Calvinist Renaissance in China: Everything’s Coming Up TULIPS!

This article appeared in the London Guardian more than three years ago, but it seems to be making the rounds again online among Reformed and conservative readers.  At least, that is how I came across it (a Facebook post by John Lofton!).

This is good news for those of us on the Calvinist side of the ledger.

It’s even better news for those of us on the postmillennial side of the Calvinist side (we knew it had to happen sooner or later).

And it is still BETTER news (thought not totally unexpected) for those of us on the Calvinist-postmillenialist side who also view it as perhaps God’s hand initiating the beginning stages of reconstruction of China on a biblical foundation.

Now, before the non-Reconstructionists out there get out their long knives and keyboards and poise themselves for counterattack against what I just said, let me clarify, I am only saying that I am GLAD as a Christian and as a Calvinist to see this new development in the spiritual evolution (so to speak) of the people of China.

Obviously, it is better for the Chinese to embrace Calvinism than communism.

And that’s the really GOOD news here.  The Great Leap Forward has finally changed course and become the Great Look Upward!

The writer brings out some stark contrasts between the resurgence of Christianity in China and what has been going on in recent decades in Latin America and Africa.  Here, it is the elite, the highly-educated, the well-heeled, who are experiencing widespread conversions.  There, it is the poor and less educated, mostly.  Here, the movement is an intellectually and philosophically (and even rationally) driven one.  There, well, it is not.  As a result, here, the movement has gravitated towards the “unemotional” virility and theological robustness of Calvinism.  There, the movement has gone in the direction of Pentecostalism and experience-and-emotion-driven Christianity.

But, there’s something more at work here, the writer says.  Something more relevant to the political plight of the Chinese people.

Calvinism isn’t a religion of subservience to any government. The great national myths of Calvinist cultures are all of wars against imperialist oppressors: the Dutch against the Spanish, the Scots against the English; the Americans against the British. So when the Chinese house churches first emerged from the rubble of the Cultural Revolution in the 80s and 90s “They began to search what theology will support and inform [them]. They read Luther and said, ‘not him’. So they read Calvin, and they said ‘him, because he has a theology of resistance.’ Luther can’t teach them or inform them how to deal with a government that is opposition.”

Aha!  So, when the Chinese went looking for a spiritual replacement for the empty promises of communism, they turned to Christianity for answers, and specifically, they turned to Augustine and Calvin.  The communists did such a good job of clearing the religious landscape, they left fertile ground for the seeds of their own destruction to be sown to the next generation.  So, now…

“The youngsters think it is very cool to be Christian. Communism has removed all the obstacles for them to come to Christianity.”

Good job, commies!

But wait, there’s more.

The most conservative estimates of the new converts to Christianity is 500,000; there is a new church built every month. Calvinist Christianity has a culture of phenomenal industry. Calvin himself, in his time in Geneva, preached every day and twice on Sundays: shorthand writers at the foot of his pulpit took down 108 volumes of his sermons, though most of these have been lost and his reputation rests on the books and pamphlets that he wrote himself. In China now, this kind of Christianity is seen as forward-looking, rational, intellectually serious, and favourable to making money.

“Forward-looking, rational, intellectually serious, and favourable to making money.”  Sounds good to me!

There are really only two statements in this article that I take exception with:

“Calvinists despise pentecostalists.”  No, we don’t.  We only despise their theology!

“Although Calvinism is shrinking in western Europe and North America, it is experiencing extraordinary success in China.”

Shrinking in North America?  Really?  He should ask the Southern Baptists and the rest of the evangelical world here about that!

Read the entire article here.


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