Why Is It Important to Translate Historic Reformation Theology for the Chinese?

Yang Mingdao is the pseudonym used by Chinese staff within China Partnership.

1) Christianity is rooted in real space and time. The cannon of both our Old and New Testaments are historical, even if they contain supernatural events and mighty acts of God. Likewise, the historical creeds state that the church of Christ is one, holy, universal, and apostolic body of Christ, who composes all ages and all nations of the world.

2) Because of this, the church in China and among the Chinese speaking population is not a different church; rather, it is part of the visible and invisible church, the people of God. It is united through the Holy Spirit to the head of the church, namely Christ. Though the Chinese church primarily connects to other parts of the church through the holy scriptures, it is secondarily connected to the universal church through historical confessional standards, such as the Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed, etc.

3) More to the point on the question concerning the need to translate the Reformed confessions, we do this because in her historical development, the church has her highs and lows, or more faithful and less faithful times. Yet the Holy Spirit is always guarding, leading, and maturing the church. The Chinese church in general needs to know its past in order to sense where it is now and what future it is heading towards. The Chinese church needs to know its identity within the historical Christian branch of reformed Protestantism.

4) Reformation theology is part of our common spiritual heritage. In one sense, the history of the church of Christ in China is only about two hundred years, but in a spiritual sense our history can be traced back to the history of the New and Old Testaments. The Chinese church should receive the blessings of the Holy Spirit in history, not start over as a completely new reformation. We can build on the great Reformation of the 16th century. The Reformed confessions are the common heritage of the whole church among all nations, including the Chinese church.

5) We can learn from historic Reformation theology as a reference point for a new reformation in China’s modern times. 

The Chinese church needs a new reformation that builds on solid ground. We need to walk on the most traveled roads. We will make new mistakes, but we should recognize various heresies and extremes in order to avoid making old mistakes. As we grow and develop and renew our theology, we need to have common ground and even common vocabulary. In this way, we as the Chinese church can contribute to universal church, building one church of Christ.