Faithful Disobedience

Writings on Church and State from a Chinese House Church Movement

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Pub Date Dec 06 2022 | Archive Date Jan 12 2023

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Reader's Choice Award Winner

Throughout China's rapidly growing cities, a new wave of unregistered house churches is growing. They are developing rich theological perspectives that are both uniquely Chinese and rooted in the historical doctrines of the faith. To understand how they have endured despite government pressure and cultural marginalization, we must understand both their history and their theology.

In this volume, key writings from the house church have been compiled, translated, and made accessible to English speakers. Featured here is a manifesto by well-known pastor Wang Yi and his church, Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, to clarify their theological stance on the house church and its relationship to the Chinese government. There are also works by prominent voices such as Jin Tianming, Jin Mingri, and Sun Yi. The editors have provided introductions, notes, and a glossary to give context to each selection.

These writings are an important body of theology historically and spiritually. Though defined by a specific set of circumstances, they have universal applications in a world where the relationship between church and state is more complicated than ever. This unique resource will be valuable to practical and political theologians as well as readers interested in international relations, political philosophy, history, and intercultural studies.

Reader's Choice Award Winner

Throughout China's rapidly growing cities, a new wave of unregistered house churches is growing. They are developing rich theological perspectives that are both uniquely...

Advance Praise

"For the first time in the English language, we are given access to some of the leading figures in China's unregistered churches. We hear of lives shaped by the tumultuous history of Christianity in China, wrestling with the church's relationship with the state and with the society, and pointed toward an eschatological vision that reorients Christians today. This window into the Chinese church is thought provoking and challenges us—whether in China or beyond—in our understanding of faithful Christian living."

-Alexander Chow, University of Edinburgh, author of Chinese Public Theology

"All Christians live as exiles in this world. For those of us in a post-Christian environment, we must ask ourselves again what it means for the church to be salt and light in a society that is hostile to the Christian faith. Faithful Disobedience documents the price the house churches in China have paid for following Christ. Wang Yi and others also set forth a clear theological framework for why they have done so. While not all house churches are in agreement about how to engage the political authorities, their commitment to Scripture and the world to come is a witness to Chinese society and an encouragement to all global Christians."

-Timothy Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan

"The things that contribute to our understanding of the relations between church and state are not only narrowly exegetical but emerge as well from our experiences as Christians. What the Bible says about such matters is likely to be configured in our minds a little differently by Christians in nineteenth-century Netherlands, tribal peoples in Papua New Guinea, and Han people in China, even though all of us want to live our lives under Christ's providential ordering of all things in this broken world. Wang Yi and his fellow contributors to this thought-provoking volume write in the full knowledge that theirs is not the only Christian voice in China, let alone elsewhere, but they argue their corner in defense of unregistered churches with exegetical skill, theological rigor, and pastoral insight. Churches in the West have much to learn from them."

-D. A. Carson, emeritus professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Reverend Wang Yi is a Chinese theologian in pastoral ministry and a public intellectual in social engagement. He is sharp, eloquent, and fearless. Under his leadership, the Early Rain Church expanded the wide reach of the 'house churches,' that is the jiating churches, in multiple spheres of Chinese society. This collection of writings clearly shows the deepening of Chinese Christian thinking and articulation of biblical, historical, systematic, and practical theology. It is a must-read for anyone interested in Chinese Christianity, society, and culture. It is relevant for all Christians facing restriction, repression, and persecution in the contemporary world."

-Fenggang Yang, founding director of the Center on Religion and the Global East at Purdue University

"This important compendium of house-church writings offers English-language readers and scholars an inside view of the house-church narrative of the arc of Chinese church history. By combining academic essays with church sermons and interviews, the volume draws attention to two key elements in Wang Yi's writings that have guided his thought and ministry: church-state relations and a theology of martyrdom within an eschatological dimension."

-Chloë Starr, professor of Asian theology and Christianity at Yale Divinity School

"Wang Yi's faithfulness under persecution highlights the gospel by shining a light on injustice and the depth of human depravity. More important is how his example as a suffering faithful servant of God archetypes the ultimate example of the suffering servant of Christ. By the grace of God, how the truthfulness of the gospel—through the suffering servant ministry of Jesus Christ—shines against the dark and hopeless world has been shown in another faithful disobedient servant of God in China."

-David Ro, regional director for the Lausanne Movement East Asia and chair of the Asia 2022 Congress

"Faithful Disobedience is must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the vitality, scholarship, ethics, and dissident witness of the urban Chinese Christian scholar-leaders in China today. These works by Wang Yi and others carefully weave the spiritual and theological roots of the suffering and witness of early house church leaders such as Wang Mingdao to produce their own unique, informed, and trenchant public witness of truth to power in China today. One simply cannot understand the current relationship between Christianity and the state in China apart from the works represented in this timely collection of essays."

-Thomas Harvey, academic dean of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies and author of Acquainted with Grief: Wang Mingdao's Stand for the Persecuted Church of China

"The single, most important feature of global Christianity is the conversation that Christians from a thousand different cultures have with each other. This compelling book brings one of the world's most dynamic Christian movements into the living rooms of Christians around the world. Pastor Wang Yi's theological reflections are essential reading for global Christians who want to understand the future of their faith."

-Todd M. Johnson, codirector of Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

"The dynamism of the house church movement in China in the face of difficulty is one of the most compelling and inspiring stories in contemporary history. While the movement as a whole is composed mostly of smaller, low-profile churches, Pastor Wang Yi is a major voice coming from larger, higher-profile church circles. The sobering reality of his current imprisonment calls us all the more to pray for him (and other imprisoned Christians)—and to engage his ideas seriously."

-Kevin S. Chen, associate professor of Old Testament at Christian Witness Theological Seminary in San Jose, California, and author of The Messianic Vision of the Pentateuch

"Pastor Wang Yi's sermons carry the heart of the New Testament Epistles that still echoes down history's halls. As he covers a wide range of historical, political, cultural, and spiritual topics for his own Early Rain congregation, Pastor Yi warns, prepares, exhorts, and ultimately lives the New Testament reality of costly proclamation. Just as our prayers will strengthen Pastor Yi in his prison cell, this sermon collection will strengthen saints worldwide to endure hardship and scorn for the sake of the kingdom—even amid our own fragile freedom."

-K. A. Ellis, director of the Edmiston Center for the Study of the Bible and Ethnicity

"This monumentally important and unique book stands as a primary-source time capsule and also an example par excellence of not only unregistered churches in China but also global indigenous theology. Its unfiltered nature gives the reader a chance to glimpse what is really going on in God's body around the world, which helps to hone our own self-understanding of what is truly Christian versus what is simply our culture. In addition, it benefits us as learners to not just give but also receive what the Holy Spirit would have for the church."

-Allen Yeh, associate professor of intercultural studies and missiology at Biola University and author of Polycentric Missiology: Twenty-First-Century Mission from Everyone to Everywhere

"Faithful Disobedience is a remarkable history of China's Christianity and the house churches in China. It contains firsthand accounts of the recent events against house churches, particularly Early Rain Covenant Church. One need not entirely agree with Wang Yi's theology, his characterization of Christians belonging to the Three-Self churches, or his way of responding to persecution to see that this book provides invaluable insights into the struggles Early Rain Covenant Church went through. This book dramatizes the questions that remain open about how China's house churches should most effectively find their voices amid persecution."

-Agnes Chiu, assistant professor of systematic theology and director of research and strategic initiatives at China Evangelical Seminary North America

"For the first time in the English language, we are given access to some of the leading figures in China's unregistered churches. We hear of lives shaped by the tumultuous history of Christianity in...

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