Traditional Chinese Culture and the Thirst for Christ

(The following is an exerpt from the “Missionary Monthly” issue of March 2000.)

Unlike Christmas or Easter, a “redemptive reminder” is usually not present in Chinese society. Traditional Chinese culture has been humanistic, putting Christian thoughts far from many people’s mind. It can be defined as a culture of ethical humanism (i.e., a way of self-cultivation that leads to perfectibility of the human character).

But as Paul described the pious Jews in Romans 7, they can will to do good, but they cannot do good. For the law of sin and death continues to have a grip on them until they are freed through dying with Christ.

Since the tragedy of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989, the Chinese people, especially students and urban intellectuals, have become utterly disillusioned with the ideology of Marxism, Leninism, and the Thought of Mao Zedong. They even have lost confidence in the efficacy of traditional Chinese culture. The limitations of science, democracy, and human reason have been realized.

As a result, an interest in the God of the Christians has arisen. This phenomenon has become known as “Christianity fever.” More than ten years after that frightful day, urban intellectuals and students continue their search for a new world view and a new value system to fill their spiritual void…let me share with you why the cultural deficiency found in China requires the Gospel so desperately.


that is, the Chinese people have been educated to become humanists. Hence, their God-consciousness has been minimized. The Chinese sense of human autonomy has suppressed the truth of the knowledge of God implanted in man (Romans 1:18). The atheistic orientation in contemporary China has created a spiritual desert in the Chinese heart.


Without the Bible’s special revelation, the Chinese people lack a deeper, realistic understanding of human nature as sinful. They have been working on an impossible task; namely, cultivating human nature with the false assumption that man will do good, because human nature is essentially good (Mencius). The Gospel reveals the truth of human nature and Christ deals with the problem of sin head-on.

However, once Christ’s substitutionary death is explained to them, they receive it s truly Good News. That is why so many Chinese people are turning to Christ now.


Chinese people speak of toleration and endurance as forms of virtue. Yet, because there is no clear concept of sin or atonement, there is no authentic ground for forgiveness. Without forgiveness, the Chinese people carry with them a heavy load of hate, distrust, and vengeance. In receiving forgiveness from God through Christ, Chinese Christians have come to know and experience forgiveness. There are many wounds and scars in the hearts of the people in China that await the healing power of the cross.


Chinese religion is personal and utilitarian, not communal. Consequently, Chinese live a rather lonely, sometimes closed life, even in the midst of a large family. In Christ, believers are united in one body as the basis of Christian community, which expresses itself in worship, fellowship, and love. The Spirit of God moves and gives gifts to this body of Christ. In this context, the Gospel is changing Chinese personality positively.


Most Chinese people fear death, because for them it is the end. They do not know what comes next. They know that death is final separation and brings with it pain and despair. The Gospel brings a clear hope to those who believe in Christ: that when we die our spirit returns to God; that our bodies will be raised when Christ comes again; and that we shall be with Him forever in the New Jerusalem. Hence, there is hope and peace as believers face death. This is utterly new to Chinese culture.

From the above you will have an idea why CMI staff members are so enthusiastically involved not only in training rural house church leaders, but also in reaching Chinese intellectuals among university professors and students in the cities of China and North America.

Our efforts to train house church leaders are directed towards the rapid evangelization of China and the renewal of the Chinese church at the grassroots level. Our efforts among the Chinese intellectuals and students are directed towards the renewal and transformation of the Chinese culture. We call this the “Christianization of Chinese Culture,” which is a primary focus of CMI’s ministry.

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