I started to read the Bible because I was suspicious of everything I’d learned in my Chinese school: Maoism, socialism, Marxism, and their deeper roots. My suspicion began in 1997, my second year in college. I happened to visit an online memorial marking June 4, the terrible day in 1989 when protesters in Tiananmen Square were crushed.
The memorial’s articles and photos overturned my knowledge about what happened in Tiananmen Square. In the end, my suspicion and doubt led me to the roots of communist ideology: atheism and the theory of evolution.
The Chinese Communist Party was founded 100 years ago today.
Realizing communism fell because of its false assumption about human nature, I turned to Christianity and embraced what the gospel assumed: the sinful nature of all humans and the need for redemption through Christ’s atonement.
I’m not alone.
I’ve heard many similar stories among other Christians here in China who are my age. A “Reform and Opening Up” era started by “Chief Architect” Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997) not only connected China to the world, but also gave us a chance to wonder: Why is our country so different from others? This legitimate question ultimately led many of us to Christ.
As Christians living under a communist regime—the Chinese Communist Party was founded 100 years ago today—there is a sense in which we are blessed. As Proverbs 30:8–9 says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches . . . lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
This can also be applied to religious liberty: since we don’t have full religious liberty, there’s always a heavy price to pay if one decides to follow Christ. We are not under severe persecution—compared to Christians in North Korea or Iran, we are just experiencing some troubles.
Compared to Christians in North Korea or Iran, we are just experiencing some troubles.
Even in places where these troubles are severe, people can at least read the Bible, pray, and fellowship with each other privately. Chinese Christians can vividly see the meaning of Jesus’s words: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). New believers are often driven out of their homes because parents think it’s a shame to have a Christian daughter or son.
One brother had to resign from his job because he was a Communist Party leader but became a Christian. Wang Yi, a dear pastoral friend, was imprisoned for nine years simply because he preached the gospel publicly and bravely. These stories are not just something on social media. They surround us. What a blessing to see God’s work around us!
It may surprise you, but from my perspective the main suffering for Chinese Christians is not physical persecution or lack of religious liberty but bad theology, though the reason behind bad theology is the lack of freedom.
The main suffering for Chinese Christians is bad theology, though the reason behind bad theology is the lack of freedom.
Because of globalization, the culture of Chinese society is a mixture of Western secularism, expressive individualism, and authoritarianism. The dangers Trevin Wax has identified are exactly ours. Due to strict social control, churches in China do not have sufficient theological education, equipped pastors and theologians, or even good books to warn against these dangers.
Imagine a believer in the United States: if he realizes his congregation is under the threat of a prosperity gospel from the pulpit or social media, he can buy and read good books, share revealing articles on social media, speak to the pastor, and ultimately choose a healthy church in the area that resists false teaching.
But here in China, this is very difficult. There are few good Christian books on the market and web (though translation ministries like 9Marks and TGC are doing great work and retailers are risking their lives to make such resources available). Most churches do not have a full-time pastor. It’s hard to find another church because faithful churches are “hidden” underground.
My church moved to a new location in 2018, but not until 2020 did we realize another house church was meeting in the same building. I have neither figured out their theological confession nor had a chance to visit—not because I lack time, but because their door is always closed to avoid visits from strangers and the risk of being reported.
In other words, if you move to a city and happen to be in a bad church, you have nowhere to go unless you disregard Hebrews 10:25 and neglect “to meet together.”
We Live in Hope
Here in China we long for rich theological resources, seminaries, solid teachers and pastors, and healthy churches, which religious liberty could make possible. However, what we have now is not a curse, but God’s blessing. He knows best.
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil. 4:11).