wonder at His gracious, powerful, holy nature, we can come to full surrender. What could be greater than a relationship with the God who is perfect and loves so much that He give His everything for us?