Does China want to rewrite the Bible? Persecution watchdog organization China Aid says yes.
To better control the growth and influence of Christianity, the Chinese government plans to incorporate Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings into the Bible and edit worship songs to include Chinese characteristics, the head of a persecution watchdog has revealed.
If you’re a regular, you’ve seen articles here on “government and religion” and specifically on “Chinese Religious Regulations“. It appears that China is about to further strengthen its grip on Christianity in China. This time, it will be by re-translating the Old Testament and re-writing commentaries for the New Testament. Details are available from The Gospel Herald.
The Gospel Herald goes on to say –
The Rev. Bob Fu, founder of the persecution watchdog organization China Aid, told Congress that the Three Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Christian Council (China’s state-sanctioned Protestant bodies) have developed a five-year plan on “promoting the Sinicization of Christianity,” The Christian Post reports.
The plan, finalized at a meeting this March, proposes “cultivating and implementing the socialist core values” and will be supervised by the national religious affairs bureau. “Every province, autonomous region and municipality’s TSPM and CCC seminaries and churches will cooperate with it,” according to Fu.
This sounds like a new issue. Like maybe it was dreamed up after the new Chinese Religious Regulations referenced above. You know – another five-year plan.
But it’s not new. Not even close. While doing research on this “new” idea, I found an article from April, 2012. More than six years ago. So the new regulations on the church in China and this new translation of the Bible for the Chinese people are both part of a coordinated effort to totally change Christianity in that country. It’s about removing Christ from Christianity. And it’s about putting the atheist socialist government in His place.
Does China want to rewrite the Bible? – a Chinese point of view, from the government
I mentioned the article from 2012. It’s titled How to Make the Church Chinese? Three Perspectives. The translation I read is from China Source.
First of all, the Christian community is naturally the protagonist for making the church Chinese. Ever since Christianity was introduced into China, but especially during the 20th century with internal and external difficulties pressing the country, a visionary group of Chinese believers and theologians started exploring the indigenization and localization of Christianity in China with the objective of making the church Chinese. Among those people were earlier believers and theologians such as Yu Cuozhen, Zhang Yijing, Wu Leichuan, Zhao Zichen, Xie fuya. More recently, Wu Yaozong and Ding Guangxun have been engaged in this endeavor. In a broader view, western religious figures such as Miner Bates were also concerned about and explored this issue and tried to look for cultural and ideological resources in Chinese traditional culture to help the spread of Christianity. In fact, in addition to the theological discussion of making the Church Chinese, Chinese believers made many adaptations concerning doctrine, church services, organizational forms, worship music and church architecture. In some places, there was even a tendency to view Christianity as a Chinese folk religion. If we get a clear understanding of the thoughts and practices that have occurred in the process of making the church Chinese and measure their level and impact, Chinese believers will have a clearer understanding as to the ideal way of making the church Chinese, and where we are in this process and what efforts should we take now.
Wow. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?
Chinese believers made many adaptations concerning doctrine, church services, organizational forms, worship music and church architecture
there was even a tendency to view Christianity as a Chinese folk religion
That doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all. To call someone a Chinese believer doesn’t get into what they believe, especially when they say Chinese believers had a tendency to view Christianity as a Chinese fold religion.
Guess what? Those people aren’t believers! On my other site, there’s an article titled Can I trust what I think I know? It gets into the problems that arise when Christians look to non-Christians to define our religion. It’s wrong. Period. Someone who doesn’t believe even the most basic things about Christianity isn’t a Christian believer. It doesn’t matter if they are Chinese or any other nationality. Someone who doesn’t believe isn’t a believer.
Even the gratuitous mention of western religious figures such as Miner Bates doesn’t mean anything. Miner Bates will be a popular figure to many Chinese people. However, what he is most known for is reporting and testifying against the Japanese in war crimes trials related to when Japan invaded China in 1937. That’s not to put down what Bates did for Christians in China. It’s just that he would be most revered and remembered in China because he stood up with them against Japan.
Secondly, non-Christian groups in China, especially the secular intellectuals are also crucial in the process of making the church Chinese. Ever since Christianity was introduced to China, Chinese intellectuals have been debating the issue of Chinese vs. foreign. First they were concerned with maintaining Confucian Orthodoxy and later criticized Christianity using science and Marxism. Sometimes, those debates and criticism contained the flavor of national justice and revolution. Similar examinations of criticisms of religion will not cease in the future. However, in the process of east meeting west, new religious beliefs were encountered and a growing number of Chinese intellectuals started to make misleading and exaggerated distortions concerning Christianity and its political influence among Chinese intellectuals. During the late Qing Dynasty, earlier envoys such as Zheng Jize and Xue Fucheng reflected on the traditional views held about Christianity after they witnessed the real condition overseas. Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao tried to imitate the West by suggesting that Confucianism be declared the national religion. Zhang Zhidong wrote in Chinas Only Hope that if national governance were to be successfully implemented, the Christian religion would be another religion in China just like Buddhism and Daoism and therefore it should not be attacked. Even when the anti-Christian movement was at its peak, intellectuals like Tian Han still advocated an objective view of Christianity. Nowadays, Chinese intellectuals should be even more rational about Christianity and play an active role in making Chinese culture more vigorous and diversified by pushing forward the process of making the Church Chinese.
Once again – anyone who doesn’t believe is not a believer. Therefore, they are not the least bit qualified to say anything about the true Christian Church. Not in China – or in any other country.
Lastly, the political circle should also be an important force to promote the Sinicization of Christianity. From a historical point of view, very early on, especially after the Republican era, there was much cooperation between the church and the government on issues such as culture, education, medical care and the anti-Japanese struggle. Church-state relations generally moved in the direction of tension to relaxation. As the ruling party, the Communist Party explicitly pointed out in its religious policy that it would guide religions to adapt to a socialist society. In fact, since the government is the main institution responsible for the social adaptation of Christianity and leading the church to contribute to this adaptation, the government should play a guiding role in making the church Chinese. This includes, analyzing the history of church-state interactions and summarizing its gains and losses, keeping pace with the times and promoting an innovative system of providing political and policy support and an impetus for adapting Christianity to a socialist society.In summary, the trend of making the church Chinese is an indisputable fact which also has been noticed by western scholars. Church history scholar Daniel Bays, who is devoted to the study of church history in China, has commented, Among the post-western Christian countries, I think the Chinese church, rooted in its rich culture and history, will contribute a lot of new things to church history. Perhaps in a way that is similar to what happened during the Sincization of Buddhism, the religious, academic and political powers will all play very important roles in the Sinicization of Christianity. However, it is doubtless that history will not simply repeat itself. In the age of globalization, with highly developed ideologies, cultures, science and technology and intricate domestic and international situations, the Sinicization of Christianity today will face new problems and more challenges.
Religion and politics, as the saying goes, makes for strange bedfellows. Whenever the two come together, there’s always the danger of religious beliefs being sacrificed for political power. As with non-believers, politicians should not be defining the Christian Church. Not in China and not in any other country. It never turns out well.
So while the propaganda put out back in 2012 might sound forceful and flowery and all that – there is nothing of substance to say that it’s in any way good for the Christian Church. It may be good for the atheistic Chinese government. But it’s not good for God or for anyone who’s really trying to follow the God of the Bible.
All of that is summed up in what Jesus said about a tree and it’s fruit. That parable was a way of telling us that false prophets and false teachers can only lead to ruin for those that follow them. And that the false prophets and teachers themselves will never enter Heaven.
A Tree and Its Fruit
Mt 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Mt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
This passage has what I believe to be the scariest words in the Bible: I never knew you.
What is the current Chinese Bible?
Before getting deeper into the question of “Does China want to rewrite the Bible?” – we should look at the most widely used Bible in China today. In fact, not only in China, but among Chinese speaking people around the world. It’s the Chinese Union Version. Here’s a brief history of the Chinese Union Version, from China Source, who does translations of original writing by Christians in China.
The Chinese Union Version is one of many Chinese translations of the Bible. It is also called the Kuoyu Union Version or the Mandarin Union Version. It is the most commonly used Bible translation among Chinese churches today.
The publication of this translation was begun at the 1890 General Conference of Protestant missionaries, which was held in Shanghai. The representatives of various missions at the conference set up three committees, who were respectively responsible for the “Mandarin Union Version,” “Easy Wenli Union Version,” and the “Wenli Union Version.”
In 1904, the Easy Wenli Union Version of the New Testament was published. The Wenli Union Version of the New Testament was published in 1906. Later on, the missionaries realized that as newspapers, magazines, and the new education system were being reformed, Easy Wenli was gradually becoming the most commonly used language in society. After this, the Wenli and Easy Wenli committees combined, and chose five people to translate the Old Testament together.
The Wenli Union Version of the complete Old and New Testaments was published in 1919, a month after the publication of the Mandarin Union Version. In 1906, the Mandarin Union translation of the New Testament was completed, and the translation of the Old Testament was completed in 1919. When it was officially published in 1919, the Bible translation was named the “Kuoyu Union Version.” The translators’ goals for the Union Version was that it be “faithful to the original,” which means “insisting on the accuracy of words” and “emphasizing the accuracy of meaning.”
In the latter 13 years of translating the Old Testament, the New Testament was also revised multiple times, so that the meaning of Scripture is conveyed more clearly and beautifully. The Union translation took a total of 29 years, and the final language used was more accurate than any earlier translations, and was suitable for reading by church members as well as scholarly research. After its publication, it became the most popular Chinese translation among churches and their members.
If you’ve looked at any of the new Chinese Religious Regulations, you can see why this Bible is a problem for the government. It’s impossible to reconcile a true Bible translation with the atheistic viewpoint of the communist government in China. Between the regulations and this proposed re-translation / re-write of the Bible, China hopes to solve the “problem” by making their new “Bible” line up with the government propaganda.
For a look at the inherent dangers of doing this, please see The more you tighten your grip, Satan … . The thing is, throughout history, the more difficult it is to worship God, the more God steps in and thwarts the plans of those who oppose Him. This really shouldn’t be a surprise. It should be expected. Except that it will be a surprise and is totally unexpected, because those who want to suppress God don’t believe what He said. For instance, this passage, which the Chinese government plans to rewrite:
Ex 3:7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
Yes, in this instance, it was Egypt. But that was the beginning of a pattern. A pattern of God stepping in to rescue His people. A pattern that continues throughout history. And there’s no reason to believe that pattern won’t continue in China. [At this point, I must add – it seems like the Pope isn’t trusting God to step in for the Catholic Church, since he is partnering with the Chinese Government and their takeover of the right to select Bishops in the Chinese Catholic Church. For more on that, please read China appoints seven Catholic Bishops – did the Pope just sell out underground churches?
Does China want to rewrite the Bible?
I think we’ve already seen enough to realize that this is a serious question. It’s not just some “pie in the sky” dreaming thing. There are real discussions, real plans, and apparently it’s part of already real action.
The Gospel Herald article continues:
“The plan made it clear that ‘Sinicization of Christianity’ means to change ‘Christianity in China’ into ‘Chinese Christianity,'” he explained. [The plan] emphasized that ‘the heart and soul of Christianity’s Sinicization is to Sincize the Christian theology,’ and even proposing to ‘re-translate the Bible or re-write biblical commentaries.'”
A retranslation would be a summary of the Old Testament with some Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings and new commentary for the New Testament, Fu said.
While it may seem oddly poetic that Sinicization is the word being used – it’s not. We’re not talking a “sin” – although it is. In this case, the “Sin” comes from “Sino” – which is a way of referring to things related to China. So Sino-Christianity is Chinese Christianity.
So they’ll end up with a Bible that has an Old Testament summary. And the condensed version will have the true picture of God removed, Buddhist and Confucian teachings added, as well as everything pointing to the atheist government as the most important thing. To a Christian, this seems mind-boggling. Like, how can this even be done?
We really need only look to the Qur’an to see how. The Qur’an has pieces and parts of both the Old and New Testaments. Both have many re-writes. Jesus, as the Son of God, is removed. In fact, it even says when Jesus returns to earth – the second coming – he will supposedly tell everyone that Islam is what he was preaching all along. So what China is proposing / attempting isn’t even a new concept.
The article goes on:
Fu added that the five-year plan advocates for “incorporating the Chinese elements into church worship services, hymns and songs, clergy attire, and the architectural style of church buildings.”
“This includes ‘editing and publishing worship songs with Chinese characteristics and promoting the Sinicization of worship music,’ using uniquely Chinese art forms, such as Chinese painting, calligraphy, inscription, and paper-cutting to express the Christian faith,'” he said. “[It’s also] encouraging churches to blend in style with Chinese architecture to local architectural style.”
Fu revealed that already, state officials have urged 20,000 underground house churches to close and join the state-sanctioned church. Leaders of these churches, he said, must pledge their loyalty to the Communist party.
“The first criteria they have to pass is whether they can publicly pledge they will [uphold] the party’s words and the party’s path. These slogans are being hanged around the church, even in many Catholic churches, on the walls and on the doors. On the entrance door, it says, ‘Listen to the words of the party, follow the path of the party.’ How can you have a real independent faith as believers? As Christian believers, we are taught to obey the command of the Lord and listen to the command of the Lord. Essentially, the communist party wants to impose themselves as the Lord over the church.”
As it says, some of this is already starting. See China bombs megachurch in drive to silence Christianity and Separation of church and children in China for a couple of examples.
It’s what we’d call an immersive technique. Everything is to be under government control. They’ll make changes to the services, songs, clothes, even the buildings. There won’t be anything of a current Christian Church left. It will be all about the Communist Party. If the word God is even allowed, it certainly won’t be the God of the Bible. Right off the bat, that’s a problem for the first four commandments:
Ex 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
The Chinese Church – also know as the Three Self Patriotic Movement – won’t have a god before God. They’ll have one or more gods instead of God.
Ex 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Ancestor worship is a huge thing to many in China. It’s for sure, that’s not going away.
Ex 20:7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
This one is so obvious. What they are doing is a total misuse of God’s name.
Ex 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
There will be nothing of God creating the heavens and the earth. And if there’s anything even resembling a Sabbath, it won’t be for God. It will be for the party.
Conclusion – Does China want to rewrite the Bible?
I’ll end with this statement in The Gospel Herald:
“[U]nder no circumstances will we lead our churches to join a religious organization controlled by the government, to register with the religious administration department, or to accept any kind of affiliation,” the pastors say. “We also will not accept any ‘ban’ or ‘fine’ imposed on our churches due to our faith.”
I find this very encouraging. As opposed to what the Pope is doing to the Catholic Church in China, these Protestant Christians in China are truly standing up for what they believe. That’s not in line with the worldly point of view – just go with the flow and don’t make waves. Instead, it’s completely in line with what Jesus told the church in Philadelphia:
Rev 3:7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.
Rev 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
In the statement, the pastors say they are prepared to bear all losses – “even the loss of our freedom and our lives,” for the sake of the Gospel.
Let us pray that they remain holy and true.